[Online adventures] #9 – Pentax Q

“Possibly the cutest mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera”

I use a Sony NEX-5R as my primary camera, an APS-C mirrorless camera. However, even though it is a mirrorless camera, because it uses a larger APS-C sensor, the lenses are correspondingly big. Therefore, I wanted a camera that is small enough to take with me everywhere. However, I wanted to do this without sacrificing DSLR-caliber manual controls.

Essentially, I wanted a camera that satisfies these three goals:

– Small and fun to use casually

– Has manual controls so it can get serious when required

– Cheap as I already have a more expensive setup that I’ve already heavily invested in.

Well, if you want something cheap, EBay has it covered!

EBay: 122.3USD + 10.68USD shipping

For about 150CAD in total (back when CAD was similar to the USD) I got a second hand Pentax Q! Meeting one of our requirements, cheap 😛

On the left, Pentax Q and on the right, my trusted Sony NEX-5R.

Close-up with its flash deployed! Its almost transformer-like.

What is so special? Isn’t this just a normal compact camera? Wrong.

As hinted above, this is an interchangeable-lens camera. Here’s the geeky bits of the sensor:

Sensor size = 1 / 2.3, 4:3 aspect ratio, BSI CMOS, 12MP with sensor shift image stabilization.

It also has a standard hotshoe for external flash

Full control with P/Av/Tv/M modes (in the Sony world they would be called P/A/S/M)

All that packed into a pacakge that is slightly shorter than an IKEA cup

Don’t let the small size or toy-like appearance fool you, this camera has DSLR-level controls. This camera now meets 2/3 of my requirements.

Small but fully loaded

21 scene modes

11 digital filters that can each be adjusted

11 color filters that can each be adjusted

High dynamic range, multiple exposure shots, interval shooting (timelapse) all here.

DSLR-like manual controls + 21 scene modes + 11 adjustable digital filters + 11 adjustable color filters + HDR + ME + time lapse. Fully loaded indeed.

More filters

See that mysterious dial? That is a dial for filters so you can get to them quickly!

Yup, this camera has nine more filters that you can assign exclusively to the front dial.

Theoretically perfect

– Cheap, check.

– Has manual controls, check.

– Small and fun to use casually, check.

But is it practically perfect? Let’s find out in the test shots.

Test shots

1/80 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Social setting, just put the camera in auto and enjoy the moment.

Deserts at Duchess bake shop with friends. Camera in full auto mode.

1/1250 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Physical shutter test

At anything slower than 1/2000, it uses a physical shutter.

1/5000 @ f2.8 ISO 400 – Electronic shutter test

At anything faster than 1/2000, it uses an electronic shutter, up to 1/8000.

1/3200 @ f4.5 ISO 500 – Here we want a fast shutter speed to freeze the bee. I chose 1/3200 fairly arbitrarily but it did what it supposed to do. The bee was frozen.

1/4000 @ f2.8 ISO 250 – Here’s the fun part! Filters! This one is called tone expansion.

1/8000 @ f2.8 ISO 250 – Unicolor bold, you can really get creative with these filters.

1/1600 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Cross process

1/50 @ f4.5 ISO 6400 – Here we can see the limitations of the small sensor; however, combined with a filter (tone expansion here) the shot is actually not bad.


I got what I wanted! This camera is capable of being a compact camera that is fun to use day to day. As in the auto-mode is fine, filters are fun and even better when you have quick access to four of them with the quick dial in front.

When we really need it, the full manual controls are there.

The smaller sensor does become a problem in lower light situations with noticeable image noise after ISO 800.

Overall a great camera that is small and easy to bring with you, yet delivering image quality that is above what you will find in a phone camera.

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