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Pentax Q review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £599
inc VAT

Amazingly small, frustratingly slow and worryingly expensive, but we can't help but warm to this quirky little compact system camera


1/2.3in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 1.0x zoom (47mm equivalent), 237g

Expert Reviews is pleased to bring you this video review from Short Sharp Reviews

A compact system camera takes the guts of an SLR and stuffs them into a compact body. It’s such an obviously good idea that it can only be a matter of time before all the big camera manufacturers get on board. Pentax is the latest to join the fold, but the Q – initially available exclusively from Jessops – is not at all what we expected.

Pentax Q front

It really is tiny, weighing just 237g with its kit lens. Remove the lens and it’s no bigger than a conventional compact camera. The difference to other compact system cameras is immediately obvious to see, but in practical terms it’s not such a big deal. It’s 75 per cent the weight of the Panasonic GF3 and noticeably smaller in every dimension. Despite this, both cameras will fit into a jacket pocket or handbag but neither will fit comfortably into trouser pockets.

The trade-off for the Q’s small size is that its sensor measures just 1/2.3in from corner to corner. That’s the same size that’s used in entry-level compact cameras, and it’s a bizarre choice for Pentax to go for. For us, the single best thing about compact system cameras is their big sensors, which capture lots of light and measure it more accurately. To put interchangeable lenses on what is essentially a normal compact camera is surely missing the point. To charge £599 for it seems positively nuts.

Pentax Q system
The current Q range with optional accessories and lenses

The reality isn’t as barmy as we first suspected. First up, this sensor is seriously impressive for its size. It’s a back-illuminated CMOS design, which helps lower noise – the curse of modern compact cameras. Other back-illuminated sensors have performed well in low light and less remarkably in bright light, but this one excelled in both situations. In bright light at the base ISO 125 setting, details were crisp and smooth, without the slightly fuzzy appearance that afflicts virtually all other cameras with 1/2.3in sensors.

Pentax Q sample 1
It’s surprising impressive at low ISO speeds – click to enlarge

That fuzziness did begin to appear by ISO 250, which is the lowest available ISO speed when Highlight Correction is enabled to recover clipped highlights. However, with this option switched off, outdoor shots weren’t far off the quality we’d expect from a large-sensor camera. It couldn’t match the blisteringly sharp details of the GF3 but it wasn’t far off.

Pentax Q sample 2
As ISO speeds increase, here at ISO 250, it can’t compete with larger sensor models – click to enlarge

When lower light demanded fast ISO speeds, the sensor’s small size was more apparent. Noise levels at ISO 800 were broadly equivalent to those on the Panasonic GF3 at ISO 1600 or the Sony NEX-C3 at ISO 3200. That’s seriously good going, though, considering those cameras’ sensors are respectively eight and almost 13 times the size of the Q’s.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ***
CCD effective megapixels 12.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.3in
Viewfinder optional optical
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 460,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 1.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 47mm
Image stabilisation optical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution 4,000×3,000
Maximum movie resolution 1,920×1,080
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 230 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, micro HDMI
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material magnesium alloy
Lens mount Pentax Q mount
Focal length multiplier 5.5x
Kit lens model name Standard PRIME 8.5mm f/1.9 AL [IF]
Accessories USB cable
Weight 237g
Size 57x98x50mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £599

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/8,000 seconds
Aperture range f/1.9 to f/8
ISO range (at full resolution) 125 to 6400
Exposure compensation +/-3 EV
White balance auto, 10 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, hue, high/low key adjust, noise reduction
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 20cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, AF point, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, interval, HDR, multi-exposure, distortion correction