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June 2011
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Pentax Q up to battle it out with NEX and Ricoh

Although it’s not Alpha, this product announcement – embargoed until 5am UK time, 23rd June, though no doubt by adhering to the embargo we will be a day later than hundreds of websites breaking it – speaks volumes for the impact of Sony’s Alpha system, its interformat lens compatibility, and the future of non-SLR systems.

Kenko, a Hoya group company like Pentax, showed a C-mount digital camera body in February, as a prototype planned for release this summer. Nothing more has been heard of this project. It looked rather like the Pentax in a way.

But Pentax Q is not a NEX competitor as it uses a tiny lens mount and a tiny sensor. It’s more like today’s equivalent of the Pentax 110 SLR system. Only Ricoh currently uses such small sensors in a nominally ‘interchangeable lens’ (not really) camera format. And our own testing of the Fujifilm F550 EXR, with a similar back-illuminated CMOS sensor, indicated that the gap between such microformats and the APS-C subformat is massive.

Just as your first dust spot will be… the anti-dust system is going to have to be 100% efficient, as a single dust bunny landing on a 1/2.3″ sensor will be disaster.

The lens throat is approximately 38mm diameter, very slightly smaller than Leica screw. The back focus is around 9mm, or half the thickness of the NEX body from sensor surface to flange. This will present the anti-shake, anti-dust vibration mounted sensor (on a magnetic carriage) in a fairly exposed ‘well’. The high speed limitation of 1/2,000th is unexpected, but the camera does not use a focal plane or electronic gating; instead it uses leaf-shutter lenses, which due to the small aperture size, can achieve this fast speed. But they can still only manage 1/250th flash sync, when it would be expected that a leaf shutter on this scale could achieve 1/1,000th.

Here is the Pentax Q system, due to go on sale in the Autumn (press release with comments).

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