The Bottom Line
The Pentax Q digital interchangeable lens (DIL) camera is so small, it almost resembles a toy. However, don't let the Q's look fool you.
This camera is a lot of fun to use -- almost like a toy -- but it has far more powerful photographic features than any toy.
I thought the Q was a really nice camera, and its image quality is outstanding. The price of about $800 (for the Q camera body and a small starter lens) is just about right ... maybe a little high. The Q probably won't appeal to more serious photographers, but it should appeal to someone who likes the size of point and shoot cameras, but who wants a bit more power and really great image quality.
If you consider the Q a toy, its outstanding image quality will make you rethink this feeling. Images are extremely sharp and well exposed. Colors are bright and vibrant. The camera can pick out minute details in nearly all photos, even in deep shadows.
It doesn't matter whether you're shooting outdoors or indoors, whether you're shooting with or without the flash, the Q's image quality is great across all photographic situations.
Compared to other small DIL cameras from other manufacturers, the Q's image quality is among the best I've seen.
You can shoot at four different aspect ratios, and you have four resolution options within each aspect ratio, giving you 16 different options, which is a great feature.
I mentioned that the Q is an extremely fun camera to use, and a primary reason for that is the long list of special effect features that Pentax included with this camera. Some of the effects include: Brilliant color, uni-color, vintage color, and cross processing. You also can apply some filters, such as toy camera, high contrast, inverted color, extracted color, posterization, fisheye, and HDR.
To give yourself quick access to these special effects -- or to some shooting functions that you commonly use -- you can program the Q's "smart" dial to work with almost any camera setting. The smart dial, which is on the front of the camera, has four different settings. Within each setting, you can set up four additional settings.
This smart dial is a really great feature, and contributes to the fun ways in which you can use the Q. Overall, the Q offers quite a few ways to customize the camera. This flexibility is great, as it means you can set up this DIL camera in a way that makes sense to you.
The Q's autofocus mechanism works extremely fast, and it's very accurate. You will have to be a little careful that you aren't too close to your subjects, or the autofocus will be unable to lock onto the subject, and you'll see a red box on the LCD.
Shutter lag is minimal with the Q, meaning you can shoot photos of moving subjects without much trouble. You won't notice many problems with shot to shot delays, and start up is pretty fast with the Q, too.
The Q has a nice mixture of beginner and intermediate features, nearly all of which are accessible through the mode dial along the top of the camera. You can select from 21 scene modes or shoot in fully automatic mode, making this an easy-to-use camera. You also can shoot in manual mode, aperture priority, or shutter priority mode, if you want a bit more control over the image.
You can simply set the mode dial to movie mode and then use the shutter button to start and stop the video.
My Pentax Q review model included the small starter lens (8.5 mm fixed, called the 01 Standard Prime). That lens really has no telephoto capabilities, so I did not have to deal with the potential problem of camera shake. With a longer lens, it's possible that this camera might be tough to hold and use, as the camera body is so small and lightweight that the lens could throw off the center of balance. If you want to purchase a Q, I'd suggest trying it out with a longer lens, just to make sure it's comfortable for you to use. Pentax is offering five different lenses for the Q.
Like most DIL cameras, the Q has no viewfinder, meaning you must use the LCD to frame all photos. This works well, as the LCD is a good size and is bright and sharp. The LCD can be a little tough to see in direct sunlight, unless you have the LCD set on the brightest of the seven available settings, which will drain the battery a little more quickly.
The flash unit included with the Q is another fun feature. The flash tucks into the upper right corner of the front of the camera, looking like any other built-in flash unit. The flash also can extend away from the camera body. Unlike other popup flash units, though, it extends an inch or so away from the camera on a segmented arm. This feature not only looks cool, but it would make the flash work better if you're using a longer lens with the Q. You can use the flash either tucked into the corner of the camera or on the extended arm. The only down side to the extended arm is that you could break the flash, if you aren't careful, when it's extended.
The four-way button on the back of the camera is a nice size, and allows you to set white balance or the flash mode, for example. Pentax included a USB slot, an HDMI slot, and a hot shoe.
The Q is available in white or black camera bodies, with silver and gray trim. The lens is silver, and the Q is a nice looking camera.
Pentax included really long USB and power cables with the Q, which is one of those features that you don't think about until you have a cord that's way too short, which can be the case with many camera manufacturers looking to save money, so it's nice to see Pentax didn't skimp on this.
Finally, in addition to being small, the Q also doesn't weigh much, making it easy to use one-handed. Again, however, with a longer lens, it might be a bit tougher to use the Q one-handed versus the small lens I used with my review model. Despite being small and lightweight, the Q feels pretty sturdy and well built, especially for a camera with a plastic body.