Can the Pentax Q handle walkthroughs? Sandy tries it out, reports on the results. (He could use some sleep!)
Check out my previous Fashion Week with the Pentax Q reports: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Day 4 was the heaviest on my schedule with little time for testing the Q beyond the limits I already had. I played with a few of the Custom Image filters similar to the Art Filters found on Olympus Micro 4/3rds units. I liked the high contrast black and white best. Again the Q did well getting lots of attention. I'm discovering that people in the front row relax a bit more when they see me with a little camera. About all I really had a chance to shoot with it was a little behind the scenes material such as the video crew doing their white balance and a few shots in the garden lounge between shows.
Day 5 was a little lighter schedule-wise—11 hours instead of 13. I started out just shooting a few of my fellow team members for the outlet I'm shooting for. After that, into the lobby where I got Patrick MacDonald to pose for a quick shot. Again, all these shots along with the presentation of Gwen Stefani's line, L.A.M.B., were accomplished using the prototype Flashpoint wireless transmitter fitted to the hotshoe of the Q and my Metz 54 MZ4i with a Gary Fong Light Sphere powered by a Quantum Turbo SC.
For fun I decided to test the 2nd Curtain sync on the Q and even with the simple transmitter it worked perfectly as seen in this 1 second portrait of my friend Bruno shot in the photographer's pit at the Custo Barcelona show. By now I had configured the Q just as I liked it, taking advantage of the Quick Dial using positions 1-3 to preconfigure the camera to typical shooting settings for each venue and setting position four to High Contrast B&W.
I now really wanted to put the Q to the test. I've shot a couple of walkthroughs with the Q and knew the tracking focus and burst could in theory actually keep up with a model. It did fine in the various walkthroughs I've shot with it. However shooting an actual show with it would be a different matter with several hundred photographers crammed together jostling for that perfect shot.
For my first actual show to be shot with the Q I chose the Tommy Hillfiger show. Instead of my usual center line spot, I chose one off to the side to better use the FOV of the lens Pentax had provided me. Finally I found something the Q did not do well. Granted, it tracked the models perfectly and the burst mode ensured the classic two feet down shot. That said, however, runway photography is about extremes. Only two types of shot are ever published, the classic long telephoto shot isolating the model and the extreme wide angle shot. The normal lens Pentax provided just didn't have the FOV needed to create a dynamic still shot. I can't really blame the Q here, more the fact that this is a very young system, and currently available optics just aren't there yet. Hint to Pentax: The Normal Zoom looks really nice. Add a 2.5-5/3.5 and a 17.5-52.5/3.5 set of zooms and this system would be perfect.
However, the normal prime was the perfect FOV for video in my mind. Quickly turning the mode dial to movie, I shot a video of the last three minutes of the show. Since I'm not really a videographer to say it was a complete, but fun disaster would be an understatement. The default settings were not what I hoped for as far as exposure as the high contrast scene of a runway show fooled the auto exposure system, alternating between over and under exposure. The tracking focus did work perfectly, however.
The next show was Timo Weiland. I changed to a fresh SD card, gave my 7D to another team member to shoot stills, and dove into the movie menus of the Q. I quickly discovered that it could be placed into manual exposure mode! YES! and the Quick Dial settings could be used. I quickly set the camera to the settings for the venue and looked at what size the video would shoot at. The Q can shoot either 1080, 720 or VGA video. The default frame rate is 30fps, and cannot be adjusted.
I left the camera in 1080, fitted a plate to the Q and mounted it to my monopod and waited for the show to start. (We hope to post this video here soon!) One thing I did notice is that the IBIS would shift the sensor visibly when the models turned as seen in the video. I'll shut that off for the next video I shoot. Overall the quality isn't bad. It wont compare to my 7D, but it does do something my 7D can't, tracking focus in movie mode!
Stay tuned for more reports from New York Fashion Week.