2012/12/07

On the Road with Pentax Q

Two-wheeled caravan

Back in the day - in 2007 i think (my memory of those long gone days are faded) - I paid a princely sum for a little Ricoh GX100 point-and-shoot. With a tiny 10 megapixel sensor and a 24-70mm zoom, it was my backup camera on many motorcycle trips. It was unusual in that it had an intervalometer and was small enough to hang off a motorcycle for a cool moving shot.
It had very good image quality; I daydreamed about my primary camera (a Nikon D70) failing and the GX100 saving the day, getting the shots I needed for a story.

Canlaon Volcano through Bryan's eyes

With the above shot, that daydream almost came true. My D70 had suddenly started malfunctioning and I had to rely upon the GX100 for the afternoon.

And then, in 2009, it was stolen. In Rome. Right around the corner from the Vatican. Way.

For three years I roamed the earth, looking for a suitable replacement. It had to be small. It had to be high quality. It had to have the right focal range. And it had to have an intervalometer for rigged shots. That last criteria proved to be the biggest challenge. I could have gotten another Ricoh, but for some reason I balked. And then this summer the price of the Pentax Q started dropping like a stone and I became interested. Small? Check. High quality? Check. Right focal range? Yes, since it had interchangeable lenses. Intervalometer? Check. With a big trip out West coming up, I pulled the trigger.

I bought a budget Optech strap before I left. The plan was to hang the camera around my neck and take shots while riding. Now before we go any further - DO NOT DO THIS. I REPEAT - DO NOT DO THIS. There. Anyways, I purchased a lens hood for the 01 Prime which was deep enough and protective enough that I could have the camera hang in front of me without a lens cap on yet still not mar or scratch the lens. You can see the hood in this photo:

It's in the bag, American Photo Model Shoot edition


Overall, the little Q has blown me away. It's great for this kind of work; I can wear it all day around my neck without noticing it, yet it's ready at a moment's notice for the shot. Image quality in good light is more than good enough for magazine work, and I'm at the point that I can work the camera controls while on the move, with gloves on, with one hand. Good handing one of the beautiful things about the Ricoh GX100, and the Q continues that quite nicely. Now some sample photos:

Colorado
Summertime in Colorado

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
...and this is why I bought the Pentax Q...

Independence Pass, Colorado
Summertime in Colorado

Descending Independence Pass, CO

Colorado
Summertime in Colorado

Mount Washington Auto Road, New Hampshire
L'Uccello Arrabbiato on the Mount Washington Auto Road, NH

Descending the Mount Washington Auto Road on The Tomato

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
On the Million Dollar Highway with a Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour

Acadia National Park (Schoodic Point), Maine
Riding in Acadia National Park, Schoodic Peninsula, ME

This last shot (along with the shot at Grand Staircase) was taken with the 03 Fisheye. I originally thought it would be the lens that I would use the most, but the 01 Prime (47mm eq) ended up being used more often. The 03 Fisheye is nice, but it is manual focus, and achieving critical focus is sometimes tough while on the side of the road in bright sunlight while still wearing your helmet. Additionally, the focus ring is not damped and easy to turn by mistake. I've resorted to adding a rubber band from a lobster dinner to add some friction and resistance to the focus. And since it's a fisheye, subjects have to be really really close, otherwise they are small dots on a distant landscape. Regardless, it gets the results, I just with it were easier to use.

Is there anything I would change? Yes. I'd like a 24-28mm equivalent lens. A prime, preferably, as I like to keep things light, particularly when I'm mounting the camera on the bike. This is especially true since the Q does some really nice 1080p and 720p video, much nicer than any POV camera I've used this summer (Contour, Drift, CamOne). I'd also love longer battery life. You can kill a battery in less than 200 shots easy. Thankfully, the battery door is on the side so if you are mounted you can still swap without removing the camera from the mount.

Oh yeah, and there's this:

Visions of Jello

This is rolling shutter jello to the extreme, a side effect of using a CMOS sensor. The CCD of the Ricoh never did this. Then again, the Ricoh video was subpar. And I was really pushing the camera to its limits here - traveling and a large v-twin motorcycle that vibrated pretty seriously. Subsequent shots like this have been much better.

The lack of a 24-28mm wide lens has led to the purchase of a used Nikon 1 V1 with the 28mm F2.8. I used that this summer as well and will share some photos and thoughts in a future post.

That's it. Thanks for reading.

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