Pentax Q Flash
The Pentax Q features a built-in, pop-up flash, mounted on the top of an articulated mechanism that raises it surprisingly high above the top deck of the camera, while occupying relatively little space. The mechanism releases manually, and it's actually possible to fire the flash even when lowered, which could be useful with the optical viewfinder or another larger accessory mounted in the hot shoe, perhaps blocking the flash from popping up.
The Q's flash operates in either Auto, Flash On (forced flash), Auto + Red-eye reduction, Flash On + Red-eye reduction, Slow-sync, Slow-sync + Red-eye reduction, or Trailing Curtain Sync mode. (Sadly, the Q doesn't support wireless flash, either with the internal strobe or external ones.) The flash modes available depends on the current exposure mode. The flash is released from its compartment by sliding the Flash Up lever directly behind the flash itself. Close it again by pushing the flash head back down; the articulation mechanism will fold by itself as you do so.
The Pentax Q's built-in flash has a guide number rating of seven meters (23 feet) at ISO 200. That translates to a range of just 9.7 feet at the Q's base sensitivity of ISO 125, with the f/1.9 kit lens. It's pretty weak even by compact system camera standards, but that's perhaps understandable given its tiny size, and it's still fairly useful as a fill flash, or when ambient lighting is too low for near-by subjects. Flash coverage is rated by Pentax at 28mm equivalent. A Flash Exposure Compensation feature controls the flash exposure -2.0 to +1.0 stops in 1/2 or 1/3-stop increments, depending upon the lens in use.
Maximum sync speed for the built-in flash with High Performance-series lenses that feature a built-in shutter is very fast, at 1/2,000 second. With external strobes, this falls to a still reasonable 1/250 second. Unfortunately, Unique-series lenses lack a built-in shutter, and so must rely on the electronic shutter, which brings the flash sync speed down to a dismal 1/13 second.
The Pentax Q also has a top-mounted hot shoe for attaching an external flash unit. Compatible external strobes include the AF540FGZ, AF360FGZ, AF200FG, and AF160FC. (The latter will need a step-up ring, however.) Note that the Pentax Q cannot support contrast-control sync mode, nor will it allow wireless flash with external strobes, or use their autofocus assist lamps. Given the size and weight of external strobes compared to the camera itself, you'll likely also want to stick with off-camera flash, using an extension cord. As you'd expect for a compact system camera, a PC-sync terminal is not provided.
Flash Test Results
Coverage and Range
A somewhat weak flash, with narrow coverage. Standard flash shots are tolerably exposed with a +0.7 EV adjustment, though Slow-Sync mode is more natural.
+2 (+0.7 EV)
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was a little uneven at 47mm, and also a little dim in intensity even at the center of the frame. In our Indoor Portrait flash test, the Pentax Q's flash exposed our subject well, though an exposure boost to +0.7 EV was in order, which is about average for this shot. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter and more natural looking results, aided by the slow 1/5 second shutter speed, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the ambient room lighting.
ISO 125 Range. Flash exposure started out reasonably bright at 6 feet, and maintained about the same level to 8 feet before beginning to fall off incrementally.
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Pentax Q's built-in flash has a Guide Number (GN) of 7 meters at ISO 200. That works out to about 12 feet at f/1.9, the maximum aperture of the 8.5mm kit lens. In the shot above, the Pentax Q performed fairly well within these specs, though exposure is just a hint dim. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100 (when supported), to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.