Pentax Q: Too little, too late and too much?

Pentax set out to create the smallest interchangeable-lens camera on the market and it succeeded. But there are reasons no other manufacturer has ventured there first.

Pentax Q with the 47mm-equivalent f1.9 kit lens. Lori Grunin/CNET

How much are you willing to sacrifice to shave an inch off your camera? That's the question Pentax tacitly raises with its introduction of the Q interchangeable-lens camera (ILC), a model with a body the size and weight of a point-and-shoot (without lens, of course)--and the price of a dSLR. The company achieves this feat of shrinkage by incorporating a tiny 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, which in turn allows for a smaller-than-usual lens mount and more compact lenses. And it looks like there will be a lot to like in the Q--it's got an attractive, retro look; a light but solid body; well-designed flash; and enthusiast-friendly features like 1080/30p video capture and time lapse. But the drawbacks. Oy, the drawbacks. And all to lose that extra inch. (Okay, it's not exactly an inch: it's 1.3 cubic inches smaller than the NEX-C3.)

To give you some sense of how small a 1/2.3-inch sensor is, the Q lens mount is roughly 67 percent smaller than Pentax's traditional APS-C K-mount. It has a 5.5x magnification factor, compared to 1.5x for APS-C-based ILCs or 2x for Micro Four Thirds models. That means, for example, that an 18mm lens which produces the equivalent angle of view of 27mm on a Sony ILC or 36mm on an Olympus or Panasonic ILC, would produce a 99mm-equivalent on the Q. As a result, producing a wide angle lens for this camera will be very, very difficult.

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