|

GADGETS

Compact new interchangable-lens camera plus a solar-powered lamp/charger

by Rick Martin

Japanese camera maker Pentax made the news earlier this month, having been acquired by Ricoh for ¥10 billion. But just prior to that, Pentax rolled out what it hailed as the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens digital camera: the Pentax Q.

The body measures a tiny 98 × 58 × 30 mm, which makes it about the same size as a typical point-and-shoot. It’s certainly compact enough to throw in just about any pocket when you’re on the go, but at the same time it offers more advanced features than you would typically find in a camera of this size.

Even with only a tiny CMOS image sensor (1/2.3″-size, 6.17 × 4.55 mm), the Pentax Q still shoots at 12.4 megapixels and is capable of capturing full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second, in MPEG-4 format. The camera also features a micro-HDMI terminal that allows for the output of HD video and audio to other devices.

The Smart Effect function has nine different features that can be assigned to four settings on the quick dial on front. For example, Brilliant Color bumps up the color saturation, while Water Color gives your photos a softer touch.

The Pentax Q also sports a so-called bokeh control function allowing users to impose a shallow depth-of-field effect for selective focus of background or foreground.

There will be five new Q-mount lenses available for the camera when it goes on sale, but it will ship with a 47 mm/f1.9 kit lens. For Pentax users hoping to use older lenses, it remains to be seen if the company will release an adaptor. So while the interchangeable-lens system is a plus for a camera of this size, the lack of backward compatibility may turn off a number of consumers.

In addition to the optical viewfinder, the camera has a 3-inch LCD screen with a variety of playback functions, such as slideshow, detailed information display, histogram, resize and cropping.

Available with a black or white body, the Pentax Q is set to be released worldwide on Aug. 31. While Pentax lists the price as “open” it’s available for preorder at around ¥62,820 with the kit lens. Buyers in the United States can find it online with an advance price tag of $800.

Also set to be released near the end of August is Panasonic’s dual-function portable solar light and USB charger. The company’s BG-BL01 device measures 152 × 104 × 24 mm and is an affordable and compact power solution for anyone headed into the great outdoors with electronic devices in tow.

The lamp function features three white LED sources, and there are two levels of brightness to choose from. When set to strong, the light is good for about 10 hours of use, while the weaker setting can go for as long as 60 hours. You can recharge your lights either by solar power, which requires about 15 hours to charge, or you can fill it via USB, in which case it only needs seven hours.

The system comes with two rechargeable AA batteries, which you can remove and use with another device if you prefer. It also features a USB port from which you can juice your cell phone, music players and other assorted devices.

The BG-BL01 comes in a rain-proof case, so this charger/light combo should be able to withstand any weather mother nature can throw its way. And while it might be best appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts, you could certainly find uses for it around the home as well. Set it out in on a window sill during the day to soak up the sun and then use it as an indoor lamp in the evening. It’s especially useful this year, with everyone trying to cut down on electricity wherever possible, and makes for a good emergency lamp should there be blackouts.

The BG-BL01 is priced at about ¥6,000.

Rick Martin is a contributor to Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.