Pentax Q10 review – Is smaller better?

49
DxOMark Sensor

Introduction

Drawing heavily on the styling of the Pentax Q, according to Pentax the Q10 offers improvements in several areas to help you capture better quality images. Weighing only 200g, it would be easy to assume that the Q10 is nothing more than a simple point and shoot camera. But with a 12.4megapixel CMOS sensor featuring ISO settings to 6400 and their Shake Reduction (SR) system that moves the sensor around to compensate for camera shake, Pentax are ensuring the Q10 appeals to more advanced users as well as those just starting out.

Interestingly for a hybrid camera, Pentax use a sensor that is not much bigger than a compact camera sensor. The magnification factor is therefore 5.5x, so the standard Q-mount 5-15mm lens is the equivalent of a 27.2mm-82.5mm lens in 35mm terms.

Despite the small size of the camera, the rear screen is a good size, offering 3-inch diagonal, with 460,000pixels. It takes up a lot of the back of the camera, but with the lack of a viewfinder, the large screen still makes it easy to compose and view images.

One very nice feature is an interesting pop-up flash that extends from the camera on an arm. It won’t solve the problem of red-eye when using flash, but it may go a little way to help alleviate it.

With lots of stiff competition in the hybrid camera market place, let’s see how it performed in the lab.

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Fairly middle of the road scores for the Pentax Q10, but impressive when compared to the size of the camera and sensor

The previous version of this camera, the Pentax Q, is ranked 171st in the DxO sensor rankings and this new model shows a slight improvement, jumping to 165th in the ranking. An overall DxOMark score of 49 suggests the Pentax Q10 is not bad for a hybrid camera. It is by no means an earth-shattering performance.

In the portrait tests, a score of 21.1bits is good. A score of 22bits is considered excellent, so 21.1bits is not a bad performance and suggests the colour performance of the Q10 will please those looking to capture holiday pictures of the children as much as those shooting portraits more seriously.

In the landscape test, the Q10 scores 10.9Evs. This is good without being great and suggests that in normal shooting, the Q10 will fair quite well, but as soon as the contrast range starts increase – at sunrise or sunset for example, you may soon reach the limitations of what the Q10 can capture without blocking up shadows or blowing highlights.

Finally, in the sports test, the Q10 only managed 183ISO. This is a very poor score and is most likely a function of the very small sensor that is less efficient at light gathering. Of the three areas tested, it is this that is most harmful to the Q10’s overall score.

Pentax Q10 vs Pentax Q

Comparing the old and new gives us the chance to see how Pentax have improved their sensor technology since early 2011.

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Q10 shows an insignificant overall performance of 2 DxOMark

Looking at the Q10 relative to the Q, we can see that the Portrait score is a little better on the newer camera (21.1bits vs 20.2bits, a difference of 2/3rd stop) which is what has accounted for the fractional improvement in overall DxOMark score.

Disappointingly, both the landscape score and the sports score actually show a fractional step backwards although it is not sufficient to be a major concern. If the Q10 was not around $300 cheaper than the Q, there would be little reason to pick the new camera over the old model from an image quality point of view.

One interesting point to note is that Pentax have applied a noise reduction algorithm to the RAW files as well as to JPEG files from the camera, essentially smoothing out the image to try and make up for poor ISO performance from the small sensor.

Pentax Q10 vs Nikon 1 J3

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The Nikon 1 J3 is a new model in the Nikon 1 series. Like the Pentax Q10, it is a hybrid camera, though it is somewhat larger than the Q10 and features a larger sensor (8.8×13.2mm vs 4.5×6.2mm).

Between these two models, the Q10 comes out on top in the portrait test, scoring 21.2bits to the J3’s 20.4bits, a difference of 1/2stop. In the dynamic range test, the differences are so minimal as to be insignificant. It’s the sports test that really shows the benefit of the larger sensor, as the J3 scores 420ISO, more than 1stop better than the Q10’s 183ISO.

If you’re comparing these two models, then unless you are drawn to the smaller size of the Q10, or you plan to shoot lots of portraits and want the better colour depth, then the Nikon 1 J3 is most likely to be the better choice.

Pentax Q10 vs Panasonic GF5 vs Olympus E-PM2

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Since the hybrid market is so hotly contested, there are plenty of challengers for the Pentax Q10. The Panasonic GF5 and Olympus E-PM2 are two of the most popular in the segment.

Against the GF5, the Q10 comes out on top in colour depth by 1/3rd stop, and by 1 stop in dynamic range, but loses out by 1.65stops in the low light tests.

Comparing it to the E-PM2, shows what is possible within the hybrid arena. The E-PM2 beats the Q10 by a fair margin in all areas – it is 1 stop better in colour depth, 2.3stops better in dynamic range and 2.3stops better in low-light ISO performance. While the Q10 is $100USD cheaper than the E-PM2, it would seem a false economy, especially since the E-PM2 is only 23g heavier than the Q10 (223g vs 200g).

The Pentax Q10 puts in a reasonable performance, but there has not been significant enough improvement in image quality since the Pentax Q to make it a worthwhile upgrade. If you’re looking for a first camera within this segment, and are not drawn to having the very smallest hybrid camera, then there are better performing cameras available at a similar price point. Finally, if you’re undecided between the best high-end compact cameras or a hybrid camera, then in our comparison here, your choice will be whether you want fractionally higher image quality, the compact models, or the benefits that come with interchangeable lenses – the Pentax Q10. The other benefit of the Q10 is the recently added K-mount adaptor that allows older Pentax lenses to be used with the Q10. If you have a collection of older lenses, then this may well help sway your decision.