CR KENNEDY, www.pentax.com.au
Tiny body yet still sports a rugged-feel build; fun to use; fits conveniently in a pocket if the lens is removed; fast response times
Some may find the rear controls small and fiddly; battery life could be boosted; audio on video clips is mono only
$799 with 8.5mm lens
Pentax has claimed the 12.4-megapixel Q is the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera, and for once it’s a claim that rings true. At roughly half the size of Olympus’ E-P3, finally we have arrived at a mirrorless model that truly is compact.
It will sit in the palm of your hand and squeeze into a pocket – and this means you’re more likely to take it out with you than any of its rivals, which holds value in itself. Those with larger hands may find some of the back-plate controls a little too small for convenient operation, though.
Rather than a zoom, to keep things as compact as possible our review unit was supplied with a bright f/1.9, 8.5mm (47mm equivalent) fixed lens. The lens range uses the new Pentax Q-mount system and includes prime, zoom and fisheye.
While casual shooters will probably set-and-forget on the Auto exposure mode, those with a bit more experience can use the DSLR-like modes of Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority, and Metered Manual exposure control. There are also 21 scene modes.
A handy Quick Dial on the front plate allows you to save four settings or Smart Effects such as Brilliant Colour, Vintage Colour, Warm Fade, Bold Monochrome and Watercolour.
Build quality feels more solid than its spy-camera-like size would suggest. Some will be disappointed that the built-in microphone is mono, even though Full HD video capture is provided (1080p resolution at 30fps).
You get a choice of Raw or JPEG capture. On the Q, images are composed with the aid of a fixed, 3in, 460,000-dot resolution LCD, but the Achilles heel is a short 230-250 picture battery life. The camera powers up in just over a second.
Though its internal sensor may be no physically larger than your average compact, when the supplied prime lens was fixed we were impressed with the sharpness of the Pentax’s shots.
We achieved some lovely shallow depth of field effects, and the colours really delivered too.
The Q is a pleasure to use if your fingers aren’t too big for the teeny backplate buttons, and we were pleased to find room had been found for a proper shooting mode dial.
Despite looking a tad toy-like in comparison to its rivals, it’s very much a camera for grown-ups, with on-screen menus and functions reminiscent of Pentax’s K-series DSLRs.
The built-in flash can be used in situ, or you can flick a switch so that it pops out on an extension arm. This takes it further away from the lens and theoretically means there’s less chance of getting redeye when shooting portraits. The flash, which has a 23-degree wide-angle field of view, is effective to 7m at 200 ISO.
Other features we like are a micro- HDMI port for outputting images and video, with sound, to your HDTV or projector; and an optional external viewfinder for easier framing in bright sunlight.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
Being as quick in its responses as a mid-range DSLR, the Pentax Q is more than a curio and we hope, with perhaps larger sensors in subsequent models, it will be the diminutive shape of things to come for compact system cameras.