I took my Pentax Q7 for a couple of Christmassy evenings out in town with the kids in the run up to Christmas. I took it out because it ended up finding its way to being the closest camera in my collection to fitting the bill for a very specific idea I had in my head for a shooting experience I wanted. Funnily enough though, when thinking ahead about what camera I wanted to take on these evenings out, it wasn’t the first camera that came to mind. The first camera that came to mind was one I didn’t already own which triggered a bout of particularly unrealistic GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Thankfully, in the end, my current personal financial circumstances put pay to my GAS whims, and actually the outcome has pleased me a lot more than buying a new camera would have. Though when it comes to GAS, there always seems to be a punchline!)
I’m skint at the moment. I don’t want to be seen to be going on about it all the time, but with the new websites and ongoing car issues the lack of disposable income is definitely a factor in my life for the time being. It is just life though – I’ve had to sell some cameras – that’s the way things go sometimes. I’m lucky to have the cameras to sell in the first place, many others aren’t so lucky, so I’m definitely not complaining.
Quite the opposite really. I’ve actually found selling these cameras to be quite cathartic. I plan to come back to what I’ve had to sell and what I’ve been able to keep and why in more detail in a future post I think. The general overview though is that I’m trying to limit the kit to the point of little to no duplication in types of camera, and only lenses that I’ll actually use. I have little discrete sets of kit that I can take out as a whole. So for example I have a little Leica Ic, a 28mm and 40mm that make a nice kit. I have a Contax 139 with the 45mm 2.8 and 85mm 2.8. I did have the 50mm 1.4 and 28mm 2.8 too, but I wouldn’t have used those so they went (the 50mm is still for sale at the time of writing in case you’re interested). The 45mm and 85mm make for a kit that I could easily take out by itself without feeling like I’m missing anything. There are anomalies such as my Nikon AF kit where I have a few more lenses and cameras, but that’s pretty much my main hobby setup at the moment (especially the D700 and F100) and I’m happy with it as it is so it’s not bothering me to have a wider range of kit.
Another example of something I sold which made me feel unusually comforted by parting with it was the Sony RX100vii. Honestly I didn’t think I would ever sell that camera. There was a stage when I carried it around with me almost everywhere I went. I sold it because I bought an iPhone 15 pro max with the 15-120mm equivalent lenses. The Sony just became redundant when I just stopped picking it up. I never thought I’d say this about a smartphone, but honestly the quality of the images (albeit with a bit of AI intervention) is incredible. Of course it’s no where near as good as the Sony in terms of photographic process satisfaction, but actually for the snaps I was using it for, it doesn’t make that much odds just using my phone. I’m still getting photos I like, and the phone is always to hand without having to carry an extra thing.
That said, this is where my bit of GAS started. Having sold the Sony I felt I wanted a pocket camera that felt like a “proper” camera. Not something to carry all the time, but something to take out alongside my phone when I wanted a proper photographic experience without the bulk of one of my full sized cameras. The question was, how and what could I buy that would be as small as the Sony but have a proper lens and proper sensor that would allow things like shallow depth of field without the use of AI? The only answer I could think of is the Ricoh GRIIIx. With its APSc size sensor and 40mm equivalent lens, I was initially convinced it was the camera for me. That said, it didn’t take me long to realise that even second hand these cameras aren’t much change from £1000 which is totally out of the question for me at the moment. Not least for the fact that if I had £1000 to spend on a camera right now it would definitely be a Rolleiflex… again, that’s a story for another day!
Thinking about the Ricoh sent me down an interesting path though. The first thing that came to mind was that Pentax/Ricoh (the same company in case you weren’t aware) recently released a black and white only SLR. I remember reading at the time that there were some rumours that they might release a black and white version of one of the GR cameras. This got me thinking more about points of difference from my iPhone. Pocketable, bigger sensor, proper lens and black and white only was now what I wanted. Some more reading and it seems the rumours about a black and white Ricoh have been quashed by one of the guys on the design team there. Whilst reading about this though, I was conveniently linked to an article about a guy who had his colour Ricoh converted to black and white by a company called MG leisure. I found the company on facebook, messaged (just out of interest you understand…) and got a response that it would cost me 499 (euro I guess) for the conversion. Not bad, but I’m now up to best part of £1300-1400 of money I haven’t got for a camera I’d already decided that I wouldn’t buy even if I did have the money.
It also then occurred to me that even if I did buy this camera, have it converted to black and white, spending all that money, it would still be a camera without a viewfinder. This is probably the one thing that always feels lacking from the Ricoh point and shoot cameras to me. Even a fairly small and simple viewfinder would make them a lot more appealing I think. I’m not adverse to using the screen on the back of a camera at all, but it’s definitely nice to have a viewfinder for occasions when shooting in bright sunlight, or even just when the whim takes me. This then became another point of difference I wanted from the iPhone. I wanted a highly pocketable camera with a bigger sensor, proper lens, black and white photos and a viewfinder.
At which point I realised I was at a dead end. I was in a stupid GAS hole that I needed to reverse back out of. Taking the dedicated black and white shooting out of the equation I found myself in a situation where I wanted a pocketable camera with a bigger sensor, proper lens and a viewfinder… and the most logical answer to that question was very probably the Sony RX100vii I had just sold. There was a reason I had bought it in the first place, and that was the fact that it answered so many of these sorts of questions. But I’d sold it because I wasn’t using it enough to justify keeping it. I was using my iPhone more for my daily snaps. What I was actually craving was a little digital camera to take out when I want to have a more of the experience of taking pictures, not just iPhone snaps. And because of my financial situation even thinking down the road of the Ricoh GRIIIx had been pointless. Really what I should have been doing it looking in my camera cabinet at the kit I already own.
I have left in my collection a few very interesting and also quite small digital cameras. The Fuji X100 that I had converted to full spectrum. That ticks most of the boxes. Bigger sensor, lovely viewfinder, proper lens. It’s not quite pocketable though – it’s not far off, but it’s not the sort of size of camera I’m thinking of. And it’s full spectrum converted rather than black and white so already feels like it has a specified purpose within the collection. And to reiterate, it’s just not as pocketable a camera as I’d like.
What else do I have? I have a Sony Nex-5. I keep this camera purely because it makes zero economic sense to sell it – it’s worth next to nothing and mounts a lot of lenses I already otherwise own and use with whatever full size Sony I am currently shooting. It has a flappy screen which I like and is tiny. I’ve shot it in black and white with the Funleader 18mm lens on it and had loads of fun before too. 28mm equivalent is a bit wide for me though – especially at the moment where I’m mostly used to shooting an 85. No viewfinder either. My Sony 35mm 2.8 is a nice fit on it though, so I googled viewfinders for the Nex-5 and found they made one. It’s stupid money. There were also a load of adapters to add a conventional shoe mount to the camera – these are also stupid money. Another dead end, not least because despite being small, it’s not really the tiny size I’m aiming for.
The Panasonic Lumix LX3 was the next camera to consider. Smaller sensor, but a very nice lens and I know its images convert to black and white really nicely. No viewfinder. Though it does have a hot shoe… a bit of reading and I am reminded that it’s hard to set the lens to match an optical finder with this camera. Not impossible (as you can read here), but not very practical. The Panasonic LX5 might be the answer though. Similar camera but it allows a digital viewfinder to be attached. Of course, a bit of eBay searching put pay to that too. £150 for the viewfinder and not far off £100 for the camera just felt like a ridiculous thing to add to my collection when I’m trying to pare down the kit. Plus, I don’t have £250!
What else have I got knocking around in the cabinet? Just a bunch of brightly coloured cameras I bought for the younger kid to play with… … and that’s when I found my yellow Pentax Q7. I forgot I had this camera. I once put it up for sale having never really shot it. I didn’t sell for what I wanted for it, so I took the listing down thinking I might get around to shooting it sometime and then forgot about it. Perhaps it’s time had come…? I fished it out the cabinet, and re-familiarising myself with it I remembered that I have a set of three lenses. The fisheye, the toy pancake lens and the 40mm equivalent f/1.9. This latter lens actually has a great reputation too. That’s to say it’s a “proper” lens. It’s also 40mm-ish equivalent. I have a beautiful Voigtlander 40mm viewfinder and the Pentax has a hotshoe I can mount it too. This is also a very pocketable camera – even with the big VF mounted to the top. Of course, it’s not specifically black and white only. Nor is the sensor very big at all so not much shallow DoF to hand. But, that’s a good few items ticked off the wish list, and more importantly than anything else, this was a camera that I already had in the cabinet.
A bit more tinkering with the camera and I discovered it allows you to shoot RAW and set the camera to black and white. That is to say, the screen shows a black and white preview and photo in playback whilst still saving to RAW. I have Lightroom setup to use it’s built in camera profiles so I knew this would be overwritten at the computer end, but that didn’t bother me too much. A quick select all and a sync of black and white conversion with a bit of added contrast would fix that anyway.
This rediscovery of the Pentax Q7 came just in time for a little outing into town with the kids to shoot the Christmas light switch-on. This felt like it would be the perfect opportunity to test this little pocketable rig to see if it would fit the bill and scratch that itch for something that fit in my pocket but felt like a proper camera and gave me a satisfying shooting experience in the way an iPhone just can’t. It did too! I was a little worried about the autofocus which isn’t amazing in low light, but in the end it didn’t let me down at all – I got all the shots I wanted. The experience of using the viewfinder sometimes and screen others was exactly what I wanted, and the higher contrast black and white results that popped up on the back screen pleased me in terms of my photographic experience.
Once I got home, I put them straight onto the computer, didn’t even give Lightroom the chance to show me the colour versions by quickly applying a rough high contrast conversion and I was there. In fact, it was at this point I had another realisation. I don’t need the big modern sensor either. A big modern sensor would just give me cleaner more digital results. The results I took with the Q7 in good light were actually too clean of noise. I made a mental note to fix the ISO at a higher number next time I take the camera out like this. This would give me a more consistent look from one image to the next. The fast f/1.9 lens meant I got a little bit of subject separation when I was taking portraits too.
Following on from this outing I took the camera out again to the Worcester Christmas Fayre. I take photos at this Fayre every year, and experience has told me that the best type of shooting experience to enjoy with the kids in tow is one where I can just point and shoot without having to worry about focus. It frustrates me sometimes as I know all the bright colourful lights look lovely blurred into the background of a photo when taken with some weird and wonderful classic lens I am trying to review. But it’s just not practical trying to shoot in such a busy environment when really my job is just to facilitate the kids having some fun. As such, the Pentax Q7 again worked a treat. This time I locked it out at 3200iso to get some consistency in the noise from one frame to the next. Aside from accidentally switching it to a lower ISO for a couple of shots, it worked really nicely!
These shots really sum up the fayre for me. The noise and smoke and bright lights in the dark. The grain just suits them. As, I think does the distortion from the 8.5mm lens when it’s shot in raw (ie without the in-camera correction applied).
In short, my attack of GAS combined with a lack of cash had resulted in me using a camera I already owned. And do you know what, I was all the more satisfied with the experience. I had the experience and the results I was looking for without spending any money and had got there through using a camera that was no doubt the subject of a previous bit of GAS that I’d never even ended up using. Not only that, but this had happened after I’d sold a bunch of other cameras. Perfect!
…Well nearly perfect. As I said in my intro, when it comes to photography and gear and all the stupid GAS related thought processes that it’s possible to have there was always going to be a punchline. The yellow version of the Pentax Q7 looks pretty cool, there’s no denying that… but is it really me? Am I really comfortable with it, or would I be happier if I had a more discreet and stealthy black camera? I now have an eBay saved search for a black Pentax Q7… unless anyone has one they’d like to swap for a yellow one… …?
Happy Christmas/Holidays Everyone!
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