Pentax Q: Pentax's First Swappable-Lens Compact Cam Is the Smallest Ever

The world of compact interchangeable-lens cameras continues to grow--and shrink. Pentax is the latest big-name company to throw its hat into the mirrorless ring with the Pentax Q, a 12-megapixel camera that's smaller and lighter than anything we've seen thus far in the interchangeable-lens category.

Announced today, the new camera uses a new Q-mount lens system and will ship as a kit with a 47mm/F1.9 prime lens. Along with the Q, Pentax also announced four separately-sold Q-mount lenses, all of which are slated to be available this fall.

Although this is the first compact interchangeable-lens digital camera in Pentax's lineup, the company has a storied history in the realm of miniaturized swappable-lens cameras. The tiny Pentax Auto 110, which was released in 1978 and used Kodak 110 film cartridges, is believed to be the smallest SLR camera of all time.

Pentax Q: A Swappable-Lens Point-and-Shoot

The Pentax Q's physical dimensions are significantly smaller than the two most-compact interchangeable-lens cameras we've seen before the Q was announced today. At just 1.2 inches deep, 3.9 inches wide, and 2.3 inches tall, the Pentax Q is tinier in every dimension than the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 (1.31 by 4.38 by 2.38 inches) and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 (1.28 by 4.24 by 2.64 inches). It's much lighter, too, clocking in at 7.1 ounces with a battery and storage card inserted, compared with the Alpha NEX-C3's 10-ounce weight and the Lumix GF3's 9.31-ounce weight with the same insertions.

That smaller size goes hand-in-hand with a sensor that's smaller than the sensor in any compact interchangeable-lens camera we've seen--the Q packs a 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, about the same size as the ones you'll find in today's point-and-shoot cameras. The Q also offers body-based sensor-shift image stabilization, captures both JPG and RAW (.dng format) images, and shoots MPEG-4 1080p video at 30 frames per second.

More-creative options include an automated exposure-bracketing HDR (high dynamic range) mode and in-camera modes that apply color filters, fish-eye and toy-camera effects, and color-isolation features to shots as you're taking them, as well as post-shot effects that include a tilt-shift lens simulator and a watercolor effect. Full manual controls, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, and an array of automated scene modes are also in the mix.

The Q's burst mode tops out at 5 frames per second at full resolution, and the camera also has a "bokeh filter" aimed at making shallow depth-of-field shots easier for novice users. One unique twist is the camera's front-mounted "Quick Dial," which allows shooters to assign up to four presets for fast access to settings of their choice.

The Pentax Q also does things a bit differently with its pop-up flash, which looks as if it will extend upward quite a bit more than anything this side of an old-school flash-powder tray. However, unlike most cameras we've seen, the flash can be used whether it's popped up or popped down.

More-traditional hardware specs include a 3-inch LCD screen, physical knobs and buttons for adjusting the camera's settings, and a hot shoe that accepts external flashes and viewfinders.

As noted, the Pentax Q is due to be available this fall, for about $800, as a kit with a 47mm/F1.9 prime lens. Four additional Q-mount lenses will be available at the same time as the camera: a 27.5mm to 83mm zoom lens, a prime fish-eye lens, and two fixed focal-length "toy-camera" lenses for wide-angle and telephoto shots.

This story, "Pentax Q: Pentax's First Swappable-Lens Compact Cam Is the Smallest Ever" was originally published by PCWorld.

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon