First weekend with the Pentax 645Z

Apr 8, 2015

I have been using the Pentax 645D for over 4 years, and it has proven to be the most reliable all weather camera out of any system I own. It has accompanied me in snow, ice, rain and hot desert climates without skipping a beat. While it’s a heavy and slow camera compared to smaller formats, the resulting image quality never disappoints.

The Achilles heel of the 645D however, was it’s somewhat unreliable auto focusing system, which without live view required me to fire off multiple shots to make sure I had one image with proper focus. Critical focus is a must on high resolution cameras, without it the resolution advantages quickly disappear.

The 2014 released Pentax 645Z promised to fix a lot of the minor issues that were present in the 645D. Pentax/Ricoh included live view and vastly improved high ISO performance courtesy of the new Sony sensor – the same sensor that is used in the Phase one IQ 250 and the Hasselblad H5D-50c.

I was debating for a long time if I should upgrade to the Pentax 645Z given the modest upgrade in resolution (40mp to 51mp), but having seen some samples of the high ISO performance of the new sensor, as well as the lack of anything exciting being announced in recent months (including the new Canon 5DS), I decided to stick with the Pentax system due to it’s reliability, solid design, and my prior investment in multiple Pentax lenses.

My 645Z arrived the day before easter weekend, giving me 3 days to shoot with the camera and get a few initial thoughts.

As with the 645D, the new 645Z body does not try to be a fashion item or designer gadget disguised as a camera. Every function that is needed for actual picture taking is front and centre, while all the “fun” features are hidden deep within the menus, most of them turned off by default. The camera can actually be used through thick gloves in old weather due to it’s deep and comfortable grip.

The first thing that struck me about the sensor was it’s high ISO performance. Images shot at 6400iso are clean enough for big prints, even a few shots I tried at 12,800iso are remarkably good and usable for smaller reproductions.

The live view is great, and unlike my Sony A7R, remembers the last zoom state when it’s re activated. Many little details like this, present on both the 645Z and the 645D before it, show clearly that photographers still have a say in designing cameras at Pentax. Another welcome addition is the articulated screen. It will certainly get a lot of use especially on low angle images off a tripod.

From what I can tell, the battery life is noticeably shorter than on the 645D. Most of this I assume is due to the live view and my more frequent use of the back screen.

The files from the 645Z are remarkable and have a lot of dynamic range. More important than dynamic range (for me), is the fact that the files are not compressed like the Sony A7R files. This quickly becomes apparent when manipulating colours. None of the banding or bizarre posterization effects in lower tones seem to exist in the resulting DNG files. While I still love my A7R system for lightweight travel, I had to discard ruined images in the past from the lossy compression Sony imposes on it’s raw files.

Below are some additional sample shots from this weekend. I will try to post more comments about this camera as I’m getting more aquatinted with the differences it has compared to the 645D.


Sigma DP2 Merrill vs. Pentax 645D Colours

Nov 11, 2012



I have been using the DP2 Merrill (see my previous post) interchangeably with my Pentax 645D for the last couple of weeks and must say that for many subjects, I don’t need to take out the big gun (the 645D). In terms of resolution and colour reproduction the Merrill is more than sufficient.

Continue reading Sigma DP2 Merrill vs. Pentax 645D Colours

SMC Pentax-DA 645 25mm F4 AL [IF] SDM AW Rolling review

Jul 1, 2012

The SMC Pentax-DA 645 25mm F4 AL [IF] SDM AW is the widest FOV available lens for the 645D system and Pentax’s most expensive new generation lens costing almost $ 6000 with tax.

Giving a 95 degree angle of view and consisting of 12 elements in 8 groups, it’s a lot of glass weighing in at 1040g (36.7 oz).



Continue reading SMC Pentax-DA 645 25mm F4 AL [IF] SDM AW Rolling review

Nikon D800E vs. Pentax 645D

Feb 7, 2012

I was thrilled with the announcement of the Nikon D800 today. Hearing rumours on various forums and blogs for months that it would have a 36mp sensor made me consider it as a backup body for my 645D kit. I already have some Nikon lenses and the price for the body is relatively inexpensive for the published specs.

My great disappointment came when I viewed the sample images Nikon published here. I already knew that a 36mp sensor would put tremendous demands on 35mm optics but did not realize the combination would create a cell phone photo feel at 1:1.

I’m still hopeful the test images are a mistake done by the Nikon marketing department. Hopefully some skilled landscape shooters will get their hands on one of the units soon and conduct more tests using proper shooting technique and processing.

At the moment the Nikon D4 looks like a much more compelling camera to me. It would not serve as a backup to my 645D, but it would complement it for high speed and low light shooting. Resolution does not matter if you can’t get the shot to begin with.

I’m posting this non scientific comparison of images taken with the 645D at a similar vantage point to the Nikon samples. I realize that I’m risking contact with a lynch mob of Nikon loyalists or pixel theorists by posting this image, and that is all right. To me at first glance the Pentax 645D has more micro contrast and detail compared to the D800E, which is the version of the D800 without an AA filter. It’s also worth noting that the 55mm Pentax lens is not even the sharpest lens in the lineup.

I’m hoping things will get cleared up soon and the D800 proves to deliver 36Mp of resolution and the tonality to match medium format digital. It would be an incredible game changer to get medium format quality at a 3000 dollar price point. Unfortunately the samples Nikon posted seem like a step backwards, hopefully they can prove everyone wrong in the upcoming days.


Pentax 645D samples processed in ACR, default USM settings. Linked file is 16.8mb, please view at 1:1



Pentax 645D User Review

Jan 12, 2012

This is a non technical review of the Pentax 645D from a user’s perspective and not a professional camera reviewer (or a writer).  I’m hoping it will be useful to those interested in the camera and those who actually want to use the camera for taking pictures instead of discussing the merits of digital medium format vs smaller formats or comparing images of dollar store props scattered around color charts and bottles.



Continue reading Pentax 645D User Review