Tokyo Story - A Pentax Q7 real world review


pinholecam

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#1

The Q7 is Pentax latest revision of its tiny Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) named the Q series.

When the original Q system was launched in Jun2011, pundits said it was a joke just basing off its small sensor size (1/2.3" sensor).
But I reviewed the original Q here ( http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/reviews/1130914-pentax-q-real-world-user-review.html ) and was happy with what I found.
Super macro and telephoto opportunities with the crop factor as well as a really fun camera to use.

Then came the next version the Q10 which was also reviewed here :
http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/reviews/1218141-pentax-q10-quick-review.html
Pretty much the same as the original Q but with a lighter plastic body and slightly faster processor.


With the Q7, Pentax has revised its sensor size going from the small 1/2.3" sensor to a 1/1.7" backlit CMOS image sensor.
The larger sensor size promises an improvement in image quality and high ISO noise.
Pentax claims a 60% improvement in S/N ratio over the existing Q10.
This improvement also allows the camera to focus faster in low light.
Its was one of the factors that made me decide to get the camera as well as the new wider crop factor of x4.55 (over the x5.6 crop factor of the Q/Q10).
I'll elaborate more of this later.


Q7 with 01 prime; 06 zoom and Toy fisheye lenses.
A fun and versatile kit that is small and weighs very little



Since the Q7 is not available for sale elsewhere except Japan, until Sept2013, I'll list down a bit of the specs here :
(btw, I'm doing a very poor job of listing and organizing these numbers.... boring stuff... its actually easier to follow this link to the official Pentax Q7 and/or DPReview site where its listed nicely) :)
PENTAX - Q7 Black
Pentax announces Q7 with larger 12MP BSI CMOS sensor: Digital Photography Review


Sensor
Max resolution 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels 12.4 megapixels
Sensor size 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58 mm)
Sensor type BSI-CMOS

Image
White balance presets 9
Custom white balance Yes
Image stabilization Sensor-shift
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Good, Better, Best
File format RAW (12bit): DNG, JPEG

Focal length multiplier 4.7×

Screen size 3″
Screen dots 460,000
Screen type TFT color LCD monitor, wide angle viewing, AR coating
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Optical (optional)

Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/2000 sec (built in ND filter available)

Exposure modes
Program Auto Exposure, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual Exposure, Bulb, Blur Control (JPEG only) Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night Scene Portrait, Night Scene, Blue Sky, Forest

Built-in flash Yes (Built-in retractable P-TTL flash)
Flash range 4.9 m (ISO100/m)
External flash Yes
Flash modes P-TTL, Red-eye Reduction, Slow-speed Sync, Trailing Curtain Sync
Flash X sync speed 1/2000 sec

Drive modes
Single frame, Continuous (Hi, Lo), Self-timer (12s, 2s), Remote Control (0 sec., 3 sec., continuous), Exposure Bracketing (3 frames, remote control), Multi-exposure (0 sec., Self-time, remote control), Interval Shooting
Self-timer Yes (12 sec, 2 sec)

Metering modes
Multi
Center-weighted
Spot
Exposure compensation ±3 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing (3 frames at 1/3 EV steps)
Videography features
Format
MPEG-4
H.264
Microphone Mono
Speaker Mono
Resolutions FullHD(1920x1080, 30fps/25fps/24fps), HD(1280x720,16:9,30fps/25fps/24fps), VGA(640x480,4:3,30fps/25fps/24fps)

Weight (inc. batteries) 200 g (0.44 lb / 7.05 oz)
Dimensions 102 x 58 x 34 mm (4.02 x 2.28 x 1.34″)
Other features
Timelapse recording Yes (3 sec. to 24 hr., Start Interval setting: immediately from the set time. Number of shots: up to 999 images)
 

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pinholecam

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#2
Overview


The Q is a ILC system; one of the big differences between it and any other small sensor pns sized camera
Q7;
01 prime (mounted) - 39mm equivalent (f1.9);
06 zoom - 69-207mm equivalent (f2.8 constant);
Toy Fisheye



Lets get through the formalities first.
The overview of the camera.

Front view

Q7 compare to the prepaid Tokyo subway card (ie. which is the size of any typical atm/credit card)

Rear view




Construction and layout
In the hand, the Q7 feels solid, even though it has a plastic covering (shell is stainless steel)
Typical of Pentax build, the scroll wheel and buttons have a positive/tactile feel to them, not uncertain and whimpy like on some cameras.



The Q7 has quite a bit of options available as buttons and dials.
There is the standard mode dial on the top right of the camera.
Then there are the usual directional buttons providing fast access to the most often used options and 1 scroll wheel.
All these are placed to the camera right for easy one handed operation.

What is unique for the Q series is the Quick Dial, which is placed on the camera front. (the one with the 1,2,3,4 numbering)
This is stored with typical picture presets so that the user can quickly switch to different color modes or picture styles (eg. B&W; cross process; bold color; etc).
The dial can also be customized in the menu for other purposes like turning on the built in ND filter; Focus modes; etc.
This is a pretty handy thing to have and can prove to be quite fun, since all the user needs to do to access them is the turning of the knob, rather than the typical menu diving.
 

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pinholecam

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#3
Ok, with most of the formalities of a review put up, lets go into the more interesting part.
The real world use.
Pictures for the end user.



Warrior girl - Kabukicho, Tokyo; Q7; Prime 01
As real as you can get - well in a man's fantasy anyway....




IMO, while there are always tech spec listings and paper comparisons for cameras on many review sites, they only represent one limited dimension to a camera.
These can't touch on the user, usability, on field handling, practical aspects of the system.
All these are better done with a real world user review.
What it feels/mean/handles in real use.


I often allow about 1 month usage before I get a review done to get used to the camera as well as to use it in as many real situations as possible.
But this time its different as I've use the Q7 for about a week.
However, it has been a week of intensive use, starting off everyday from about 7am all the way to 10pm (sometimes more).
To me, a tour is one of the times where a camera is pushed to its limits and one of the best ways to learn about a camera.
So I'm pretty sure I've got most of what I need to do a review.




Starting off

Wind chime - Asakusa Temple - Q7; 06 zoom

My last trip to Japan was 10yrs ago.
Everything was on film then, though I have some on a Pentax Optio GS330 digital compact.
I've always wanted to go back to revisit the places, culture, people.
But family and kids meant that the wanderlust had to wait.
Then Fukushima..... and I delayed again till now.
 

pinholecam

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#5
General Handling and AF


On the streets of Shinjuku; Pentax Q7; 01 prime
The smallness of the camera and its fast AF just makes it so easy to whip up the camera at a moments notice, for spontaneous moments.


Once I got hold of the Q7, I charged up the batteries and brought it out the next day.
Walked along the streets with the 01 prime (eq 40mm f1.9).

My impressions....

Wow!
This thing is fast.


Startup is fast, within a second.
I recall writing about a lag in LCD screen turn on (instant) to actually being able to shoot with the camera in the older Q.
But with the Q7, this is now gone and there is no lag in the startup.


Weight of a generation; Pentax Q7; 06 zoom
I spotted this photo op while waiting at the train station.
Reached for the Q7 and turned it on, raised the camera and took the shot.
Thankful of its very short start up time indeed.



Then there is the AF.
Does this thing even need to focus?
I am seriously impressed.
AF is very fast, very decisive.
I'd almost use the word .... instant..
Probably the fastest I've ever used on a CDAF camera (and I've had a G3 (no wimp in CDAF))
This coupled with the deeper DOF from the x4.7 crop factor makes for a very fast shooting street camera, where its easy to get subjects quickly into the focus/DOF.



Behind the Ramen; Q7 prime 01.
An interesting Ramen store, everyone is partitioned from each other. You just focus on the taste of the Ramen.
It looked pretty private and quiet, but no probs for this sneaky small camera to peer thru and focus in the low light as well as having a totally silent electronic shutter.




Scratch my back (or strap..? ) ; Roppongi; Q7; Prime 01
Again, a street photo op. Brought up the camera quickly and it focused w/o a glitch even in the low ambient lighting.
Don't want to create a stir with a serious camera too in Roppongi with the bouncers around.


CDAF has in the past had a bad rep (deservedly so).
In low light, past CDAF (and even DSLRs with PDAF ) were no that good.
There was that 'zee.. zee... zee.. " sound as the lens tried to focus in low light with mixed success and often a missed photo op.
But no so on the Q7.
Simply put, fast, and I'm both surprised and impressed.



Low light; Funky lighting and a guy in a Robot costume lumbering forwards.
A challenging thing to get in focus, given the lighting and situation, but not a problem here wit the Q7
 

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pinholecam

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#6
AF and low light performance in real use

My cousin (who lives in Tokyo) was pretty enthusiastic about bringing me to this place.
His words "Its OTT" , then he went on describing the place in sketchy detail.
"Its hard to describe it; perhaps like cabaret but very modern, very Tokyo" he said.

I just picked up on the key words that he had just spoken...
"Girls, bikinis, robots, beer... "
"Lets go man!
"

(Full disclosure : I did this all because I knew it would be a great place to test the Q7 for the camera enthusiasts out there; Imagine having to put myself through this... ;) )


Robot Restaurant (Kabukicho)

Again, no issues here in funky low light.
No "wait, wait pls" while I try to get the camera in focus.
The Q7 just zipped in, and did the job.


I was unsure if a serious looking camera would be allowed in Kabukicho and more so in a club, so I opted to play safe that day and just brought the Q7 with me.

OTT!
Well it certainly sort of describes this place.
At a cost of US$215 million to setup, I think the bill from the massive amounts of LED and large LCD panels itself would already cost the cover charge earnings per night.

Before the show when everyone was seated, an announcement was made that serious cameras would not be allowed (and "no closeups of the performers" .. ok, I did not plan on going there anyway.. )
I was a bit apprehensive, cause I was banking on a 2 day old camera to cut the cake.
Would it? ? or had I just wasted money and time for the performance on blind faith.......

Soon the lights went out and the show started.....


Call to the warriors; Robot Restaurant; Kabukicho; Pentax Q7; 01 prime




Giant Robots and pretty ladies; Robot Restaurant; Kabukicho; Pentax Q7; 01 prime

What followed was a miasma of music, dance, lights, costumes, robots.
I took shot after shot in the low rapidly changing lights.
Sometimes it was quite dark, other times, it was spot lit.

The Q7 pressed on, without a sweat.
The fast AF was impressive.
I need not say more about it (the lighting conditions from the shots speak for themselves)
Can't complain about the metering too, which I must say was darn good imho (I basically kept a -0.7 bias on Tv mode since I did not need to expose for the blacks)



Sound and Sight; Robot Restaurant; Kabukicho; Pentax Q7; 01 prime

Knowing that the movement of the performers would mean that I could not rely on Av mode with auto ISO.
I kept the camera in Tv mode (1/80 to 1/100s at -0.7ev metering bias) and let the camera do the rest.

The good AF and metering, coupled with good DOF from the small sensor plus the ability to use a high quality fast f1.9 prime was reassuring.
I shot in RAW (the only time I bothered to on the Q7 for this whole trip), knowing that I would need the little bit extra mileage RAW would give in such challenging conditions.

Generally, I must say that small sensor cameras have come such a long way in most practical aspects of photo taking.
I still remember my early digicams and even early DSLR which could not even give a reasonable photo from ISO1600 and up (no photo, not even a smeared painting representation)
Nowadays, its almost a wonder what a small camera can do (and it can even change lenses for other photographic options)
 

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keithwee

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LittleRedDot
#7
I'm impressed with what u've said about the Q7. Simple words, a pic says a thousand words and your photos dispelled quite a few negative notions I've heard abt the Q system. Might decide to jump into the Q7 :)

Any idea where/ when will the Q7 be available in SG?

thanks!
 

pinholecam

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#9
Simon, Thanks for the support.
More to come.


I'm impressed with what u've said about the Q7. Simple words, a pic says a thousand words and your photos dispelled quite a few negative notions I've heard abt the Q system. Might decide to jump into the Q7 :)

Any idea where/ when will the Q7 be available in SG?

thanks!
Thanks.
Glad to know that the review clarified some doubts.

I got the Q7 when I was in Japan.
Don't know when the local distro will have it, but based on the fact that sim4nee and Michael (both with better access to the distro than me) already have at least a pre-production one to play around, I'd expect it to be close to the Sept2013 international release date.
http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/pentax-ricoh/1285102-pentax-q7.html



ditto your images speak volumes

so tempted now ...
Thanks Eddie, you are always very encouraging.
I'm surprised by the performance of the Q7 myself.
Before this, with the Q, there would still be that bit at the back of the head that felt insecure about the small sensor "in case I need to print big"
With the Q7, I'm pretty sure that as a backup or compliment to a larger camera, if I wanted to print A4 or a bit bigger, it won't be a problem.
 

wonglp

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Bukit Batok
#10
wow, another busting review awaits! It's good to see the lenses becomes wider without vignetting. More pls! :)
 

pinholecam

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#11
Enjoy the weekend guys, I'll get back to the review over the week.
For now, we interrupt this review with a "commercial break"















Moving performers, low/funky lights and my palpitating heart from the beer and the performers, plus shooting often with one hand, but the Q7 with fast f1.9 prime 01 and on-camera shake reduction pressed on..... :D
 

pinholecam

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#12
wow, another busting review awaits! It's good to see the lenses becomes wider without vignetting. More pls! :)
Thanks man! :)

Yes, the lenses getting a bit wider is one of the reasons I decided to get one.
Will touch on the lenses later in the review.
 

pinholecam

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#13
Q7 - 01, 06 and Toy Fisheye ( a system camera not just a pns )

The Q7 (and the Q series for that matter) differs from any other small sensor camera as its a system with interchangeable lenses.
There are a selection of lenses available for the Q system, but I'll just touch on what I have and what can be achieved with them.

First off, the benefits of a ILC.
I paid quite a bit for the original Q.
But since the lenses carry over to the next camera unlike other pns, I start to see the benefit when I got the Q7, as I only need to pay for the body only, which cost less than any new advanced pns of its same generation. (probably $200-$300 less)
Ok, enough talk about money (since picts are more important and we don't buy our cameras as investments)

I'd like to talk about the lenses and the photographic opportunities it affords the user.

The Q7 has a crop factor of x4.7 compared to that of the Q which was x5.5
This means that the existing lenses will get a wider equivalent FOV compared to being used on a Q/Q10.


01 Prime (eq. 40mm f1.9)


Don't stare too long...at the magazine..
Q7; Prime 01
40mm, a nice and nimble lens for whatever that pops up on the streets during a walkabout



The 01 prime is about 40mm eq on the Q7.
I found this to be almost the perfect versatile lens to have on the camera 90% of the time.
Small and unencumbered, fast aperture, sharp and a very nice FOV that can cover most things w/o reaching for another lens.

Its also reaches max sharpness at about f4 to f4.5, which is a good thing imo.
With the large DOF due to the smaller sensor, many times I can actually take the sharpest photo that the Q7 allows at f4 or f4.5, with everything within DOF while keeping the ISO reasonably low (important for a small sensor to keep IQ) and handheld.



The door to the other side is just beside
Q7; 01 prime
f1.9 is always handy for low light interiors




Bloody fresh!
Q7; 01 prime
Shallower DOF with a fast aperture as well as for the low light in the Tsukiji Fish Market

The 01 prime also allows a bit of DOF control with its small aperture for smaller, closer focused subjects.
There is also a BR (Blur Control) function on the Q7 which takes a series of shots of varying focus and combining them to give a pseudo shallow DOF shot.
I'll cover that later in another post.

Whats unique about the 01 prime is its equivalent 40mm field of view at a fast aperture of f1.9.
Thats a fast f1.9 at a somewhat normal focal length, like how a photographer uses a fast 50mm on 135 format.
Most other advanced compacts are fast aperture only at the widest end.
 

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PhilipKr35

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Jul 17, 2011
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Yew Tee
#14
Hi JK,

Nice shots indeed in low light ! I guess the bigger sensor does make a difference from Q and Q10 .

Could you give some EXIF data on this shot below, so I could relate to the difference since I have not a chance to shoot with Q7 sensor .

ISO ?, WB ? , Point or Segments AF ? I assume you used f1.9 at 1/80 for this shot ?
Do you still see a writing lag time between shots when shooting RAW ?? like in the Q10 and Q ?

More Stories Please !!

By the way what is OTT ?? I kind of mountain tortoise when comes to short forms !

AF and low light performance in real use
Soon the lights went out and the show started.....


Call to the warriors; Robot Restaurant; Kabukicho; Pentax Q7; 01 prime


I need not say more about it (the lighting conditions from the shots speak for themselves)
Can't complain about the metering too, which I must say was darn good imho (I basically kept a -0.7 bias on Tv mode since I did not need to expose for the blacks)




The good AF and metering, coupled with good DOF from the small sensor plus the ability to use a high quality fast f1.9 prime was reassuring.
I shot in RAW (the only time I bothered to on the Q7 for this whole trip), knowing that I would need the little bit extra mileage RAW would give in such challenging conditions.

Generally, I must say that small sensor cameras have come such a long way in most practical aspects of photo taking.
I still remember my early digicams and even early DSLR which could not even give a reasonable photo from ISO1600 and up (no photo, not even a smeared painting representation)
Nowadays, its almost a wonder what a small camera can do (and it can even change lenses for other photographic options)
 

pinholecam

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Jul 23, 2007
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#15
Hi JK,

Nice shots indeed in low light ! I guess the bigger sensor does make a difference from Q and Q10 .

Could you give some EXIF data on this shot below, so I could relate to the difference since I have not a chance to shoot with Q7 sensor .

ISO ?, WB ? , Point or Segments AF ? I assume you used f1.9 at 1/80 for this shot ?
Do you still see a writing lag time between shots when shooting RAW ?? like in the Q10 and Q ?

More Stories Please !!

By the way what is OTT ?? I kind of mountain tortoise when comes to short forms !
Philip, thanks.

OTT - over the top :)

EXIF : 1/60; f2; ISO400; WB : Auto; Metering : multi-segment
The rest are in the range of : 1/80-1/100; f1.9; ISO1600-3200; WB : Auto; Metering : multi-segment

I don't recall noticing any lag.
But what I've found true for most cameras is that the SD card speed is important.
I use class 6 and class 10 (30mb/s).

Some shots were before switching to 1/80-1/100 when I realized that I'd get too much movement blur with anything lower and that I could 'push it' a bit with ISO.
 

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pinholecam

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#16
03 Toy fisheye

The 03, also known as the Toy Fisheye is not really a serious high performing lens.
Instead its a 17mm (eq) fisheye that is fixed at f5.6.
IQ is acceptable, but nothing to shout about, certainly enough for most purposes though.
But what it does provide, is the unique fisheye lens perspective on a small sensor camera (which does not exist on any other pns camera) and good fun.


Power Pac; Q7;Toy fisheye
I decided to walk from Asakusa to Akihabara and was delighted with that choice as I chanced on the Bandai office.
They had lots of cartoon/toy characters displayed outside, so I took some shots with the prime 01, then thought....
Hmm.... it would certainly be more fun if they were taken with the Fisheye.





Welcome to My World!; Q7; Toy fisheye



Chest up! Q7; Toy fisheye


Then of course, there is the more typical play of the fisheye for some distorted captures of typical places and a wide angle FOV.


Around Shiodome; Q7; Toy fisheye



Hurtling thru the warp; Q7; Toy fisheye
 

pinholecam

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#17
06 Zoom (69-207mm eq f2.8 )

The 06 zoom on the Q7 is about the focal length of the traditional 70-200 on 135 format.
With a constant aperture of f2.8 and the longer focal length, it allows for some long reach applications as well as a bit of shallow DOF and/or tighter FOV option on the Q system.

What I liked about it was that the small, light system with longer reach and f2.8 aperture meant that even in poorer light, I could use the lens at f2.8 and try to keep ISO to less noisy levels.


The lotus was a bit away from land, but could be reached with the 06 zoom and a larger aperture gave better subject isolation while showing off some context of the surroundings of the lotus.



A more typical isolation thru shallow DOF shot using the 06 at wide open



Traditional use of a long focal length to get shy subjects



Unobtrusive long reach applications on human subjects; again in not that bright conditions with a largish aperture setting



Often on a tour in grand places (ie. temples; palaces; etc) there is a need to take the small details in high out of reach places.
Its easy to just switch to the Q7 with 06 lens.
This was the mural on the ceiling of the temple (dim and high up), instead of changing to another lens on my DSLR, I simply used the Q7 to take this shot at f2.8, bracing against a pillar for support.



Thoughts about usage :
I found it convenient to use the Q in 2 modes to compliment my DSLR.

A - DSLR+15mm UWA and Q7+normal or 06 zoom
The DSLR only did the very high quality landscape work, leaving the Q7 to cover the walkabout and long reach stuff.
All in a rather small package that did not need much lens switching.

B - DSLR+85mm and Q7+normal
The DSLR did the 'shallow DOF' stuff while the Q7 did most of the shooting that required a more normal/wide FOV or small subjects during a walkabout.
Again in a rather small package that did not need much lens switching.
 

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PhilipKr35

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Jul 17, 2011
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Yew Tee
#18
06 Zoom (69-207mm eq f2.8 )

The 06 zoom on the Q7 is about the focal length of the traditional 70-200 on 135 format.
With a constant aperture of f2.8 and the longer focal length, it allows for some long reach applications as well as a bit of shallow DOF and/or tighter FOV option on the Q system.

What I liked about it was that the small, light system with longer reach and f2.8 aperture meant that even in poorer light, I could use the lens at f2.8 and try to keep ISO to less noisy levels.

The lotus was a bit away from land, but could be reached with the 06 zoom and a larger aperture gave better subject isolation while showing off some context of the surroundings of the lotus.

A more typical isolation thru shallow DOF shot using the 06 at wide open

Traditional use of a long focal length to get shy subjects

Unobtrusive long reach applications on human subjects; again in not that bright conditions with a largish aperture setting

Often on a tour in grand places (ie. temples; palaces; etc) there is a need to take the small details in high out of reach places.
Its easy to just switch to the Q7 with 06 lens.
This was the mural on the ceiling of the temple (dim and high up), instead of changing to another lens on my DSLR, I simply used the Q7 to take this shot at f2.8, bracing against a pillar for support.

Thoughts about usage :
I found it convenient to use the Q in 2 modes to compliment my DSLR.

A - DSLR+15mm UWA and Q7+normal or 06 zoom
The DSLR only did the very high quality landscape work, leaving the Q7 to cover the walkabout and long reach stuff.
All in a rather small package that did not need much lens switching.

B - DSLR+85mm and Q7+normal
The DSLR did the 'shallow DOF' stuff while the Q7 did most of the shooting that required a more normal/wide FOV or small subjects during a walkabout.
Again in a rather small package that did not need much lens switching.
Yes! I am Package A and DA15mm in Q w adapter for 82.5mm Portrait!

that's why I sold off all my Dslr lens DA35, DA50, DAL18-55WR, Sigma 70-300mm APO.
 

Supersimon27

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Jan 20, 2010
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#19
This is serious ... need to stop reading this thread ... else I will end up with another weekend camera . Ha
 

maverickh

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#20
Think i need to look for part time work this coming Thurs and Friday, liao. to pay for this Q
 

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