Pentax revs Q series of tiny interchangeable-lens cameras

/ Updated: September 19, 2012 2:38 PM PDT
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Ah, once again it's that time of year when manufacturers announce the replacements for cameras I never got a chance to review. At the top of that list is the Pentax Q10, the company's update to the Q, an odd, tiny interchangeable-lens camera based around a point-and-shoot sensor. On the upside, at about $600, the Q10 kit's a little more reasonably priced than the Q and has a slightly improved battery life (though still woefully short). In exchange, Pentax has has improved its metering sensitivity a bit and claims to have improved autofocus performance. Plus, the camera design looks like it's plumped up a bit, and forgone the white and solid black for a snazzy red and retro black and silver.

While sensor size isn't the be-all and end-all of image quality, it's kind of important in this category, especially if you don't have really good, fast lenses to compensate. The Pentax 02 kit lens offers an aperture range of f2.8 - 4.5; for an APS-C sized sensor that's great, for a 1/2.3-inch sensor it's the bare minimum to even attempt produce equivalent images. And it's why Pentax makes a big deal of the bokeh defocus control, along with the fact that the kit lens has only a 5-bladed iris so you can't optically get soft defocus effects.

The Q-to-K-mount adapter. Pentax

Along with the Q10 the company announced the $299.95 Pentax 06 lens a 15-45mm (83-249mm) f2.8 model with extra-low dispersion elements and better-than-average coatings, which sounds a bit nicer (I don't know the aperture geometry). But most of the Q-mount lenses at this point are still toy lenses.

To compensate for the dearth of lenses, Pentax has also announced a $249.95 K-mount adapter for the Q series, which will allow you to use older lenses with manual focus only. The adapter has a built-in mechanical shutter.

Here are some similarly priced competitors:

  Nikon 1
J1/ J2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 Pentax Q Pentax Q10 Sony Alpha NEX-F3
Sensor (effective resolution) 10mp CMOS 12.1mp Live MOS 12.4mp BSI CMOS 12.4mp BSI CMOS 16.1mp Exmor HD CMOS
13.2 x 8.8 mm 17.3mm x 13mm 1/2.3-inch 1/2.3-inch 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 5.5x 5.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (expanded) ISO 125 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 200 - ISO 16000
Continuous shooting 5fps
n/a
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
4fps
unlimited JPEG/4 raw
5fps
5 JPEG/n/a
(1.5fps raw)
5fps
5 JPEG/n/a
(1.5fps raw)
2.5 fps
18 JPEG/6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder None None Optional optical for prime lens Optional optical for prime lens None
Autofocus 73-point
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
23-area contrast AF 25-point contrast AF 25-point contrast AF 25-point contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a 0 - 18 EV EV 1-18 EV 1-18 EV 0 - 20
Shutter speed 1/3 - 1/16,000; bulb; 1/60 sec x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 flash sync 30-1/2000 sec.; bulb; 1/2000 sec or 1/13 sec sync 30-1/8,000 sec.; bulb; 1/2000 or 1/13 sec sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync
Metering n/a 144 zone n/a n/a 1200 zone
Metering range n/a 0 - 18 EV EV 1.3-17 EV 1-18 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Image stabilization Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical
Video 1080/60i /30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV AVCHD or MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV
1080/60i @ 17Mbps
720/60p @17Mbps
1080/30p H.264 MP4 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo Mono Mono Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed 460,000 dots/
3-inch fixed 920,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
920,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed 460,000 dots 3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Wireless connection None None None None None
Battery life (CIPA rating) 230 shots 330 shots 230 shots 250 shots 470 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2 4.2 x 2.6 x 1.5 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.3 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 9.7 9.6 7.1 (est) 7 (est) 11.1
Mfr. price n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
$549.95/ $649.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $599 (with 14-42mm lens) $749.95 (with 46.8mm equivalent lens) $599.95 (with 27.5-83.0mm equivalent lens) $549 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a/$899.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses) $749 (with 14-42mm power zoom lens) n/a n/a n/a
Ship date October 2011/
September 2012
June 2012 October 2011 October 2012 June 2012
The new Pentax 06 zoom lens Pentax

My take: I still don't think it'll be worth it. If you have a collection of K-mount lenses and want to stick them on a mirrorless body, you're better off with the K-01, which has great photo quality and won't be overwhelmed by the bigger lenses. It's slow, but I'm guessing the Q10 probably won't be so fast either. If you're just looking for small, a few inches here or there don't make that much of a difference, and you can always get a Micro Four Thirds-based camera with a small (but not as small) sensor. Still, the Q10 has dashing looks that might make it attractive compared to a fixed-lens point-and-shoot. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to test this one.

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  • Digital camera type Compact
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.4 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"