Many veteran photographers prefer larger cameras because ergonomics are generally better. Bigger cameras provide larger buttons, a better grip, and more stable handling. I've been a photographer for more than forty years, but I've always loved small cameras. When I took the "Q" out of the box I immediately thought it looked like a 21st century version of the elegant little fixed lens "pocket" cameras of an earlier era. The front, top deck, and the back of the "Q" contain a full complement of traditional knobs, switches, and buttons, but the camera doesn't look cluttered or busy.
The "Q"'s user friendly design makes this digicam remarkably easy to like. The intuitive control layout will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever used a P&S digicam. All controls and buttons are easily accessed by right handed shooters, but the buttons are all rather small. On the back of the camera are the compass switch (4-way controller), the menu button, the info (display) button, a dedicated Exposure Compensation Function button and a dedicated Delete button. In movie mode the shutter button functions as the "one-touch" video start/stop button.
Menus and Modes
The Pentax "Q" features a simple three tab menu system that is remarkably easy to navigate. Even though the "Q" appears to be aimed primarily at a younger demographic, the menu's large font seems to have been designed to also meet the needs of older shooters who often suffer from reduced visual acuity.
The Pentax Q provides a full range of shooting modes - here's a breakdown:
The "Q"s 3.0 inch TFT wide-viewing angle (170 degrees) LCD monitor features 460,000 pixel resolution and is adjustable for brightness. Coverage is 100% and the LCD is bright, fluid (movement is smooth, not jerky), and hue (color) correct. As mentioned earlier, the "Q" doesn't feature a built-in optical viewfinder, but Pentax does offer a hot-shoe mounted optical viewfinder as an optional accessory. However, the VF-1 costs $250.00 and only includes guide marks for the 8.5mm prime lens.
The DCR test lab objectively measures LCD peak brightness and contrast ratios to assist our readers in making more informed buying decisions. A decent LCD contrast ratio should fall somewhere between 500:1 and 800:1, which would be bright enough to use the LCD for framing and composition even in bright outdoor lighting, and also provide a good sense of color accuracy and native contrast. The "Q" weighs in at a very impressive contrast ratio of 811:1 - for comparison purposes a couple of Canon's entry level P&S digicam models feature LCD screens with contrast ratios in the mid 400's. Peak brightness for the "Q" (the LCD panels output of an all-white screen at full brightness) is 584 nits and on the dark side (black luminance level) the measurement is 0.72 nits. For reference, anything above 500 nits should be adequately bright when shooting outdoors. The "Q"s default info display provides all the data this camera's target audience is likely to want or need.
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