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

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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.

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