Pentax QS-1 Review

January 22, 2015 | Amy Davies | |
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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

Directly from the Pentax QS-1, colours are nicely saturated, displaying a good amount of warmth without erring too far towards the unnatural.

One of the advantages of choosing a Pentax camera is that the raw format is the universal DNG, which means you can generally open them with whatever photo editing software you use, such as Photoshop.

If you compare colours in the DNG files with the JPEG files, generally there’s a little more saturation, but you can also see in JPEG files where the camera has applied lens correction to fix problems with distortion - either way, it’s good to have the DNG if you prefer to do your own processing and control every aspect here.

Detail is reasonably well resolved, especially for something with the same size sensor as a compact camera. If you examine images at 100% it becomes clear that there is some image smoothing going on, even at reasonably low sensitivities such as ISO 200, but it’s not something that is too apparent at normal printing and web sizes.

At small printing or viewing sizes, images taken at the higher end of the sensitivity scale are acceptable, but if you zoom into them, you can see the introduction of noise and some image smoothing and loss of detail. Comparing the equivalent RAW image with the JPEG image you can see that there is quite a lot of  noise reduction applied, with lots of chrome noise visible at higher sensitivities such as ISO 3200. This is good news if you want to apply your own noise reduction and control the amount of detail retained in a shot.

Generally speaking, the Pentax QS-1’s all-purpose metering system is good at producing accurate exposures, while similarly, the automatic white balance system is good at determining the lighting situation to produce accurate colours, even under artificial lights.

There’s a couple of different options available if you want to get a little more creative. First of all there’s “Smart Effects” - which are four effects which can be reached by the front dial on the camera. There’s also “Custom Image”, the majority of which are a little more subtle and tend to reflect the qualities of traditional analogue film. Finally, there’s also a set of digital filters, which includes options such as Fish-eye and Posterization.

Noise

There are 8 ISO settings available on the Pentax QS-1. 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 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg
   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg
   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg
   

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg

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 slightly 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)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

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 (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Wide Angle (84mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (84mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots with the flash off and on.

Flash Off

Flash Off (100% Crop)
flash_off.jpg flash_off1.jpg
   

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Night

The Pentax QS-1 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 30 seconds at ISO 100.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg