- Light weight; Plenty of physical controls; Decent flash performance
- Some fiddly controls; Image quality; AF could be faster
- Review Price: £380
The Pentax Q10’s is somewhat unique for a Compact System Camera, in that it uses a sensor similar in size to that found in the majority of compact cameras. This presents advantages with regards to the weight and size of the camera and compatible lenses, but potentially also image-quality issues such as noise and blooming.
The Pentax Q10‘s sensor is designed around a backlit architecture to ensure it can gather light as effectively as possible, and offers a respectable 12.4MP. It’s also fitted with Pentax’s Shake Reduction technology, to help maintain sharpness at slower shutter speeds, and can capture images between ISO 100-6400 to suit all manner of lighting conditions. And, as with the majority of other CSCs, the camera is capable of recording videos to the full HD standard, at a maximum frame rate of 30fps.
The Pentax Q10 uses Pentax’s proprietary Q mount – as used in the Pentax Q – which currently accepts the six optics desgined for the system (as well as K-mount lenses via an external adaptor) with the sensor size applying a 5.5x conversion factor to all lenses. So, the 5-15mm f/2.8-4.5 kit lens supplied with the camera behaves more like a 27.5-83mm optic.
There’s no viewfinder in the Pentax Q10 itself, although Pentax has furnished the model with a hot shoe should you wish to use the O-VF1 optical finder which is available separately. This hot shoe also accepts flash units for greater illumination, although a small flash has been squeezed into the top plate for more general captures.
The Pentax Q10 can also be programmed to fire at 5fps, and can have its highest standard shutter speed of 1/2000sec extended to 1/8000sec when the Electronic Shutter is enabled. Other features of note include a collection of Smart Effects Modes such as Vintage Color and Water Color, as well as an HDR option and even an intervalomter.
For more everyday shooting, the camera can have its Distortion Correction option enabled to mitigate the effects of curvilinear distortion, as well as Highlight and Shadow Correction to help balance images captured in atypical conditions. The camera can also be customised extensively to the user’s tastes and requirements, from assigning options to the Quick Dial on its front plate and Green Button to saving which settings are retained when the camera is powered off and on again.
Pentax Q10 review – Design
The Pentax Q10’s DSLR-like design gives the impression that it’s far smaller than other Compact System Cameras, much like the Pentax Q before it, although its body isn’t significantly thinner than many of its peers. Furthermore, although its kit lens is small, it’s beaten in size by the Power Zoom and other retractable lenses which are steadily being supplied as default kit options on some of the Pentax Q10’s peers.
Nevertheless, the combination of the body and lens makes the Pentax Q10 incredibly light, and it fits into a coat or jacket pocket. The abundance of physical controls makes selecting options easy and fast, although on such a small body some of these are small, and thus quite fiddly. Yet, despite its small size, the grip, together with the lens’s length and ridged outer barrel combine to provide a reasonable handling experience.
In addition to its fine handling, the camera has a number of nice touches around the body. The flash which hides in the top plate comes up higher than expected once it’s released, and in use this provides a pleasing and even illumination, with no corner shading. Furthermore, as the battery and memory card are each accessed through a different side of the camera, the camera does not need to be removed from a tripod if you need to access either.
Pentax Q10 review – Performance
The pentax Q10 powers up swiftly although there is a slight delay before it can be focused on a subject. The display is clear and reasonably smooth at the camera is moved around the scene, and it responds well to changes in brightness. Shot-to-shot times are respectable, although capturing just a couple of Raw and JPEG frames can slow the camera right down as it attempts to process these images. The use of a fast SDHC card is advised, therefore, to help the camera clear images from the buffer in as little times as possible.
As the lens has its zoom adjusted mechanically, rather than electronically, it’s easy to quickly shift from one end of the focal range to the other, something which isn’t always possible on CSC/lens combinations. Focusing generally happens in good time, and for static subjects it should find itself to be sufficiently prompt, although the camera can’t quite deliver the same focusing speeds as some of its peers equipped with hybrid AF systems.
Pentax Q10 review – Image Quality
The Pentax Q10’s image quality is mixed. The main headache comes with the camera’s wayward metering system, which often either under or overexposes. Although it only typically does this by between ½-1EV – and so well within the capabilities of the exposure compensation function – it can be difficult to predict which way it’ll sway. Its Auto White Balance option also shows some variation between producing marginally warmer and colder images. When it gets it right, however, colours are beautifully vibrant, and suitable for printing or online publication without any further adjustment.
Up until around ISO 400 the camera handles noise well, with just a faint coloured patterning scattered over darker areas. JPEGs show a good balance between noise reduction and sharpness to offset this processing, although images in general fail to compete with those from other Compact System Cameras due to the general lack of critical detail present in images and the frequent loss of highlight detail in brighter areas. Barrel distortion is also pronounced at the 5mm end of the lens, although the in-camera Distortion Correction option does well to rectify this.
Pentax Q10 review – Verdict
Overall, while the Pentax Q10 has its control-to-size ratio to recommend it, and a number of positive aspects with its design, it’s sorely let down by inconsistent and often lacklustre image quality. Its appeal is confusing when, for around the same money, you can buy an enthusiast compact camera with a larger sensor and zoom lens which will deliver better image quality. If you are taken by the novelty of the Q system, you may also be interested to learn that samples of the Pentax Q10’s predecessor, the Q, are still available for under £250 with a kit lens included.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of our Pentax Q10 test shots. For a full range, visit our Pentax Q10 review sample image gallery.
With a newly adopted 12.4MP CMOS image sensor and an upgraded algorithm,
the Pentax Q10 promises to deliver an improved basic performance,
enhanced image quality and faster AF operation. With an ISO ceiling of
6400, the Pentax Q10 retains all the creative features of its
predecessor – the Pentax Q, including the bokeh control function to
create a defocused effect and the Smart Effect modes to apply various
filters with a simple turn of the dial. At Photokina 2012 we managed to
lay hands on the Pentax Q10 for a brief first look.
// With an all-new image sensor and an upgraded AF algorithm, the Pentax
Q10’s AF operation is designed to be faster than before. An AF Assist
Light is provided on the camera body to optimise focusing accuracy in
dark shooting environments, while the Face Recognition AF function
automatically detects up to 12 faces and pinpoints the focus on the main
Capable of shooting a burst of images at 5fps in its high-speed
continuous shooting mode, the Q10 is claimed to record a maximum of five
JPEG images in a single sequence.
The Pentax Q10 comes equipped with a Full HD movie-recording function in
the H.264 recording format, allowing the user to capture high-quality,
extended movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels) at a frame rate of 30 frames
per second. There’s also the option of using autofocus as movies are
being captured and the Q10’s DRII (Dust Removal II) mechanism prevents
dust or dirt adhering to the sensor when lenses are being changed.
Other features include a 3in, 460k-dot screen, a choice of shooting
aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1) and a multi-exposure mode that
lets you shoot up to nine exposures on a single image.
Score in detail
Image Quality 6