Pentax Q Interchangeable Lens Camera Arrives! (HD Video)
Unlike DSLRs, ILC’s such as the Pentax Q lack either an optical or electronic viewfinder, instead relying on large LCD monitors to provide a preview image, just like most point and shoot digital cameras. However, like larger DSLRs, they accept a variety of interchangeable lenses and usually offer more exposure and image quality controls. For the Sony NEX-C3, most of the controls are accessed via menus on the large LCD monitor, while on the Pentax Q the external knurled main control dial lets you quickly switch modes without scrolling through LCD screen menus. I’m all for more control dials and buttons on the camera exterior versus menu driven controls (which can be hard to see in very bright light or when holding the camera at waist level). However, DSLR-style control dials add to the size of a camera, and for ILC’s the main drive has been towards smaller size.
But are photographers willing to pay a premium for small size in this category? Time will tell. However, I wasn’t the only one surprised by the high price of this camera vs the competition: $800 for the 12.4MP Pentax Q with a prime 47mm equivalent f/1.9 lens compared to $699 for the Sony 16.2MP NEX-C3 with an 18-55mm zoom kit lens. Throw in the fact that a new 16.2MP Nikon D5100 HD SLR with an 18-55mm VR zoom lens sells for $850, and it looks as if Pentax is taking some serious risks not only with the high price of the camera but with the small size of the Q’s sensor.
About that sensor: At 1/ 2.3-inches, the Pentax Q’s CMOS sensor (manufactured by Sony) is about 1/10 the size of the APS-C sized CMOS sensor found in most DSLRs or the Sony NEX-C3, and identical in size to those found in advanced point and shoot models from a number of manufacturers. The chart below (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows how it compares in size to the APS-C sensor found in the new Sony NEX-C3, the Four Thirds Standard sensor found in the Panasonic DMC-GF3, and the full frame and medium format sensors found in a variety of pro DSLRs.
Pentax Q’s 12.4MP CMOS BSI sensor is 1/2.3-inch format, similar in size to those used in many advanced point and shoots. Chart on right, courtesy Wikipedia shows how it compares in size to those from other ILC cameras and HD SLRs.
In my opinion, the main reason for choosing an ILC is to get a compact, lightweight camera that under many circumstances rivals the image quality from a larger DSLR. That includes better low light sensitivity with low noise at high ISO settings, increased depth of field control and separation, RAW file recording, high resolution, and great color accuracy. A second key benefit is the ability to choose a specific lens for a specific purpose—for example, a 16mm f/2.8 ultra-wide angle lens for shooting indoor architecture. (Currently, no point and shoot camera offers such a built-in ultra-wide lens.) While I haven’t examined actual images from the Pentax Q (which can record in RAW DNG format or JPEG), it’s likely that they will be handicapped by two major image quality shortcomings found in point and shoot cameras with similar sized sensors: high noise at low ISO settings and little depth of field separation even with wide-aperture lenses.