Month: March 2013

Pentax Q

It’s been a long time between posts in my blog – far too long, etc, etc.

Enough apologising already, let’s cut to the chase in this year of the Snake.

Regular readers will know my love/hate relationship with point & shoot cameras. I love the size and portability, I hate the compromised results they give. However, I have been persevering, and even took an Olympus XZ-1 as a pocket camera in a recent sojourn to the USA. It did OK in the main, but I missed far too many shots while waiting for the damn thing to focus, decide on the exposure, warn me about stuff, etc. My main workhorse, a Canon 5D2 with an L zoom was too big and conspicuous to push into people’s faces as a street candid, and so I lost even more shots.

Maybe I now have  the answer – enter the tiny, tiny Pentax Q, fitted with a fast prime lens. Meet my new buddy:

Pentax Q with the extras

You can see here how small it really is, even when fitted with a viewfinder (it needs one as I hate arm’s length snapping), and a lens hood. The SD card should give you a suitable visual scale clue. It makes my Olympus EP-2, itself diminutive, look oversized even when that one wears its Lumix 20mm f1.7 prime. I guess Pentax takes being smallest very, very seriously. It even makes the 1950’s vintage Leica IIIf look huge.

The lens is fast – it’s a 5 element unit with an f1.9 aperture – and it is sharp at that opening. Because the real focal length is so short – 8.5 mm, pretending to be a 47mm focal length standard lens – everything has a tendency to be in focus  most of the time. To overcome this, a pet hate of mine, Pentax has equipped the camera with the smarts to have a setting (“BC” for blur or bokeh control, you can see it right there on the front control wheel ) with which to blur the background and separate out a foreground subject as no other tiny sensor camera can actually do.  I am still coming to terms with this feature.

Here is a picture grabbed from the web showing it next to an old Pentax 110 SLR – they are about the same size (yes, I used to have one, even fitted with a motor drive. It’s such a pity that the 110 film format was so crappy.)

It powers on quickly, it focuses quickly and it takes a picture quickly. The only gripe I have so far is that when saving both DNG RAW – yes, it can produce raw images – and large JPGs together it takes a second or two to write to the SD card, eve with a Class 10 speed card. To cut the write time down, I have been breaking my own rule and not saving images in raw format, but relying on the camera’s JPG engine – yes, it’s that good.

Pentax even provides firmware updates for both the camera and the lens.

I will post some snaps with it in a day or two. You will then be able to see what wonders Pentax (now owned and managed by Ricoh, and it’s easy to see Ricoh’s influence on both the design and firmware support, a great leap forward – I so do like Ricoh) have managed with such a tiny sensor.

The latest body firmware (vn 1.10) also adds focus peaking which will be a boon for manual focus control, and yes, even this feature is well implemented. It just awesome what power is packed into this tiny marvel. Another Ricoh benefit.

The Voigtlander finder pictured above is actually a frame-lined as a 75mm unit, but beyond the lines it shows a standard lens field of view. Maybe the Voigtlander Kontur finder (see a couple of posts ago) is what should be fitted until I can find a cheap Leitz SBOOI finder unit at the right price – if you want to sell me one (or a 50mm Voigtlander unit), feel free to contact me.

More soon, dear readers, and I will have proof for you of what I write.

Footnote – The lens hood in the picture is an old German metal unit originally made for a Zeiss Sonnar for a Contax, of 40.5 mm diameter screw fitting. I called around to see if I could buy locally a rubber collapsible hood of the same diameter – guess what – not bloody well available, it will have to be a Chinese unit off the web. What is wrong with camera shops these days?