Pentax Q Review

3.5
October 27, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.4 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

The Pentax Q produced photos of good quality. Noise is fairly well controlled by the Pentax Q, at least for the JPG files, starting to appear at ISO 400 and becoming more easily detectable at the faster settings of ISO 800 and 1600 when viewing images at 100% magnification on screen. The fastest settings of 3200 and 6400 looks much better on paper than in reality. Colour saturation is commendably maintained throughout the ISO range. The RAW samples illustrate just how much processing the camera does by default, as they're much noisier at all ISO values than their JPEG counterparts.

The 12.4 megapixel JPEG images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting. Image stabilisation via the camera body is a great feature that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using a telephoto zoom lens. An added bonus is that it works with any lens that you attach to the Q.

The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and Bulb mode allowing you to capture enough light in all situations, although the maximum ISO speed is limited to 1600 in Bulb mode. The cleverly designed built-in pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure.

The extensive range of Custom Images and Digital Filters quickly produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, although some of them are less useful than others. The HDR mode greatly expands the dynamic range of a JPEG by combining three differently exposed images in-camera.

Noise

There are 7 ISO settings available on the Pentax Q. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:

JPEG

RAW

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

File Quality

The Pentax Q has 3 different JPEG file quality settings available, with Best being the highest quality option, and it also supports RAW (Adobe DNG). Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Best (2.96Mb) (100% Crop)

Better (1.90Mb) (100% Crop)

   

Good (1.01Mb) (100% Crop)

RAW (20.6Mb) (100% Crop)

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

Flash

The flash modes include Auto, Auto + Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On + Red-eye Reduction, Slow-speed Sync, Slow-speed Sync + Red-eye Reduction, Trailing Curtain Sync, and Flash Off. These shots of a white wall were taken at a distance of 1.5 metres.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (40.5mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (40.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On setting or the Red-eye Reduction option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Pentax Q lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 20 seconds at ISO 100. We've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction

The Pentax Q has a Shake Reduction mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Shake Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Shake Reduction turned on, the images are sharper than when it's turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Shake Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/8th / 40.5mm

HDR Capture

The Pentax Q's HDR Capture option (only available for JPEGs) takes three images with different exposures, and then records a single image that combines the properly exposed parts of each one, expanding its dynamic range. Here is an example which was shot with the four different modes (Off, Auto, 1 and 2). Although the Q can microalign images before combining them, allowing hand-held HDR shots to be taken, for best results it's important to always use a tripod to prevent camera shake from blurring the HDR image, and it doesn't work very well for moving subjects.

Off

Auto

   
HDR1 HDR2

Custom Images

Pentax's Custom Images, similar to Nikon's Picture Styles and Canon's Picture Controls, are preset combinations of different sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone settings. You can change the saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness for each of the eleven options?. They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences.

Bright

Natural

   

Portrait

Landscape

   

Vibrant

Radiant

   

Muted

Bleach Bypass
   

Reversal Film

Monochrome

   

Cross Processing

 
 

Digital Filters

The Pentax Q offers eleven different Digital Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. Note that applying the Digital Filters slows the camera down somewhat, as it has to process the image for a few seconds after it's taken.

Toy Camera

High Contrast

   

Shading

Slim

   

HDR

Invert Color

   

Extract Color

Color

   

Water Color

Posterization

   

Fish-eye

 
 

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, review, 1080p, compact system camera, 12 megapixel, csc, RAW, pentax, CMOS, 5fps, evil, interchangeable lens, pentax q, Pentax Q Review, Q

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