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Pentax Q brings interchangeable lenses to pocket-sized camera

Pentax Q with lenses

Camera maker Pentax has taken the wraps off the Pentax Q, a new compact camera that sports interchangeable lens technology with a body size that’s no larger than a pocketable consumer-oriented point-and-shoot camera. For years, serious photographers have preferred DSLR cameras for their ability to use specialized lenses to get top-quality photos, and companies like Olympus and Panasonic have adopted the Micro Four Thirds system to reduce the body size of interchangeable lens cameras without compromising image quality. The Pentax Q takes that notion one step further, putting a new interchangeable lend system on top of a 1/2.33-inch image sensor for an even smaller body size.

The Pentax Q measures 3.9 by 2.3 by 1.2 inches—that’s just a bit wider and taller than a typical credit card—and offers a 12.4 megapixel resolution and a 3.0-inch LCD display. The Q offers no internal storage, but supports SD/SDHC/SDXC removable media, and the camera has built-in sensor-shift shake reduction for images free of motion blur and dust reduction to keep that sensor clean. The Q can also shoot 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second, catch action with a 5 fps burst mode, handle in-camera high-dynamic range shots (three shots of varying exposures blended together), and offers several creative modes so photographers can express themselves. The Q also features a Bokeh Control filter—for control over how things go out of focus—and there’s a pop-up flash for those spontaneous shots in poor lighting. Users can push content to storage or big screens using USB and HDMI output, and the usual bells and whistles are also present, including autofocus face detection, self-timer, multi-exposure, RAW image file support, a myriad of predefined shot modes, and manual control for the experts.

Pentax says the core of the Pentax Q is a high-resolution 1/2.33-inch backlit CMOS sensor that’s particularly good at capturing high-quality imagery in low-light settings. That sensor size is more commonly found in consumer point-and-shoot cameras, but Pentax says it’s bridging the gap with its new high-quality “Q system” interchangeable lenses: initial lens offerings will include a standard zoom, fish-eye, and wide-angle and telephoto toy lenses (which offer exaggerated perspectives). Pentax is also offering an optional optical viewfinder.

Pentax Q

Pentax says the Q should be available this fall in the United States (in black and white) with a standard prime lens kit for about $800. The optional shoe-mounted viewfinder will be available for about $240; the Zoom lens will run about $250, the fish-eye about $130, and the toy lenses will go for about $80 each. Pentax will also be offering filters, lens hoods, and other accessories.

The pricing for the Pentax Q puts it in the same league as other interchangeable lens cameras—by the time folks set themselves up with this system, they could easily have a standard DSLR, or get into the Micro Four-Thirds game and even get a selection of lenses. The question for Pentax is whether the Q’s imaging quality meets the needs of the serious photographers most likely to be interesting in an interchangeable lens camera—and whether the Q’s compact body size really makes that much of a difference to them.