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back to article Pentax 645D medium format digital camera

Back in 2003 Pentax hinted at the development of a digital version of its classic 645 medium format film model. Given how much time has passed, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever see the light of day. Pentax 645D Late developer: here at last, Pentax's 645D The Pentax 645D uses a 40Mp Kodak KAF-40000 full-frame CCD …

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Anonymous Coward

title goes here

"At a fraction of the price of a Hasselblad"

Really? You can get a bottom of the range Hasselblad for around GBP 10K, no?

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Give the camera a run!

Oh, come on, Catherine, put it that camera through its paces! It looks like you made some casual snapshots with it, and called it a day. Those Pentax lenses are really good! I photographed downtown Seattle from Alki Point, a distance of 2 miles on a clear afternoon using Kodak E100S, Pentax 645 with 75mm lens. The film shows windows in those skyscrapers. And that lens isn't good enough? Balderdash and humbug!

Get back out there and put some more effort into it!

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RE: Give the camera a run!

Great pics Catherine. I wish my snapshots looked like that... So grateful you brought some soul into reviews sample shots. Sick and tired of cold technical bravura.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice camera, poor terminology

Looks an excelent piece of kit, but it's not a "full frame" sensor as you suggest. Full frame for a 645 medium format camera would be 60x45mm so that's barely over half frame for this format. That would be similar to calling an APS-C sensor full frame for for a 35mm equivalent DSLR. OK so 60x45mm sensors aren't exactly common, but that's still no reason to call this one full frame.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Nice camera, poor terminology

"…it's not a "full frame" sensor as you suggest."

Oh yes it is, and oh no it isn't.

It all depends on how you apply the term full-frame. In Kodakspeak, the company refers to the fact that its KAF range of CCD sensors have pixels covering the surface of the entire frame. The phrase "full frame" actually appears in the product name that was referred to in the review.

And then there's the other interpretation you mention that is often used to describe sensor image format area in relation to traditional film sizes.

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Then kodakspeak is marketing bollocks

and you should be using the commonly understood meaning of the term.

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More pedantry

What about the comparisons with DSLRs?

Technically speaking this camera IS a DSLR... only not a 35mm-equivalent one.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh no it isn't x2

"In Kodakspeak, the company refers to the fact that its KAF range of CCD sensors have pixels covering the surface of the entire frame."

Kodak can invent their own terminology if they want, but it's not the wisest of ideas. It wouldn't surprise me at all if somebody didn't take action against them at some point for their misleading use of the term "full frame" and more than likely Kodak would lose.

Every photographer I know would consider a full frame sensor in that format to be 60x45mm. And if they already had Pentax 645 lenses they would expect those lenses to produce the same field of view with a full frame sensor as they would with a roll of 120 (and indeed the same DOF). Having spent that much money on a body they might be a little disappointed.

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What's "Full Frame" in medium format?

"Full Frame" as used by DSLR users relates to 24x36mm on 35mm film, medium format is anything from 4x4cm to 6x9 or even 6x17mm in a Baby Rolleiflex or with a Rollex Cassette on a Lienhof 617 technical camera.

Next thing is rating a 55mm on a 6x4.5 as a 35mm small format lens?

Beer, since these discussions usually go better with a couple pints :-)

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Re: "Oh no it isn't x2" and "Nice camera, poor terminology"

"Every photographer I know would consider a full frame sensor in that format to be 60x45mm."

Every photographer you know would be wrong, the 645 format frame size is 56 mm × 41.5 mm.

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It's more about how data is sampled from the sensor.

on a full frame sensor every pixel is active and it needs a shutter.

Of cause it's totally unrelated to the DSLR photographers choice to call 135 full frame and everything else not :)

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No, it isn't

The KAF sensors are full frame transfer or FFT design, as opposed to the more common frame interline transfer type or FIT. FFT readout requires a mechanical shutter, FIT does not.

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FAIL

"full frame transfer" vs "full frame"

"Full frame" means "covering the whole frame", as opposed to "crop"

FFT vs FIT is completely different.

Full frame are considered better than crop sensors as

1- they don't mess with the angle of view, you 90mm lens stays a 90mm lens instead of magically becoming 10mm or something

-2 more sensor surface is always better. It gives you more pixels for the same pixel size, or larger pixels for the same pix number (i.e. more light per pixel, and thus less noise).

Of course, with bad lenses a crop sensor eliminates corner softness and vignetting, but you could always do that by cropping the photo afterwards (as that's what the crop sensor does). Or you could get good glass.

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Nice camera, nicer review...

So often tech site camera reviews are written by people that are gadget freaks first, and photographers second if at all. This writer is obviously a photographer, and her phrasing and points of inspection on this camera make this a highly worthwhile review. Kudos!

As for the camera, at that price point it is simply stunning. The sample image of the wooden fence disappearing in to the snow fields shows the DOF and detail possible with such an impressive specification and good glass.

This would seem to be a great camera for an aspiring amateur with bit of money, or a pro with little. For them the lack of a large lens selection is not a deterrent - they are not the people that buy a huge number of lenses. Those that can, will buy Leaf and Hasselblad. But for those who lack the money but are willing to spend the time and effort to work within a limited lens choice, this will be a perfect alternative...at least until Pentax can fill out the range. PLEASE Pentax would you do a great ultra wide, preferably rectalinear? (Hint: model it on the Oly 7-14mm!).

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Anonymous Coward

Stunning price point

Yup, when I read £9000 I was stunned too.

"Aspiring amateurs with a bit of money". Let me rephrase that - "aspiring amateurs with enough spare money to buy a decent second hand car."

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Anonymous Coward

Cars

You can buy a perfectly good used car for a fraction of that price. Hell you can buy a reasonably good new car for that sort of money.

I suspect, however, that the target audience is actually those who already own a 645 and would like to go digital. I don't really see an amateur buying into this system new, unless they are already heavilly comitted to it. If somebody was wanting to get into medium format digital where they didn't already have a preferred system I would expect them to go for used equipment. Photography is one of those hobbies where most people are perfectly happy to buy used.

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@AC 'Cars'

What a silly thing to say. Of COURSE it isn't aimed at an amateur. Neither are DSLR bodies costing £2k+, neither were SLR bodies costing the same, and neither were new complete roll film medium format systems.

They were, as is this, aimed at a pro with a specific need as you yourself already seem to know. I just don't understand why you felt the need to state it because it is a real moot point. It's just so bloody obvious!

Maybe the issue is more with Reg for reviewing what is essentially a red herring for the majority of its readers and that comment would have been better?

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Digital Lenses?

A request for information:

I can understand why a lens has to be matched to a camera, in purely physical terms involving the location of the focal plane, the amount of light gathered and delivered and the target area of the sensor - all basic optics/physics/electronics considerations.

What I don't understand is why a special 'digital' lens is needed for high performance digital cameras. Is it because the older lenses, which might be a good optical 'fit', were not of that high a quality and their imperfections are shown up by the resolution and dynamic range of high performance digital sensors?

I'm not looking for an essay, just a link to a suitable technical article would be nice, if anyone could assist here.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Digital Lenses

I notice that this lens is marked as DFA which means in Pentax parlance "an older film autofocus design (FA) refitted for digital (D)" This basically means that it still covers the whole 645 film image circle rather than reducing the size to that needed to cover the sensor size and applying "digital optimised coatings" to the rear lens element to minimise ghosting and flare caused by reflections off of the sensor. If it was a reduced image circle design to cover only the cropped sensor it would be a DA.

I'm not really buying the "needs new digital lenses" line, there are certainly areas that need addressed but in Pentax DSLR land the among most highly thought of lenses are the FA 31 43 and 77mm primes which are as the FA designation suggests unchanged since the film days. The FA 645 glass out there is still good glass, it's not like 645 film was a forgiving medium...

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It's a crop sensor, not full 645 frame

And as such you have exactly the same issues with it using non-matched lenses as you would using older lenses on a cropped sensor SLR.

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Anonymous Coward

RE it's a crop sensor

Huh, what issues are those? OK you have an larger lens than is necessary for the sensor size but what else is there? If anything it is often an advantage to use a full image circle lens on a crop sensor, that way you are always getting the sweet spot of the image with much reduced vignetting and a possibly a more even resolution characteristic. Normally it is the non cropped sensors that show the limitations of older lenses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Digital lenses

My understanding of the difference is that there is a difference in the target. i.e. One is film made up of layers and the other isn't.

With film, colours are recorded in different layers and therefore, for optimal performance, the lens must make sure those colours focus onto the correct layer.

I might be talking cobblers but I'm sure that I read it in a learned journal.

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The layers of emulsion on film are only microns thick

and their thickness and relative position may vary depending on whether it's positive or negative film or even between one brand of film and another. So I suspect you (or the learned journal) may well be talking cobblers.

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@ AC 11:35

Well focal length for a start, meaning it can be an issue to get a true wide angle lens - more of an issue if you're going to do landscape photography rather than portrait.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dapprman 15:15

The crop of the sensor is what causes the apparent change in focal length. In this case it's about 1.3x which would be noticeable but is certainly less than the 1.5x of APS-C. On the other hand if you want to compare with 35mm the opposite is true, the crop relative to 35mm is 0.8x so the wide angles are even wider, just not as wide as they were on 645 film.

Besides this will remain the same for both old and new lenses as it is a function of the sensor size.

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Anonymous Coward

Matched Lenses

There's a certain manufacturer who sells "digital" lenses as being somehow special. Their "digital" range is actually designed to work with APS-C sized sensors and as such would not work on cameras with the same mount and a full frame (let's not get involved in that Kodak cock) 35mm sensor. Their argument is that their "digital" lenses have an image circle that is suited to the sensor size.

Which is a bit like saying this estate car is just big enough to carry your chest of drawers so it's better than one which is big enough to carry your double bed.

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Yes, I think so

On entering a film the focus of a cone of rays is lost.

But it is an interesting idea. Although lens optimisation could easily provide for the slight positional differences of the layers I would expect that a disc of blue light hitting the film surface although focussed for the depth would be dispersed to give an overall loss compared to a focus on the surface.

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Re: Matched Lenses

It's a valid thing to do (and it does make them "special") take the Canon 10-22mm EF-S, it collects the light and throws it on to the APS-C sensor (1.6 crop, making 16-35mm) it's light (no wasted glass) and doesn't risk ghosting that you can get on full frame lenses (although the Canon EF-S cameras such as the 7D pretty much eliminate the possibility).

Talking about Canon, the pixel density on the 5D is about 25k/mm compared to 27k/mm of the Pentax so you'd expect a very similar image quality, and with a sensor 1.7x the size the 40Mp is a true 40Mp comparison compared to the 5D Mk2 21Mp, I suspect that the 28Mp 5D Mk3 will make comparisons quite difficult, perhaps it (the MK2) would have been a good subject for comparison, and sneaking the 645 past customs at £6,500 + flight to US compared to a sub £2k 35mm SLR starts to look attractive for the professional if the results are good, would love to see stopped down pics.

Finally, I don't think that "lack of quality glass" is really an issue, or perhaps it isn't (if you don't mind a compromise on things like AF), there's loads of other options, the 67 adaptor probably works, Pentacon 6 lenses can be adapted (I guess?), Arsat etc. don't rule out any old lenses, I sold a Minolta 250mm RF for £360 (bought s/h for £25) which was immediately adapted by it's new owner for a modern DSLR. I suspect that in a controlled environment such a as a portrait studio, the 45/2.8 or 75/2.8 lenses would be great.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 16:58

All the big camera manufacturers ship APS-C optimised lenses, well except Olympus but that's because they don't sell an APS-C camera . This is just good sense as they can be smaller and lighter (and cheaper) than a full frame lens due to the smaller image circle required reducing the size of the lens elements.

To follow your analogy, is my car worse than your estate because I can't carry a double bed in it? I've never had to and don't expect to so I'd just be stuck with something bigger, heavier and more expensive than I need.

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digital lenses

There are two main differences that I know of between digital lenses and the older film counterparts.

Firstly digital lenses will have better coatings on the lenses to counteract ghosts and other reflections from the sensor.

Secondly, particularly with wider angle lenses the angle at which light strikes the imaging surface can be quite steep. For film this is no problem but for a digital sensor it can be an issue. Leica get around this buy setting the microlenses on the sensor at an angle to accept this light.

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Interesting

Thanks for the review Catherine.

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Wow!

Just wow. Snapshots they may be, but still proof that size matters...

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Pricing

H2's aren't /that/ expensive - I can get a new '40 with an 80mm on it for 12.5k GBP. The Pentax, at 10k, isn't what I'd describe as 'fraction' of the 'blad. If you were thinking of the newer H4's I might agree with you - but you'd not be comparing like with like if you did because the 4's are far higher spec.

However, interesting to see that the US price is also 10K..but in Dollars. If I were getting a couple of bodies for a business , I'd be seriously better off taking a flight over the pond. What, no guarantee on grey imports? I'd have it under an extended cover anyway 'cause they're not exactly disposable items. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing when it comes to getting a decent deal? ;-)

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Unfair comparison

Hasselblad has never offered a digital system body with the build quality, features and integration that the Pentax has, so it's a bit unfair to Pentax to compare any of them.

A Hasselblad with the same 40MP 44x33mm sensor (H4D-40) costs twice as much, and that 80mm f2.8 lens you get for free is equivalent to using a 63mm f2.2 on a 35mm format camera, never a popular focal length. They literally have to give them away.

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Happy

40Mp CCD

That's a very nice sensor for a home astronomy setup. :)

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you know, that's just what I was thinking

glue it to a peltier device and a passive heat sink, and robert's-yer-mothers-brother.

Large old area, mind, have to do the sums on the objective.

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Grenade

Bad photographer

Your sample shots suck. Shoot everything wide open? Seriously. Worst sample shots ever!

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Medium format? Meh...

What I want is a digital back with about 3,000 pixels per inch, or even lower, for my five by four. I'll settle for monochrome, even - but it has to be at a sensible price, say a grand or so. And it has to cover the full 5*4 area, not some random fraction thereof.

Until then, it's Pan-F, D-76, and a half-decent film scanner so I can use lenses with proper tilt and shift movements.

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