There is photography cliche which states the best camera is the one you have with you. My “serious” camera kits are not exactly pocket friendly and tend to stay at home. They live inside shoulder bags, along with various lenses and accessories, which are not the sort of thing you take everywhere. The time had come for me to get a really small camera, something I can take anywhere without a kit bag. However, I am not a fan of pocketable point and shoot cameras, mainly because most of them are crap and too small for my man paws. They tend to suffer from poor image quality, mediocre lenses and a lack of features to appeal to the photo enthusiast. Granted there are some outstanding point and shoot cameras out there, but one can expect to pay at least $500 for something decent. In fact, the really high end point and shoots from Sony cost $3000. My budget was far more modest.
After considerable research and trying out different point and shoot cameras, I decided to take the plunge and buy a Pentax Q10 with the 5-15mm f2.8 to f4.5 zoom lens. The Pentax Q series are the world’s smallest interchangeable lens cameras and they are indeed quite tiny, but packed with features one expects to find on a much larger DSLR. This is a system camera for people who love photography.
When the original Pentax Q came out nearly three years ago, I scoffed at the tiny sensor and the outrageous launch price of $800. It was a total flop in the market place, but still a great concept. Few people, if any, were going to pay $800 for a camera whose image quality is about the same as a good point and shoot camera. Things have changed and now the original Pentax Q is being sold off between $200 and $300, as is its successor, the Q10. Now, here was something very cool within my sub $300 budget.
This is one of those cameras you buy with your heart instead of your head. It’s just so much fun to use and encourages playfulness with its wide assortment of customizable “art” filters. The handling is very good and it works well with my large hands and stubby fingers. I am somewhat amazed something this small handles like a much larger camera. It can also take just about any lens from any other camera system using cheap adapters available on Ebay. Just more ways to experiment and have fun.
My intention is not to write a full review here, there are plenty of thorough Pentax Q reviews on the internet. The point I want to make is the Pentax Q is not about ultimate image quality, nor is it a technological tour de force. It is a camera you buy to rediscover the simple joy of photography. Something to have ready to go when you to shoot just for the hell of it. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, check out this Youtube video by the entertaining and funny Australian, Nate “Blunty” Burr. He says it best!
This weekend was my first real outing with the Q10 and I decided to give it a spin at the Pickering Flea Market in Ontario, Canada. This sprawling place is like a world bazaar in miniature, a united nations of cheap kitsch on sale among a cultural clash of divergent ethnicities. So, it’s ample hunting grounds for indoor street photography. In order to remain stealthy, I turned off the flash and hoped for the best with the available light. This is a challenge for most cameras, especially one with a tiny sensor like the Q10. Luckily, I had far more keepers than ruined shots.
I really wanted to change my perspective a bit and play with the art filters. Granted, one can achieve similar effects in Photoshop, but it is not the same as capturing an altered image in the moment. Shooting this way can make the mundane far more interesting.
Everyday objects look like they are from another world. A quick twist of the Q’s front dial and things seem like they sprung out of the pages of an ancient and fading magazine.
Today, there were no worries about perfect exposure, razor sharp focus, white balance, depth of field, motion blur, image noise, etc. I’ve done that for years and today was a day to experiment. Should I shoot grungy black and white or should I shoot punchy colours? Why not both?
For street shooting, the Q10 can be operated in a super quiet mode. In fact, it is the quietest camera I have ever owned. The only giveaway you are taking someone’s photo is the lens pointing at their face.
My first day out with the Pentax Q10 was quite rewarding. It has given me a new way to shoot and break away from the mundane. As an added bonus, it slides into your coat pocket when you need to buy sausage from the meat merchant.