I was lucky to get my hands on Pentax’s new and very exciting digital medium format camera. It was only a few months ago when I first caught wind of Pentax’s first digital medium format camera that retailed for under $9,000 (body only). It had me curious considering other medium format camera kits can retail anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000. So how can Pentax release a medium format camera at such a gigantic price difference? Is it really worth the buy?
*All of the photos in this review were taken outdoors around Los Angeles using the Pentax 645Z Digital Medium Format Camera*
INITIAL HANDLING AND PERSONAL THOUGHTS
This camera is heavy! We’re talking ‘weather sealed magnesium alloy body’ heavy. It weighs close to 3.5 lbs without a lens which is almost 1.5 pounds heavier than my Canon 5D Mark III, so be careful handling it the first time around.
The camera I tested came with Pentax’s FA 35-55mm F 4.5 zoom lens. Altogether weighing close to 5 lbs with the lens, the camera certainly gives your arm a workout! This camera feels like a serious piece of photography equipment when you start shooting. For me, it instantly felt like a good fit in my hands. The grip located directly on the right side of the body provided a secure hold on the camera and allowed for easy handling & shooting. I didn’t bother adding a camera strap but this might be something to consider since it does get heavy after hours of shooting.
My first stop with the Pentax 645Z was Santa Monica. It’s a tourist hot spot and one of my favorite locations in Los Angeles. The sun always shines perfectly and the colors always draw me in. Even though I’ve been hundreds of times, I can always figure out a way to capture the pier in a new and unique way.
First things first, and I’m just being honest here, the buttons and auto focus were a little difficult to figure out at first, but after a few hours of playing with the camera you’ll get the hang of it. Another thing to watch out for when first handling the camera is choosing the right photo format you’d like your photographs to be taken in. Most of us are familiar with either JPEG or RAW. The Pentax 645Z has a few other formats such as TIFF, PEF, DNG. So be sure you know what setting you’d like to capture with. I shot everything RAW since that’s what I am used to but keep in mind you can shoot in various formats which is pretty great!
I most often shoot lifestyle photography and I love moving subjects like surfer girls running on the beach or models throwing props in the air. I’m just comfortable with moving, laughing, and spontaneous movements. Unfortunately (for me) this is something to keep in mind when using this camera. At 3 fps, The Pentax 645Z doesn’t give you a lot of room for action shots. In my opinion, this camera should be used for landcapes, portraits, fashion, and still life – where movement is minimal. The photos will be sharp and in focus. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to bring the Pentax 645Z into a studio setting, but I can only imagine the quality, color, and sharpness in the images. One thing to keep in mind (especially in a studio setting) is the flash sync speed. I was a little disappointed that it only has a flash / strobe sync speed of 1/125s. If you want to include movement while using strobes, it will prove to be a bit difficult! I’ve heard rumors and read a couple online forums that say Pentax will release a new line of leaf shutter lenses for the Pentax 645Z sometime in the near future. If that’s the truth, then this will make the Pentax 645Z even more appealing over the Hasselblad and Phase One Medium Format Camera Kits.
I completely understand why Medium Format Cameras are so popular. The image quality and the image details are insane – and I mean that in the best way possible! The images that came out of this camera are so incredible with bright beautiful details and colors. Even zoomed in at 100%, the images are sharp and full of details – it blew me away! If you’re looking to blow up your photography or sell your photographs, this would be the right camera to capture those shots. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise when you are dealing with images that are easily 60mb and a 51 megapixel CMOS sensor that produces images with a resolution of (8256 x 6192) – WOW!
I would ABSOLUTELY use this camera again… and again and again! This is a great investment and definitely worth the money! The only thing I regret not having the time to test out is studio portraits, but I am certain this camera excels at portrait photography. I also wish I could have tried a bunch of different lenses, but I only had the lens that came with the body which was the 35-55mm F 4.5 lens.
Something to keep in mind for all you Pentax fans and Pentax camera owners, is that the body will fit any Pentax lenses. I’m excited to see what Pentax will be releasing in 2015 – perhaps a new set of leaf shutter lenses (pretty please?) For now, the Pentax 645z is definitely looking good, and I can only imagine it will keep getting better with time.
Thank you so much Pentax & Samy’s Camera for letting me play with such a spectacular camera!
Until next time, readers.
Southern California residents can now rent the new brand new Pentax 645z Digital Medium Format from the Samy’s Camera Rental Department.