Hall of Famer
As expected, the Pentax Q was announced today, and in contrast to most of the reactions I'm seeing in various forums, I find myself warming to the concept. Perhaps more than most Americans, I can identify with the target demographic in Japan. I do have a weakness for small (cute) gadgets.
As is the case with Micro 4/3, but even more so with the Q, people are missing the big picture when they compare the body size of the Q to that of the NEX and Micro 4/3 cameras. The Q is noticeably smaller than those cameras, but there's only so far that you can shrink the body before it becomes unusable for photographers who like manual controls on an object that looks like a camera. Where the sensor size makes a huge difference is in lens size. Everything from ultrawide to supertele is going to be very small with this system.
Yes, there are cameras like the Leica V-LUX 30 (and Panasonic equivalent) that will go from ultrawide to supertele in an even smaller package, but changing optics is fun and opens up possibilities for going even wider, even longer, and having specialty optics like toy lenses, fisheye, and macro. It also opens up the possibility of shooting with primes, and at the time of this writing, there isn't another small sensor compact out there with an integrated 50mm equivalent prime lens. Here are the lenses being introduced with the new camera:
One of the weaknesses of the system is that shallow depth of field possibilities will be limited, but it's only a matter of time before we see Lytro-type capability included. Once that happens, I'm sure we'll see Lightroom plugins which allow us to apply our favorite lens "signature" in post. Like many readers here, I have mixed feelings about that, but it is coming.
As for noise, dynamic range, etc, I'm not so worried about it. Yes, those things matter, and yes, this system will be at a disadvantage compared to larger sensor systems. However, we're at a point in time that 1/2.3" sensors can deliver great results in good light, and contrary to many predictions, the progress of sensor technology hasn't hit a hard ceiling yet.
Kudos to Pentax for taking a risk to bring out something interesting!