High Quality Lo Fi, is that an oxymoron?

Evening Drinks, 4th Street - Austin, Texas

Evening Drinks, 4th Street – Austin, Texas

I couple of weeks ago I posted my impressions of the Digital Harinezumi 2, a Lo Fi digital camera. I found It was a bit too low fidelity for my tastes, though its small and quirky form factor attracted a lot of interest at a photography meetup. I also thought it was expensive for what it is.

I prefer the Pentax Q series as my flexible and Lo Fi alternative to the plastic Harinezumi. On the secondary used market, a Q7 goes for the around $250 or so and the Q10, with a smaller sensor, can be had for $50 less. And for these prices you get a fully featured, interchangeable lens system.

Long Shadows, West 6th Street - Austin, Texas

I’ve talked a lot about my Pentax Q7 and I especially like its moody black and white mode. In addition to the high quality lenses I use, Pentax also make a set of plastic toy lenses. With these toy lenses and the right camera settings, you get a high quality Lo Fi look. High quality Lo Fi? This may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not, especially if you want a more “film like” feel. Mainly, unlike the Harinezumi, you don’t get that artificial looking digital noise that tends to ruin any approximation of analog.

University Columns - Austin, Texas
The tree and the hatchback - Austin, Texas

I shot the first several black and whites with my favorite lens, the versatile and small 01 Standard Prime. I use a tweaked black and white setting that produces a lot of contrast and a nice Lo Fi mood. Though, as you can see from the architecture shots, there’s still a good deal of detail.

Lofi Drinks - Austin, Texas
Lofi I35 Overpass - Austin, Texas

But change out the sharp prime lens for a $50 07 Mount Shield Lens, and you get more of that classic soft focus, plastic lens look. The saturated color was also created in camera with one of Pentax’s standard effects.

Harp Sign, Sharp - Austin, Texas
Harp Sign, Lofi - Austin, Texas

Here’s a comparison of the Prime Lens and the Mount Shied Lens both with the same vivid color effect. The two lenses have different focal lengths and I shot them from different positions but I think you get the idea. The 01 Prime Lens is a 40mm equivalent while the 07 Mount Shied is 56mm, by the way, on the Q7.

Teach Peace - Austin, Texas
Lofi Action Figures - Austin, Texas

I like a certain type of framing to get the best effect from the Mount Shield. It works nicely on closeups with a well defined subject. Dial-in the vibrant color setting and you get the maximum toy effect.

Lofi Dumpster, East Austin - Austin, Texas
Music Posters, Scoot Inn - Austin, Texas
Hot Mess Truck, Scoot Inn - Austin, Texas

It can also work with modestly far subjects, again if you have a clear subject near the center. I shot these in the rapidly gentrifying East side of Austin. For subjects farther away, the effect diminishes, however.

A toy camera, Drink and Click - Austin, Texas

Finally, here’s a shot of some photography meetup participants checking out the Digital Harinezumi 2. Juan Gonzalez, the founder of Drink and Click, is on the left holding the camera. The Harinezumi definitely has the size advantage and its unique design is a conversation starter. But for actual photography, both Lo Fi or high quality, the Pentax Q cameras are what I recommend.

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4 thoughts on “High Quality Lo Fi, is that an oxymoron?

  1. Sold! Now I want a Pentax Q7 to play with. Are all the lenses for the Q7 “toy lenses”? (I have a ‘toy’ setting on my D5300, and I don’t love the effect, though I haven’t played with it that much.)

    And, where can I get a Q7? 🙂

    1. Kirsten, about half are toy and the other half are of great optical quality. When you use the toy lens, you are getting optical distortion effects from a plastic lens in addition to any other digital effects you apply in camera,

      You can get the Q7 on Amazon, though eBay has them cheaper, of course, but used. The QS1 is also the same camera, but newer, with a different looking design.

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