I’ve been a long time Nikon shooter ever since my very first film camera, a Nikon FM2n. Since then I’ve bought quite a few Nikon DSLR’s and currently my camera of choice is the Nikon D800. I did a short piece about this camera a few months ago. So when I got the chance to play around with an Elinchrom studio lighting set up at work, I thought why not test out the Pentax 645Z against the Nikon D800 to see what the massive hype with the Pentax 645Z was all about.

The Power of 51 Megapixels in the Pentax 645Z

First thing to know about this camera is, well it’s a beast!! You thought a full-frame DSLR was big, this is on another level. Owning a film medium format camera I wasn’t too surprised on the weight seeing as my Bronica SQ-A is a big slab of metal, the Pentax 645Z really it wasn’t a massive weight to hold. The reason for the size is the cameras big medium format sized sensor this it has has hidden away, which is a huge 51 megapixel CMOS chip, with a max ISO up to 204,800. Compared to my Nikon D800 that’s an extra 15 megapixels, so that’s like adding the pixel count of a Nikon D4s into a D800!! However what makes this different to a full-frame sensor is the fact the sensor is approximately 1.7 times larger than a full-frame 35mm format.

Due to the bigger size the Pentax 645Z has two points of mounting to a tripod making it easy to put the camera in portrait or landscape, without the need of special L-plate brackets or big ball heads to twist the camera around. Whilst you can hand hold this camera, like on my D800, any slight movement you’ll notice this massively when reviewing back your images. Even more so on this camera as the amount of detail this 51 megapixel sensor can capture.

Before the Pentax 645Z you had the 645D, again another digital medium format high pixel camera, however it wasn’t going to win any races when it came to focusing or downloading images. The Pentax 645Z has turned that on it’s head, improved larger buffer memory and vastly speeder focusing. Shooting between the 645Z and D800 it was almost a level race, not too much to pick between. When you are shooting on RAW though having a high speed memory card is a must! That’s the difference from wasting 10-20+ seconds of downloading and reading the card before allowing shooting to carry on with on the Pentax 645Z.

I’ve always enjoyed the detail I achieve with my Nikon D800, compared to what I used to be using I’ve never looked back. First thing I noticed with the Pentax 645Z was how those extra 15 megapixels made a huge impact. The image files were rich in dynamic range and the overall processing from this camera was brilliant. Even on the back of the screen zooming into an image was a pleasure. As soon as I loaded the files into Lightroom, this was where everything came into life!!

I could go beyond a normal 1:1 zoom and step it up to 3:1 loupe, seeing every bit of detail and information in the photos that I never knew could be captured. This isn’t surprising when a RAW file off the Pentax 645Z is outputting a working file of around 6192×8256 at about 60MB+. That’s a lot of information in one photograph to say the least.

Here is a 100% crop of an image highlighting the sharpness and detail. Being able to see each eyelash one by one is something I never thought I’d capture off a digital camera. You just need to make sure that your computer is able to handle the files, especially when editing as playing around with these photos, it can get very memory and processor hungry. A lot of RAM is a must and a quick processor, otherwise you might as well make a cup of tea between zooming in and out of one file!!

Pentax 645Z Sample Photos

Below are a few sample photographs from the Pentax 645Z. Shot on RAW and then imported into Lightroom to be processed. No heavy retouching has taken place as I always like to keep my photos looking as natural as possible.

The studio lighting was shot with the Elinchrom Quadra system with a mixture of different lighting modifiers, triggered via Elinchrom Skyport. Each photo I’ve tried to remember the set up, but I’ve made sure to add which lens I used on the Pentax 645Z.

Overall Impressions

Overall I found the Pentax 645Z to be the camera that everyone has been shouting about. Amazing quality, a high performance sensor and rather easy to use. Comparing this to the major competition I truly think Pentax are on to a winner with this camera. Unless you want to spend what would be the price of a small family car on something like a Hasselblad or Phase One, this extremely well priced camera is perfect for those wanting that extra away from a DSLR, but no real need to sell their house to get it!!

Would I Buy One Though?

Whilst I really enjoyed using the camera and the results it gave, the sound of the shutter and detailed files……..it’s a little over kill for what I do and would use to for. Yes, if I was doing a lot of massive poster printing or high end commercial work that required that level of detail, the Pentax 645Z would be the camera I’d run to. However right now that’s why I’m so happy with the Nikon D800, the perfect camera for me. Although who knows what the future could hold……maybe a Pentax 645Z would be sitting nice and proud in my kit bag!!

If anyone has any questions about the camera or would like to see any full size RAW, TIFF or JPEG files then just use the contact form and I’ll answer any question or query.