This Old Lens (Medium Format): SMC Pentax-FA 645 75mm F2.8

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Have had this lens’ MF predecessor.

Yongnuo YN360
Ilford XP2 Pentax 645

Have had this AF variant lens twice…

Pentax 645N

What? It is a great lens. Why did I sell it? Simple. As mentioned in a recent, updated 645N post I made a mistake. While thinning a herd of medium format film cameras some time ago this lens (along with the camera attached) fell victim to prizing prestige over practicality and performance.

Prestige

While respected and quite capable, Pentax…

Pentax 645D

…does not carry the same name-brand cache as other cameras. The ginormous Pentax 67, especially when sporting a wooden grip, and its lenses may be the only aspirational Pentax line up. The 645 lineup clearly sits in the shadow of that camera. But what the 645 lacks in cache it more than makes up for in…

Practicality

I believe many may discount this camera due to its level of automation. Some may point to film backs that do not allow you to switch film mid-roll, but I do not think that is the real reason. My personal opinion is that this camera is essentially a point and shoot with everything set to green. Manual focus vintage lenses regularly sell for more than autofocus lenses. Another practical aspect of this lens is its compact size, with it being barely larger than a 35mm lens.

Pentax Lenses
Similarly sized Manual Focus 75mm 645 film lens on the right with 50mm 35mm film lens on the right.

In addition to practicality, this lens also delivers…

Performance

Will touch on this in more detail below, but this lens is a very strong performer. Across the board, it holds its own against more expensive lenses from more prestigious name brands.

On to the categories.

Asking Price

New: Since this lens is compatible with the still for sale digital Pentax 645Z (here with the the 75mm included for free) it is also still for sale at $695 new.

Used: This lens actually holds its value well costing nearly as much used as new for cleaner copies in the mid $600 range. I paid a little less for a bargain grade copy, which still looks and works just fine.

Value

In isolation, the price of this lens may seem to be a lot. But viewed within the context of medium format lenses it is a solid value. New and used autofocusing medium format lenses, especially those compatible with digital medium format cameras, cost in the thousands not hundreds.

Image Quality <Cheated. Cut, pasted, and edited the list from 35mm Pentax lens posts as a starting point.>

  • Flare
    • None that I have seen yet, even when shooting directly into the sun.
Pentax 645N w/  Kodak Ektar 100
  • Sharpness
    • Very sharp wide open. As good as nearly any lens I have used.
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
  • Colors
    • I really like the colors this lens produces.
Pentax 645N w/ Lomography 800
  • Bokeh
    • 75mm at f/2.8 is nothing special aperture wise with 35mm film, but it is pretty special on medium format. Works out to a full frame equivalent of 46.5mm at f/1.74 (Courtesy mmcalc.com.). As a result, when combined with the larger 645 surface area, this is a lens that can produce pleasing bokeh whether near or far.
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
  • AF
    • As swift and accurate as any SLR lens. Nowhere near sports lens speeds, but quite swift within the realm of medium format systems. Even in modest light.
Pentax 645N w/ Lomography 800
Pentax 645N w/ Lomography 800

Versatility

  • Owing to Pentaxs’s long standing tradition of start to finish compatibility this is a very versatile lens. This is a lens that works every bit as well with film Pentax 645 cameras as it does with digital ones. Certainly there are manual focus medium format lenses that work on film and digital. But analog/digital lens choices with autofocus are few, and those that I am aware of (Phase One, Mamiya, Hasselblad, and perhaps other. I am by no means a medium format expert.) usually cost considerably more for lens or camera.

Samples

Film

Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Lomography 400 - Pentax 645N - 75mm f/2.8
Pentax 645N w/ Ilford HP5 Pyro
Pentax 645N w/  Kodak Ektar 100
Pentax 645N w/  Kodak Ektar 100
Pentax 645N w/  Kodak Ektar 100
Pentax 645N w/  Kodak Ektar 100
Pentax 645N/FA 75mm f/2.8 w/ Kodak Ektar 100

Digital (Initial test shots. Camera review to come.)

Test Shots - Pentax 645D
Test Shots - Pentax 645D

Conclusion

Another great Pentax lens.

-ELW

Pentax 645N
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