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Old Oct 30, 2011, 9:00 PM   #1
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Default Q observations and some samples

Hi All,

Hopefully, we'll see more life in this forum in the future, so I'm posting this here to see if we might get some discussions going. . .

I got my Q about 3 weeks ago. I bought it primarily with the intention of using it for extending my reach for birding and putting together a very small and lightweight macro setup, both using my present stable of K mount lenses. I felt that with the small sensor, the crop factor would actually work to my benefit in both of these genres, and that the K>Q adapter would be a no-brainer, but the introduction of a reasonably priced adapter has been slower than I had anticipated, and I have delayed posting any impressions until I could get an adapter so I could use the Q as I had primarily intended.

I just received a JR C mount to Q mount adapter from jinfinance on Ebay, and combined with a K mount to C mount adapter that I got from B&H, I can now use my K mount lenses on my Q. The weather's been lousy though, so I only have a few examples with a K lens to post.

First the shots with the D FA 100/2.8 Macro. Both the swans and the ducks were all shot in jpeg ***, "Natural" with Sharpening and Contrast set to -4. All were cropped from 4:3, sharpened with Topaz InFocus and resized in steps using PSPPX4 and the bicubic algoriithm. The contrast in the ducks was bumped and some Purple Fringing was eliminated. The macro shot used a Metz 24 AF1 and I fixed som PF, but did no other PP except for resizing in steps. I didn't realize that there would be no shutter speed recorded to exif, and don't remember, but the lens aperture ring was set to f8.

. . .and the last is a 1:0.26 (almost 4:1 APS-C EQ) macro at MFD, no tubes, diopters, or reversed lenses, just the D FA 100 Macro and adapters. I used a Metz 24 AF1 in P-TTL mode (the only way you can use it) with the Q in slow sync mode since that's the only way I could get an external flash to fire with the adapted lens. A quarter is pretty handy to judge approximate macro magnification since it's very close to 24mm in diameter (close to an APS-C sensor width), so if a US quarter fills the frame horizontally, then you're about at 1:1 on APS-C. I can get the quarter to fill the frame at about the 1:4 setting on the D FA Macro's distance scale, and that gives a working distance of @ 18". Anywhere between 1:4 and 1:1 on the distance scale (so from 1:1 to close to 4:1 in APS-C EQ) the subject is far enough away that a lens shadow does not show up in the frame using the popup flash or an external flash (without the hood on the lens).

Preliminary tests to my eyes say that premium K mount lenses on the Q give very close to DSLR resolution and IQ with the Q -- I think better than the Q Quality Line lenses, but I'm not a real good judge of wide to normal lens performance, so I could be wrong. The tele FOV lenses I've played with so far have given me better results than I had expected, and I had set the bar pretty high. . .so I'm very pleased.

It's also interesting to note that Av priority works with adapted K lenses, automatically setting the shutter speed and ISO (if in Auto ISO mode) regardless the f-stop set with the aperture ring of the lens. Of course, the lens is stopped down the whole time, so the smaller the aperture, the darker the LCD, but the LCD does gain up, so MF is still reasonably easy stopped down, and with smaller apertures, focus errors will probably easily be covered with DOF, so this should not be much of a problem in practice.

The flash algorithms definitely need some work. I figured out by chance that with the adapted lenses, the pop up flash will only work in red-eye or slow sync modes in P-TTL, which is strange since P-TTL usually requires "A" capable lenses so there is an f-stop that the system can work with. External non P-TTL flashes will not fire, regardless of setting, even turning the flash "off". Both Ev compensation and flash compensation work, and with macro work, both pretty much need to be maxed out in the negative direction (-5Ev total) if wide apertures are used at the close distances. Stopping down considerably also works, and is much faster, but I'm wondering how much and when diffraction will effect IQ, so I'll have to play with this further to get some working parameters.

I'm satisfied that external flash does work, but Pentax Ricoh really needs to fix this to make things a lot easier. They need to enable external manual flash sync in some setting with adapted lenses and make using flash work consistent with how it works with their DSLR line. I have however found that the Q does not seem to want to try to balance flash with ambient like the recent DSLRs do, defaulting to slow shutter speeds and high ISO in low light, and that's a good thing, IMO. Of course, with no QL lens with an internal shutter, the electronic shutter is used, and flash sync is limited to 1/13 sec. I wonder if it would be possible to go higher. I realize that electronic shutters have traditionally placed restrictions on flash sync, but is this really true of the the electronic shutter as implemented in the Q?

I've yet to really get the hang of MF with the LCD, so two days experience is not really enough to make any real conclusions since I'm not really sure that I can nail the focus, especially hand held with long tele FOV and no SR or LCD magnification to aid focusing. I'm finding that the LCD view is considerably softer than the image taken, so it seems that a good approximation of critical focus is good enough -- I'm getting the hang of this, but it's really different. . .and I'm still not enthused about the LCD lag, but am finding ways to work around this, but it's difficult. . .

All in all, I'm still excited about the potential of the Q for long tele and macro shooting, and am very happy with my purchase. jinfinance on Ebay has stated that a real K>Q adapter is in production for them, and it will have an aperture control ring for use with DA lenses. I've blocked the aperture lever on my DA 18-250 so the aperture stays open off camera, and the preliminary indoor results are pretty good, so I'm anxious to see how some of the other DA zooms will work with working aperture control.

On last point about adapted lenses. When µFT and the Sony NEX cameras were first introduced, much was made of how the DSLR lines of lenses could be used with adapters to make the cameras more versatile in the initial professional reviews IIRC. I consider the ability to use K mount lenses on the Q a major advantage as my FA50/1.4 becomes an equivalent to a 180mm f1.4 lens on my K-5, and my FA* 300/2.8 becomes a 1080mm f2.8 EQ -- and then there are the macro advantages. To not mention this potential is, IMO a severe lack of vision by any professional reviewer.

In addition to being a 3.6x TC that doesn't lose light proportional to the FL extension, the Q is a very nicely built and very controllable compact camera from a photographer's standpoint. Personally, I hate holding a camera out in front of me at arm's length to take a shot, and have long refused to get a compact camera without a viewfinder, so this is really new (and not pleasant) to me. A friend of mine who has been a collector for a long time offered me a Nikon Varifocal optical viewfinder at a good price, and I grabbed it. It has a range from 35mm to 135mm in 35mm focal lenths, and it has a lever to adjust for parallax error. It's kind of big, but it looks very impressive, and makes the Q look like a tiny old Leica screwmount. This viewfinder is also useful with the very long FLs K mount lenses as I can use it as a spotting scope to get on target, which I find more difficult with the LCD than with the DSLR. Once I get the subject focused, I can use the OVF to watch my subject in real time while holding frame, and I can time shutter releases much better than by watching the LCD with its time lag.

For wide to short tele use, I have both the Standard 01 prime (47mm EQ f1.7) and the Standard 02 zoom (28-83mm EQ f2.8-4.5). These both are "Quality Line" lenses, and have silent internal motors for AF, an internal aperture/leaf shutter, and feature nice rubber covered rings for manual focusing (actually focus by wire, but it's got a natural feel) and zoom (for the zoom only of course) that uses a mechanical helicoid so the lens hold zoom position and doesn't "step" like most power zooms on fixed lens compact zoom cameras do. There is a menu setting where you can have the camera remember the focus setting, and return to it, even if the camera is turned off.

AF is reasonably fast, but not as fast as a Phase Detection system since the focusing mechanism has to go lock to lock and return to the highest contrast setting each time it focuses. Luckily, the lock to lock is very short because of the small size of the lenses. This is a good camera to assign AF activation to the Green button if you take repeated individual frames of a relatively stationary subject. With the standard lenses, I find the single point AF sensor not as large as I'd want strangely enough. On Pentax DSLRs, I find the AF sensor areas a bit large and not discreet enough, but on the Q, with lenses wider than I'm used to shooting, there were enough times that the AF point only covered a featureless area and the AF failed to lock. I cured this by switching to multipoint, then changing the area down to the smallest choice, a rectangle in the center of the frame that's about 6 times the size of the single point. This area can be changed by touching the focus ring on the lens, then moving the area with the four direction buttons.

Quick Shift type manual focus touch ups can be accomplished by holding the AF lock and rotating the focus ring. This activates the focus magnifying aid on the LCD allowing MF corrections. AF lock has to be held during this operation, or the camera will again AF again when the screen returns to normal view before taking the shot, ruining any manual corrections made.

Continuous shooting in high speed for jpegs is very quick, and almost silent due to the very quiet virtually vibration free shutter, but the 5 fps only lasts for 5 frames then slows down. Perhaps there is more buffer available, and a firmware fix will lengthen a continuous string as with the K-5.

I'll continue this in an answer in this thread.

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Old Oct 30, 2011, 11:20 PM   #2
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Default Q observations continued

Here I'll post some examples with the standard prime lens and some add-on lenses, an Oly TCon 17 1.7x TC and the Raynox DCR 250.

The Tcon adds a lot of size, but doesn't do much for reach with the standard prime. At 80mm EQ, it's not exactly long, and after getting the standard zoom and the K>Q adapter combination, I'll stop carrying the Oly TC.

Here are a few shots taken with the 47mm EQ prime and the TCon.

I find that it's pretty easy to blow out highlights with the Q, but this is reasonably gradual, so there aren't abruptly edged blobs of solid white which just ruins pictures. Ev compensation is easy enough to dial in with Av mode that I usually shoot in. I press the Ev comp button which is located just under the last joint of my thumb. The button is tiny, but I can actually press it with the joint, and my thumb is then naturally positioned to spin the e-dial to change the EV comp setting. All of the buttons have a good feel, and though they are a little hard to get used to, it's not taken long for me to be able to manipulate the camera pretty easily. I have relatively small hands, but my fingers are pretty thick, but I have no trouble navigating the Q's controls.

I've found that to shoot jpegs, the best setting for me is "Natural" with "Contrast" and "Sharpening" turned down to -4 on each. This gives me a good base image to do my normal PP, with the least noticeable noise artifacts. I find the in-camera sharpening introduces a lot of sharpening artifacts (dark lines and light halos) in addition to accentuating noise. I use Topaz InFocus deconvolution sharpening with some micro contrast much better and natural looking. Topaz Denoise is my NR of choice, and I use this before sharpening in PP to keep from accentuating any noise further. I've also set the in-camera high ISO NR to "Low" at all ISOs instead of the default "Auto" NR cannot be turned completely off in the Q. Denoise does a better job than any in-camera processing engine, IMO.

As far as noise performance goes, I'm impressed with the Q. I find that I can usually use up to ISO 3200 without much problem for most situations where I'm using the Q as a compact. For birding and macro, up to 800 or maybe 1000 is where I'll limit it, but I've not been able to do enough shooting to really tell yet.

Here's a snap of one of my cats at ISO 1600j just step reduced in size with no other PP. Taken in jpeg *** at 1/60 f1.9, ISO 1600.

And a 100% crop, again with no pp and no downsizing.

Details are not destroyed by the noise, and the Low setting in-camera NR doesn't smear much and takes care of most, if not all of the color noise. This is probably a bit better noise performance than the 6MP DS, the 10 MP K10, and maybe even the K20/K7 -- not bad considering that the Q sensor is @ 1/13 the size of APS-C. I have to say that this is probably due partly to advances in processing in the camera as well as the obviously technically superior BSI CMOS sensor.

The problem with the Q and the DCR 250 is that with the 01 prime and the 02 zoom, there's not enough magnification in the lens alone to allow for Raynox achromatic diopter to do much good. About the best level of magnification you can get is good for smaller flowers.

IMO, a high quality K mount close focusing lens will do better.

I could be wrong, but I think that most of my DSLRs clip the reds and yellows easier than the Q, and this super lightweight combo is very easy to shoot flowers with. One thing that has to be remembered when using the Q is that although the default setting for the Electronic Shutter is off, it should be turned on and probably left there since the camera defaults to the leaf shutter for settings less than the 1/2000 sec limit, then automatically goes to the electronic shutter if faster speeds are needed. If not set to "on", then the max shutter is just 1/2000, and considering that sharpness falls off some even at f5.6 due to diffraction, many bright sunlight shots could end up overexposed if the electronic shutter is not activated (or the 2 stop ND filter, which for me is hard to remember for some reason). For me, I can't tell any difference, but I haven't looked very hard either, and the electronic shutter seems to work well enough for me.

The flash system is apparently a work in progress. The popup flash can be set only to fire when the flash is extended. Manual external flashes (or flash triggers) can only fire if the flash is turned off in the menu. If a non adjustable aperture Q mount lens is used, it's been reported that the popup flash only fires at full power. If an adapted lens is used, the popup flash will fire in P-TTL mode only in the red-eye or slow sync modes and external P-TTL flashes will fire in these modes only, but external non P-TTL flashes won't fire in any mode. This is totally bizarre, IMO, and hopefully Pentax Ricoh will make some changes to make the system make some sense.

So far, I've accessorized my Q pretty well.

1. I use a Camdapter Camstrap -- it's like a mini grip strap that allows me to hold the Q without any fear of dropping it.

2. I picked up a Metz 24 AF 1 P-TTL flash -- it's got a GN of 20m at ISO 100, so it's about 3 times as powerful as the popup, and the reflector can be tilted up to bounce. It takes 2 AA batteries, weighs a little over 6 oz, costs @ $90 USD, and is a great inexpensive compact external flash for my DSLRs also.

3. I got the Nikon Varifocal optical VF mentioned before.

4. I already had a couple of Supak PF 20XD flashes. This one is not dedicated, but can be used as a super compact hotshoe flash in Auto thyristor mode or fully manual with 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32 power settings in addition to full power. It doesn't bounce, but there's a slide up diffuser panel that can cover the lens to give softer light. This one takes 2 AAA batteries, and weighs 3.8 oz including batteries. This is a perfectly sized flash for the Q.

5. jinfinance on Ebay has the C-Q adapter for @ 27.00 USd shipped. They are a great seller, and I got this item exactly 1 week after ordering it from Shanghai. I got the Bower K-C adapter from B&H for $29.00 USD, and had it in 3 days. jinfinance says that they will have full K-Q adapters with aperture control rings for DA lenses and an integral tripod ring in about a week. They currently have Nikon, Canon, and MD to Q adapters and adapters for M39 Leica to Q as well as the already mentioned C mount to Q adapter. Their other SLR to Q adapters are $56 USD, but I imagine that the K>Q adapter will be more expensive because of the aperture ring and tripod mount.

6. The Q lenses don't come with lens cases, and I haven't found any commercial items, but infant low rise socks work well to protect them in the bag. I bought a Targus "City Gear Mini" netbook attache style case, and all of my stuff fits in it pretty easily, and it's like a mini messenger style case. When I get a 7" tablet (probably the Nook color with a dual boot SD card) to use as an electronic portfolio, this bag will carry it easily also.

7. A ton of K mount lenses! This is the best part. . .

Bottom line, I like the Q. I can work around all of the shortcomings so far, and don't anticipate any deal breakers, but I'm evaluating the Q as a specialty camera first and a compact camera only as an added bonus. I think that with premium K mount glass, the Q will produce outstanding images, and I'm not qualifying this with "for the sensor size". Having no viewfinder is a major negative for me, but now that I have an optical VF, and am getting to know how to use it effectively, this is not much of a problem. I'd like to see some changes, but most of these are not deal breakers and all of them can be changed with firmware updates, which Ricoh has been known to do well.

I chose the Q over any of the other mirrorless alternatives, and would do it again, including the 1 series cameras from Nikon. For me, the concept is easily the best suited for some of the things that I'd like my DSLR system to do, but would be prohibitively expensive. For me, the Q is the best alternative.

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Old Oct 31, 2011, 8:22 PM   #3
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Thank you Scott for this excellent and detailed review. When I first learned of the Q I scoffed and thought it was a silly idea. After reading more, I thought perhaps it isn't such a silly idea. Then I read even more and realized the Q really is a serious camera that is capable of taking really high quality photos. As I said in another post, the K5 sits atop my list of most desired cameras, but I have to say that I could see the Q having a place in my photo bag at some point in the future.

As an aside, I completely agree with you about cameras that lack a viewfinder. I have gotten used to holding a P&S in front of my face, but it still doesn't (and probably never will) feel as natural as raising a camera viewfinder to my eye.
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Old Nov 2, 2011, 10:08 PM   #4
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The macro aspect isn't something I had thought about, that's actually more interesting than the tele aspect. Do you have more dof when you get into greater magnification (1:1 and larger)? That's the one thing that I noticed when I started trying for more magnification - the dof was so tiny anything that wasn't flat was difficult to get a good picture of.
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Old Nov 3, 2011, 2:02 AM   #5
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Hi mtnman and mtngal,

Had to laugh -- this greeting sounds like welcoming cousins from both ends of the country for a family reunion. . .

I was surprised when they announced the Q, but Immediately saw some potential as a specialty camera as well as a compact. I'd been throwing around the idea of getting a G11 or LX4 or the like, but never could pull the trigger with their limited FLs and no real way to change them. When I started doing the math, it quickly became clear that if the sensor performed, then this camera could possibly do some incredible stuff if one has long fast teles and good dedicated macros. Now I just have to find combinations that work well together -- I've got a lot of candidates to try. . .

Harriet, About the macro, the DOF advantage increases as you move away from the subject, so at 3.8:, you'd have similar DOF to 1:1 with a K-5. The cool thing is that as you go down to 1:1, the DOF gets deeper, so instead of @ 1mm at 3.8:1, you can get @ 3-4mm at 1:1, and shoot from farther away, so intimidating critters is less likely. Also, with @ 18" of working distanc, you can get a decent angle even for shooting a shoe mounted flash with a diffuser, and this just makes things easier. If this works out the way I want it to, then going from the K-5 and Sigma 180 + AFA (over 4 lbs) to less than half the weight with the Q setup (@ 1.5 lbs) should make a significant difference in shooting fatigue for me. Using K lenses with the Q reminded me that I still had a few M42 lenses lying around, and I broke them out -- a Super Multicoated Takumar 50/1.4, an SMC Tak 200/4, and an SMD Tak 135/3.5 that I had picked up for pennies before I actually got my DS. They're super small, but they don't mount veryt tight on the adapter so I'll have to modify them to get them usable. . .

Irrelevant to this post, but Pentax Ricoh just released a firmware update for the body and lenses, and it actually makes a big difference in AF speed in good light. In outdoor situations, the Q is probably faster than the K-5! Really, for me, the best FW update from a useful modification standpoint so far from Pentax. Makes me hope that they have their engineers working on the other current models to give them a little Ricoh flavor via FW. . .

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Old Nov 3, 2011, 6:52 AM   #6
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What the Q finally got right, of all of these types of cameras, was designing the lenses in proportion to the camera. Put a lens on the NEX or EP series and you're right back where you started from. I was very interested in the Q, but it lacks two innovations I would require to invest in a new system, tilting LCD and an optional EVF. And then, of course, there is the price. Way too much. As the system evolves, I will pay attention. The image quality and shooting capabilities are incredible for a camera of this size.
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