Pentax Q-S1: refresh of most compact system camera

Black Pentax Q-S1: frontal view of compact system camera with lens, aspect ratio two wide by one high; two dials either side of the lens and Pentax written in white above lens mount
Pentax Q-S1

Pentax has taken the wraps off the previously-leaked Pentax Q-S1. The Pentax Q series lays legitimate claim to being the smallest digital camera system on the market. Although the Panasonic Lumix GM1 is smaller in some respects, Pentax’ system has smaller lenses for the same effective focal lengths since its sensor is smaller – a 4.7 crop factor in this new incarnation as well as the Q7, whereas the original Q and its Q10 refresh had a 5.6 crop factor. This gives the Q7 and Q-S1 higher resolving power than the original model.

As a result of the high crop factor, very high magnification can be achieved when the Q is combined with an adapter for K-mount lenses, limited only by the resolving power of the K-mount lens used (K-mount is the standard mount for Pentax’ larger DSLR cameras). Essentially, this would be like taking a crop from a sensor with very high pixel density. Since it has a twelve megapixel sensor (and, by the way, a 4:3 aspect ratio), the pixel density is about the same as a 250 megapixel full frame sensor. In a very simple calculation, that could give it over two and a half times the resolution of a current generation Nikon 1 sensor. However, there isn’t yet an autofocusing adapter – focus is manual with focus peaking and/or magnified view in the viewfinder. The native tele lens is numbered 06 and goes to 249mm equivalent.

However, its fans maintain that the Q is not about crop factors, but rather, about fun. And you can’t escape the fact that this camera makes you smile, right from the moment that someone suggests that the sensor should be bigger (they haven’t handled the camera and can be forgiven for missing the point) all the way to the final, charmingly grainy image at higher ISO settings. This is a camera you can always have with you, and you can change lenses to get the shot that you want. Don’t go looking for shallow depth of field here – you’ll have to shoot this in a similar way to a point and shoot, deliberately isolating your subjects, or including your sharp background into your composition. On the flipside, it’s easy to get everything in focus for cityscape or landscape shooting.

I mentioned the charming grain, but that’s not where the analog feel stops – there are a number of art filters in this camera for various degraded looks, in addition to separate colour filters such as bleach bypass and cross-process, and there’s a toy lens with a deliberately lo-fi look and plenty of aberrations – probably the most tongue-in-cheek lens from a major manufacturer (lensbaby et al. excluded). Along the same lines, this Q generation, like its predecessors, will have quirky custom colours for you to choose from as a special order.

Some fun colour variants of the Pentax Q-S1 - separate blue and pink variants with silver/chrome top plate, and yellow with a champagne top plate.
Some fun colour variants of the Pentax Q-S1

The Q has been praised for including a lot of functionality that you would expect in a much bigger, more “professional” camera, such as inbuilt flash, an additional flash hotshoe (now missing from the Nikon 1 series’ top model, the V3), in-camera HDR and RAW processing, In other news, there’s a new mystery dial on the front of this camera that is missing from previous models. We’re waiting with bated breath to hear its purpose revealed

There’s only one little salty tear with this launch, and that’s the fact that this camera once again has a polycarbonate plastic rather than magnesium alloy metal body. Can’t we have everything? Please?


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