My thoughts on the Pentax Q

If you haven’t noticed, Pentax will be joining the small sized mirror-less interchangeable lens camera club. There is a lot of information out for the camera excluding sample photos.

Here are a few images borrowed from Pentax USA and the USA president Ned’s blog:

Now I’ll give some opinion on what I see as the positives and negatives of this new camera and lens system…

First off, I’ll go over the negatives to get them out of the way:
– As everyone and their brother on the Internet has pointed out, it has a small sized sensor. I’m going to just say wait and see what the quality will be like once full reviews are available. The physical laws of nature can be a harsh mistress though.
– The Q is stuck between a rock and hard place considering economics. Digicams and entry level SLRs are cheap. I’m not sure there is much room to fit the Q in due to the small sensor at $800 with a prime lens. I think $800 is well into SLR and mirrorless-large-sensor territory.
– An optical viewfinder is only possible as an expensive add-on.
– No weather resistance. Why Pentax? Maybe it was because of that crazy integrated pop-up flash making the camera almost impossible to seal. Using magnesium alloy is a great idea, but don’t go half way with build quality K-7 / K-5 users expect.
– Not really a negative, but I would get one of these cameras just to use it with a full sized add-on flash unit. A comical size difference there. I think it is time for pentax to release something small like Nikon’s SB-400.
– That goofy integrated flash setup. I’m sure it helps the photo results, but it’s like the engineers just had a marathon of transformers videos before their design session.
– Colors over the system feel a bit miss-matched, but I do understand their point. They wanted people to realize the lenses are interchangeable, so they have the lenses in silver and the bodies in black/white.

The transformer integrated flash:

Good things about the camera I see:
– It’s small… really small. Being small has many benefits. From fitting in a large pocket to being very un-intimidating to human subjects.
– It has a quality interchangeable lens system.
– The small sensor allows for truly small lenses. A lot of people don’t seem to realize this. Why buy a Sony NEX if the lenses are just a big as 35mm ones? The same goes for micro 4/3rds lenses. So I think the small sensor in this case is a positive.
– It has true shake reduction. A very good feature, for both stills and video.
– The video capabilities look really strong. They finally decided to use MP4 (AVC h.264) encoding.
– Build quality looks almost top notch. Minus my negative about no weather resistance. The dials looks good and the body is of course magnesium alloy that only high-end cameras have.
– The overall design of the camera and lenses looks good. I especially like the black camera body’s look.
– The camera will probably be fast and responsive. DNG RAW is available and the camera can shoot at 5 fps.
– The camera name/system is logical and easy to say. As other articles mentioned, the “Q” naming means Queen and the 35mm lens mount “K” is for King (look around for old k-mount advertisements that show a king playing card with the camera). It makes sense for them to use Q and I think it was a good decision. Looks like they learned their lesson after the *ist models.
– External flash hot-shoe connector and ability to sync at the maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th/second without high speed sync. Only for the two expensive lenses though.

I see value in a system like this. The camera is small yet has advanced features with build quality to match. There are negatives like having a small sensor, but it is up to you to decide if something like this is right for you. As for me, not having an optical viewfinder is a pretty big negative. As such, I would be more drawn to something like the Fuji x100 if I were looking for a smaller mirror-less camera as an alternative to my primary DSLR equipment. I can see some instances where to Q would be perfect though. Using it for video at conventions would be a blast. I’d almost want to get one just for the video capabilities and interchangeable lenses such as the fisheye. For every other purpose, I think something like the Pentax Optio WG-1 with its waterproof and shock proof features would better fit my needs in a small camera. It would also fit in a pocket much easier because it has an internal lens design, but I digress… It will be interesting to see how popular the Q becomes.

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