I was wrong about the Pentax 645D.
Feel like I almost need to apologize to it. Was looking at things all wrong. What am I on about? Glad I imagined you asked.
- Thought it might be a novelty. A flight of fancy. A vanity get. An “I want because I want it” exercise with little justification otherwise. Surely other systems could fake the look.
But that missed the point. An emulation rarely matches the original. Unlike other image capturing options, where I do think that they are vanity acquisitions, this camera reaps discernible dividends in my opinion.
- Had concerns that this old-guard solution would not hold up nowadays. No video. Slow card writing. Low ISO threshold.
A non-issue. Bought this as a stills solution and a film medium format alternative. Viewed in this light it does just what it needs to do.
- Cutting to the chase I was concerned that it would not deliver in the medium format image quality promise.
It does. More on this later.
Stepping back a bit. Recently I wanted to get away from posting what gear I use for a photo and pivot to concentrating on the photos themselves instead. But I recently realized that, while my intentions were good, the implement used does matter.
The long held core lie to myself.
I can make the same image no matter what I use.
I can make an acceptable image no matter what I use.
Semantics are key. While I can make an image I like with nearly any camera, all images are not equal. Events of this last Saturday brought about this revelation. It was to be an exciting day photography wise. It started with my son’s HS graduation and later there would be a family HS graduation celebration for a young cousin born within a week of my son. In both cases, I used what I felt was best for the occasion. In both cases, I was determined that this was not going to be a backpacking expedition. One camera. One lens. This proved difficult for me admittedly. Kept going back to surely I can bring X, Y, Z along also. What is the harm… No. I will focus on family, not keeping track of my camera luggage and losing a shot while either pondering what lens to use or being caught mid lens swap. One camera and one lens.
For the graduation I would be dealing with everything from bright morning sun group shots to low light graduation shots inside that would benefit from a tele zoom and a reasonably fast aperture. Decided upon the do it all combination of the rock solid reliable A7III and the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8. Result? As expected it killed it. A variety of situations. A variety of focal lengths. All photos scenarios swiftly dispatched with Sony’s typical machine-like efficiency.
Family Graduation Party
For family events, I often go the nostalgia route. Film is good. Medium format is even better. Having a new to me Pentax 645D in my arsenal I decided it would be the best of both worlds throwback to film era and digital convenience solution. Paired with an all-time favorite, the Pentax FA 645 75mm f/2.8. Film era glass, medium format, with a vintage digital CCD sensor to boot. Thought it would be a hoot. Some big sensor subject isolation. Some good old CCD colors. And it delivered. But I noticed that it did even more. Since I typically shoot as the mood strikes I do not often have an opportunity to make back-to-back comparisons between image-capturing solutions. I will have a brace of images from implement A over here and other images from implement B over there and rarely do they meet. But having occurred the same day I found myself noticing something I had not noticed before. Yes, the Sony images were great. Yes, it was able to capture images that would have left the 645D in the proverbial dust. But I mentioned machine-like above. And compared back to back I noticed something. In isolation the Sony images were great, but compared side by side they lacked the soul, the richness, that certain something when seen next to the images produced by the 645D. Efficiency over emotion? Too much? Too much cheese? Sorry. Apologies for any potential eye socket strain injuries…
But it is real.
The image rendering and colors are night and day and a much bigger difference than I had thought there would be if I am honest. I had once thought of the 645D as a possible frivolity, but no. There is something to be said for digital medium format that the brightest of apertures cannot fully imitate despite my previous ramblings. Saturday proved it. Started right off with a photo I took of my elders.
I love this photo. For practical as well as sentimental reasons. Again I fully acknowledge that depth of field can be accomplished with smaller sensors. But… Combine the greater sensor real estate, 40MP on tap, and a sharp lens and you get a photo with so much detail and depth of field you could crop in on each of the distinguished subjects for a head shot and no one would be the wiser. Here is another quick photo.
Next up is this lovely capture of my wonderful wife.
A photo of my lovely Mother.
The two High School graduates.
A cousin and my Mom.
Some photos of little ones.
The younger generation is growing up on us.
One last shot as we were getting ready to go.
Other photos were taken, but you get the drift. Great photos. And taken with ease. I did not post all photos but the main difference between the morning photos and those taken in the afternoon was a warmth that I really like.
Now make no mistake this is not a “This is better than that in total.” argument, but rather a “Proper tool for the task.” statement. The Pentax 645D would not have been a proper tool for the interior shots in the morning. Low light and far distance would have not been handled well by the light-loving sensor and rudimentary AF so I would not change a thing. Arguably the Sony could have handled the afternoon better than the 645D could have handled the morning. And the Sony system is great when you need the shot no matter the lighting, weather, or other conditions. But I would rather have the 645D in ideal conditions every single time.
Now, what if I had to choose one or the other?
If asked a while ago I would say the Sony. Now? Not so sure. I really enjoy the uncommon image quality this camera can produce. And with the lower cost of the older 645D, compared to other digital medium format options, and the low cost of the 75mm prime and zooms mentioned in earlier posts, I could honestly get on with this camera alone. I would just have to accept that this camera would not be able to do certain things.
- No video.
- No fast-moving subjects.
- No interior shooting without flash.
Other things like slow card writing time do not bother me that much. This camera does have some practical considerations as well.
- Serviceable AF.
- Not Earth-shattering and like many SLRs it can be utterly useless in very low light, but… it works.
- TTL Flash.
- Works perfectly with both on camera and remote TTL flash. Same cannot be said for the oddball SIGMA cameras I fawn over.
- Not all that large or oddly shaped.
- It is an SLR body style. Familiar to use. Easy to carry.
For that reason, this is a camera you could use every day. Here are some shots taken recently using it as a daily point and shoot.
There is another plus that I never considered until recently. Value. Yes. Value. You do not believe me?
Do you think $2,000 for a used camera is a lot? An autofocus medium format digital camera? Other digital medium format solutions cost more. Look up the price of a used digital Leica. Great cameras, but Leitz pixie dust aside they are considerably more expensive manual focus full-frame cameras. Metered Leica M Mount film cameras cost more. This makes the more expensive 645Z seem more reasonable to me.
And make no mistake. I am not saying that the Leica is not worth the price. What I am saying is that they indicate to me that the pricing of AF 645 gear is not outlandish at all.
Well done Pentax.