MF digital goes mainstream: early thoughts on the Pentax 645Z

Image from Pentax UK.

A couple of days ago, Pentax threw down the gauntlet to the other medium format digital camera makers in the form of the 645Z. It uses the same ~50MP 44x33mm CMOS as the Hasselblad H5D-50C and Phase One IQ250, but with one critical difference: unlike the Hasselblad and Phase One, it’s feasibly within the reach of a whole load more people. And it isn’t just the shocking price – $8,500 plays $29,000 (Hasselblad) or $37,000 (Phase) – it’s the UI and operating gestalt, too. I think what we’ve just seen is an early game changer.

Pentax released the 645D some time ago to not that much fanfare, but a rather interesting price – especially compared to other medium format options of the time. The 645Z is now a direct comparison to the Hasselblad and Phase because of the choice of sensor; it seems that only Sony is alone in offering a medium format sensor with current photosite technology. My guess would be that it shares a lot at the architecture level with the D800E’s sensor, which is no bad thing. I believe the MF sensor’s pixel pitch is slightly larger, though. It’s also the reason we see an enormous jump in shooting envelope and usability: we go from ISO 400 being the absolute maximum (with significant NR work afterwards in post processing) to ISO 6400 being the highest rated sensitivity, and HI1 to HI4 options all the way to 204k thereafter. That’s four stops. Suddenly, f2.8 maximum apertures don’t seem to matter quite so much anymore. Handholding and insufficient shutter speeds don’t seem to be quite such critical limitations.

Edit: apparently the 204k setting is NOT a boost setting, but native…this should be interesting.

The rest of the spec sheet suggests the 645Z isn’t a D4S replacement, but then again, consider this: if at the pixel level it loses a stop or two in noise to the D4S, but has nearly four times the pixel count – downsampling is going to yield an amazingly clean image, regardless of the ISO used, with that medium format look*. And that makes things interesting.

*Related to the depth of field properties of the actual focal length of the lenses, and irrespective of the field of view. Smaller formats mean shorter focal lengths for the same equivalent FOV, and the attendant depth of field properties that go with it – i.e. a lot.

However, unlike the Hasselblad and Phase, I don’t think the 645Z requires such an enormous shift in the way you work, or familiarity with older cameras: a lot of hardware and UI elements appear to be ported directly over from a K-3, right down to focus peaking, a 27 point AF system (with 25 cross type points) and the button assignments. It’ll do 3fps and 1080p30 video (that should look interesting). There’s a solid AF lens system available already, and prices don’t seem to be unreasonable – older MF lenses are legion, and they’re even cheaper (I’ve seen excellent lenses as low as $75!) Once you get over the size and physical aspect of things, it doesn’t seem at all intimidating. It’s even built like a current pro DSLR too – all magnesium alloy and fully weather sealed. What it will do, and quite impressively, is extend the conditions under which the next step up in image quality from a DSLR can be obtained – consistently.

I do have two concerns – perhaps that’s too strong a word – however. The first is that we may not really get as much of that ‘medium format look’ as we think: I have always strongly suspected a good part of it is down to the native tonal response of the sensor, and we all know that the linearity of CMOS sensors might be great for extended dynamic range and noise control, but it does mean that color and tonality aren’t quite as good as CCDs. Hasselblad and Phase have made it clear that the sensor and associated hardware is capable of native 16 bit output, and they’re offering 16 bit files; however, it isn’t clear that this is the case with the 645Z; in the past .PEF files have been 14 bit, and DNGs just 12. Hopefully this situation changes and we get the full 16 bits. It would be a shame to compromise twice. In any case, I don’t imagine the tonal latitude will be any less than the D800E, which is also limited to 14 bits; I figure if we can work with that, anything better is a bonus.

Secondly, there’s the lenses. Pentax USA has committed to introducing an additional 13 lenses (from their current overseas lineup) into what I suppose they want to become their largest market; they should be commended for this. However, I wonder how many of these lenses are up to the task of resolving as expected on a sensor of that pixel density and size; as we saw with the introduction of the D800E, a lot of lenses aren’t anywhere near as good as we thought they were initially. I suspect that the newer lenses designed post-645D will be fine – such as the 25/4 – but some of the older glass may prove disappointing. Personally, what I find interesting is that there is a) a Hasselblad/Zeiss V to P645 adaptor, and b) a lot of the lenses I already have have been tested to be excellent performers on the 645D, even wide open. It may well prove to be an interesting digital back – I’m not particularly worried about manual focus limitations, because we now have both live view and focus peaking, and this is the kind of camera that goes on a tripod anyway – it seems silly to buy one with the intention of seeking out optimum image quality and then leaving some of it on the table.

Possible shortcomings and limitations aside, this camera is really a slap in the face to everybody else: it’s basically made Nikon and Canon offerings above the D4 and 1Dx pointless, because they will a) be priced pretty close; b) have smaller pixel pitches and hit diffraction faster, and have limited usable lens selections; c) not be much smaller. You could get three of these and a lens or two for the price of one H5D-50C, or four for an IQ250; if Leica uses this sensor in the next S, you can bet that the price point isn’t going to be less than the other two. What Pentax has done is out-Nikon’ed Nikon; they’ve copied the D800E’s price-performance ratio and turned it up another notch.

I’m personally looking forward to reviewing this one as soon as a demo is available. If anybody happens to know some folks at Pentax, I’d love to get in touch. Mainstream medium format, I bid you a warm welcome. 16×20″ Ultraprints, anybody? MT


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  1. James McGrew says:

    Ming: I found your blog when googling “Pentax 645Z tele extender” to see if one exists. But then I found no mention of an extender for the Z. Do you know if there is an extender available for the Z and if so, if it would work on a long lens for the 645Z, say like the 400mm?

  2. Wow amazing, good camera, i want be it !!!!

  3. Any tests with smc D-FA 645 55mm F2.8 on the Z? I see that Diglloyd completely trashes it when used on the D

    • There’s some sample variation in all of the lenses I’ve tested. So far, so good on mine. It isn’t an Otus, but it isn’t bad either.

  4. The price is amazing Ming,but as a system I would still prefer Leica with it’s amazing glass and Leaf shutter lenses,same for Hasselblad,I think the price will be less of a consideration for working pro’s who already own an extensive glass collection.

    Still I applaud Pentax for making this camera!

    • No question the Leica lenses are the best of MF at the moment – but the price is simply eye watering. I personally don’t like the way the Hasselblad H lenses render – they do have that Fujinon look (low contrast, minimal microcontrast wide open); sad because the V/ Zeiss optics were fantastic. That said, I can have the best of both worlds because all of my V lenses will mount happily on the 645Z…

  5. As a 645D owner. The old lenses for the most part are good–I had a bigger problem getting lenses for the D800, especially the corners. There are some that are dogs, the 45mm has a bad rap, some are just gold, the 120mm Macro, both the AF and manual focus lenses.

    As far as the 16-bit thing, it is marketing. You should not confuse the bit depth of the camera and the file. The Hasselblad and Phase cameras have a 16-bit A/D converter, but since those last two bits are empty and the actual data is just redistributed like 14-bit cameras, the fact it has a 16-bit A/D converter is pointless. Hasselblad, Phase, and Pentax used the Kodak sensor in the 645D and the 645D is a 14-bit camera (while Hasselblad and Phase claim 16-bit). The 645D is just as good, if not better, than the Hasselblad and Phase counterparts. And since all camera files are opened to 16-bits, you have the same number of possible gradations.

    As a D800 and 645D owner, I prefer the 645D over the D800. Both fine cameras, but the 645D files are nicer IMO. And as far as the CCD/CMOS difference, it is not the chip architecture. Both are just photon counters. What is different is the manufacture profiles and DR. Spectral sensitivity could also be a factor, but that is more likely the color filter array.

    • Thanks for the info. Aside from the 120 – any thoughts on the other lenses? The newer primes, like the 25, 55 and 90 for instance? And the zooms like the 45-85 and 80-160?

      • The 25mm has very good reviews. There is quite a lot of info on the web about it. The 90mm is rather rare, but it is the only MFD lens with optical stabilization. I like the 55mm very much–my most used lens, mostly because I like normal lenses. A little soft in the corners at f/2.8, but sharpens up nicely when stopped down. I did try the 75mm, but found it a little soft, although others have liked the lens.

        The 45-85mm has a good reputation. And if you need the 45mm focal length, this will do better than the single focal length lens. The 80-160mm does not seem to be as well received. It seems 645D photographers prefer the 120mm or 150 primes. I also have the manual focus 35mm lens which is very nice (optically, it is different from the AF version). It is said to have a bit more CA than the 35mm AF and it does flare when pointing into the sun, but it is sharp and I do not find the CA a problem. I also use the 300mm f/5.6. The 300mm f/4 is a optically a better lens, but it is also twice the weight and I carry my lenses in the field. The f/5.6 also has a slight advantage of a closer focusing distance. The lens is sharp, but a bit low on contrast. I also use the Pentax 1.4x teleconverter with that. I don’t see a loss of image quality with the teleconverter. Photographers seem to prefer the 300mm primes over the 160-300mm zoom as well. The 600mm is another that seems to get universal praise, but is very rare and mounting is tricky because of vibration–it seems to be more of a problem with the long lens bracket than the camera. The mirror is very well dampened in the 645D and I use it handheld most of the time, but the 600mm is long and need to be well mounted.

        One big difference I have between the D800 and 645D is I can focus manually in the 645D viewfinder where I find it difficult in the D800. I also use the gridded focusing screen. The nice thing about the 645D, which I assume will be in the Z, is that you can tune the AF. I know photographers that say the old Pentax AF lenses need to be tuned. I have heard some photographers talk about lens variability and you need to choose good copies. I have yet to have that problem, unless the 75mm I had for a short time was an outlier.

        The Pentax 645D will take Pentax 67 lenses. I had tried the 105mm f/2.4. It was a good lens, but I did end up trading it for the 120mm Macro, which is a lot better. One down side of 67 lenses is that you are limited to center-weighted metering and the AWB seems different. With 645 lenses, you also have aperture control on the body. Pentax also has lens profile for the DFA and FA lenses. Other adapted lenses like Hasselblad V use stop-down metering.

        • Thanks for your detailed thoughts! That’s good to hear, because I’ve got a 90 on my desk now, and a 25 incoming later this week 🙂

          The 75 seems not too bad in the center with an adaptor on my D800E, which bodes well for the 645Z I think. Interesting that the 45-85 is better than the primes; this bears some investigation, I think. They don’t appear to be that expensive second hand, either. As for the longer lenses – I’m guessing vibration is going to be less of an issue now that we can shoot with the mirror up in live view…it certainly helps noticeably on the D800E.

          I’ve got a bunch of Hassy V lenses which show promise on the D800E (and of course CFV-39), which again makes me think they may be good options for use on the 645Z – the 120 and 150mm, specifically. Stop down is fine since you’re probably not going to be using them handheld anyway – focusing in the finder is one thing; holding them steady enough to be precise is another! I suspect again live view might help though…

  6. 16 bit RAW is pointless as the sensors DR range does not cover that range – the extra 2 bits over 14 are just noise. 16 bit raw is just a marketing gimmick used by medium format manufacturers who probably rely on off the shelf ADs due to their low volumes. Regardless even if the competitors offer 16 bit files with this sensor, the actual file depth will only be 14bit due to the on-sensor AD limitations of Sony exmor design.

    • That’s incorrect. The sensor may not cover 16 stops, but having additional bit depth means that the resolution of gradations will be much finer. Hasselblad and Phase One are offering 16 bit RAW off the same sensor; it isn’t an EXMOR design.

  7. This thing is NOT really medium format; it’s not true medium format in sensor size nor is it digital medium format.

    It’s more like the medium format equivalent of a Leica M8 or Canon 1D with their APS-H sized sensors, and some have even gone as far as referring to this new Pentax’s sensor size as Medium Format DX.

    Really, in my view, things only matter when the diagonal of the sensor/film roughlydoubles/halves. So going from micro Four Thirds to 35mm,and then from 35mm to 645 or 6 x 6, and then up to 10 x 8 all make a significant difference. For those going from Pentax APS-C sensor cams to this Pentax 645Z there’s gonna be a MASSIVE difference but I don’t think it’s worth bothering with if you already own say a Nikon D800e.

    The camera body is superb though, the best on the market in my view. It’s just a pity that they didn’t provide a fully articulating rear LCD instead of the mere flip up and flip down variety.

  8. pete sullivan says:

    Thanks for your serendipitous article, Ming. Serendipitous as I was just weighing up whether to take the MF plunge – yes, no, yes – too expensive, but great, too expensive… I’ve just ordered the 645Z!

  9. Hy Ming! after reading your article about digital MF, i found out about this photographer:

    He uses 6×6 cameras: Kiev 6C and Kiev 88, no photoshop (just for removing dust after scanning)
    I tghout to share this creative work whit you and your readers… i belive that inspiration is always welcomed.
    Have a good day!

  10. I too was a little concerned about the 1/125 sync speed and the lack of leaf shutter lenses and then remembered that did not stop me back in the1/60 sync days.

    I think the current lineup of lenses makes the 645z very attractive especially in light of the fact that Sony’s A7 generated so much excitement with virtually no native lenses.
    The price IS very mainstream considering the fact that vast numbers of amateurs paid similar prices for 1D series Canons. Clearly Pentax sees a ripe market for a modern entry into the MF field. I cannot justify a switch from my Canon gear as I do not need 50MP but it would be fun to swim around in that big fat file.

  11. I’m excited about this camera like everyone else and hope that Ricoh/Pentax do really well with it. I’d love to try one out.

    However, I think for it gain widespread adoption, they need to have the most popular zoom ranges like Nikon’s Holly Trinity and Canon’s equivalents, though at f/4 instead of f/2.8 to keep the cost and size/weight down. As a D800 owner using the 14-24mm a lot (mostly in the 19-24mm range), I’d need a very good wide zoom that doesn’t cost a fortune (less than £2000). Their road map for “2014 and later” seems to indicate this might happen with an Ultra Wide Zoom, Standard Zoom and Tele Zoom listed

    Another plus of the 645 that’s rarely mentioned is the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the majority of other photographers who use DSLR’s (marketing, client perception etc)

    • The zooms are not a bad idea…let’s just hope it’s not too much later.

    • Pentax does need to supply the wide zoom; I was hoping it would appear with the 645DII, oops I mean Z. The price of the 25mm came as a shock to most Pentax users and I’m afraid the new zoom wouldn’t be cheap either. The existing 45-85mm and 80-160mm are excellent, although both weaken a bit at the long end. They are much heavier than the prime lenses and both are f/4.5; compare to the 150mm f/2.8 which is very light and compact. The 150-300mm has good reviews too. There are other zooms too: 55-110mm and 33-55mm

  12. Doug Dolde says:

    No one seems to mention that the older lenses were made for full frame film 645. Since the 645Z is only using the central area of the lenses the sharpness should be better then at the edges of full frame film.

    • I believe some of the Hassy V glass was tested and found to be surprisingly good on the 645D…which would make sense, since those are the same performers on the CFV-39/50, too.

  13. In response to Sebastian’s comments: My copy of the 75mm is superb and I have never seen a negative comment about that lens until yours (even Lloyd Chambers likes it!); perhaps you just had a bad copy. The DR of the 645D increases at ISO 100, not decreases.—Measurements

  14. 645Z is quite a pleasant surprise. I too am a little concerned about the switch to CMOS and if the files will retain the character of CCD in the 645D. BTW, ISO 400 is not the current upper limit; I’ve had a 645D since 2010 and it is quite usable at 1600. Yes, there is chroma noise, but it cleans up very easily. An example @1600:

    As to the lenses, most are fine, some excellent e.g. the 120mm macro out resolves the 645D sensor.

    • That’s not bad, but when the D800E offers the same resolution, usable 6400 with a bit of cleanup and wider lens choices…it makes the 645D a tough sell. The 645Z on the other hand…

      • I agree. Had the D800E been available when I got the 645D it would have been a tough choice; however, I have a closet full of Pentax MF lenses, so had I purchased the Nikon and the lenses I use it would have cost more than the 645D. In terms of size and weight, the Pentax is not much bigger and heavier than the Nikon (including the lenses, e.g., the excellent 400mm FA weighs only 1260g). All comments I’ve read from those who use both cameras indicate a preference for the Pentax files (CCD vs. CMOS?) I hope not.

        The camera that is tempting me right now (aside from the 645Z) is the A7r 🙂

        • The D800E makes nice files, but they require a lot of work to get the color spot on – or an Otus. CCD color is definitely better – my CFV-39 requires almost no correction at all, but it also has less latitude.

  15. KrautHammer says:

    I hope this is a great success. What I want to see is a Fuji rangefinder/folder style medium format camera – stripped down to the essentials only for between $3000-$5000 with lens – out the door. I think it can be done. That or give us a manual focus digital TLR like a Mamiya C series – similar price range.

  16. Michael Matthews says:

    Something tells me 50MP wouldn’t make by photography any better than my current 16MP. Your website is a far better value.

    • No, it wouldn’t. And my website is better value because it both contains knowledge and is free, though people seldom appreciate things they don’t pay for.

      If you need that resolution for whatever reason – clients, output printing etc. – then compare $8.5k with $29k+ and tell me which you’d rather pay for…

  17. Mainstream ? 8.500 $ for a camera ?
    Come on ! 🙂

    • You haven’t seen how many single digit Canikon bodies are carried around this part of the world. Those are about the same price range; add lenses and the Pentax is actually cheaper – especially when you look at the price of used lenses.

      And if you’re a working pro, $50k+ for a system is pushing it; $10-15k IS mainstream.

  18. Can’t wait to take a demo ride on one of these! Thanks for the write-up, Ming!

  19. When both techs were new, CMOS was better at color and CCDs better at noise. That was their hallmark. Today, CMOS has surpassed CCDs in every field, including color reproduction, noise, video, and dynamic range. This has to due with the lower costs associated in fabrication, thus creating more development resources behind CMOS. To say current CCDs have any advantage today is simply not true.

    • I don’t agree with the color part. CMOS may produce more accurate color, but it still isn’t as pleasing or natural-looking especially in the highlights – you need to do a lot more post processing. That said, there’s a lot more latitude in the file, too.

  20. It’s 2am here, and I just skimmed details, but am I right in saying that the max sync speed is limited to 1/125th of a second? I feel like that’s going to turn a lot of potential buyers away- myself included.

    • Yes, I saw that too. But since we’ve got to stop down anyway for sufficient DOF in studio, I don’t think it’s that much of an issue to control ambient. We get one stop more with our DSLRs usually, and that’s more than enough. If I need more I’ll use the Hasselblad or even the GR if it’s a wide shot…

    • Pentax did make two leaf shutter manual focus lenses in the SMCP-A series that would work with 1/500s sync speed, a 75mm/2.8 and a 135mm/4. They would be useable, but may be optically sub-optimal, on the digital 645 bodies.

  21. Mr. Ming Thein , for all your information to me, thank.

  22. Sebastian says:

    The German Pentax site says that both DNG and PEF files are 14-bit. Also, 100 – 204800 seems to be the camera’s native ISO range, no Hi or Low settings. (See .)

    I wholeheartedly agree that this new sensor is an essential step forward for medium format, especially at this price point in the undoubtedly great Pentax body. But one must also note that neither the price point nor the camera’s DSLR-like style nor the availability of all those lenses (which have always been there in Europe, and I suppose Japan as well) helped the 645D all that much, so the question is: of all those who previously didn’t think the 645D enticing enough, who would now buy a 645Z? Not that many, I’m afraid.

    Also, as you indicated, lenses is where Pentax still falls way short. The recent 25/4 a 90/2.8 might be good enough (they’d better be at their respective prices), but even the 55/2.8 that was introduced with the 645D seems to have significant weaknesses, as do many of the old FA and A lenses. What Pentax need now are highly-corrected, wheather-sealed, preferably image-stabilized primes, but the only thing on the horizon (according to the lens road map) are three zooms, and those are unlikely to perform in the same realm as Leica S or Schneider/Phase One glass, or even the new wave of 35 mm lenses.

    • That’s good to know. I doubt 204k is a native setting; 6400 is the highest native setting on the H5D-50C and IQ250 – both with the same sensor. Even on the D4S anything about 25k is a push setting…

      14 bit is great news though.

      I don’t plan to use any Pentax glass on it except the 25 and 75; the rest will be Zeiss/Hassy V.

      • Sebastian says:

        Well, the term “native” is probably a bit misleading anyway, but what I mean is that Pentax seems to be amplifying the signal in hardware up to the limit of 204800 instead of just underexposing and then gaining up all luminance values in soft as is often done in those Hi and Lo modes. (Also important for the new 100 setting which used to be a darkened 200 exposure on the 645D, with compromised dynamic range.) Of course this is most likely not done by the sensor itself but by a custom amplifier, but it might hint at the extreme ISOs actually being usable for some purposes instead of just gimmicks.

        Do you have experience with the 75? I know the old A 75 (which apparently is optically identical to the FA) and it has terribly low contrast (micro and even macro) at f/2.8. Noticeable longitudinal color errors also.

        • That would make sense. The high ISO samples they released actually look pretty good, if you consider they’re probably JPEGs shot by somebody who might not necessarily be a photographer and who certainly didn’t do any processing. Certainly as good as the D800E samples or better, at the pixel level.

          I was told the new 75 is sort of comparable to the Hassy CF 80 – not too bad wide open, but excellent when stopped down.

      • 14 bit is a plus, but 16 bits would be better. I’m not sure why 12 bit is the standard for smaller formats and 16 bit for the larger, or indeed why all cameras can’t be 16 bit. My initial guess is file size given an amateur market has limited computing horsepower, but aside from that it would be useful if manufacturers left the choice to the user. There is nothing like micro contrast and the tonal subtlety that comes from lots of data points in a large print, the only important output format of interest to me. Other than that please accept my compliments on a really outstanding website.

        • I agree – I suspect previously it was computing power dictating the tradeoff between speed and information; pros might be able to work with sub-1fps in a controlled situation, but that’s not going to cut it for soccer moms trying to spray and pray 🙂

        • Itaprak says:

          AFAIK Even Hassys don’t actually produce 16 bit images. It’s a marketing choice because they use 16 bit A-D converters. The files produced might well be opened in Photoshop as 16 bit files but the CCD itself churns out 12-14 bits at best. The larger sensors often rely on somewhat older technology so this is to be expected.

    • Another thing could be also tethering – I’d like to see support in C1 but I guess it won’t happen.

    • Agree with your comments and would add that many medium format users originally went with the MF format due to the special tonal characteristics that seem to be lacking in the CMOS versions (comparing new Hassy and new Phase to previous models). To me, the game changer is being able to get a CMOS version to maintain the 16bit look along with that special tonal quality and depth. Additionally, I applaud Pentax for their forward thinking regarding the pricing, lens range and a modern operating system, but I think they need to go one step further if they want to penetrate the market and that is to either offer an aggressive trade up program or an educational pricing program (as Hassy and Phase does). It’s certainly going to be interesting when test images that compare both sensors side by side (in a controlled environment) start to become available.

      • The way I see the differences between CCD and CMOS are that the CCDs produce an ‘ready-to-go’ image; CMOS has the ingredients, but you have to have the right workflow to extract the results. The D800E initially frustrated me because of that – I was shooting with the CCD-based M9-P before that – but now that I’ve figured out how to make the most of the incredible latitude in the files, I’m producing both the tones I want and higher technical image quality under situations that might otherwise have been impossible with CCD cameras. What I’m hoping is that the 645Z will hit middle ground between the two, though it’s more likely to fall into the CMOS camp.

        As for the controlled comparison – if the 645Z arrives before my Hasselblad CFV-39 goes on to the next buyer, well, it just might happen…

  23. I like your game-changet assessment of the situation. Indeed I credit Nikon in 1999 for lowering prices and bringing real competition. When introduced, the D1 wasa $5,000 USD. Canon had been selling their DCS560 (6MP) camera for $30,000 and their DX chip camera for $15K.

  24. “The first is that we may not really get as much of that ‘medium format look’ as we think:” These full res samples show that MF look IMHO: Another startling revelation yesterday; the full res images at DPR of the new Siggy 50mm show it to be a worthy Otus clone for a quarter of the price. It sure is a good time to be a gear ho 🙂

    • I would be so sure about that sigma. Look at the wide open corner performance and T stop. It’s not difficult to make a 50 that’s great at f2.8 or f4, but the Otus is still better wide open. Still, it represents very steep diminishing returns and isn’t for everybody. Surprising how nobody has compared Leica…

      • Hmmm… I was wondering. I plan on getting the sigma, but I want to plant it on a d7100 and stay around iso 400 most of the time and use it as a 75mm portrait lens. No vignetting, and no jittery/weak corners or worries about sufficient dof. Good dynamic range and little noise.

        Yet, something tells me you’re gonna spoil my fantasy…

  25. I too think Pentax should be applauded for introducing this, and as you and other commentators have said Ming it well fire a shot across the bow of the other two medium format players that’s for sure.

    It’s way out of my price point but even if it weren’t I’d still stick with mft’s and my gr as they fit my requirements to a t. They also produce more than enough quality for me.

    Like the others on here I look forward to you putting one through its paces.

  26. I’m certainly interested – I’ve recently been thinking of picking up a higher pixel pitch FF camera, but now holding off to see how this does. All I ask is that it has a kick ass 50mm lens (to clarify 50mm FF FOV….). Price is within reach, but will mean I have to shelve the watch plans for the yr….

    • Only one way to find out. I do like the fact that I can use my ‘Blad glass with it though. Now if they make a split prism focusing screen…

      • I believe they offer 3 different screens but don’t remember the details, just seen it as part of spec sheet.
        Very interesting cam indeed, would like to know how kit lens performs. I would probably swap my Leaf Aptus (although that one is 48×36) for it providing there’s good sharp WA lens, on Hassy I use 50 fle but with Leaf it isn’t wide enough, on film it’s exactly what I want it to be.
        Damn you Pentax 🙂 you release camera like this just when I finally put together digital MF system based on “old” parts due to high prices of new gear (501, 80/2.8, 50/4 fle, 150/4, PME51, Aptus 75S).

  27. Paul Stokes says:

    I have finally come to grips with my 500cm and this comes along. Sigh. Actually no matter how good it is I will not be able to buy it. Neither my cash flow not my back, hip or knee would allow it. Despite that it is a great thing to see materialise and I do hope it stirs up the other players. Stanis I’m not sure too many explorers could carry one let alone two for long and that’s without the weight of lenses, well without the appropriate support staff. I look forward to you assessment Ming.

    • Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve started carting the D800E, lenses and tripods around again largely because if the Otus and Ultraprint process.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      Explorers on foot into the northern Swedish landscape used to carry Hasselblads …

      • Those things are a lot more hardy than their lack of weather seals would have you believe…

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Hardy, oh yes H’blads were famous for that.
          I was considering the weight, including long lenses and heavier tripod.
          Backpack, tent, sleepingbag, food for a week (or more), clothes, (not water, is everywhere),
          say 15 kg (or more) plus photo equipment.
          Still some chose H’blad instead of a rather lighter 24×36 equipment.

      • “CMOS sensors might be great for extended dynamic range and noise control, but it does mean that color and tonality aren’t quite as good as CCDs”
        Hi Ming Are there any current cameras with CCDs? Are the CMOS sensors getting better at color and tonality? I saw some large prints taken with a M8 and they sure looked a lot different in terms of color and tonality. And they were more or less straight out of the camera.

        • That’s possibly because of Leica’s relatively primitive JPEG engine rather than CCD sensor. MF digital are the only current CCD cameras; everything else – including MF digital – are moving to CMOS.

          • Iskabibble says:

            Isnt the cheaper Leica still a CCD? The Leica M or something like that?

            • You mean the M-E? Yes, but at that price you might as well but a slightly used M9-P. Cheap is always relative with Leica…

              • iskabibble says:

                Well, I was just naming another current CCD camera besides medium format. Not commenting on any quality issue.

  28. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    If the pixel pitch is bigger then there should be less moire problems, am I right?
    In the light that Nikon 800 quality wise approaches MF, that could be the reason why there`s market for these expensive machines. Fashion photographers shooting superfine woven fabrics for one.
    What`s more, as far I remember Pentax is weather and dustproofed, a dream for serious explorer photographer. And at that price one could have two bodies and some cash left comparing to other systems.

  29. Wow it will be awesome to see the results it produces in your hands . Also somewhere i read that sony will probably launch a mirrorless with same sensor .Would love to see that too in your hands .

  30. Philip Ong says:

    This camera will pave the way for a more affordable camera from the makers of its sensor.

    • This already makes the single digit pro 35FX cameras look like a ripoff…the problem with the sensor’s maker is product ADD and lack of an ecosystem.

  31. Henry Zacharias says:

    But is there really any advantage of dof with this size of a sensor, which is not a “real” MF size like 6×6 or larger, and the lenses available, e.g. a 2.8/45 or 2.8/75? Can´t I achieve the same or even smaller dog with lenses like a 1.4/24 or 1.4/50? In my opinion, the only advantage over a D800 is resolution.

    • Yes, but it’s subtle – it’s the degree of absolute maximum blur achievable. Resolution is still a good reason – especially if a) you Ultraprint; b) don’t give up anything in dynamic range or noise.

  32. Zerberous says:

    What are the “depth of field properties” and how do they vary among focal lengths? Sorry for taking your time – but I could not find information on this elsewhere. Thank you very much.

    • Depth of field for a giveb aperture and the abruptness of transition between in and out of focus, degree of absolute blur etc.

      • Zerberous says:

        Thank you for clarification. Very interesting. One last question – if you have time – in terms of “abruptness of transition” and “absolute blur” how do the different focal lengths of medium- and other formats differ? Thank you 🙂

        • It’s a property of the focal length, not the format.

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Also on the type of lens design.
          E.g., so called portrait lenses were traditionally designed so that rays passing through the lens farther from its center focused at a slightly shorter (or was it longer?) focal length.
          With larger apertures you could still have much of the head sharp with a very appealing slight soft focus effect.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      ( Just as a reminder for some of us readers. )

      For the same focusing distance and field of view,
      you get the same depth of field
      (using sensor diagonal as norm) e.g.

      for 6×6 with f:4 ,
      for 33×44 with f:2.8 ,
      for full frame with f:2.2 ,
      for APS-C with f:1.4 ,

      as DOF is directly related to the diameter of the iris
      (in the first approximation, using the lens formula).

      Plus the differences Ming pointed out above.

      • Thanks Kristian.

      • @Kristian.In my opinion. it is worth mentioning that the transition from sharp to blurr it is not a linear function. Thus, despite theoretically the same DOF, pictures will be different.

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Certainly, Piotr.
          And Thanks!

          I’m aware that my figures only illustrate the first order approximation,
          but this approximation is still of some value when considering what range of apertures you need
          for your kind of photography on a certain sensor size.

          ( I only mentioned these figures because I have noticed that many beginners have not realized,
          that only the _diameter_ of the aperture (in mm) in the lens, not focal length or sensor size, is responsible for the first order approximation of DOF.)

          Then there is type of lens (I mentioned the so called portrait lenses in another comment).
          Ming has written some articles on how different types of lenses render depth.

  33. Well, MF is another world many cannot or may not want to enter, though its image quality may not be rivaled by any from smaller format cameras. But regarding the functionality, UI, and the level of customization, from the experience of a Pentax K3 user, I think it will be great, or “designed by photographers” in your words. Every function and button has a reason to be placed at the right position. Pentax, from the time I started to pay attention to its camera (may be in 2010 with the entry-level k30) has a tendency to churn out products that, in my opinion, has much better built-quality and look more versatile than those from Ca Ni So in the same price point, take the example of the K3 which is placed in the same league with Ca 70D and Ni D7100. I think this trend also apply to the new MF and its lens lineup.


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