Yesterday, the Sony NEX-C3 was the world's smallest interchangeable lens digital camera. It's not anymore. That title now belongs to the Pentax Q. To achieve the camera's incredibly small body size, Pentax had to shrink the sensor as well, making the Q not only the world's smallest interchangeable lens camera (ILC), but also the cam with the world's smallest sensor in an ILC. The Q uses a 12.4 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch backlit CMOS image sensor, manufactured by Sony -- significantly smaller than the 4/3 and APS-C sensors used in Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX-series cameras, respectively. As image quality is dependent on sensor size, the Q won't be able to compete directly with any other ILC -- instead, its images are most comparable to those you'd capture with a traditional digital compact (which, ahem, don't cost $800).
The Q will ship in late September or early October with a 47mm f/1.9 kit lens for about $800, and will be available in black or white -- abandoning the incredibly diverse color palette offered with other Pentax DSLRs. It will also be compatible with a 27.5-83mm zoom ($300), a 160-degree fisheye ($130), and 35mm and 100mm "toy camera" lenses ($80 each). The ILC will shoot 1080p/30 video with h.264 compression, 5 fps stills, and includes an HVGA-resolution 3-inch LCD and unique pop-up flash. A dedicated bokeh filter makes up for the camera's natural inability to capture images with a shallow depth of field. During our brief hands-on, images captured at up to the Q's highest available sensitivity of ISO 6400 appeared to be usable, at least based on a magnified LCD view (we weren't permitted to capture images to our own SD card). The cam offers traditional DSLR capture modes, in addition a a variety of creative modes and Smart Effect Options, including an HDR capture mode. The version Pentax had on hand wasn't fully baked, but jump past the break for our video walkthrough with a product manager.
Pentax Q Hands-On
GOLDEN, CO. (June 23, 2011)... PENTAX Imaging Company has announced the PENTAX Q – the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera (ILC).* The Q offers the versatility and precision of an advanced DSLR in a body that is significantly smaller than every other digital ILC body available on the market today.
* The world's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens system camera, as of June 15, 2011 (based on PENTAX research).
The camera's tiny size, lightweight design, and superior image quality are made possible by an innovative PENTAX-developed imaging system. With a high-resolution 12.4 megapixel, 1/2.3 inch CMOS image sensor, the Q carves out an entirely new camera category that extends beyond traditional digital compact, APS-C or 4/3 digital cameras. The backlit sensor is a highly efficient light-gathering instrument that produces very little noise at high sensitivity levels particularly in low light settings. Further, the new Q lens mount is a perfect match with the new sensor and every interchangeable Q lens is designed for more advanced image quality than may be found on traditional compact digital cameras. This innovative PENTAX design is the foundation of the Q's position as the world's smallest, lightest ILC system with superior image quality.
Several important features of the PENTAX Q include:
• A newly designed PENTAX Q-mount lens system for convenient interchangeability with a variety of specialty Q lenses including prime, zoom, fish-eye and more.
• Exceptional image quality in 12.4 megapixels from the Q's 1/2.3 inch backlit CMOS image sensor. Capable of producing 12 bit DNG RAW and JPG images, the backlit CMOS sensor is a highly efficient light-gathering instrument designed specifically to produce very low noise at high levels of sensitivity.
• Extremely compact, durable, lightweight, scratch resistant magnesium alloy body.
• The power and flexibility of traditional DSLR shooting modes such as Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority, and Metered Manual exposure control as well as highly convenient PENTAX Auto Picture and 21 scene modes for casual shooting, including new Forest and Stage Lighting options.
• A variety of creative modes, Smart Effect options, or camera settings that assign to the Q's Quick Dial located on the front of the camera. Smart Effects modes enhance digital photography by applying a series of effects to images to achieve high quality finishing. Brilliant Color, Vintage Color, Warm Fade, Bold Monochrome, and Water Color are just some of the Smart Effects available and may be assigned on the Q's Quick Dial.
• In-camera HDR capture mode shoots 3 images of varying exposures, blending them to bring out the details in even the darkest shadows and brightest highlights of extreme contrast shots.
• High quality motion video with stunning full 1080p HD clarity at 30 frames per second. The Q processes the full HD video using high quality h.264 compression for superior color and detail and offers creative video effects through custom image modes, digital video filters, and interval shooting.
• A sensor-shift Shake Reduction system with integrated DRII Dust Reduction for blur and dust free images even in low lighting.
• 5 frames per second continuous shooting mode for any fast action setting.
• Effortless bokeh control with the Q's Bokeh Control filter. (Traditionally controlled through a DSLR lens's aperture, bokeh is the out of focus part of the background that helps to emphasize the subject, drawing the viewer's eyes to the most important part of the photo.) The Q offers a fine degree of extra control over image bokeh via an in-camera filter operation.
• Powerful USER modes allow the creative photographer to save a series of favorite camera settings, filters, and custom image modes for instant reuse.
• Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 30 seconds for freezing fast action or capturing long nighttime exposures. Bulb mode adds flexibility for low light photography and motion effects.
• A built-in popup flash adds the perfect amount of extra light to an image with a high extension to naturally reduce the redeye effect common to compact cameras. The Q's flash is effective to 23 feet at 200 ISO, and covers a wide angle 28 degree field of view.
• Compatibility with the latest generation SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards for ultra-high capacity storage as well as outstanding image file portability.
Along with the Q, PENTAX introduced the PENTAX 01 Standard Prime kit lens and an optional optical viewfinder. The unifocal standard lens has a focal length equivalent to 47mm in the 35mm format. The lens offers a natural perspective similar to that of the human eye and is ideal as a multipurpose, everyday standard lens for various subjects including landscape and portraiture. With a maximum aperture of F1.9, it performs superbly in dim lighting and may be easily adjusted for bokeh. Incorporating two high grade aspherical optical elements, this lens compensates various aberrations to a minimum.
Featuring high-end optics incorporating special optical glass elements and PENTAX exclusive lens coating technology, this lens delivers beautifully defined, high quality images that are sharp and high contrast even at the edges. The AF motor installed in the lens assures smooth, quiet focusing operation. The lens shutter mechanism allows the PENTAX Q's built-in auto flash to be synchronized to the camera's top shutter speed of 1/2000 second (or 1/250 second when using an accessory flash unit). This lens is also equipped with a built-in ND (neutral density) filter, which comes in handy when shooting with open aperture at bright locations or when using slower shutter speeds.
The shoe-mounted viewfinder attachment is an optional accessory. This External Viewfinder O-VF1 offers outstanding compositional framing, even in the brightest sunlight where viewing an LCD screen is traditionally a challenge. (Note: The Viewfinder offers framing marks for the Standard lens.)
The PENTAX Q will be available in white or black body models and shipped in a Standard Prime lens (available in silver) kit. Initially, the PENTAX Q system will ship in Japan. Anticipated shipping time to the United States is early Fall 2011 at around $800 for the standard lens kit.
The optional shoe-mounted viewfinder will be available at the same time for $249.95 USD. Each may be pre-ordered now on www.pentaxwebstore.com The PENTAX 01 Standard Prime kit lens will not be sold separately. More information is available here: www.pentaximaging.com/news
PENTAX Imaging Company is an innovative leader in the production of a variety of adventure ready digital cameras including weather-resistant digital SLRs and stylish, compact, waterproof cameras, as well as lenses, flash units, binoculars, scopes, and eyepieces. For more than 90 years, PENTAX has developed durable, reliable products that meet the needs of adventurous consumers and businesses. With headquarters in Golden, Colorado, PENTAX Imaging Company is a division of PENTAX of America, Inc.