First Impressions: Pentax 645D
Chronicling my descent into medium format digital
Who would want a digital camera with technology from ten years ago? Me, apparently.
The Pentax 645D was announced in March of 2010 as the first digital successor to Pentax's popular 645 line of SLRs (of which I have several). First sold at nearly $10k, it was never anything I could seriously consider buying new. But now, years later, with the new 645Z model out, the price on the 645D has reached parity with my Fujifilm X cameras.
Pulling the 645D up to my eye for the first time, there is far more learning curve than I expected. The body is covered in buttons, dials, and switches for features I'm not used to having buttons, dials, and switches for, like the "shoot the next photo in RAW format" button. The 645Nii is relatively straightforward compared to its digital successor.
But let's take a step back; why medium format digital? What am I looking for this system to do?
To be very specific, I want that medium format subject separation. I know it's fudge-able in Fujifilm X by using the fastest apertures, but I want the real deal. I also want the expanded dynamic range of the larger sensor. Again, my Fujifilm X-T3 has powerful control over dynamic range, but it's still not film, and I'm hoping that the 645D is more film-like. And lastly, I want the knowledge and experience of using a truly high-end digital camera.
To do all this, I need to first learn the camera, and learn it well. I'm going to do things I never do, like shoot HDR, shoot RAW, shoot brackets, shoot how this camera was meant to be shot. Then I'm going to create the dumbest camera comparison on the internet by writing a "this versus that" article between the Pentax 645D and the Fujifilm X-T3, cameras separated by nine years of technology and $9000 in MSRP. Then I'm going to decide if I'm going to forever keep the 645D, or return it the great camera nexus.
But first, look at some photos I took not knowing how the camera works:This lamp in my office is the brightest thing there, so to test low ISOs I took this dumb photo, and then made it blue in Lightroom I liked that this car's color matched the trim on the house, so I took a photo which is almost in focus The camera has a digital level, but it's displayed via a bar graph in the viewfinder, not an overlay I'm using old Pentax-A and Pentax-FA lenses, holdovers from my film 645s This photo of Permanente Creek shows off some of the dynamic range capabilities of the camera Again, look at the capabilities in direct sunlight The camera comes with a number of color profiles, this is the default And this is the neutral profile, much more my speed Mirror selfie My old trick of using the fastest aperture for shooting through chain link doesn't work quite as well in medium format All these photos I shot using the Pentax-A 55mm lens, which has a 43.5mm field of view equivalence This is a two-shot one-stop HDR assembled in Lightroom, just to try it out And let's end with a square crop for old time's sake