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Review: Pentax Q7 SR

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I received word of the Pentax Q7 from Chris Gampat about a month and a half ago. It was the next review unit coming in, and since my time was mostly free, I said I would take the review. The loaner agreement disappeared into the ether of cyberspace, and a package arrived at my door some number of days later. When I opened it, I thought, “Something must be wrong.” What sat on the counter in front of me looked like a scaled-down version of what the camera should have been. Granted, I hadn’t researched the camera beforehand as I like each new review to be a fresh experience. As you can see, I received the black and yellow version, so attributing toylike qualities to it is, I think, warranted. As I came to terms with the camera’s size, I raised my paws and sighed. The Q7, like a newborn kitten, sits comfortably in the palm of my hand. This is not your father’s Pentax, and that, my friends, is a good thing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-It is extremely lightweight to the point where it feels like you’re wearing a necklace.

-Its tiny sensor captures a lot of detail.

-The JPEGs almost require no editing.

-The built-in shake reduction, hence the SR, works well.

Cons

-Navigating the camera with my mitts took some time to become fluid.

-Depending on the photo, I’d have to apply the lens correction profile in Lightroom as there was an occasional tendency to distort the RAW. I shot RAW + JPEG, and in some instances, the RAW was distorted while the corresponding JPEG looked fine.

-There was the occasional purple fringing.

Gear Used

For this review, I used the Pentax Q7 with the standard kit lens, a 5-15mm f2.8-4.5 (23-70mm 35mm equivalent).

Tech Specs

Courtesy of B&H’s listing:

Imaging
Lens Mount Pentax Q
Camera Format Pentax Q (4.6x Crop Factor)
Pixels Actual: 12.76 Megapixel
Effective: 12.4 Megapixel
Max Resolution 12MP: 4000 x 3000 @ 4:3
Other Resolutions 7MP: 3072 x 2304 @ 4:3
3MP: 1920 x 1440 @ 4:3
10MP: 4000 x 2664 @ 3:2
6MP: 3072 x 2048 @ 3:2
2MP: 1920 x 1280 @ 3:2
9MP: 4000 x 2248 @ 16:9
5MP: 3072 x 1728 @ 16:9
2MP: 1920 x 1080 @ 16:9
9MP: 2992 x 2992 @ 1:1
5MP: 2304 x 2304 @ 1:1
2MP: 1440 x 1440 @ 1:1
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 7.6 x 5.7 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MOV, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Bit Depth 12-bit
Dust Reduction System Yes
Memory Card Type SD
SDHC
SDXC
Image Stabilization Sensor-Shift
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes, NTSC/PAL
Resolution 1920 x 1080: 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
1280 x 720: 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
640 x 480: 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
Aspect Ratio 4:3, 16:9
Video Clip Length Up to 25 Minutes
Audio Recording With Video, Mono
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Single-servo AF (S), Manual Focus (M)
Autofocus Points Contrast Detection: 25
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type None
Display Screen 3″ Rear Screen   LCD (460,000)
Screen Coverage 100%
Live View Yes
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 100-12800
Shutter Type: Electronic & Mechanical
Speed: 30 – 1/8000 sec
Remote Control O-RC1 (Optional)
Metering Method Center-weighted average metering, Partial Metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Auto, Bulb, Manual, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority
Metering Range: EV 1.0 – EV 17.0
Compensation: -2 EV to +2 EV
White Balance Modes Auto, CTE, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Fluorescent (Day White), Fluorescent (Natural White), Fluorescent (White), Manual, Shade, Tungsten
Burst Rate Up to 5 fps at 12 MP for up to 5 frames
Flash
Flash Modes Rear Curtain/Slow Sync
Red-eye Reduction
Slow Sync
TTL Auto
Built-in Flash Yes
Guide No. 16.08′ (4.9 m) ISO100
22.97′ (7 m) ISO200
Max Sync Speed Electronic Shutter: 1 / 13 sec
Mechanical Shutter: 1 / 2000 sec
Flash Compensation -2 EV to +1 EV
Dedicated Flash System P-TTL
External Flash Connection Hot Shoe
Performance
In-Camera Image Editing Art Bold, Base Parameter Adjustment, Color, Cross Process, Extract Color, Fisheye, High Contrast, High Dynamic, Invert Color, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, NEF (RAW) Processing, Old Days, Posterization, Resize Image, Retro, Shading, Sketch Filter, Slim, Soft Focus, Star Filter, Tone Expansion, Toy Camera, Trim, Watercolor
Continuous Shooting Up to 5 fps
Self Timer 2 sec, 12 sec
Interval Recording Yes
Connectivity AV Output
HDMI D (Micro)
USB 2.0
Wi-Fi Capable None
Software Requirements Windows: XP (SP3), Vista (SP1), 7, 8
Mac: OS X 10.5 or later
Power
Battery 1x D-LI68  Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 3.7VDC, 1000mAh
AC Power Adapter K-AC115 (Optional)
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating
32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Physical
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.3″ / 10.2 x 5.8 x 3.3 cm
Weight 7.05 oz / 200  g with battery and memory card
Kit Lens
Focal Length 5 – 15 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 23 – 69 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8 – 4.5
Minimum: f/8
Angle of View 76° – 29°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.8″ (29.97 cm)
Magnification 0.06x
Groups/Elements 7/8
Diaphragm Blades 5
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization No
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 1.9 x 1.9″ (4.83 x 4.83 cm)
Weight 3.39 oz (96 g)
Kit Lens
Focal Length 15-45 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 69-207 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Angle of View 29° – 9.9°
Minimum Focus Distance 3.3′ (1.01 m)
Magnification 0.05x
Groups/Elements 10/14
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization No
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 1.96 x 2.2″ (4.98 x 5.59 cm)
Weight 3.17 oz (90 g)

Ergonomics

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Chris Gampat originally gave his thoughts on the Q7 in his first impression post several months ago, but with larger paws and having since taken over the full review, I’ll lay out my account of the ergonomics here.

This is the smallest interchangeable lens camera I’ve ever held. I thought Leica’s D-LUX 6 was small, and when I reviewed that, I had only been working with my Sony a580 for two and a half year by that point. I’ve since had more time with smaller cameras, and the Q7 is the smallest among them. This slightly angled view of the front here shows the most important features: the AF assist lamp, flash, kit lens, and filter dial. The last of the three has five settings: regular, vintage, bold monochrome, warm fade and cross-processing.

With a length of 4-inches and a height of 2.3-inches, the Q7 commands delicate handling, much like a rare artifact, mostly because its size doesn’t allow for full hand coverage. Maybe a baby could hold it comfortably, but as with most point-and-shots wielded by tourists, there was a great deal of squinting and fingertip dexterity at play.

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Along the top here, you’ve got the flash switch, playback button, hot shoe, on/off butotn, shutter, mode dial, and the exposure dial, which handles both shutter speed and aperture in manual mode.

The kit lens comes without a depth of field scale. The only important markings are the focal length numbers: 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 15. The big black ring handles the zooming while the smaller yellow handles focusing, which is a bit of a hassle. If you’re setting this atop a tripod, I could see manual focusing being easier, but for nearly the entire review period, I trusted the camera’s autofocus. There is focus peaking, but it wasn’t conducive to capturing that fleeting moment.

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The LCD gives you all the essential information you’ll need. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO sit along the bottom. Mode, flash, white balance, file format, shake reduction, and battery life sit at the top. Along the right side, you get a very useful electronic level.

In terms of buttons, you get exposure compensation, trash, ISO, timer, White Balance, flash, OK, menu and info. They’re understandably small, and if you’ve got large fingers, you need to be mindful of which button you’re pressing. You’ll need precision for that OK button, as with all the buttons, but if you give it time, you’ll find it less harrowing to navigate.

The compartment to the right houses the SD card, and the one to the left holds the battery. Underneath, you’ll find the tripod thread, HDMI port and a PC/AV port.

Build Quality

Coming in at 10.22 ounces with the lens attached, the Q7 has a moderate amount of heft that sits comfortably in the hand. The front of the camera is textured to help with grip so that fingertips don’t slip. The rest of the camera is smooth metal and comes in various color options that provide a nice amount of customization. Reminds me of the Moto X, and if you’re into customization, you’ll have to allow some time for shipping.

While it may seem obvious, it should be said that this truly is a pocketable camera. It’s not the first pocketable camera, but you can drop the body in one pocket and the lens in another. This lends itself to traveling lightly.

Autofocus

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The autofocus is fairly quick and does a good job of figuring out what it is you want to photograph. This’ll be beneficial, I’m sure, for those who are into quick snapshots, where time is of the essence. Snap and go.

Ease of Use

The learning curve for this camera comes in scaling down. If a DSLR is your main bag, then it’ll take you longer to work with the Q7′s smaller surface area. Everything’s fairly self-explanatory with regards to shooting modes, and while it may be easier to shoot in Auto, I went with Manual. As stated earlier, pressing the exposure compensation button switches between shutter speed and aperture, which is then adjusted by the unmarked black dial on top.

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Given that the kit lens only goes down to f/8, some adjustments have to be made. The above image was shot at f/8, ISO 100 and 1/320 sec. I adjusted for some contrast in Lightroom, but nothing else. Metering is mostly accurate with the Q7, but there were some instances in which it overexposed just a bit.

Image Quality

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This goes for any camera, but with the right light, the Q7 performs very well. Colors are accurate, if a bit muted in some instances, but with proper expectations, it will give you what you need. It’s no 5D Mark III, a99 or D800, but it isn’t meant to be. That would be a tragically unfair comparison anyway. It’s a camera for those who favor portability and expediency over the refined aspects of bigger rigs. That’s not to say the Q7 is crude, but it’s tiny sensor will only give you so much. There is a tendency for purple fringing, but that can always be remedied in post.

High ISO images

julius constantine motal the phoblographer pentax q7 high iso image

The above image was shot at ISO 800, and chatter on various fora has it that the Q7′s performance at higher ISOs is far better than its predecessor, the Q10. Without any time with the Q10, I can only comment on what is, and the Q7′s output ISO 800 is usable. At 1600, the noise is far more apparent, but not terribly so. If you need a quick shot in darker scenarios, the Q7 will make something for you.

RAW File Versatility

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The Q7′s RAW files provide a good amount of information to work with, but a curious quirk was that some RAW files tended to distort to a fisheye perspective. In order to flatten it out, I needed to use Lightroom’s Lens Profile Correction in order to straighten out. The confusing thing, as noted earlier, was that the corresponding JPEGs were all fine, no distortion whatsoever. It’s a quick fix, and while it may have been limited to my unit, it is something to look out for.

Extra Image Samples

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julius constantine motal the phoblographer pentax q7 image-15

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julius constantine motal the phoblographer pentax q7 image-22

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Conclusion

The Pentax Q7 is a small, but formidable entry into the mirrorless space. A Sony NEX-7 it is not, but what it sacrifices in power, it makes up for in portability. If you’re keen on entering a camera system with a sizable catalogue of glass, you’ll be disappointed on the third-party front, and first-party front to a degree. The Q7 is the third installment in the Q series, and there’s only a handful of lenses available for it. There is a K to Q-mount adapter which opens more doors, but imagine Pentax’s 560mm f5.6 ED AW lens on the Q7. My neck hurts at the mere thought of it.

Pentax, or I should say Ricoh, has a good thing with the Q series, and if it continues to work at it, it’ll have something that could turn heads. The Q7 is a step in the right direction. It has its strengths in portability and image quality, and it has its weaknesses, too. All cameras do. If you fancy a really small interchangeable lens camera, the Q7 may be the right choice for you.

You can pick it up at Amazon and Adorama.

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