The Pentax 645D digital medium format camera. A hands on review of a preproduction model by Damien Demolder

PENTAX 645D Coming or not?

It might have been a long time coming, and even as I write it might still not be coming at all, but the Pentax 645D digital medium format camera is certainly a reality. Right now the only places to get your hands on one are in Japan or at a tiny one day professional digital medium format show in Paris called Salon de la HD. It seems that all that separates us from this 40 million pixel camera is a technical support and maintenance network, and the camera?s 850,000 yen price tag. Although the number sounds alarming the current Travel Ex exchange rate would make the camera yours for just £6770. In truth then it is the technical support network that presents the greatest barrier.

While I haven?t been able to shoot outside with the camera, and although I wasn?t allowed to inspect or keep my images, I thought that some first impressions of the camera might still be of some use. I am certain that the Pentax 645D will go on sale in the UK and in Europe, as it is inconceivable that the company could possibly hope to recover its costs by selling solely to an enthusiastic, but ultimately limited, market in Japan. A further clue perhaps is that the camera I used was loaded with menus in most European languages.

There is always a danger when developing a new system camera that what has been learnt over a lifetime will be thrown away with the bath water in a clean-sheet policy. Often completely new operating systems are invented that are simply not as good as those that went before, and which fail to recall the mistakes that taught us all lessons in the past. Despite the time gap in sales that stretches back to about 2005 (the last time the UK imported a Pentax 645 film camera) Pentax has had a 645 system before, and I am delighted to be able to report that the new digital version is very much like the old.

In size it seems being digital adds a few inches to the breadth of the pentaprism housing, but either by proportions or actuality the new camera does not seem that much bigger. It is certainly not much heavier, and is extremely well balanced in the hand ? feeling far more like a 35mm style SLR than a bulking 120 roll film machine. In fact, after checking I discovered that the digital body is bigger and heavier, but only by 9mm in length, 6mm in height and 2mm in width ? and it is 80g heavier.

PENTAX 645D Handling

Having used a K7 just a few hours before arriving in Paris I was immediately struck by the familiar layout of the new body, and on activating the menu screen I was faced with exactly the same style of display I have become used to. It would be an inaccuracy to say that the choices in the menu system are the same as those offered by the K7, but it takes no small measure of searching and concentration to spot what the differences are. In this sense, by matching the menu systems of the 35mm style and medium format style DSLRs Pentax has made the first non-professional-orientated digital medium format camera. If you are a current K7 user you will feel at home immediately, and even those endeared to the K100, K10, K20 and K-x (and even Samsung?s GX cameras) will find the transition pleasingly comfortable.

Once you have recovered from the neat and sloped top plate, that some will remember from MZ-S and the never-to-be MZ-D, the mode dial that could have come from the same box of spares used to put together the current cameras and the duplicated menu system, you?ll probably lift the camera to take a look through the viewfinder. In these days when a TV can?t be bought smaller than 32in we have become used to big pictures, but we still suffer camera viewfinders less bold and bright than those we enjoyed at the end of the 35mm film camera era. Even most medium format style cameras fail to produce a clear life-like view, but the 98% viewfinder of the Pentax 645D is shocking. It is as though looking through a single thin sheet of impeccably clean, quality, glass. I think it did actually make me jump. The view is big and simply clear, and delivers an excellent connection between the eye and the subject that I had almost forgotten could exist.

I tried a range of lenses to see that it wasn?t just a feature of looking through the new D AF 55mm f/2.8 AL IF SDM AW lens, but the intensity of the experience was the same even with the 400mm f/5.6 from the older film system. The information panel at the bottom on the screen is excellently visible, while red dots indicate clearly where the focus has landed. Switching to manual focus demonstrates just how clear the screen is, as finding focus by eye indoors was extremely easy.

On the subject of the new lens, Pentax has opted for an alternative method for switching to manual focus. The AW in the demarcation of the new standard lens stands for All Weather and its moisture- and dust-resistant construction does not allow for the traditional pushpull focus ring method of switching that the legacy lenses use. A normal AF/MF switch sits on the side of the barrel.

The new body may not be compatible with all K system accessories, but its hotshoe is happy to accommodate the flash units from the 35mm style bodies. I mounted a AF540FGZ gun, selecting wireless activation and was able to trigger and control a second gun held at the end of an outstretched arm.

Selecting flash settings requires exactly the same button presses as it does with the K7, as is the case for controlling white balance, colour modes and custom image profiles.

The shutter action is quite and smooth, while the new and improved SAFOX IX+ 11 point AF system is indeed much improved.

PENTAX 645D Conclusion

Conclusion

Poor image quality could completely alter my current view of this product, but for now, anticipating that all will be well, I am extremely enthusiastic about the Pentax 645D. I am really very impressed by the way the camera feels in the hand, by the way it handles in unison with the existing systems and the astonishingly pleasing viewfinder clarity. I have great hopes for the camera, and even greater hopes that it will actually appear on dealer shelves in this country. Pentax makes it clear that although the camera is designed to appeal to professional users and is designed to deliver a level of quality they would expect, its primary target market is the enthusiast.

Perhaps we are about to step back in time to the days when the majority of AP readers used, or aspired to use, medium format cameras for the extra quality they produce. At an accessible price, one that matches the resources of the desired end-user, this could be an extremely successful camera, and the product that will rejuvenate the fortunes of this favourite photography brand.

Some technical details

Although labelled ?645? the camera doesn?t have sensor proportions or dimensions that match our expectations. Pentax tells us that the name is an indication that the body is compatible with lenses from the existing system, but the actual size of the Kodak-made CCD sensor is 44x33mm, and it contains 40 million 6 micron-square pixels. To get an idea of how this affects the angle of captured view your lenses will deliver, the stated focal length should be multiplied by 0.8x. The new 55mm lens, for example, allows an angle of capture one might expect from a 43.5mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera. Thus the 55mm is slightly wide of our usual standard (though spot-on for matching the human eye) when we might be used to 55mm being a proper wideangle for the 6×4.5cm format ? about 80mm is usually considered standard on 120 film.

The camera records Jpeg, raw (Adobe DNG or Pentax?s own PEF) images measuring a maximum of 7264×5440 pixels to SD removable memory, for which it provides two slots. The camera is not compatible with the SDXC format, but it is inconceivable that such a situation can last for long. In-camera raw conversion allows TIFF files to be created, otherwise the standard software that comes with K series products is supplied ? a bespoke version of Silkypix.

I shall list the specifications below, but some aspects are worth pointing out. The maximum flash sync with the vertical run focal plane shutter is 1/125sec, though dedicated hotshoe-mounted guns offer a high-speed sync mode. Sensitivity settings expand to include an ISO 100 rating at one end and 1600 at the other, suggesting that Pentax is not confident outside the default 200-1000 ISO range. A single battery charge should supply 800 images and the maximum drive rate is 1.1 frames per second. There is no video or live view ? but Pentax does not discount these features for future products!

PENTAX 645D Technical specifications

Type TTL autofocus, auto-exposure medium format digital SLR camera

Effective Pixels approx. 40 megapixels

Image Sensor Total pixels approx. 40.01 megapixels

Type CCD with a primary color filter

Size 44mm x 33mm

Pixel size 6.0 μm x 6.0 μm

Dynamic Range 11.5f – stops

Recorded Pixels Still JPEG: L[40M]7264×5440 pixels, M[32M]6528×4896 pixels [21M]5376×4032 pixels,

S[13M]4224×3168 pixels [7M]3072×2304 pixels

RAW: [40M]7264×5440 pixels

Formats Still RAW(14 bit): (PEF/DNG), JPEG: ★★★(Best), ★★(Better), ★(Good), RAW+JPEG: available

Recording file Format Still RAW (PEF/DNG), JPEG (Conforms to Exif 2.21),

Conforms to DCF (Design rule of Camera File system) 2.0

Sensitivity ( Standard output sensitivity ) Auto:200-1000, Extension:100, 1600 (1EV steps or 1/2EV steps or 1/3EV steps)

Storage Media SD, SDHC memory card (Dual slot)

White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent Light ( D, N, W, L), Tungsten Light, Flash, CTE,

Manual setting 1, Manual setting 2, Manual setting 3,

Color temperature setting (3 types) with WB fine adjustment

Custom Image Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Muted, Reversal Film, Monochrome

Viewfinder Type Trapezoid prism finder

Focusing screen Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen

Field of view approx. 98%

Diopter adjustment approx. -3.5 – +2.0m-1

Magnification approx. 0.62 x (with D FA645 55mmF2.8 at infinity),

approx. 0.85 x (with FA645 75mmF2.8 at infinity)

Monitor Type TFT color LCD monitor, Wide angle view, Brightness adjustable, Color adjustable,

AR Coating, Reinforced glass

Size 3.0 inch

Dots approx. 921,000 dots

Preview Method Optical preview, Digital preview

Playback 1 Image, 2 Image, 4 Image, 9 Image, 16 Image, 36 Image, 81 Image,

Enlargement (up to 32X, scroll available), Image Rotation, Folder view, Slideshow,

Histogram, Resize, Cropping, Bright/Dark area, Calendar view, Index view

Digital Filter Playback Mode Monochrome, Extract Color, Color, Base Tweaking, Soft

Focusing System Type TTL phase difference detection, 11-point autofocus system (SAFOX IX+)

Focus Mode AF-single, AF-continuous

Focus Point Auto, Select, Center

Superimpose available

Exposure Control Metering System TTL open-aperture 77-segment metering

Metering Mode (1) Multi-segment metering, (2) Center-weighted metering, (3) Spot metering

Exposure Range EV 2-21 (at Standard Output Sensitivity 200 with 55mmF2.8)

Modes (1) Program AE, (2) Sensitivity-Priority AE, (3) Shutter-Priority AE, (4) Aperture-Priority AE,

(5) Shutter and Aperture Priority AE, (6) Metered Manual, (7) Bulb, (8) X speed

Exposure Compensation ±5EV

AE Lock availiable

Shutter Shutter Type Electronically controlled vertical-run focal plane shutter

Shutter Speed Auto:1/4000 – 30 sec, Manual:1/4000 – 30 sec (1/3 EV steps or 1/2 EV steps), bulb

Drive Modes Single-frame, Continuous (Hi, Lo), Self-timer (12s, 2s), Remote control (0s, 3s ), Remote Continuous Shooting,

Interval, Multiple Exposure, Exposure Bracketing, Extended Bracketing

Continuous shooting

approx. 1.1 fps, RAW(PEF)+JPEG(40M at ★★★): until approx. 13 fps, RAW(PEF): until approx. 13 fps,

RAW(DNG): until approx. 13 fps, JPEG(40M at ★★★): until approx. 15 fps

Mirror Lock-up shooting available by dedicated dial

Flash Synchronization Hot shoe, X-sync socket, sync-speed: 1/125 sec., P-TTL, high-speed-sync,

wireless-sync with PENTAX dedicated external flash

Dust Removal Image sensor cleaning function by supersonic vibration (DR II) with dust alert function

Time World Time 75 cities (28 time zones)

Data Folder Folder Name Date (100_MMDD・・・), PENTX (100PENTX, 101PENTX・・・) ,

File Name Standard, User customize

Power Sources Rechargeable D-LI90 lithium-ion battery

Optional AC adapter also available.

Battery Life Number of recordable images approx. 800 (23°C) *, approx. 700 (0°C), approx. 650 (-10°C)

Playback time approx. 440 minutes (23°C) *, approx. 400 minutes (0°C), approx. 380 minutes (-10°C)

Interfaces USB2.0 (Hi-Speed:mini B type), Video output (mini phone type), HDMI output (type C mini),

DC input , Cable switch, X-sync socket

Video Output Compatible with NTSC and PAL formats

Lens Mount PENTAX 645AF2 bayonet mount

Usable Lens PENTAX 645AF2, 645AF, and 645A mount lenses

Dimensions approx. 156(W) x 117(H) x 119(D)mm (6.1 x 4.6 x 4.7 inches)

Weight approx. 1480 g (52.2 oz.) loaded and ready with battery and two SD memory cards

approx. 1400 g (49.4 oz.) without battery and SD memory card.

Bundle software PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4 (Ver.4.20)

* Recording capacity shows approximate number of shots recorded during CIPA-compliant testing. Actual performance may vary depending on operating conditions.

PENTAX 645D Pentax official press release

PENTAX 645D

PENTAX?s First Medium-Format Digital SLR Camera:

Designed to be the Top of Medium-Format Digital SLR Cameras,

Thanks to Super-High-Resolution Images

HOYA CORPORATION PENTAX Imaging Systems Division is pleased to

announce the launch of the PENTAX 645D lens-interchangeable, medium-format

digital SLR camera. Thanks to the incorporation of a large image sensor, equal in

performance to professional-standard digital camera backs, this high-performance

model delivers super-high-resolution images with approximately 40 effective

megapixels. It also offers outstanding dependability and superb operability and

maneuverability to make outdoor shooting effortless and comfortable for demanding

photographers.

The PENTAX 645D has been developed to provide super-high-resolution images

produced by large image sensors ? something previously available only on

professional models ? to serious landscape and outdoor photographers. It combines

exceptional image quality with excellent maneuverability and outstanding reliability

to simplify professional-level outdoor shooting. Thanks to the incorporation of a

large, high-performance image sensor (measuring 44mm by 33mm) and PENTAXoriginal

image-processing technology, it produces extra-sharp, super-high-resolution

images with approximately 40 effective megapixels. It features remarkable

durability and dependability, thanks to its lightweight but solidly built body

featuring a magnesium-steel-alloy frame, reinforced glass LCD panel protectors and

a reliable dustproof, weather-resistant construction. In addition, it is designed to be

compatible with the majority of the existing PENTAX 645 system, so that current

PENTAX 645-series camera users can take advantage of their valuable assets,

including high-performance smc PENTAX 645 interchangeable lenses.

Major Features

1. Unprecedented image quality

(1) Super-high-resolution images made possible by approximately

40 effective megapixels

The PENTAX 645D incorporates a high-performance CCD image sensor produced

by Kodak. It measures 44mm by 33mm, and is approximately 1.7 times larger than

its 35mm-format counterparts. Thanks to approximately 40 effective megapixels, it

assures a wide dynamic range to faithfully reproduce the prevailing ambience and

the sense of depth in super-high-resolution images that are rich in gradation and

truthful in texture description. In order to bring out the full potential of the lens and

the image sensor and assure the highest level of image-resolving power, the CCD

unit is designed with no low-pass filters.

(2) High-performance, high-speed PRIME II imaging engine

The PENTAX 645D features the acclaimed, PENTAX-original PRIME (PENTAX

Real Image Engine) II as its imaging engine. Thanks to its high-speed dataprocessing

capacity and new algorithm exclusively programmed for medium-format

digital SLR cameras, this high-performance imaging engine produces super-highquality

images rich in gradation and faithful in color reproduction, while allowing

speedy data transmission of large-volume image data ? even RAW-format images

as large as some 50MB per file.

(3) 14-bit A/D converter for faithful conversion of image data to digital signals

The PENTAX 645D features a high-performance A/D converter, which faithfully

converts the large volume of analog image data output by the large CCD image

sensor to digital signals carrying an extensive amount of image data, including

resolution and gradation.

2. Solid, maneuverable body

The PENTAX 645D?s main frame is made of lightweight but strong magnesiumsteel

alloy, while the chassis is made of diecast aluminum to minimize the expansion

and extension caused by heat and also to optimize kinematic accuracy and thermal

stability. The LCD panels ? one on the camera?s top panel, another on the back

panel ? are covered with tempered glass plates for extra protection. The PENTAX

645D?s body is also designed to be a compact and highly maneuverable mediumformat

camera, despite the incorporation of such dependable features as a dust-proof,

weather-resistant construction with 70 special seals, outstanding cold-resistant

performance to assure solid operation at a temperature as low as ?10°C, and a newly

designed shutter unit with a top shutter speed of 1/4000 second that can withstand as

many as 50,000 shutter releases.

3. Dual SD/SDHC memory card slots

The PENTAX 645D has a pair of memory card slots for the recording of images on

both SD and SDHC memory cards. This dual-slot design gives the photographer

extra data-storage options: for instance, recorded images can be assigned to different

cards according to recording format (such as RAW or JPEG), or one of the cards can

be used as the backup of the other. The settings for each memory card slot can be

easily made by dedicated button.

4. Dependable DR II mechanism to minimize dust spots

The PENTAX 645D comes equipped with the highly dependable DR (Dust

Removal) II mechanism, which effectively minimizes annoying dust spots on

recorded images, even when the lenses are changed in dust-prone outdoor settings.

By shifting UV/IR-cut filters placed in front of the CCD image sensor at supersonic

speed using a piezoelectric element, this mechanism effectively and efficiently

shakes dust off the image sensor. Thanks to the user-friendly dust-alert system, the

photographer can check at a quick glance for dust adhering to the image sensor prior

to the actual shooting.

5. Newly designed, high-precision 11-point wide-frame AF sensor

The PENTAX 645D?s new SAFOX IX + wide-frame autofocus system features 11

sensor points (with nine cross-type sensors positioned in the middle) to assure the

extra-high-precision focusing demanded of medium-format digital SLR cameras. To

develop this sophisticated AF system, the entire optical system was redesigned, at

the same time with the addition of the new functionality to analyze and make use of

the light sources data in the field of view.

6. Advanced 77-segment multi-pattern metering

The PENTAX 645D employs a state-of-the-art, 77-segment multi-pattern metering

system to assure super-high-accuracy light metering. The exposure accuracy is

further enhanced by collecting such additional data as image orientation (horizontal

or vertical) and the distance to and magnification of the subject using the sensors

installed inside the camera body, with the obtained data incorporated into exposure

calculations.

7. Large, easy-to-see optical viewfinder

Incorporated in the PENTAX 645D?s finder unit, a trapezoid-shaped glass prism not

only assures an approximately 98% field of view, but also greatly contributes to the

downsizing of the camera body. Coupled with a bright, easy-to-focus Natural-

Bright-Matte focusing screen, the PENTAX 645D?s viewfinder offers a large, clear

view of the subject.

8. Custom Image function to create desired visual effects with ease

The PENTAX 645D?s Custom Image function lets the user easily control an image?s

finishing touches to more precisely reflect the user?s creative intentions, or to more

faithfully reproduce the ambience of the scene. The user can select one of eight

modes, including the new Reversal Film mode designed to create images with the

colors that are typical of reversal film. In addition, all parameters ? such as

saturation, hue, contrast, sharpness, key, and highlight/shadow contrast ? can be

easily adjusted to desired levels, so that the photographer can shoot images with

great ease.

9. Versatile, multi-mode exposure system for faithful reproduction of creative

intentions

(1) Hyper Program function

The PENTAX 645D?s Hyper Program function allows the user to instantly switch

from Programmed AE mode to Shutter- or Aperture-Priority AE mode with a simple

turn of the electric dials positioned around the grip. A single push of the green

button shifts the exposure mode back to the original Programmed AE mode.

(2) Hyper Manual function

When shooting in the Metered Manual mode, the PENTAX 645?s Hyper Manual

mode lets the user to instantly set the proper exposure for the subject with a single

push of the green button.

(3) Sensitivity-Priority mode

The unique Sensitivity-Priority (Sv) mode automatically selects the optimum

combination of aperture and shutter speed for the user-selected sensitivity. The

sensitivity can be shifted swiftly by electronic dial on the back panel. The variable

amount of the ISO could be configured to either 1/2 or 1/3 steps per click.

(4) Shutter/Aperture-Priority mode

Taking full advantage of the unique capability of digital cameras for the automatic

shifting of sensitivity at any time, the Shutter/Aperture-Priority (TAv) mode

automatically selects the most appropriate sensitivity for the user-selected

aperture/shutter-speed combination. It allows the user to effortlessly experiment

with a greater range of photographic expressions.

10. Large, easy-to-view 3.0-inch LCD monitor with approximately 921,000 dots

Positioned on the camera?s back panel, a large 3.0-inch color LCD monitor with

approximately 921,000 dots provides a clear, bright view of onscreen images and

menus. Since its wide-view design allows quick, effortless confirmation of the

monitor image from approximately 170 degrees both horizontally and vertically, the

photographer has little difficulty shooting images from low and high angles. The

LCD monitor is also treated with exclusive AR (Anti-Reflection) coating to

minimize reflections on the screen, even in the outdoor locations under bright

sunshine.

11. Long battery life

The PENTAX 645D is powered by a large-capacity, rechargeable lithium-ion

battery, which can capture approximately 800 images* when fully charged.

* Under testing conditions prescribed by PENTAX, when using a rechargeable D-LI90 lithium-ion battery with no flash.

12. Other features

1) HDR (high dynamic range) function to create one composite image

with an extra-wide gradation range from three images with different exposures

2) Dynamic-Range Expansion function to compensate for both whitewashed

(excessively overexposed) and blacked-out (excessively underexposed) areas

3) Digital Level function for easy checking of the image?s levels

4) Automatic compensation of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration

(available in combination with the D FA 645- and FA 645- series lenses)

5) Versatile white-balance control system, including the CTE mode

designed to emphasize the dominant color components of the

captured images, which works especially well with such scene like sunset.

6) Mirror shock/operation-noise reduction function to assure smooth,

quiet operation of the mirror during shooting

7) Attachment of copyright credits on recorded images

8) Compatible with the SDM (Supersonic Direct-drive Motor)

autofocus mechanism, designed to assure smooth, quiet operation

using the supersonic motor installed inside SDM lenses

9) HDMI terminal (for type C mini connectors) for high-resolution

image data output

10) User-friendly, color-classified control buttons/switches,

based on the color universal design concept

11) PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4 software package, including

a RAW-data processing application (based on the popular

SILKYPIX RAW-data processing engine developed

by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory) and browser application

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