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Today Pentax took the wraps off their first compact interchangeable lens digital camera, the  Q. This camera is based around a 1/2.33″ sensor with a 5.7X crop factor and uses all-new Q-mount lenses, of which 5 were introduced as well today.

The Pentax Q uses a 12 megapixels BSI-CMOS sensor capable of ISO sensitivities up to 6400 and full 1080p HD video capture. Image stabilization is provided to all lenses using a sensor-shift mechanism which also includes the latest in dust-reduction technology.

Like all interchangeable lens cameras to date, the Pentax Q has full manual-controls, including custom white-balance and manual focusing. There is a standard hot-shoe and built-in flash too.

With its 5.7X crop-factor, the Pentax Q uses the smallest sensor of all interchangeable lens cameras.  This has the desirable potential of making the Q much smaller than other ILCs while offering image quality similar to entry-level compact digital cameras.

This is a bold and risky move from the part of Pentax which is offering a unique product that requires a new lineup of lenses. On one side, the market for ILCs is new but so far has been geared towards high image quality. On the other, potential profits from lenses this small is huge.  Based on its expected image-quality, the Pentax Q will most-likely compete against small compact cameras which have fixed lenses but with much more flexible zoom ranges.

Looking at the physical size of the mount compared to the sensor-size, it is puzzling why Pentax did not opt for a larger sensor without necessarily going to Four-Thirds size. This would have given it better image quality than premium compacts like the Olympus ZX-1. Of course, the opposite question can be asked as well: Why is the mount not smaller to match the tiny sensor size? The likely answer is that such a diminutive camera is probably as small as is practical without seriously affecting usability and requiring a smaller LCD screen.

Five lenses were launched simultaneously:

  • F/1.9 lens equivalent to 47mm
  • F2.8-45 lens equivalent to 27.5-83mm with a built-in ND filter
  • Fixed F/5.6 manual-focus fisheye lens with a 160° angle-of-view, equivalent to 17.5mm
  • Fixed F/7.1 manual-focus lens equivalent to 35mm, labelled as Toy lens
  • Fixed F/8 manual-focus lens equivalent to 100mm, labelled as Toy lens

This certainly seems like an odd set but is actually in-line with the Pentax Q’s targer audience. Instead of providing an enormous range, this set of lens is made to be playful and emphasis the system as something fun rather than a serious tool.

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