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Pentax Q review: Pentax Q

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The Good Extremely compact; Good colour reproduction.

The Bad Fixed focal length when shooting videos; Expensive.

The Bottom Line The Pentax Q is certainly the smallest camera in its class, and that has much to do with its appeal. Shrinking its size, though, has unfortunately inflated its price to a level at which more conventional interchangeable lens rivals become a more appealing proposition.

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6.5 Overall

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You can't really appreciate the size of the Pentax Q until you have it in your hand. Pentax claims it's small enough to fit into your palm, but in truth you could put two there, side by side, and just about still see four fingers and thumb.

Despite this it has a 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor and a brand-new interchangeable lens system. With a 3-inch screen around the back and integrated HDR capture and bokeh control, it represents a lot of technology squeezed into a very small package.

The Pentax Q is available now in black and white from £499, although at the time of writing many retailers were offering a £100 cashback deal.

Build and design

Our test sample arrived with the 01 standard prime lens -- one of five in the Q range, which encompases a 17.5mm fish eye, 35mm and 100mm toy lenses and a 27.5-83mm zoom. All of those figures have been converted to match their 35mm equivalents.

Pentax Q standard prime lens
Our Pentax Q review unit came with this standard prime lens.

Our standard prime has a physical focal length of 8.5mm with a maximum aperture of f/1.9, equivalent to 47mm in a 35mm camera. Minimum aperture is a fairly conservative f/8, and controlled by a horizontal thumb wheel at the back of the case.

The lens itself features just a focusing ring, which when paired with the optional 2x or 4x focus assist magnification -- which kicks in as soon as it senses any movement on the ring -- does a neat job of getting you a sharp, manual result with the least hassle.

If that sounds like too much work, then leave it set to auto, which is accurate and very fast.

Pentax Q controls
The controls feel a bit clicky for our liking, and lack the premium feel of the rest of the camera.

It comes in black or white with a leather-effect front, under which you'll find a magnesium alloy chassis. That should protect it from all but the roughest knocks and bumps, so we were disappointed that the rear-mounted buttons don't feel as though they were built to match, as they're light and clicky, and most definitely made of plastic.

There's no viewfinder, but Pentax sells one as an option to mount on the hotshoe. You'll find the flash to the left of this. It's smarter than your average bulb, working just as well when seated in its recess as it does when popped out on a sturdy articulated arm that moves it away from the lens for more balanced results.

Pentax Q flash
The flash pops out on this funny little arm so it's not too close to the lens.

Don't let its diminutive dimensions fool you into thinking this is a cut-down sharp shooter, though. Shutter speeds run from 1/2,000 second to 30 seconds, with a bulb option for use in low light. In this mode you'll probably want to employ the remote sensor built into the grip to avoid touching it and blurring your results. Burst mode tops out at a respectable 5fps.

Shooting stills

The Q's prime lens is extremely sharp, with its wide fixed aperture allowing for a gentle fall-off in the focus as backgrounds recede from the lens. This makes it easy to isolate your subject matter, and pick out fine detail in wood or cloth.

Pentax Q test photo
The grain in this bench is particularly sharp, with a gentle fall off thanks to the Q's wide maximum aperture (click image to enlarge).
Pentax Q test photo
Again, there's plenty of detail in this knitted decoration, with a good fall off in the background to bring forward our primary subject (click image to enlarge).

Colours were extremely well handled, with an even balance of tones across the frame at both ends of the colour spectrum. In this image of a winter fruiting tree, the warm tones of the fruit and the red bark are both true to the originals, while the level of detail in the bark itself is impressive, with notches and individual flakes easily discernible.

Pentax Q test photo
The Pentax Q's colour reproduction is hard to fault, with colours at either end of the spectrum accurately recorded (click image to enlarge).

Likewise, in the image below, which is dominated by cool blues and greens, tones are representative of the original scene and the transitions between areas of similar colour are smooth and unstepped. There's good definition in the darker underside of the overhanging tree, and despite this no evidence of burned-out highlights on the front of the house, which directly faces the sun.

Neither was there any evidence of vignetting in the corners of our test images. The degree to which the incoming light has to be bent as it passes through this part of the lens, and the amount of glass it must negotiate can sometimes affect the level of illumination reaching the sensor, but not in this case, allowing the Q to deliver balanced, evenly lit and very pleasing results.

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