Cameras + Lenses

Tech Tuesday: Why I Want a Pentax 645Z

April 15, 2014

By RF Staff

In case you were busy photographing the Blood Moon lunar eclipse last night and missed the news, Pentax/Ricoh Imaging announced a new medium format camera.

645Z_Solo_3Dubbed the 645Z, the camera is built around the same Sony 50+ megapixel CMOS sensor used in the latest medium format models from Hasselblad and Phase One. For full specifications and details, check out the news post by Senior Technology Editor Dan Havlik at our sister publication, PDN and the Pentax product page here.

The specs are impressive and, in many ways, trump those of Hasselblad and Phase One. Having tested the 645D, I'm optimistic about the new model living up to my rather high expectations. But the first 645Z eye-catcher is the price. $8,500. (The Pentax 645D, which is still available, is now priced at around  $7,000—body only.) Sure, $8,500 is a nice chunk of change but it's not a whole lot more than some of the leading full-frame cameras on the market and it's a lot less than Hasselblad and Phase One cameras/backs.

During our latest 645Z briefing, Jim Malcolm, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Imaging, mentioned that he was approached by a photographer at WPPI who said he was interested in the new camera but, because of its price, he thought that something must be "missing." A somewhat logical assumption since full and final specifications weren't available at the time, but definitely a misguided perception. According to Malcolm, Pentax developed the price via market conditions rather than labor rates. Perhaps more importantly, Pentax has leveraged its DSLR R&D by sharing development costs across products to help keep costs down.

645Z_TiltMonitorBut aside from the price, the 645Z's appeal—for me, and I'm sure many others—lies in its features and potential performance. Some notable attributes include a large, high-resolution tilting LCD, dual SD card slots (I prefer to shoot with CF cards but would rather have two SD slots than a single CF slot), two tripod mounts for convenient portrait and landscape shooting orientation, live view and, of course, HD video capture—the first medium format to shoot movies. On the performance side, the 645Z can shoot up to ISO 204,800 (the highest ISO of competitive medium formats is 6400), can shoot at up to 3fps and capture up to 10 Raw files in a single burst, utilizes 27 focus points, and review times have been dramatically improved to 0.9 sec (vs. the 645D's 2.3 seconds). Of course, the camera is weather sealed, like many other Pentax cameras. And that's only touching on some of the key points so be sure to visit the 645Z site for the full story.

One major complaint about the 645D was the lack of lenses. It's not that lenses weren't being manufactured for the 645D; they were but most were only available in Japan. However, 13 additional new lenses, an assortment of  primes and zooms, with prices ranging from $839 to$4,800 are available now. The Pentax 645Z will ship in June…just in time for the summer wedding season!