Pentax has announced the first pocket-friendly interchangeable lens camera to sport its new bayonet lens mount. The company says that its Q mount is about a third less in diameter than the more familiar K-mount, thanks to a reduction in the distance from the lens mount surface to the image sensor and by tweaking the size of the lens image circle to be proportionate to the sensor. The Pentax Q also makes use of a compact camera-sized sensor and sacrifices the onboard optical viewfinder, mirror box, focusing plate and autofocus sensor to help keep proportions to a minimum - making it about the same size as my Umbra credit card case. Other features of note include a programmable dial on the front for quick access to frequently-used settings, the ability to shoot full high definition video and a built-in flash that can pop up to help reduce red-eye.

The Pentax Q's backlit, 12.4 megapixel, 1/2.3 inch (6.16 x 4.62 mm) CMOS image sensor is said to be capable of producing 12-bit DNG RAW and JPG images and to benefit from very low noise even in low light situations. The sensor is a good deal smaller than those found in APS-C or Micro Four Thirds digital cameras, making the Q much more pocket-friendly but also more likely to produce images of a quality closer to a compact camera than a digital SLR.

The 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2-inch (98 x 57.5 x 31 mm) camera is smaller than the similar Lumix DMC-GF3 (although Panasonic has still managed to use a large Live MOS sensor and the GF3 benefits from a touch-enabled display) and has been given a new image processing engine. It sports a Quick Dial on the camera's front that's used to quickly apply user-assigned Smart Effects settings and there's DSLR-like PASM (Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority, and Metered Manual exposure control) shooting modes, 21 scene modes including new Forest and Stage Lighting options and a High Dynamic Range effect that snaps three shots at different exposures and combines them into one vivid image.

The Q can apply professional-looking blurred background effects thanks to the built-in Bokeh Control filter, offers a choice of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1 image aspects and has a film-like multi-exposure mode that offers up to nine exposures on a single image with auto exposure compensation. Pentax says that the camera is capable of five frames per second burst shooting at full resolution and benefits from an autofocus system with face detection and 25 selectable focus points.

Camera shake is handled by a sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism with integrated dust reduction and low light capture given a helping hand from an ISO 125 to ISO 6400 sensitivity range. Popping up the built-in flash from its default position can extend the discharge angle to cover a 28 mm angle of view.

Framing shots is undertaken on a 3-inch, 460,000 dot resolution LCD display with a 170 degree viewing angle but users are also given the option of adding an optical viewfinder (O-VF1) via the hot-shoe mount (at an extra cost of US$250).

The Pentax Q is also capable of recording full 1080p video at 30 frames per second using H.264 compression and captures audio with an included monaural microphone. There's a micro-HDMI port for onward connection to high definition displays or big screen televisions, a USB 2.0 port and AV out.

The scratch resistant magnesium alloy body helps to keep weight down to a lightweight 7.1 ounces (200g), including battery and SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory card - that's about an ounce lighter than Sony's smallest NEX camera. Battery life is reported to be good for about 250 images (without flash usage).

The Pentax Q will initially be made available in Japan during Q3 for US$800 and will come in black and white. It will be shipped with a Standard Prime lens (with a focal length equivalent to 47mm, a maximum aperture of F1.9 and made up of two high grade aspherical optical elements) and SILKY Developer Studio 3 image processing software.

Pentax has also announced four new Q mount lenses to be released at the same time. There's a Standard 27.5 to 83 mm zoom lens comprised of four extra-low-dispersion and low-refractive aspherical optical elements and with a minimum focusing distance of 11.8-inches (30 cm). This will cost US$299.95. The Fish-Eye lens offers 160 degree angle of view and is priced at US$129.95 and the Toy Lens (35mm) Wide and Toy Lens (100mm) Telephoto lenses help add a touch of nostalgia to images, at a cost of US$79.95 each.

View gallery - 11 images