The Pentax Q may be the smallest interchangeable-lens camera, but there is more to this model than just its size and retro charm
Noise, sensitivity and resolution
Image: In this blow-up of a statue in a cathedral with low-contrast light, shot at ISO 1600, noise is evident but does not compromise resolved detail greatly
Direct competitors of the Pentax Q, such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and Olympus Pen E-PM1, also feature around 12 million pixels, but use a larger and therefore less densely populated imaging sensor. This should result in similar resolution detail capabilities, but the Q is less able to handle noise levels that will in turn affect resolved detail.
The Pentax Q offers a sensitivity range of ISO 125-6400. In our lab, the resolution charts show that noise levels are fairly well controlled at ISO 125, but at ISO 200 luminance noise starts to creep in, with some patches of chroma noise. At ISO 400 it is more noticeable and by ISO 800 there are clear signs of luminance noise.
Despite noise levels being apparent early on, the resolution detail remains consistent along the whole ISO range. JPEG files are a little soft and require a good level of sharpening to reach their potential, which, as with the raw DNG files, is the 22 marker on our resolution charts at ISO 125. This is a little low compared to the Q’s direct competition, which may be a reflection on the lens itself, although I would have expected sharp results using the fixed 47mm lens. Sharpening can be added in-camera through the colour mode adjustments or using editing software.
Impressively for a sensor of this size, at ISO 6400 the camera is still able to resolve to the 20 marker. Noise, it seems, does not overly affect fine levels of detail. This is a camera among bigger competition, however, and has to be judged accordingly. In this regard, the Pentax Q has limited capabilities.
I would expect fine detail to be a little smudged given the compact-camera-sized imaging sensor, but once images captured using the supplied prime lens are sharpened detail is rather crisp. Prints at roughly 13x10in are possible from full-resolution, 4000×3000-pixel files.
Image: The high 5.5x focal magnification means that even the 47mm prime lens suffers from barrel distortion, so it is worthwhile applying the lens correction
Pentax Q – Resolution
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the 47mm f/1.9 lens at its sharpest f/4 setting.
We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately.
The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.