Pentax's Q-S1 Mirrorless Camera: More Beauty, Less Brawn

Does the world really need another tiny mirrorless camera? Ricoh thinks so, announcing today (Aug 4) its latest Pentax Q series camera, the Q-S1. The new, compact mirrorless shooter will retail Aug 28 for $500 with a standard 3X zoom kit lens and a huge selection of color choices and combinations.

The Q-S1's biggest challenge will be to wring mirrorless-grade image quality from its tiny 1/1.7-inch sensor, which is about 1/8 the size of the APS-C sensors in most mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Recent cameras with 1-inch sensors (rather small, but still nearly three times bigger than the Q-S1's), such as Samsung's NX mini ($400) and Nikon's 1 S2 ($450) squeeze good quality from their small chips.

MORE: Best Mirrorless Cameras 2014

A minor upgrade over the current Q line, the Q-S1 doesn't offer much improvement in terms of specs. It has the same backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor as the Q7, but features some tweaks in the processor, according to Ricoh. A company representative told us that, with those tweaks, the camera can produce good-looking prints of up to 13 x 19 inches. Images, he said, are relatively free of noise (graininess) up to ISO 1600 light sensitivity and "OK" at ISO 3200. If true, that's good enough for shooting in moderately well-lit interiors. The Q-S1 can support a light sensitivity range of way up to ISO 12,800, but that's unlikely to look very good.

But the focus, as it were, with this new camera seems to be on style rather than raw performance. Not only is the device itself handsomely constructed, it also boasts several filters and effects to give your photos an Instagram-like vibe. New "Antique" and "Faded Color" effects add a nostalgic feel to pictures, in line with the retro look Ricoh was going for with the camera's physical design. The Q-S1 will be available in a plethora of body colors (black, white, gray, gold) and grip finishes (black, cream, yellow, green, blue, burgundy, red and pink).

An example of the emphasis on looks, Ricoh has even put a fake knob on the camera. Two knobs on the front of the camera flank the lens. The one on the left side looks functional, but all we can tell so far is it has numbers on it. The other appears to do nothing. The description Ricoh gave us in a presentation was, "Symmetry design dial and grip," meaning it's there to balance out the other knob.

Ricoh also stresses that it's minimized not just the size of the camera's body, but is also releasing smaller lenses, as well.

Design aside, the Q-S1 boasts continuous autofocus during movie recording along with improved face detection and tracking during still photography. Unfortunately, it's not Wi-Fi capable (you'll have to use an Eyefi SD card to add wireless capability). Samsung's NX mini is Wi-Fi equipped.

Staff Writer Cherlynn Low adores pretty cameras but loves pretty pictures more. Follow her @cherlynnlow and on Google+. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.