Pentax Q

Regular readers, unicorns and other mythical beings might recall that I seem to have developed a camera habit. While my preferred device for actually going out and taking pictures remains the Canon 5D MkII with its nice set of lenses, I do like to have other options that are smaller and more discrete. Things that can go with me pretty much anywhere, and which can be rapidly put away should that seem like a good idea. Not that I generally get myself into awkward situations, but you never know…

Being a bit fussy, I’ve found the various compact cameras I’ve tried to be somewhat unsatisfactory, and better quality compacts are just too expensive for me to want to get one. A few years ago, I bought the Olympus E-P1, which is quite a nice thing, but what with one thing and another, I haven’t used all that much. I think it’s mostly a matter of it being a little too bulky to carry around on the off-chance of wanting to take pictures, even though it’s not really all that large.

A few months ago, I saw lots of reviews of another new interchangeable lens camera – the Pentax Q. This is very small, very light, and has lots of features that are more for fun than serious work – art filters, for instance. It does have a much smaller sensor than the Olympus, but Pentax have put a lot of work into the processing power to make the most out of it. From the reviews I read, it was generally regarded as nice but not nice enough to justify the price of about £600 with a single prime lens. So I pretty much forgot about it.

That was until a couple of weeks ago, when I wandered into Jessop’s to see if they had any nice Canon lenses for me to drool over. And then I saw it. I hadn’t actually seen a Pentax Q, so I hadn’t realised just how little and dinky it was. I picked up the display model and had a general fiddle about, and thought that it was rather nice. Then I noticed that the price had fallen from £600 to a rather more sensible £370 or thereabouts. I decided to do some more research.

So, I read some reviews, noted that there was an even better price on Amazon, and thought about it some more. While I was thinking, Amazon’s price went up again. I went back to Jessop’s for another look, but decided not to buy it then and there, mostly because they didn’t have a lot of staff, and did have a long line of customers. So, back to the internet, where I found that it was £330 on Jessop’s website, with the option of ordering it and collecting from the shop. So that’s what I did. It’s available in black and white, and for some reason the white one appealed to me more (hey, it matches my iPhone).

There was a bit of confusion because the only one in stock was the well-handled display model, but they happily ordered another one for me, which I picked up on Wednesday.

I’ve only just begun to play with its numerous options, but so far, I like it. Despite me having quite large hands, I find the little camera quite easy and comfortable to hold, and I’ve got some good results.

So, how small is it? Here it is compared to some other cameras:

Pentax Q and Canon 5D Mk II

Pentax Q and Canon 5D Mk II

Pentax Q and Olympus E-P1

Pentax Q and Olympus E-P1

It’s solidly built, and the supplied prime lens offers a useful field of view. I’ll consider adding another lens later…

Here’s a close-up, low-light sample – this has had a bit of noise removal done in Lightroom, but otherwise is pretty much as it came out of the camera:



Pentax have opted for the DNG standard for the Q’s RAW files, so you should have no trouble with any standard image editing software. Lightroom 4 Beta seemed to get a bit confused about the “import and convert to DNG” process. I think it may have been upgrading the DNG files to a different version, which seemed to take an unusually long time, but the files were accessible and could be edited without any trouble.

My plan for the next week or two is to take the Q everywhere, and to have a good play with the built-in effects to see what I can do with them. I’ll also have a play with some of the less common features, like applying affects to RAW files in-camera. Fun.

Oh, and the price is back down again at Amazon.

5 thoughts on “Pentax Q

  1. Jamie (7D)

    Big hands?</Kris?

    Nice, Les. A friend of mine is selling his 5DMKII in favour (UK spelling for your benefit) of the 4/3 cameras which he loves and shoots very well with. Let me know how you get on with the Pentax. Was the wine shot high ISO?

    Your friend…7D-boy

    1. Les Post author

      I don’t think I’d ever go so far as to abandon my big full-frame beast – the range of lenses I have for it (and could potentially add later) make it far more versatile and generally useful than my smaller cameras. But yes, the processing power in the newer micro four-thirds cameras, and other such beasts, is removing some of the lead DSLRs have enjoyed. The Q is more for fun than quality, but there’s nothing wrong with that – it cost less than most of my Canon lenses!

      The gory details for the wine shot: 1/60 sec f/1.9 (though with the tiny sensor, that’s equivalent to something much less wide on a bigger camera), and the automatic ISO was 1250, so not too high by current standards.

  2. Jamie (7D)

    Very nice. BTW…I’ve recently acquired some L glass (24-70 2.8, 24-205 f4 IS and 70-200 2.8 IS) and the hype on L glass isn’t hype. Well…on the 70-200 it is, but the others are truly remarkable lenses. The color saturation I get does not compare to the pro Sigma glass I have been shooting with. I’m a convert.

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