The Pentax 645D: is Pentax’s first digital medium format camera with a massive 40MP resolution. So what does £10k of medium format camera buy you? The What Digital Camera Pentax 645D review finds out...
Pentax 645D review
Medium and large format cameras are the last bastions of the analogue world, and though digital versions have been around for quite some time, prices have been sky-high and users slow to convert. Medium format sensors principally have a size advantage over their full-frame (35mm) cousins. Not only is the resolution increased but so is each of the physical sensor nodes, allowing for greater detail and tone capture.
What the Pentax 645D sets to offer is a more friendly medium format experience, with much of the handling being brought across from the K-7 DSLR model. This makes it ideal for those in the field, or those looking to enter the medium format market for the first time. Existing users of the Pentax 645 system will feel just as at home.
However, the up to date Pentax system utilises a vertical-run shutter much like a DSLR, so the newer lenses won’t offer the higher flash sync that’s possible with leaf shutters found in some competitor cameras. This may limit more complex lighting setups (unless using older LS-series lenses), though Pentax’s 645D offering is more firmly targeted at the landscape photographer looking for super-high resolution.
Pentax 645D review – Features
The Pentax 645D uses a Kodak 40MP CCD sensor, which outputs at 7264×5440 pixels in 14-bit Raw (PEF or Adobe DNG) or JPEG. At 44x33mm in size it’s smaller than a true 6×4.5cm frame but still 1.7 times larger than a full-frame (35mm) sensor. This means its new lenses have a 0.79x crop factor.
The processor is the Prime Engine II, which also features in Pentax DSLRs, from the K-x up to the K-5. It provides a conservative ISO 100-1600 range, though of little issue as medium format has traditionally been for use in controlled studio environments or landscape scenarios.
Metering is a 77-segment system that appears to have been taken straight from the Pentax K-7 DSLR model. There’s a choice of Evaluative, Spot and Partial modes, and an exposure compensation of +/-5EV. Autofocus comes in the form of the new SAFOX IX+ thas provides 11 selectable AF points with all but two being cross-type sensors. White balance features a large number of presets, plus manual and colour temperature settings, all with fine-tuning. The shooting mode dial offers a familiar array of options for regular Pentax users, with the PSAM accompanied by Sensitivity (Sv), Shutter & Aperture (TAv), a Bulb mode, Flash sync (X), and User setting. There is even the familiar Green button on the rear for quick auto setting with a single press. From the menus you can access in-camera HDR and Dynamic Range expansion settings, plus a series of digital filters.
The Pentax 645D’s viewfinder is much larger than on a DSLR, making it easier to manually focus. Despite this, it offers only a 98% field of view, which seems unusual for such a professional product (though is better than the 92-93% FoV on older film models). The rear screen is a 3in LCD with a 921k-dot resolution and displays shooting info or a digital level.