A quality review of the Pentax Q

Friday November 25 2011

Camera Review
A quality review of the Pentax Q

With an overall DxOMark score of 47, the Pentax Q is well-placed among cameras with sensors smaller than 4/3. In fact, its results are equivalent to the best compacts in this line (e.g., Canon Powershot G12 and Powershot S95) — not bad at all for a sensor that is smaller than most compact sensors (4.6 x 6.2 mm for the Pentax Q vs 5.8 x 7.9 for the Olympus XZ1).

While its low-light score of 189 clearly shows the limitations of this kind of sensor, the Pentax Q outperforms all of its main competitors in low light except the Nikon 1 V1 in the comparisons we have furnished below.

Note: We found a very strong smoothing for the Pentax Q for all ISOs. To put the Pentax Q on the same footing as its competitors, we estimated the noise levels before smoothing, and it is these “pre-smoothed” noise estimates that we use in our comparisons.

Pentax Q vs Nikon 1 V1 vs Nikon Coolpix P7100

The results clearly give preference to the Nikon 1’s larger sensor, which is fully 1 stop better than the Pentax in low light. It’s worth noting again, however, that the Pentax Q beats the Nikon P7100 across the board.

Pentax Q vs Olympus XZ1 vs Canon Powershot G12

Even with its slightly smaller sensor, the Pentax Q does as well as the Canon Powershot and surpasses the Olympus XZ1 in all measurement categories.

These results suggest that maybe there really is something to BSI (backside illumination) technology as a means of reducing sensor size further while maintaining acceptable image quality… even if the results announced by the manufacturer tended to be slightly superior to those actually measured.

Conclusion

With its reasonably good image quality performance along with a well-built, ergonomically-designed body and interchangeable lenses, the tiny “toy” Pentax Q ought to be a good candidate for people looking for a palm-sized pocket camera that goes beyond the usual “point-and-shoot” variety. Unfortunately, it seems wildly overpriced — yet another inducement for serious photographers to pass it by.