2 Days with the Pentax 645d

Lately I’ve been looking at the options for moving to medium format digital, as luck would have it I was able to get my hands on a Pentax 645d 40mp camera with the new Pentax SMC FA 55mm 2.8 lens for a couple of days to try out from Pentax Australia. Over the years I’ve used Pentax 645 film camera’s for Landscape, Commercial and Fashion work and have always found them very easy to use and the lenses of great quality. With a price of around $13000AUD it’s not cheap but a bargain as far as Medium Format Digital goes.

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5Fa lens

I picked the camera up on Thursday afternoon around 4:30pm so there wasn’t much time to get to a great location for sunset, I headed out with the camera and a bag full of Pentax 645 lenses for Brisbane city to try it out on some cityscapes.

The first thing you notice about the 645d is it’s size, I was expecting it to be big and heavy but to my surprise it’s not that much larger in size and weight compared to my 5d Mk 2 with my 24mm TSE 3.5L 2 attached, I’ve never really used Pentax digital cameras much before but this camera is so easy to pick up and get the hang of straight away. All of the buttons are in the right places and the operation of it fast becomes second to concentrating on capturing images. I especially liked the mirror lockup switch and the leveling feature. All of the important features are where you need them on the body not hidden deep in menu’s.

The image quality is everything you would expect from a modern medium format digital camera, the files are almost double that of a canon 5d mk 2. The first thing you will notice is the micro detail, because MFD camera’s don’t have the dreaded AA filter the files are amazingly sharp straight out of the camera with loads of detail everywhere. The dynamic range is very impressive definitely better that my 5d mk2, I’m not sure exactly how much better, somewhere around a stop or two. I do know as long as you shoot to the right of the histogram the shadows open up with way less noise than you would get if you did a similar thing with the Canon. I’m not bagging the Cannon 5d Mk 2 but it’s what I own so that’s what I have to compare to the 645d. The 5d Mk2 is still a fantastic camera for the money and I’ll be keeping my DSLR kit  when I do go to MFD.

My favorite lens was the Pentax 35mm 3.5FA prime, Pentax has released a 25mm F4 but the 35mm was the widest I had available. I found the 35 to perform really well, nice and sharp across the frame. The 35mm was also great for stitching panoramas, stitching 3 horizontal frames together gives a file large enough for huge panoramic prints. If I required a focal length wider than 35mm I stitched 3 vertical frames together.  With the 35mm lens, I found that apertures up to F16 are all very useable, diffraction starts to creep in at around F22 but F22 is still totally useable if needed. The new 55mm 2.8 is also a great piece of glass.

I must admit the only thing I missed with this camera is Live View for focusing it does make it so easy to get perfect focus every time, but because of the type of sensor the 645d has it’s not a reality yet. In saying that I was able to achieve perfect focus 99% of the time so I guess the live view isn’t that essential it just makes life easier.

All in all I really enjoyed shooting with the Pentax 645d, it’s made for landscape photography and is one of those cameras that makes capturing images a pleasure. Please visit my website www.benmessina.com or click on the below images for a larger view.

Brisbane City, Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5Fa Lens, 3 Image Stitch

Wilson’s Outlook, Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5Fa Lens

Brisbane City, Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5Fa Lens

Tree and Water, Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5Fa Lens

Pentax 645d 55mm 2.8 Lens

Tree and Water, Pentax 645d 35mm 3.5 Fa Lens


9 responses

  1. Very good article Ben!

    I too have been wondering about ‘whats next’ for me!

    Thanks for the insight. It looks like the Pentax works OK in low light which is something the Phase cannot do at all!

    I see the major negative is not being able to have live view…I shoot with live view 95% of the time!

    Some sweet shots in there as well mate!

    August 29, 2011 at 3:26 am

    • Hi Mark, Cheers for dropping by. It works great in low light, no live view is a negative, but all of the lenses I was using were primes so using the hyperfocal scales work great. I thought I would need to focus stack images to get the depth of field needed but with the 35mm lens I didn’t find any situations the I needed to at all.

      August 29, 2011 at 3:56 am

  2. Tony Middleton

    Great review Ben and thanks for the insight into the capabilities and user friendliness of the 645D – much appreciated !

    August 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

    • Hi Tony, no worries I thought it would be useful info for anyone looking at MFD.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:19 am

  3. Good review Ben, something to think about if I see 13 kegs lying around somewhere….

    September 2, 2011 at 2:06 am

  4. Cheers Andrew, yep 13 kegs would be nice:o)

    September 2, 2011 at 3:10 am

  5. David Murphy

    Great writeup Bennos……and very enticing!!
    Now….which bank will I rob?

    September 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm

  6. Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges.
    It was really informative. Your site is useful.

    Thanks for sharing!

    September 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

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