Pentax’s Non-Upgrade Upgrade

(news & commentary)

Pentax today announced the Q-S1, the follow-on model to the Q7. This small sensor (1/1.7”) mirrorless camera is at the heart of pretty much the smallest/lightest of the mirrorless systems, and has been since the original Q was launched back in 2011. 

PENTAX QS-1 Black.jpg

So what’s new? 

Inside, virtually nothing that’s visible. We’ve got a new Smart Affect mode and perhaps there have been changes in the imaging ASIC and some menu items, but there’s no evidence of anything else in the press release or information made available. 

Externally, the hard-at-work Pentax engineers took away the small right hand grip, squared up the sides and prism line of the camera and added a second big knob on the front side of the camera. 

Even the press release has a hard time explaining tangible differences: “With a new refined look, Smart Affect mode for creative photo retouching, and color variations from today’s hottest fashion trends…” Pentax was careful to announce the Q-S1 as the “latest addition” to the lineup, but it’s really a small variation on the Q7, with the most noticeable variation being the squared up design and new colors. 

What we have here is a new shade of lipstick. The old shade will continue in the lineup until the inventory sells, no doubt, but everyone should really want the new shade, right? What’s especially curious is that the Ricoh-Pentax US Web site uses only the all-black version of the camera for its photos. Apparently the new shade is New York City black. 

Yes, my tongue is in cheek as I write this. It’s difficult to make a lot of sense to the Q-S1 announcement other than “Pentax wanted to continue manufacturing the Q line so the engineers tinkered with the body shape/color.” No new lenses. No serious internal changes. No touchscreen LCD (and still a behind-the-times 460k dot one, at that). No better video. Same battery and accessories. A virtually undetectable change to size and weight. 

Why the small set of changes warranted a new product name, I’m not sure. Pentax could almost have issued a press release that said “The Q7 now comes in some new colors.” Frankly, Pentax has been going to the well a lot lately: new version of Q7, new version of the 645D, new version of the K-3. Other than the sensor and other changes to the 645D, there’s not a lot of “new” in Pentax’s “new.” Let’s hope that they have something else up their sleeve they haven’t yet shown their hand on.

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