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Pentax Q Mirrorless Digital Camera Review$799.00
The Pentax Q's natural color mode was its most consistently accurate, with a color error of just 3.30, and a saturation level of 85.71% of the ideal. The portrait mode offered more accurate saturation levels (and occasionally lower color error), but was less consistent overall. Natural handled yellow, greens, and magenta very well, while portrait handled skin tones, blues, and browns exceptionally well. More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The Olympus E-P3 offered the best color accuracy of any of our comparison cameras, with the Panasonic GF3 slightly trailing behind. The Nikon J1 and the Pentax Q performed almost identically, with the J1 coming ahead by only a few hundredths of a point in our scoring. The Sony NEX-5 did not perform up to par in this comparison group, favoring far more vibrant colors that hurt its accuracy.
The Pentax Q's menu offers a number of "custom image" modes, accessible through either the menu or by the quick dial on the front of the camera. The custom modes are titled as pure color modes (bright, natural, portrait, landscape, vibrant, radiant, muted, bleach bypass, reversal film, monochrome, and cross processing are available) but each offers adjustment for sharpness (fine sharpness is also an option), saturation, contrast, hue, and high/low key. Most of the modes are fairly accurate, though muted and bleach bypass are intentionally far off the mark.
The Pentax Q offered decent white balance for a camera of its type, though we found that its automatic mode left images far too warm in general. This can be curtailed somewhat in the custom menu with an option to favor cooler images under tungsten lighting (where the camera struggled the most), though it doesn't improve the result dramatically.
Automatic White Balance ()
Under automatic white balance, we found the Pentax Q updated its measurements within a few seconds, though this was aided by taking a few half-presses of the shutter button to let the camera catch up. Still, we found the camera kept images far too warm under incandescent lighting, with an average error of more than 1800 kelvin. (The custom menu option to preserve less warmth under that lighting pushes this down to around 1500 kelvin) Under compact white fluorescent, that error drops to around 270 kelvin, and in daylight conditions the results are better with an error of just 125 kelvin.
Custom White Balance ()
When taking the time to take a custom white balance with a white card, that tungsten color error drops to 273.83 kelvin, though we found the custom setting to be too cool overall. In compact white fluorescent lighting we found the error fell to a palatable 141.5 kelvin. In daylight conditions the results turned out the best for the Q, as the camera's custom white balance returned an error of just 74.33 kelvin.
The Pentax Q offered an automatic white balance setting that left it fourth among the five camera in this comparison group (besting only the poor NIkon J1's automatic white balance). The custom white balance setting on the Q was beaten by only the Panasonic GF3 for accuracy, as the Nikon J1, Olympus E-P3, and the Sony NEX-5 all came in at the bottom of this group.
White Balance Options
White balance is easily accessible on the Q with a dedicated button on the bottom of the rear four-way control pad. The white balance menu offers seven presets, as well as a custom and automatic setting. Every setting can be adjusted by pressing the exposure compensation +/- button, which brings up a color wheel that allows the user to fine-tune white balance to fit their needs. The Q's custom white balance is also very easy to set, as it requires filling just a small box in the center of the frame (this can be expanded for greater accuracy) with a white object and pressing the shutter button to capture the necessary color information.
The Pentax Q performed well in our long exposure tests, though we found its 8mm f/1.9 kit lens' limited aperture range caused it to overexpose images. There is little that Pentax could do, as an f/22 aperture with such a small sensor isn't practical. In general, though, the Q actually outperformed our comparison group in long exposure testing despite those technical hurdles. More on how we test long exposure.
The Pentax Q had a color error of 3.3 in bright light testing, and that error only increased to between 3.8 and 4.0 in longer exposures. We found that noise fell off dramatically in exposures longer than one second, suggesting that the Q may be ramping up noise reduction when the camera is set to take longer exposures. There is no specific long exposure noise reduction feature, merely the high ISO noise reduction option we tested for our noise section. We shot all our long exposure test shots at ISO 400, however, and found that the noise totals returned in our long exposure results had approximately 30% less noise than comparable ISO 400 shots taken in bright light testing. Due to this, we believe the Q is applying heavy noise reduction (more than even its high ISO noise reduction setting's maximum) automatically to counteract any heat issues caused by utilizing a smaller sensor.
The Pentax Q scored the highest among all our comparison cameras, with minimal difference between bright light testing and low light, long exposure testing in terms of color error and noise totals. We could not deactivate the long exposure noise reduction in the Pentax Q (the camera doesn't give the option to), but found the camera's automatic long exposure noise reduction settings produced the least noisy images, though some fine detail is lost in the process.