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: