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The Online Photographer: The Pentax Q System

The Online Photographer: The Pentax Q System | Photography Gear News |
I hardly know where to begin. But, since I've gotten pretty good over the years at anticipating typical web reactions to new products, I guess I'll start by saying this isn't "the Pentax mirrorless." No. Get that idea out of your brain. What it is is a premium point-and-shoot. A wee mini-digicam. You know, like the Olympus XZ-1, the Panasonic LX-5, and the Canon S95.

But it is different. It's the first mini system digicam. It has interchangeable lenses.
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Pentax Q Hands-on Preview

Pentax Q Hands-on Preview | Photography Gear News |
The Pentax Q is the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market. And, just like the company's famously diminutive Auto 110 SLR from the late 70's, it achieves this by embracing a smaller format than its peers. Being built around a 1/2.3" sensor, the Q is a fraction of the size of even the smallest existing mirrorless cameras and is the first really pocketable model (though the protruding lens still means that'll have to be the pocket of your jacket, rather than your shirt or trousers).

To make clear what the rather opaque 1/2.3" figure actually means, it equates to a surface area of around 28mm2. This is around 1/8th the size of the sensor used in Micro Four Thirds cameras and 1/13th the size of the the APS-C format sensor in Sony's NEX. The advantage of this is that the lenses for the Q mount can be made a lot smaller than those for other systems, but the downside is that the image quality is more likely to resemble that of a compact camera than a DSLR.

You can glean a lot about Pentax's approach to the Q from the lenses it has announced: a 49mm equivalent F1.9 prime lens for the enthusiasts but accompanied with a healthy dose of fun in the form of two fixed focal length 'toy' lenses (a wide-angle and a telephoto version, both sub-$100). On the fun side of things there will also be a fisheye lens or, at the more serious end, a 28-83mm equivalent standard zoom with a built-in shutter, allowing flash sync at any shutter speed.

Coupled with the 49mm equiv. prime or the standard zoom the Q, with its sturdy magnesium-alloy build, appears to be offering an alternative take on the photographers' compacts such as the Canon G12, Olympus XZ-1 and even the Ricoh GRD. However, the fact that it can take different lenses means that in a matter of seconds it can be converted into a fun little camera that should still offer a more satisfying shooting experience than a mobile phone and image processing app.

And the Q is no toy camera, despite its modest sensor size it boasts a magnesium alloy body with rubber front coating, a 460,000 dot LCD on the rear and raw output in the DNG format. Interestingly, Pentax bucks the recent trend of trying to attract point-and-shoot users by removing those intimidating buttons with all those mysterious symbols on them, and includes plenty of external controls....
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