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Pentax Q is latest lens-swapping system

It may not fire lasers or whistle up a dose of stun gas, but the new Pentax Q interchangeable-lens system has a very James Bond-esque retro style. Pay attention, 007.

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Richard Trenholm
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It may not fire lasers or whistle up a dose of stun gas, but the new Pentax Q interchangeable-lens camera has a very James Bond-esque retro style -- and a crazy pop-up flash. Pay attention, 007.

The Pentax Q camera is the first to use the new Q lens mount, announced today. It's the first step for Pentax into the ever-growing market for cameras that swap lenses like a digital SLR, but in a much smaller frame.

The 12-megapixel Q packs a rear-illuminated, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. It includes shake-reduction and dust-removal features, with a host of automatic modes and special effects for adding different twists to each picture.

It shoots 1080p high-definition video at a rate of 30 frames per second. The pop-up flash, pictured above, may look barmy but it's actually sensibly designed -- the further away the flash is from the lens, the less likely there'll be red eyes or other unwanted effects.

Like other recent lens-swapping systems, Q cameras do away with the mirror mechanism inside traditional dSLRs. That means they can offer dSLR power and features but in a much smaller package.

The first lenses in the Q range are a standard prime lens, standard zoom lens, fish-eye wide-angle lens, and not one but two toy-effect lenses.

Pentax is emphasising its history as a camera brand with the retro appearance of the Q camera. It's a similar tack to the Olympus Pen range, which wears its photographic heritage on its sleeve. The Q camera looks a shade less kitsch than the Olympus Pen E-P1, but it's otherwise very similar. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if the legal team at Olympus decide to 'ave a word.

Olympus isn't the only competitor in the world of compact lens-swapping snappers. Panasonic's feature-packed range, including the Lumix G3, G10 and forthcoming , are bang-up-to-the-minute in terms of styling. Both Olympus and Panasonic make cameras that use lenses, the most established of the new lens formats.

Sony has its own NEX format, Samsung has the NX format, and Ricoh has the gloriously bonkers GXR system. With all this choice, will users join the Q?

Click through our photo gallery above for a first look at the new camera, and keep it CNET UK as we await the Q's mid-September launch.

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This is the white model.
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And off comes the lens.
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The top of the camera includes a hotshoe.
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There are two control wheels on the right shoulder.
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The 3-inch screen looks like a giant slab of a thing.
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Here we see the HDMI connection and tripod screw on the bottom.
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The handy 'quick dial' on the front gives quick access to your favourite special effects.
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Behold the textured grip.
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There's a leather effect on the whole front face of the camera.
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Here's the optional viewfinder bunged up top.
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A selection of lenses in the Q format.
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The Q camera will be available in mid-September.

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