Pentax Q review: Why you need one in 2024
Fun camera for garden and wildlife photography
The Pentax Q might be tiny, but it takes a back seat to no camera in its class.
This full-featured miniature camera, first released in 2011, boasts a very nice interchangeable lens system ranging from a fisheye all the way up to the 35mm equivalent of a 70-200 f2.8 telephoto zoom lens. Even the 70-200 fits in the palm of your hand, but has the telephoto pull to capture wildlife in the garden.
The entire system fits into a tiny package. And when I say tiny, i mean tiny.
If that’s not enough, these cameras come complete with a set of features, filters and shooting modes any full-sized DSLR or mirrorless camera would be proud to boast about. Add surprisingly good ergonomics for a miniature camera that was originally advertised as looking completely at home on the end of a keychain.
Sounds weird right? Maybe, but keep reading to find out how this camera went from a weird distraction in 2011 to one of the coolest camera in the years that followed.
For more images taken with the Pentax Q, check out my Pentax Q photo gallery.
What more can you ask for with the Pentax Q?
How about a system so small that you can fit two Q camera bodies, at least three lenses ranging from wide angle to a 70-250 f2.8 telephoto, filters and even a Fuji X10 and Lumix point-and shoot camera in a Lowepro camera bag meant to handle a single DSLR camera body and a small wide angle zoom.
Forget the camera bag, a Pentax Q complete with the 70-250mm f2.8 lens equivalent will slip into a coat pocket or a woman’s purse. Heck, throw in the 50mm equivalent fast F1.7 prime and a miniature wide angle or fisheye lens into the purse or coat pocket too – there’s still plenty of room.
TTArtisan optical finder is the perfect accessory
If the lack of viewfinder on the Pentax Q is a little annoying, the TTArtisan optical viewfinder is an exquisite accessory that not only adds utility to the camera system but also makes the setup look awesome taking it to a whole new coolness factor. For my complete review of the TTArtisan 28mm finder, check out my comprehensive review here.
Click on the link for my comparison post between the two viewfinders pictured below.
And what about the photographic results?
Well, I think the results here speak for them self. I took the Pentax Q and three lenses out for an afternoon of fall photography and came away with more than a few keepers.
Are these fall images of high enough quality that you would want to supersize into posters or murals, or use for professional work with a client? Probably not.
But, for everyday use with the end result of making prints in the 4X6 to 11X14-inch range, or – more likely these days – posting on social media accounts or on web sites – these images can stand up to the scrutiny. They are sharp, contrasty with great colour even at moderately higher ISO settings.
Maybe it’s the fine Pentax lenses or the fact that Pentax took the bold decision to remove the anti-aliasing filter from in front of the sensor that resulted in this sharpness, but whether you are viewing jpegs right out of the camera or Pentax’s RAW images, after a little post-processing, there’s no short changing the results here.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The sensors on these cameras are tiny.
Tiny sensors but great results
In fact, the original Q’s sensor was a back-illuminated CMOS, 1/2.3” (6.17 x 4.55 mm). The Q7, introduced later in June 2013, uses a larger 1/1.7” type sensor (7.44 x 5.58 mm). Both fell into the point-and-shoot-sized sensor and many critics in those days simply wrote the camera off as nothing but a toy.
Heck, even some of the lenses were called “toy” lenses. Probably not a great marketing decision by Pentax at the time.
Pentax Q boasts big features in a tiny package
There isn’t time to get into all the features packed into these tiny cameras. Besides, I’m not really big on all the gimmicks camera manufacturers pack into their cameras to convince buyers they have to buy the camera. But, there is no denying that the features in this camera would be welcome in some of the more expensive DSLRs offered at the time.
It sports a 12.3mp sensor, it’s own dust removal system, ISO settings from 125 - 6400 and a sensor shift shake reduction system to help users get sharp images even in low light. Some of the lenses even have built-in neutral density filters.
How about HDR, a built-in intervalometer, creative “bokeh” blur settings, single and multiple colour extraction filters, and highly adjustable B&W capabilities to name just a few. It shoots RAW, has fully manual settings and for Pentax lovers the green button will bring you back to normal exposure no matter how far off you may have wandered.
Are you thinking these cameras might make for a nice street photography package? I took the Pentax Q with the 01 Prime lens (47mm equivalent) to an emergency animal hospital, while I waited for my dog, Holly, to get her new pacemaker checked by the cardiologist. (Yes you read that right).
• Here is a gallery of results of that one-hour wait at the Emergency Animal Hospital shot with the 01 prime (50mm) in a photojournalistic style with the camera’s B&W mode.
• For my full story on The Pentax Q as a lomography camera with the 07 Mount Shield Lens go here.
• For my full story on the Pentax Q and 110 vintage lens.
This thumb grip link works nicely on the Pentax Q and makes the camera even more ergonomic. The one linked to does not block the dial and your thumb clears the LCD so it does not block your view.
Five reasons to buy a Pentax Q today
Even today it remains among the smallest and most competent mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.
They are now very inexpensive on the used market. If possible, buy an entire package including several lenses to get the best bang for your money.
You are already sitting on some great Pentax or other manufacturer’s (Olympus, Canon, Nikon) vintage 35mm lenses and all you would need to use them on the Q is an inexpensive adapter.
You love small, exquisitely built cameras and lenses and don’t care about mega sensors.
You love the idea of turning your 50mm macro into a 250mm macro or the 100mm f2.8 portrait lens into a 500mm super zoom for about $35.
You have a set of the exquisite Pentax Auto 110 lenses and are itching to use them on a modern digital camera. See my full review of using Auto 110 lenses on the Pentax Q
Even the pop-up flash is cute, cool and quite useful.
Lot’s of fun, creative and artistic stuff here to keep even the most bored photographers, inspired.
Did I mention the fully customizeable creative wheel thingy in the front of the camera to control favourite creative settings fast and conveniently. Yea, there’s that too.
(I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post from Pentax Forums for anyone who wants to get into the fine details of the camera system.)
How long was the Pentax Q manufactured?
Over the years this miniature camera system, that had a relatively short life span ranging from the original Q’s introduction in 2011 to after the release of the Q-S1 in 2014, gained a cult-like following.
Eight Pentax Q lenses deliver top quality results
Pentax introduced a total of 8 miniaturized lenses beginning with the excellent 01 standard Prime with a focal length of 8.5 mm (47mm equivalent for the Q, Q10, and 39mm for the Q7, Q-S1 with the larger sensors.) More lenses followed: 02 standard zoom (27-80 range equivalency, 23-69mm), 03 Fisheye (17.5mm, 16.5mm), 04 Toy wide angle lens ( 35mm, 33mm), 05 Toy lens (100mm, 94mm), 06 Telephoto zoom (83-249mm, 69-207mm), 07 Shield mount lens (63mm, 53mm) and finally the 08 Wide Zoom (21-32mm, 17.5-27mm).
The final lens, the 08 wide angle, is a quality-built lens but extremely expensive. It still remains a highly sought after lens with a big price tag even on the used market, if you can find one. I have just recently acquired this lens and can confirm that it is an outstanding lens both in its photographic qualities as well as its build qualities. (See image below.)
I should not forget another group of lenses that were made for the Q years before Pentax engineers even knew digital cameras were ever going to be a thing, and that’s the Pentax Auto 110 line of lenses. With a simple adapter, these tiny lenses look like they were made for the Pentax Q. For my complete story on using these lenses on the Pentax Q, be sure to check out my story here.
What happened to the Pentax Q cameras and lenses?
Was the Pentax Q system made of simply inferior products meant for the trash heap almost from the day it was announced?
Far from it.
In true Pentax style, these cameras were not only ahead of their time, but engineered to the finest Japanese craftmanship. The result was a hefty price tag (about $700 plus with a basic lens), one that most serious amateur photographers – who they were originally aimed at – just weren’t ready to spend for such a small-sensored camera. That initial cost would rise as you add other lenses to make the system more complete.
In those days, not unlike today, the size of the sensor meant everything. This was before social media took off so photographers were more focused on obtaining the highest resolution images possible.
Fast forward to today when 95 per cent of all digital images never get past Instagram, Facebook and Vero, where the size of the original image plays only a small part in the camera-buying decision.
Our cell phones are just one example of how the size of sensors mean less and less to the end user. Convenience and the coolness factor are far superior to size these days.
Where can you buy the Pentax Q?
One quick look on Ebay.com and you’ll find your share of Pentax Q cameras and lenses. Most are from Japan where the Pentax Q has always been a very popular camera. The difference is that on today’s used market, you can pick up the camera and a couple of lenses for a fraction of what you would have paid back when they were available in stores.
In fact, when I purchased my Fujifilm X10 back in 2011, the Pentax Q had just been released. The owner of the camera store urged me to get the Pentax over the Fuji. I loved the little Pentax camera but could not justify the cost of the system. The Pentax Q cost as much as the Fuji but the X10 came complete with the excellent 28-112mm equivalent built-in lens. By the time you added a few of the Pentax Q lenses, you were into a large financial investment and one I was not willing to make at the time.
I suspect, I wasn’t alone.
Today that close to $1,000 investment can be had for maybe $200 for a camera and a couple of lenses. I was able to purchase an Original Pentax Q and standard O2 lens on Kijiji for $60 Cdn. – a real sweet deal. And Ebay is full of great deals – maybe not quite that good but still very reasonable.
But that is just the beginning.
Adapters make the Pentax Q useful in 2024
A lot has changed since Pentax first introduced their miniaturized mirrorless little gem.
If it was great then, new, inexpensive adapters have turned the Pentax Q into one of the coolest little mirrorless cameras on the market.
In 2012 Pentax announced the Adapter Q for K-mount lenses with a 5.6X crop factor. This little device changed everything, but it took time for other manufacturers like Fotodiox and K&F (amazon link to list of adapters) to follow and change the world of Pentax Q owners.
The small sensors and the fact it is a mirrorless camera makes adapting vintage – even ancient lenses – to the camera simple and inexpensive.
There are adapters to mount classic Pentax, Olympus, Nikon and Canon 35mm lenses to the Pentax Q. But it doesn’t stop there. There is an inexpensive adapter for Pentax’s venerable classic 110 camera with its interchangeable lenses. These sweet little miniature lenses will fit the Pentax Q now too.
Oh, and did I mention those ancient miniature D-mount lenses from your dad’s or grandfather’s 8mm cinema camera. Yep, they have an adapter too. Cost me $3 for the adapter and I have four d-mount lenses I found attached to old 8mm cameras I had been using as paperweights that I can now attach to the the Q and explore the world around me.
I will be doing separate posts looking at these lenses as well as breakdowns of some of the Q-mount lenses.
And, if you are looking for cinematic quality in your images, what better than a lens from the 1930s-40s to create the mood.
Oh, and did I mention C-mount cinema lenses…
You get the idea.
A $30 adapter and a couple of my classic Pentax K and Ka lenses together with the Pentax Q turns the system into one that we could only dream of a few years ago.
The crop factor is about 5.5X which means normal lenses become telephoto equivalents and telephoto lenses become super telephotos.
Let’s do some quick math.
My older 50mm f2.8 macro becomes a 250mm f2.8 macro lens. My 100mm F4 becomes the equivalent of a 500mm macro. My 40mm pancake becomes a 200mm pancake lens. My 300mm F4.5 A* becomes a 1500mm F4.5 telephoto. My old 75-150mm zoom becomes a 375mm to 750mm zoom.
Just imagine the possibilities.
I remember always wanting the A* 200mm macro lens in its day, but it was the price of a small used car. Today, I can mount a 50mm F2.8 A manual focus macro lens on the Q and get a 250mm macro F2.8 equivalent lens. It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.
I’ve included a few example images above of of the Pentax 5omm in action just to get readers thinking about the possibilities. Notice the beautiful soft background the lens was able to achieve even on a point-and-shoot-sized sensor.
Stay tuned for future posts on the Pentax Q where I’ll provide more specific insight and examples of what can be done with these ancient lenses.
If you are into fine details (and after you finished reading this complete post, of course) check out this post at Pentax Forums. It’s all here in fine detail.)
Is the Pentax Q worth buying in 2024 and beyond: Pros and Cons
Is the Q worth it in 2024?
Is it the only camera you should pack in your arsenal?
Is it capable of getting great images for social media like Instagram, Vero, Facebook etc?
But the Pentax Q is far from perfect. It’s certainly beginning to show its age when it comes to focusing and where it lacks the latest technology. Trying to see the back LCD screen in bright light is near impossible and, although using the classic 35mm-style lenses with at adapter is super fun and cool, don’t be surprised if you struggle nailing the focus.
Yes, the Q has focus peaking and magnification factors to help with focus, but if you struggle to be able to even see the back LCD, you are not going to have an easy time focusing.
There is no built-in LVF (fiewfinder) to help frame the image. Well, I should not say there is no viewfinder. There is an optional viewfinder that works with the 01 Prime lens, but it’s expensive and not really all that great, according to users. It does look cool on the camera, however, giving it a real rangefinder look.
There are more issues with the camera and lens system that some users may think are worth noting, but with the price of these sweet, miniature cameras coming down as much as they have, it’s too easy to overlook the minor problems and just enjoy the camera and all it has to offer.
For a fraction of the price of a new smartphone, you can walk into a party with your Q and turn some heads.
At the same time, take it out on the street and you can virtually go unnoticed with this tiny camera.
Slip it in your purse or pocket and you’re ready to go anywhere. Even out in the garden for a morning of shooting. Heck, these Pentax Qs even have a macro feature on them for capturing our favourite flowers, bees and butterflies.
Author Profile: Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of the award-winning website Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and enjoys sharing his garden photography with readers.