PENTAX Q7 – BIG BANG IN AN ITTY BITTY PACKAGE

The little Pentax Q7 puts the fun back into photography. I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer for 45 years, but this camera is unlike anything I’ve ever owned or used. And it is way better than I expected and different, with unique optical qualities.

That a sensor so small produces sharp pictures with excellent color is remarkable.

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The resolution is startling. Although you can’t make poster-size prints from these files, 8X10, and 11X14 prints are not the impossible dream. The focus is fast, and the gyroscope is a blessing for those of us who have trouble getting the picture straight (I drop my right hand). I can’t give you technical explanations of how it works, but the information is available elsewhere online. I can assure you the pictures are crisp, clear, and the color is true.

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Battery life is pretty good. They are small batteries, so you’ll get maximum a  hundred and fifty to two hundred shots on a charged battery. I suggest you buy and carry extra batteries when you use the camera. Of course, I think you should do that for all cameras. Amazon sells good-quality, modestly priced, after-market batteries by the bunch. They recharge in a couple of hours. Pentax includes a separate charger with the camera.

The color rendering on the Q7 is almost as good as I get from my Olympus. That is very good indeed. It is true though a bit less rich. It’s easy to adjust in post-processing for more saturation, or change the setting from natural to enhanced. There are plenty of settings from which to choose.

The Q7 is fast, light, and ultra-compact, so it should surprise no one that it lacks a built-in viewfinder. If you demand a viewfinder, this won’t be your favorite camera. Pentax sells an accessory viewfinder, but I have not tried it. I don’t use a viewfinder. Between my eyesight and eyeglasses, viewfinders don’t work for me.

A NOTE ON DOCUMENTATION

The controls are simple and would be even simpler if it included a real manual. The manual it comes with is not “authored.” Likely it was generated by software and includes information without context. It doesn’t even tell you where to find specific controls or function.

Camera manufacturers have unilaterally decided we don’t need manuals. They are wrong. We all need manuals. This issue is not exclusive to a particular camera. It is a malaise affecting the entire electronics industry. Bring back manuals!

OPTICS

The zoom is theoretically “equivalent” to about 90-280mm in 35mm terms, but it isn’t really. That merely describes its field of vision but takes no account of the optical qualities of the lens. The equivalence is inaccurate.

You can’t realistically expect optics to translate by a simple multiplication process. We translate them in a general kind of way for reference purposes, but the field of vision is not the same as the optical quality of a lens. The Q7’s 8.5mm prime lens roughly translates to 50mm (in 35mm terms) if you only consider field-of-view. Depth-of-field, hardness, softness, how it flattens or widens an image are all optical qualities. They don’t translate.

For example, the 8.5mm shoots wide-angle and focuses at about 8 inches. The Q7, however, lets you control bokeh — at least to some degree — and you can get some amazing effects. I’m still learning how to use some of them. I wish it came with a decent manual!

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I use the 8.5mm prime lens for landscapes and close-up work. At f1.9, it handles both tasks well. It’s my default lens, and I bought it separately from the kit that came from Adorama.com with two f2.8 zoom lenses.

I carry the camera and three lenses in an insert that fits into my tote. Sometimes, I bring only the camera with a lens attached. 

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It is the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market. I originally heard about it from a blogger I’ve been following since before I was a blogger. He has written a lot about this and other cameras. Great photographer, too.

Check out his website at ATMTX PHOTO BLOG Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography.

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Taken from inside a moving car through the windshield glass (which was none too clean).

I shot all the pictures in this post with the Q7 except the photos of the Q7 itself. For that, I used an Olympus PEN PL-5 with an f1.8, 45mm lens.

I don’t do HDR and used minimal processing. Did I mention that the Q7 shoots RAW and JPEG? At the same time, if you like?

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It won’t replace a full-size camera. Its smallness creates limitations. But the range of its capabilities is substantial.

The Pentax Q7 is an ideal travel camera.  It is compact and light, but not a toy. It’s a real camera. You can get a sense of its size from the gallery pictures.

Pentax released a new version recently.  I’m okay with the Q7, so I haven’t checked it out yet. I don’t know what new features have been added. I hope Pentax will release new lenses. Otherwise, I am very pleased with my current gear.

I’M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP MR. DEMILLE

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: CLOSEUPS

This week’s topic is Close Ups. I know I just used this topic for my Black & White Challenge. I set their schedules differently, so I had failed to realize the two topics of Closeup would run almost back to back. I would suggest using some bright and vibrant color on this one.

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If only I had a macro lens. I yearn for one, but I haven’t been able quite to afford it. It has remained just out of reach.

UP CLOSE KAITY PROM PORTRAIT

My closest shooting lenses are a 20mm (40mm field of vision) Leica/Panasonic for my 4/3 Olympus and an 8.5mm (50mm FOV) for the Pentax Q7. The latter will focus as close as 8 inches. It’s not quite a normal prime nor a true wide-angle but is a bit of both.

December bouquet

The 8.5mm lens for the Q7 is marketed as a normal prime. It isn’t, really.

buds on the trees in April

The optical qualities of an 8.5mm versus a 50mm lens differ enormously, even when the field of vision is similar. I have found this to be one of the hardest concepts in photography to understand and explain. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it.

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Therefore, as close as it shoots, my 8.5mm Pentax lens is not a macro lens. It is fast, sharp, and I enjoy using it, but true macro work requires optical qualities I don’t have.

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Luckily, I have an excellent portrait lens. I can’t imagine ever needing to take a portrait closer than my 45mm (90mm field of vision) Olympus lens can focus.

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ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – WEEK 15

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 15

The last snow, in the parking lot by the river

The last snow, in the parking lot by the river

The weather has finally turned nice. Really lovely. It was shirtsleeve weather today. Our gardens aren’t blooming yet, but we were able to plant our little live Christmas trees today.

camera bags on park bench

It was bright, warm, and lovely. We went to the nearest park. It turned out, so did everyone else.

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We took a few pictures. I didn’t think I was taking that many pictures until I came home and downloaded them, realized I had taken a few hundred shots. Garry took a couple of hundred more.

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I guess we aren’t the only ones with cabin fever. People were fishing, canoeing, kayaking. Chasing their dogs around and laughing. It was a most convivial crowd and the first warm, sunny Sunday since the snow melted.

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camera bags in the park

OVERCOMING TECHNO-LUST

When you love cameras, there’s always a danger you may decide you need another, even though you don’t have enough time to use the ones you already own and can’t afford a new one.

It’s no different than other forms of techno-obsessive behavior.

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It’s all techno-lust, the almost physical need to acquire the newest piece of technology.

Over time, most of us learn — the hard way — that newer isn’t inherently better. That there are a lot of reasons to wait and see if the latest really is the greatest — or is actually a step backward from what you own.

pentax q7 camera in case

What to do when the desire to shop for something shiny and new, with the all the bells and whistles hits you? Your hand begins to shake on the mouse. You want it. You want it now. You don’t even know what it is, but that’s not the point. You are overwhelmed by techno-lust.

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I get my jollies by going on Amazon. I look up cameras I already own. Read hundreds of favorable reviews about my cameras. Discover this one is a marvel of optics and photographic technology. That it has a viewfinder with 100% field of vision. Never mind whether or not I use a viewfinder. What’s important is that I have one. This camera can shoot a leaf on a tree 1000 feet away with perfect detail and no significant image deterioration. I know, I’ve done it.

I can pat myself on the back for my astuteness in purchasing this modern marvel.

gear cameras chargers

Then, if I must buy something — just because — I always need an extra battery, a new SD card, or a filter. In the end, I’ve spent less than $20. I’ve fed my obsession, had my shopping fix, and reinforced my fundamental belief that I am a Shopping Goddess.

The danger is I might discover something I didn’t know was out there, which I absolutely must have, if not today, then eventually.  So I have to stay focused, only look at cameras I own or those which are equivalent  but inferior to the ones I own.

Putting stuff on a wish list is almost as good as buying it because it satisfies ones urge to click.

I advise you not use this remedy when you are half asleep or under the influence of anything. It’s alarming to wake up in the morning and discover you are the proud owner of something you will be paying off for the rest of your natural life. Or longer.

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Cancelling and returning stuff is such a pain. Especially when you would rather keep it.

Meanwhile, my money remains where it belongs. In my account. Does this count as a vicarious or virtual shopping experience? Both?

TELEVISION STUDIO IN LIVING BLACK AND WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Any kind of Camera or Photos of Photographers

This week’s topic is Any kind of Camera or Photos of Photographers. Any camera from a SLR, DSLR, iPhone, vintage camera, lenses, obvious camera equipment. Also allowed in this challenge is people taking photos.

This was an actual TV show in progress. The pictures were almost sepia because of the color cast of the studio lighting. In a couple, I used some antique effects. I really love the way TV cameras look, the big, unblinking eye.

ME AND MY CAMERAS

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Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from hundreds of feet away. Great lens!

Some photographers have a favorite camera they use all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter. Cameras come and go and no doubt always will. I have slots to fill. I don’t have much money, so I have to hunt for bargains.

Olympus PEN E-PM2

Olympus PEN E-PM2

I always need a camera with a long telephoto lens for shooting wildlife. Birds. My first choice was the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ70. It was cheap and turned out to be worth less than I paid. The lens was crap. Bells and whistles don’t make up for bad glass. I gave it to my son and got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. With its f2.8 24X Leica zoom, if it weren’t so big, it would be the camera. But, compact is the one thing it isn’t. I got a great deal on it, before word got around and its price tripled. I could not afford it today.

NOTE: If you are looking for a camera that does it all, size isn’t an issue, and you don’t shoot RAW, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60.  With 25-600 f2.8-5.2 Leica lens shooting 20MP, it’s a great camera. Nearly identical to the FZ200, but faster. It’s out of production (the entire FZ line is out of production), but Amazon has some. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

The backbone of my camera collection are the Olympus PENs. I have three of them: two PM-2, and a PL-5. I had an Olympus PEN P-3 which recently moved to a new home. I got the Olympus PEN PL-5 in return. Why so many? I find it easier and faster to swap cameras than change lenses. And the PL-5 has interesting bells and whistles I actually enjoy using. It’s the first time I’ve ever used built-in camera effects.

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

I replaced my go-everywhere camera, a compact point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix ZS19, with a newer Panasonic Lumix ZS20. On paper the ZS20 is a better camera. Jazzier interface. Cooler bells and whistles. But it focuses slower than its predecessor (especially in low light), and burns through batteries twice as fast.

Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Specs don’t always tell the story. I lean heavily on my compact camera. It’s the camera I keep close. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I picked up a Pentax Q7 kit. It is tiny, light, yet does almost everything its bigger brethren do. Now that I’ve figured out how to use it (blame the delay on bad documentation and a stubborn unwillingness to ask for help), I’m hoping it will be my go-to compact. So far, so good.

Olympus PEN PL-5

Olympus PEN PL-5

Except for the Olympus PEN P-3, I’ve never paid full price for a camera. Sometimes I stumble on sales. More often, I get an email from a fellow blogger telling me there’s a “flash” sale on a camera, lens, or software.

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Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

These “flash” sales sometimes last as little as a few hours. I got one of my Olympus PEN PM-2 cameras for about $150 because I would take it in white. Otherwise, the price was $450. I got a second PEN PM-2 the same way. In both cases, I got an email from an Internet friend telling me to grab one, they wouldn’t be available long. I did. They weren’t.

Pentax Q7 in pouch

Pentax Q7 kit

Cameras are intimate items. I would rather share my toothbrush than my camera. Not every camera is right, no matter how carefully you do your research. The P-3 was never right, even though it was a great camera, maybe the best of the modern Olympus PENs. It never felt as good in my hands as the cheaper, lighter PM-2. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They all look the same to someone else, but they don’t feel the same to you.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

It’s hard to explain to a non-photographer the buzz you get from holding the right camera. I’m convinced cameras work better if they feel our love. And we take better pictures if we love them. Seriously, we do.

3 PERFECT SHOTS ON THE PENTAX Q7

Three Perfect Shots

Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.


The pictures are my living room, picture window, and snowy front yard between yesterday evening and this morning, all taken (finally!) on a teeny tiny Pentax Q7.  You cannot give this prompt to a photographer and not expect actual pictures. I don’t know if these qualify as perfect, but they come with an entertaining story of the continuing battle of human against technology. And, of course includes three pictures.

Taken by the light of a 40-watt bulb. Evening at home.

Taken by the light of a 40-watt bulb. Evening at home.

Weeks ago, I got a Pentax Q7, a tiny, light, compact camera which uses interchangeable lenses. Even shoots RAW, like a real camera. I had never used it, though it has been lurking in the office for a while. It was like an itch I could not scratch.

I got the Q7 on the advice of someone who has one and loves it. He got his in Hong Kong, but he was sure there’d be great deals on it soon. There were. I got it as a kit with 2 lenses for less than a point and shoot.

Spring hasn't come yet, but we live in hope.

Spring hasn’t come yet, but we live in hope.

It looks like a “real camera” that got put through a wash-dry cycle, and shrank to less than half its size. It’s tiny. Its lenses are weightless, but fast at f2.8.

So why had I never used it? It wasn’t for lack of trying. It was set to some weird color setting. Red. Hideous. I couldn’t figure out how to unset it. The manual, like most manuals for Japanese cameras, had lots of pages, but no useful information. How can they publish so many pages without saying anything? I could not find so much as a reference to “Bold Unicolor.”

I tried resetting the camera to its defaults. I went through every menu, every setting. I tried the White Balance dial and went deep into every possible variation on the many menus. Nope. It remained “Bold Unicolor.” I discovered I could pick a different unicolor. Yellow, blue, green, magenta. I could not turn it off.

We've got a bright blue sky and sunshine ... but it's cold out there!

We’ve got a bright blue sky and sunshine … but it’s cold out there!

I was positive the camera wasn’t broken. Also sure the Q7 is shortly going to be discontinued in favor of a newer model and may become abruptly hard to get — which would also explain its low price. Regardless, I was sure there was a dial, button, or obscure menu setting that would fix the problem. All I had to do was keep looking.

Finally, having reached the end of my patience, I turned it around and stared at it from the front. I talked to it and I think I wasn’t very polite.

I generally look at cameras from the back. When I initially get them, I check to see where memory chips and batteries go, where a USB cable attaches. I attach a strap, which I could do in my sleep. Unless I’m changing the lens, I don’t look at the front of the camera much. All the stuff I need is out back.

I sat there and looked. Realized I couldn’t see it very well, so I took off my glasses, turned up the light and squinted. Eureka! Tucked in next to the lens, near the bottom of the body, I spied a tiny dial with minuscule — unreadable — text. I could see there were settings on it (which I have not yet deciphered). One is a plain dot without text. I turned the dial to the dot and I finally had normal color.

I had been brooding over this for weeks. Longer, actually while watching my warranty run out. It haunted my dreams. Last night and this morning, I (finally) took a few pictures on this tiny camera. If you are over forty, bring a magnifying glass. And about that manual …

ALFRED EISENSTADT, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND ME TOO

Garry and I used to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, sharing a house with a bunch of other people from Boston TV stations.

Alfred EisenstadtIn the early 1990s, Garry did a feature about Alfred Eisenstadt and Lois Maillou Jones, both of whom lived on the Vineyard and had been given Presidential Medals of Honor for their work. We became friends with both artists. Eisenstadt was in his early 90s, Lois Maillou Jones in her mid 80s.

I had been an admirer of Eisenstadt’s work as long as I’d been taking pictures. I shot my first roll of film on Martha’s Vineyard in 1966. I had stayed at the Menemsha Inn where (serendipity!!) Eisenstadt lived from late spring till Labor Day. Books of Eisie’s work were all over the inn. In bookcases, on tables. Most of the books featured his landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard.

I was using my first camera, a Practika with a great Zeiss 50mm lens. Great lens, but no electronic light meter. No electronic or automatic anything. It had a crank film advance.  A bare bones camera with a Zeiss lens. I had half a dozen rolls of black and white film.

It was ideal for a beginner. I had to learn how to take a light reading with a handheld meter. I had to focus the lens, set the shutter speed, the f-stop, and choose the film speed — though you only had to set film speed once each time you loaded the camera.

It wasn’t a lot of settings to learn, but they were and are the essentials of photography. If you can take a light reading, set film speed (now ISO), understand shutter speed, depth of field, and see when a picture is in focus —  and you recognize a picture when you see it — you’re home free. Everything else is dessert.

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Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My 50 mm lens was a prime. No zoom. It was a good piece of glass and moderately fast at f2.8. No flash.

If I wanted a close up, I could move closer to what I was shooting. A wide shot? Go back! I learned photography in a way those who’ve only used digital cameras and zoom lenses can never learn. Most of today’s photographers have never held a camera that doesn’t include auto-focus, much less taken a reading with a hand-held meter. (What’s a hand-held meter?)

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.

The camera was a gift from a friend who had bought a new camera. Armed with the Practika and determination, I followed Eisenstadt’s path around the Vineyard. I discovered where he’d taken each picture, figured out how he’d gotten the perspective, framed it.

I duplicated his shots down to the clump of grass behind which he’d crouched to create a foreground. I added a few twists of my own. I was winging it, but I winged well.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My first roll of film was brilliant — except the photographs were copies of Alfred Eisenstadt’s. He taught me photography by giving me foot prints to follow. By the time I was done with those first rolls of film, I had learned the fundamentals. I’m still learning.

When I actually met Alfred Eisenstadt, it was the most exciting moment of my life.

As we got to know Eisie better, I asked him to autograph his books for me. He didn’t merely autograph them. He went through each book, picture by picture.

He was in his early 90s and had forgotten many things, but remembered every picture he’d taken, including the film and camera, lens, F-stop, and most important, what he was thinking as he shot. He could remember exactly what it was about the image that grabbed his attention.

For example, the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, he said he was walking around Times Square with his Nikon. When he spotted the dark of the sailor’s uniform against the white of the nurse’s dress, he knew it was what he wanted and shot. Light, contrast, composition.

We spent time with him every summer for 5 years until he passed. We were honored to be among those invited to the funeral.

Although we were sad that Eisie was gone, we found things to laugh about. Knowing him was special and some memories are worth a chuckle. I don’t think Eisie would have minded.