Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pentax Q7 Review

© Ricoh Imaging

Background

There are TONS of cameras out there...some you might not even realize.

One of these relative unknowns is from a relatively well known camera maker, Pentax.  The diminutive Q series cameras.  At the time of release, the Q series camera was the smallest interchangable lens system on the market.  Not sure if that is true anymore...but this camera system is tiny.

I have seen a few online friends that used this system and was impressed by the IQ coming from this small 1/1.7" sensor.

Initial cost of these cameras new precluded me from experimenting then...but with some online sluething and patience, you can now get this system for a fraction of what it cost new.

I was lucky enough to find a whole system for sale.   The Pentax Q7 in black and silver with 4 lenses will be the focus of this review.

Follow along to see what we thought of the IQ, the handling, the good/bad of this little system.

Here we go!

© Ricoh Imaging


Handling/Weight/Size

This is a small camera.  Captain Obvious has just entered the room.  We already covered that in the opening of this article...but it bears mentioning again.   I've got some pretty meaty hands and I need something to grip.  My smallest camera that I feel I can hold comfortably for serious photography is an Olympus EM5 style body.

So, even though I knew there was a risk that I might not be able to handle this camera body well, I gave it a try.

Yes, it is very small.  My basic grip on this camera body is index finger on the shutter release with the thumb on the small bump on the back.   My middle finger fits into 90% of the front grip, ring finger barely sits at the bottom.  Most of the time it slips off the bottom.  I wish they made an add on grip for it.  Another inch or 2 at the bottom would be just awesome.

It's almost too small to hold with one hand if you needed to do that.   I end up using a wrist strap and my left hand.

Even with the small camera, the buttons are in a good location.  The rear dial is easy to get to with the thumb.  The mode dial has enough resistence that you will most likely not bump it out of position.  I never did so far through my testing.

Here are some camera dimensions for you:
Body dimensions: 4x2.3x1.3 inches
Weight 7.1 ounces (200g) with battery

As compared to an Olympus EM5 Mk II
Body dimensions:  4.9x3.4x1.8 inches
Weight: 16.5 ounces (469g) with battery

and a Nikon D500
Body dimensions:  5.79x4.53x3.19 inches
Weight:  30.34 ounces (860g) with battery

front view of cameras (camerasize.com)


Top view with kit lenses (camerasize.com)
Pentax 5-15/2.8-4.5, Olympus 14-42, Nikon 18-55 AF-P


Pentax had a great idea when it came to the battery and SD card door.  They are both on the side of the camera, each on the opposite side of the body.  SD card door is on the right, battery on the left.


Notable Features 1
The Front Dial

Similar to what you might see on the Olympus PEN-F, there is a front dial with 5 positions.

The front dial can be used for a few functions.  You can have custom image modes like B&W , portrait, bright, etc. set to the 4 positions.  If you create a user defined custome image mode(you can save 3), you can use them here too.  Other options are toggling the built in ND filter, aspect ration, focus method, focus peaking.

Unfortunately, those options are not allowed to be mixed together.  For example, I cannot use the first 2 positions for custom image and the last 2 to toggle the ND filter off/on.  It's either all custom image settings or all ND toggles.  This is a shame that you are limited in this way.  A great idea, but not taken to a logical conclusion.

Not 100% sure what I will settle on for this feature.

Notable Features 2
Bokeh Control

On the mode dial, there is the lettering "BC".  This is for bokeh control.  There are 3 levels of control, each blurring more and more.   I found through my cursory testing that 2 and 3 are way too much.  1 worked just fine.

Basically you have 24-211mm field of view covered here in this little kit.


Notable Features 3
RAW In The Buffer When Shooting JPG

This one shocked and delighted me.  WHY IS EVERYONE NOT DOING THIS?! 
Basically, what this camera does is when shooting JPG only in camera, the Q keeps the last images RAW data in the buffer.  It is accessible to you where you can go in, save it, do in camera RAW processing on it.

Think about how awesome and cool that is.  Say you are shooting JPG and the last shot you took is pushing the capabilities of the sensor and JPG bit depth.   Press the image review button check out the shot.  Look to the right and you'll see that by pressng the exposure comp button, you have the option to save the RAW file.

Image Quality

The 1/1.7" sensor can get a lot of heat from some people.  Yes...it is small.  Yes, it doesn't have the dynamic range...it is "only" a 12mp sensor.

However, Pentax has done quite a good job in processing from this little camera.   Shooting JPG and for color images, I don't like going over ISO 1600  For monochrome, I'm OK all the way up to ISO 3200.  Even with that, the processing that Pentax does is not really for me.  The colors are not to my liking and even with sharpness turned down some, there is some artifacting that just looks bad.

RAW gives you a lot more latitude and you can run the Adobe DNG files in Lightroom or your processor of choice and really get the most out of those files.  I experimented quite a bit and found  good recipe in Lightroom that I feel gives me superior IQ over the in camera JPG engine.

We'll provide plenty of sample images in the lens section below.  Bottom line - I'll be shooting this camera in RAW all the time.  It's the best way to get he most quality that appeals to me.  You can get way more quality out of this camera than it has any business producing.

Shake Reduction

This tiny little camera has in body stabilization.  Pentax calls it SR for shake reduction.  It works fairly well.  Not in the same league as an Olympus 5 axis IBIS or Nikon's newest VR....but it will save your bacon in a pinch.  It's just nice to see it included.

I'm not sure if it only kicks in when you depress the shutter or not.   On longer lenses, the LCD seems shakier than I think it should...but I'll have to do more research into it.


Auto Focus

I found that the other reviewers of this camera were right.   In good light, the AF is effective and relatively quick.  It is not going to beat a current Micro Four Thirds camera, but on the whole it will not disappoint for most applications.  Stick to S-AF and you are good to go.   I'd ignore C-AF.

You have multiple focus modes.

Face - face detection
Continuous - AF tracking of subjects
Spot - the AF is locked to the middle of the frame
Auto - you select the size of the focus area, of which there are 3 sizes, and the camera determines what in this area to lock onto.  It actually does a fairly good job at this.
Select - the AF box(small area) can be moved by first pressing the OK button and then using the direction buttons on the back to move it.  The AF array does not cover the whole sensor, so you will see your boundaries by a thin black box on the back of the LCD.

Manual Focus

Your typical focus by wire affair.  I'm not  big fan of this and the very small focus rings don't help it much here.   However, MF is there should you need it.  Pentax also included a menu option to allow for full time AF override just by turning the focus ring.  I had to turn this off as I found just the slightest of touches would throw you into MF mode.

Battery Life

With the body being so small, you have a limited space for a big battery.  CIPA ratings on this camera body are 250 shots.   I doubt most people would get that, having to rely on the rear LCD for everything is going to churn through some battery pretty quickly.  I recommend getting a few extras.

During a day long shooting session, I made it through 3/4 of a day and came home with 280 images.  That was shooting RAW+JPG, image review and changing camera settings.   Technically one could say thatit took double that number, one RAW and one JPG.   I'm going to run the camera another day and shoot just RAW to see the number of shots I can get.  All in all, for the size of the battery and the fact that it needs to use the 3" LCD for everything, not that bad.


Video

Nothing really special here.  An standard 1080p offering.  This would not be my first option, and to be honest a modern cell phone will probably do just as well if not better since they do 4k.  The benefit of this system is the ability to use lenses, which a cell phone lacks.

The Lenses

The Q7 has a "crop factor" of 4.7, so multiply the focal length by this number to get the approximate field of view (FOV) of these lenses.

The lens numbers denote the order in which they were released, field of view on a 135 equivalent is in parenthesis below.

8.5mm f/1.9 - The 01 Standard Prime  (40mm)
5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 - The 02 Standard Zoom (24-70mm)
15-45mm f/2.8 - The 06 Telephoto Zoom (70-212mm)
11.5mm f/9 - The 07 Shield Lens - body cap lens (55mm)

The real jewel here is the original kit lens, the 8.5/1.9.  Sharp and fast.  What fits into the theme...it's tiny.   The 07 Shield lens is smaller, but not in the same league.

So let's get into the images from these lenses.   Most of these shots were shot wide open as well.   Diffraction is going to hit pretty quickly if you go much past f/5.6, so shooting from f/1.9 through f/4.5 is where I stayed most of the time.

We'll start with some images from the 01 Standard Prime, 8.5mm f/1.9.  This lens is excellent optically.  Very sharp even wide open.

8.5mm f/1.9 lens (01 Prime)
1/60, f/2.8, ISO 250
8.5mm f/1.9 lens (01 Prime)
1/80, f/1.9, ISO 200
8.5mm f/1.9 lens (01 Prime)
1/2000, f/1.9, ISO 100

8.5mm f/1.9 lens (01 Prime)
Higher ISO Example (B&W conversion in On1 Effects 2018
1/60, f/1.9, ISO 2000

Then let's move to the 02 Standard Zoom, the 5-15mm f/2.8-4.5.   Given some of the online reports, I was expecting this lens to be quite a disappointment.  On the contrary, it is rather quite good and a bit better than I anticipated.  It is true that it is weakest at 15mm, but very good up through 12mm.


5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 (02 Standard Zoom)
1/500, f/2.8, ISO 200 @ 5.5mm
B&W processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 from RAW

5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 (02 Standard Zoom)
1/250, f/3.5, ISO 200 @ 9.5mm

5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 (02 Standard Zoom)
1/60, f/4, ISO 125 @ 8.2mm

5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 (02 Standard Zoom)
1/200, f/4, ISO 100 @ 9.8mm
5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 (02 Standard Zoom)
1/200, f/3.5, ISO 100 @ 9.8mm

The shield lens, 07 - 11.5mm f/9.  Not sure when I would ever use this lens outside of this testing.  I was not fond of this lens.   Unless you are super into lomo type photography I'd skip this lens.  Here are some samples.
11.5mm f/9 (07 Shield Lens)
1/60, f/9, ISO 125

11.5mm f/9 (07 Shield Lens)
1/60, f/9, ISO 320
11.5mm f/9 (07 Shield Lens)
1/60, f/9, ISO 125



11.5mm f/9 (07 Shield Lens)
1/60, f/9, ISO 250
11.5mm f/9 (07 Shield Lens)
1/125, f/9, ISO 100

The constant f/2.8 Telephoto Lens, the 06 15-45mm f/2.8.  Not the optical equivalent of the 01 Prime, but very good.   The constant f/2.8 is a great option to have for this 70-200-ish FOV lens.


15-45mm f/2.8 (06 Telephoto Zoom)
1/2500, f/2.8, ISO 100 @ 45mm

15-45mm f/2.8 (06 Telephoto Zoom)
1/200, f/4, ISO 160 @ 45mm

15-45mm f/2.8 (06 Telephoto Zoom)
1/2500, f/4, ISO 100 @ 15.1mm

15-45mm f/2.8 (06 Telephoto Zoom)
1/125, f/2.8, ISO 320 @ 22mm

15-45mm f/2.8 (06 Telephoto Zoom)
1/400, f/2.8, ISO 200 @ 15mm
Through some dirty coffee shop glass
Other Misc. Items of Note

Shutter Sound:
The shutter sound is quiet, mainly because for most of the Q lenses, the shutter is of the leaf variety and found within the lens itself. The leaf shutter handles everything up through 1/2000 of a second and any shutter speed higher than that is handled by an electronic shutter to 1/8000 of a second.

A second benefit of the leaf shutter in some of the lenses is that you get flash sync up to 1/2000.  You can go full electronic if you wish or the camera can determine when to use the either.

Built in Neutral Density (ND) Filter:
Some lenses contain an ND filter built into them.  Useful for when you run out of shutter speed or if you do not want to use the electronic shutter above 1/2000.

Quick Menu:
If you are familiar with Fuji's Quick menu, Olympus' Super Control Panel (SCP) or the Nikon MyMenu...this is the Pentax version.   Just about any shooting option you want to get to quickly is here.  Just press the INFO button on the back of the camera when in shooting mode to bring up the grid.


TOP ROW
Option 1 is the custom image selection.
Here you can pick the type of jpg you want like natural, monochrome, cross process and tweak them.
Option 2 is Digital Filter.
Options here are things like Toy Camera, high contrast, tone expansion, fish eye, etc.
Option 3 is in camera HDR.
Option 4 and 5 are highlight and shadow control respectively.

MIDDLE ROW
Option 1 is metering - matrix, center and spot weighted.
Option 2 is toggling on/off the in built ND filter(if the lens has that).
Option 3 is toggle between AF and MF.
Option 4 handles the focusing methods.  Face, continuous, auto, select (movable single AF point) and spot (single center focused AF point - not movable).
Option 5 is the focus peaking toggle.

BOTTOM ROW
Option 1 is toggle for lens distortion correction.
Option 2 is aspect ratio.
Options are 4:3, 3:2, 1:1 and 16:9.
Option 3 is image save format.  JPG, RAW or RAW+JPG.
Option 4 is the JPG quality.
Option 5 toggles shake reduction.

Bottom Line

This is not a camera for everyone, and you may be thinking why on earth would I even get one.   I saw some good things from it from the online forums and the price is so low now, when you find a bargain that it is a good time to experiment.

I'm a big proponent of viewfinders and I'm not really falling in love with the rear LCD.  Not because it is horrible...but I just prefer the view and stability of a optical or electronic viewfinder.  I might find an alternative to it in some way.  Not sure what that looks like at the moment.

So why use this when there is so much on paper that is against it when looking at other small, interchangeable lens camera systems?

Honestly, it is a bit of fun.  It is something different and I've not been exposed to a Pentax anything before.  There are some really well laid out controls and menu functions as well.  I always say that you can learn something from everyone...and gear is no different.   All technologies have a contribution.

I'm very happy with what I'm seeing up through ISO 1600 and in good light the files hold up well when shot in JPG.  You can eek out a bit more quality if you shoot in RAW.  With the 01 Prime, you can put this thing in your pant pocket, it is that small.  It is something you can keep with you ll the time with little hassle.  You will be a bit more limited with it...but just remember that and shoot to the strengths of the system.

It would not be my first or favorite choice for very dark, low light shooting unless I had the ability to shoot on tripod and at base ISO.

3 comments:

  1. Nice post. And thanks, I wont be buying a Q anytime soon. Not because of anything to do with IQ, clearly its a very competent little camera, but because of the lack of a screen which either tilts or flips. Love the photos, especially those taken with the Shield Lens... nice effects there.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. It is a fun little shooter, for sure.

      I'll need to do a bit more experimenting with the Shield lens to see if I really get along with it.

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  2. I've got two Q7s and two Q-S1s and most of the lenses. One lens that you don't have, the 03 fisheye, is great, once you figure out the focusing.

    Another area where the Q excels is in using adapted C mount movie lenses (manual focus, of course.) 50mm F1.4 and even 25mm f0.95 are available (although not cheap!) Old CCTV and Television lenses also give some interesting results. There are various macro options as well, although you might have to get creative in adapting them to the Q, I've had excellent results with a 90mm Rodenstock APO enlarging lens and have had some success in adapting old Canon LTM lenses: a 135mm has an effective angle of view of a 600mm full frame lens.



    I agree with you on the focus-by-wire, it is almost unusable. On manual focus lenses, if you press the OK button you will get a 6x magnified view which helps focus. And when mounting an adapted lens you will be able to enter the Shake Reduction which is a great help when using long lenses.

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