Q Challenge – Final Week

As with many things, the Q challenge I set myself a month ago is drawing to a close. Four weeks of photos, Lightroom, various outdoor pursuits and a wedding have taught me plenty about the minature camera, and a bunch of other stuff I thought I’d forgotten about photography software and how to actually take pictures. It’s been good; I really have taken many more photos, including some crackers that can’t be put up here for want of friends asking why these pictures of them are on the internet. I’ve cheated slightly by expanding the range of lenses available using my old Auto 110 lenses, but I think the spirit of the challenge remains intact.

Chasing seagulls with a wide lens. Tough cookie.

Chasing seagulls with a wide-angle lens. I took a few pictures using the Auto 110 24mm but they were nowhere near as sharp – I’ll go into the different 110 lenses and my experiences with them at a later date.

What have I found, then? The Pentax Q is a great camera, but it is not a replacement for an SLR. The main problem I had was with low-light situations, for a range of reasons: high ISO performance is rubbish, the autofocus really struggles in twilight-and-beyond, and the flash is usually overbearing or underwhelming without much in between. Depth of field with such a small sensor was also something I missed – a lot of the people shots I took with the Q could have been improved by isolating the subject more against the background. Despite the large-aperture lens I had on, the crop factor meant that it was very difficult to get any background bokeh at all without sticking the camera right into people’s faces, and that is a shame. Battery life is also a bit weak but when you can buy a spare battery for £5 then that becomes a much lesser issue.

Taken with the 50mm Auto 110 lens.

The availability of cheap Auto 110 lenses is also a bonus, although I was disappointed with the sharpness of the 24mm version. This, taken with the 50mm, is still pretty sharp and old lenses have a great feel to them. If you click to full size you can see individual pollen grains in the dying flower on the right. Also, the long focal lengths get you that subject isolation that the 8.5mm prime just wouldn’t kick out.

All that in mind, I’m still very pleased with the Q. It is very, very handy, it takes great pictures in the right conditions (daytime, effectively) and it is just damn fun to use. It’s solid and reliable and it’s survived sea kayaking, sitting on beaches, cycling over 100 miles, trekking across swathes of British countryside and going up and down rock faces without so much as a blip. The autofocus in daylight is rapid and accurate, and having a camera with you at all times makes for many more good photo opportunities than the rare occasion I wheel out the DSLR. The original Pentax Q is now also cheap as chips, going for about £150 with the 5-15mm zoom (which I haven’t tried, sadly!) and at that kind of price it is exceptional. I’ve had a ball using it, I love the (jacket) pocketability, and I will continue to use it for as many years as it will last.

It was a big relief to get to this cathedral.

The cathedral at the end of a long walk with Partner in Climb. I’d never been so relieved to see a cathedral in my life.

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