Pentax Q-S1 tones down the cute

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Lori Grunin/CNET

After several years on the market, Ricoh has narrowed and clarified what it considers the target user for its tiny, interchangeable-lens Pentax Q camera system. Last year's Q7's stated selling point was customization -- specifically, the ability to choose from 120 different color combinations. This year's update/replacement, the Pentax Q-S1, has a more refined design and color palette intended to appeal to what the company calls the "social communicator" and the "photo enhancer," which it more specifically defines as camera-literate 25-to-35 year-old females and 40-to-50 year-old males, both who like small, snazzy gadgets. And at $500 for a standard-zoom-lens kit (which retails for £380 in the UK and AU$599 in Australia), those who have the disposable income to spend on a portable but not excessively serious camera.

Most of the updates over the Q7 are cosmetic (it's got the same basic specs, which you can find at the link). The redesign rests on introducing leatherette as part of its two-tone aesthetic for a less toylike, more retro look, and introduces more conservative color options for its custom choices like khaki green and a dusty blue; don't worry, ladies, there's still a pink option available. The basic ready-to-buy choices are black with black, gold with cream, red with gray, and white with cream, all with matching straps and cases, of course. The total number of combinations drops to 40.

Pentax also smoothed the overall shape a little and added a round accent to make the front look more symmetrical. I happen to prefer the asymmetrical look, but the addition supposedly helps make it more grippable, always a good thing.

Somewhat ironically given the social-communicator angle, the camera still doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi, though it still supports Eye-Fi cards and other options. However, it still has its set of pre- and post-shooting filters, since for the most part, that's what this camera is still about. It adds two new Smart Effects -- really, they're just filters, although the Q series lets you save a few customized versions as presets to access via the dial on the front -- Antique and Faded Color.

There are a couple new capabilities, including continuous autofocus during movie shooting (though it's not compatible with all the lens options) and improvement of the face-detection and tracking autofocus.

The company isn't adding to the eight-lens Q-mount lineup at the moment, but plans a telephoto macro no sooner than the end of this year. It retains compatibility with the K-mount adapter.

It will begin shipping at the end of August in the US.

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