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08-24-2010, 07:50 PM   #1
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645D Review - 2nd Impressions and a longer play.

Some time ago I posed a "1st impressions and a quick play" review after a morning with the new Pentax 645D. On that occasion I gave it some nasty situations (middle of the day, full sun with dark shadows ...etc) to see how it would handle those conditions - this time I shot what I'd normally be shooting and had just short of 24hrs with it.

I got the phone call from the shop I'm buying the camera through that the demo (only one in the Southern Hemisphere I'm lead to believe) was back in Perth and did I want a longer test. They said I could have it Monday and as luck would have it I had a shoot arranged for Monday night - a local Mistress/Domme and a visiting Mistress/Domme from Sydney in a night club I had to myself for the night.

To say I'm impressed with the 645D is a HUGE understatement, I liked it after the first test and am totally hooked on it now. I'm currently a Pentax user and have been for some time going back to 35mm film days, so I may be a bit biased, but tried to objective about it all as $14k is a lot of cash for a purchase based on a fan-boy opinion of a certain make/brand of camera.

The camera came with the new 2.8 55mm prime and also a loan of an older 55-110 lens for the 645 film camera. 99% of the time I used the 55mm and loved it - what a lens!

So, onto the 645D.
No manual is included with the demo, but being a Pentax user the buttons and controls were figured out quickly and after a 5 minute play I'd say I had 90% of the functionality worked out. All the buttons on the body were easy to use and well placed, all the "basics" like WB, flash on/of, shutter speed, Aperture, ISO, metering and focus point options ....etc have their own buttons or dials and can be changed very easily on the go - no going into menus for any of that stuff. I'd say for most users you'd go into the menu once to set things up and program some of the buttons/features to how you want them - then after that you'd hardly ever touch the menu button again unless you decide to change how a button works.
For programmable options - the green button next to the AF button can be set to do a number of things when it comes to metering and the RAW button can be configured to do a number of things to change what format gets recorded to where or changing between jpg and raw formats. I didn't get around to the "User" setting on the main settings dial.
I couldn't get in to one feature though and have a suspicion that the in-camera HDR function isn't available in the demo model. I found the option easily and was keen to experiment with it, but that selection was greyed out and couldn't be selected to turn it on.
The options in the menus are well described and a scrolling text when an option is highlighted gives a basic description of what that function/option does. Example "D range setting" when highlighted using the arrows on the back changes to a scrolling "Dynamic Range extended range settings". So you know what that's going to do without needing to go into that option and see what it does.
Two SD card slots and being able to select between Pentax raw .pef files, Adobe .dng raw files and various levels/resolution of jpg files and what type gets saved to which card is very handy - throw in the functionality of the RAW button and what type of image is saved where and when ..... you're spoiled for choice.
All info is very well presented on the large, clear, easy to read LCD rear screen, one quick glance tells you everything you need to know about how things are currently set.
One handy little feature is the info will change orientation when the camera is used in portrait or landscape - the same as how most smart phones will change the view when rotating the phone to view pics or type out messages and resize the info/view/image to fit the screen.
All the info is presented on the rear screen, but if you chose to see the settings on the top screen, there is a button to light that up if you're shooting in a dark room, as well as viewing details like shutter, aperture and ISO through the view finder - so no matter what you're used to for your info display you should be comfortable with the 645D.
The view through the view finder is superb - big, bright and clear and an absolute pleasure to look through.
The camera is physically large and heavy compared to most DSLRs, even compared to a pro-full frame DSLR. To help with that and things like using a tripod there is a tripod mount on the left side of the camera for mounting it in a portrait orientation straight onto a tripod. Of the pics attached, one is a comparison of the 645D with 55mm lens next to my little old K100D and Pentax 17-45mm lens.

Image quality:
Sharp ..... nearly cut myself on some of the pics!
One of the guys at the club couldn't wrap his head around $14K for a camera. A quick explanation involved showing him an eye on the LCD screen. The eye was crystal clear sharp filling the screen, each eye lash could be seen easily and was super-sharp, you could easily see parts of the club reflected in her eye. So what he says, lots of camera's can take a close-up of an eye - that's when I zoom out to show the image that the eye is from (lo-rez copy attached). Being able to zoom in that far and still have a crystal clear image opens up so much more opportunity when it comes to cropping and re-composing later when processing your images. It's a real shame trying to explain/show just how sharp and clear things are when zooming in that much without being able to show a print or the full-sized 37Mb image (that saves as a 100Mb TIFF) - looking at the re-sized and very much compressed ~100kb image (looks a bit darker and warmer after re-sizing and then viewing on the DRN) you'd think, M'eh - for a camera that expensive I'd expect a lot better image!!
Dynamic range is brilliant - the 12 stop range, extendable to 14 stops captures pretty much everything you see without blowing highlights or losing detail in shadows. I had to recalibrate my head from what I'd expect not to show or be lost in shadow and be much more aware when composing the images and considering what in the background would now be easily picked up and seen.
Noise - not an issue. I shot at ISO 1600, .3 of a second and around F3 - F4 hand held and achieved clear, sharp, noise free images using only the low level ambient light in the night club.
Focus/composition - the view finder being as clear and bright as it is made composing in low-light easy and the auto focus only went hunting on one or two occasions - in low light and lots of black latex to focus on, I can forgive those few occasions it took a few seconds to focus.
Usability - Yes it's big and heavy, but I shot for 3 hours with only a few breaks to change lighting and move to different areas of the club and didn't really notice the extra size/weight. The buttons and dials are placed well to change settings while still looking through the viewfinder and give a nice positive click/feel so you know you've just changed something. I did find the shutter speed dial a bit too easy to bump with it being close to the shutter release, but you knew when you bumped it and with the info display it was also easy to see the change in settings.
The other noise - the shutter makes a nice sound, not too clunky and not too noisy for shooting in a quiet setting (wedding in a church), but it isn't super quiet. The "beep" when it focuses is easy to hear but not too loud - I'd still have the beep turned off if shooting a wedding, formal speech at a function .....etc.

Some cons:
As just mentioned, the shutter speed dial was easy to bump and I think it's just a bit too close to the shutter release.
The shutter release could do with being a bit bigger and chunkier so your finger falls onto it a bit easier and more naturally. Same goes for the on/off/DOF preview dial around the shutter release button.
If you are big on image preview and checking the histogram, you're going to hate this bit. Frame rate is one and bit shots per second and for nature/landscape or portrait shooting that isn't an issue - but the time it takes to write the ~40Mb RAW file and the ~20 Mb jpg to the SD cards and be ready for you to preview/chimp the shot takes around 8 seconds.
I was using 2 x 16Gb Sandisk Extreme III SDHC cards which should be 30Mb/s - therefore only 2 seconds to record the 60 Mb of data - so most of that time must be courtesy of processing engine in the 645D.
No tethered shooting - but if it takes that long to write to the cards I'd hate to see how long it then took to send the info to a laptop/pc/tablet for display.
No built in flash - personally I don't see that as a con and from what I've seen, most, if not all MF cameras don't have a built-in flash. I certainly didn't miss it and wouldn't want one, but if you expect a flash option in your DSLR and would want it in a camera costing more than a pro full-frame DSLR you'll not be getting one here.
No video - everyone is going video, and HD video with new DSLR releases. I'd assume that the market that this camera is aimed at wouldn't be after video in general - but for the serious amateur or semi-pro the option of HD video and that added versatility on a high-end DSLR might swing the decision and stop them going Medium Format.
No live view - not an issue for me personally, but like video, live view is creeping in as a norm rather than an option and will be expected as a standard by some.
Not really a con but something to keep in mind - with the sharpness and resolution available to you, you have to be super-careful when focusing and composing. If you're used to centre-point focus, focus where you want, then recompose, you will notice that where you originally focused is now soft in comparison to what you can achieve. The Hassleblads have a gyroscopic mechanism for knowing where you focused originally and keeping that spot pin-sharp when you recompose ...... the 645D doesn't but at less than half the price I won't complain. What it does mean is that I'll be using the selective or multi-point focus a lot more and ditching the old centre-point and recompose way of shooting that I could get away with in the past.

I'll just mention again that the camera I had was a loan of the demo model and quite possibly isn't fully up to speed firmware wise when it comes to what will actually be released to the international market (anytime between now and the next 6 weeks). Maybe the official international release will write to the cards quicker and fingers crossed for a firmware update to allow tethered shooting in the future.

That's about it and I was very sad handing back the demo yesterday ..... can't wait to get mine and more eager than ever to get cracking on a few projects using the new camera.

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08-25-2010, 01:20 AM   #2
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great write up, jealous!

looking forward to seeing more shots from these babies around the place
08-25-2010, 04:14 AM   #3
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100% crop of just around the eyes from the attached image in the priginal post. This is a crop from the TIFF that I saved - created from the Original .dng raw file.
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08-25-2010, 04:24 AM   #4
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spectacular detail mate, I'll be looking forward to my road test of the pentax 645. However, I have a much more substantial collection of Pentax 645 and 67 lenses. so I'll be putting them through their paces..from the pentax 800mm f/6.7 67 lens to the pentax 645 35mm f/3.5

did you ever test out the mirror lock up switch?...have you ever seen any moire? with the subject wearing latex the probability of encountering it is next to nil..

08-25-2010, 05:03 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
.......did you ever test out the mirror lock up switch?...have you ever seen any moire? with the subject wearing latex the probability of encountering it is next to nil..
Nope - didn't try the mirror lock-up. The switch is right there next to the base of the lens so I saw it easy enough, just didn't play with it.

As for moire - on flat shiny latex I would be very worried if it showed! The club does have patterned textured wallpaper in places though, as well as fabric carpets and on the furniture, and looking through the shots I've yet to process I can't see any moire showing in any of the images.
08-25-2010, 06:57 AM   #6
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sounds good mate. though I have a few fabric swatches that I have saved for this occasion and I will test the 645D when it comes my way. Being a studio based photographer Moire performance is rather important for me. though it's great to hear about the High ISO. currently my D3s has been my go-to camera for that kind of work. I'm pleased to hear the 645D will offer similar performance at significantly higher resolution.
08-25-2010, 08:40 AM   #7
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I cannot wait to try one out with my 33-55, everything that i have seen from this camera has made me decide that it will be my next camera.
08-25-2010, 02:49 PM   #8
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Thanks posting this! If you don't mind, I'm going to feature this review on the homepage.

Also, please keep in mind that we've got a dedicated Pentax 645D review page


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08-25-2010, 02:50 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Warped Quote
100% crop of just around the eyes from the attached image in the priginal post. This is a crop from the TIFF that I saved - created from the Original .dng raw file.
All I can say is WOW! That's as good as a regular crop out of the K100 would be...

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08-25-2010, 03:43 PM   #10
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If only I had the dough...
08-25-2010, 04:29 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lurchlarson Quote
If only I had the dough...
Agreed!
08-25-2010, 04:53 PM   #12
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Digitalis,

Good to see another forum member with the M*800/6.7. Please share your results when you get a chance to try it on the 645D. I'm very interested in seeing how all the M* telephoto's work on the 645D.
08-25-2010, 05:13 PM   #13
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so am I, I have the 645 to 67 converter on order. I also have the dedicated 2X teleconverter. also my 800mm f/6.7 is the current ED version. So the smaller format of the 645D in addition to the teleconverter should make a KILLER wildlife photography set up. Though I suspect I will have to select which tripod to use with care,the dedicated MLU switch will become mandatory with the 800mm f/6.7.

Last edited by Digitalis; 08-25-2010 at 06:50 PM.
08-25-2010, 05:19 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Thanks posting this! If you don't mind, I'm going to feature this review on the homepage.

Also, please keep in mind that we've got a dedicated Pentax 645D review page
No worries at all Adam.

Should this post be moved to the 645D review page or copied there?

A wide angle lens is top of my wish list for the first thing to buy once the 645D is in my hands - after that, a 120mm Macro is next and I think I'll be pretty happy with those 2 lenses and the 2.8 55mm.
An Ultrawide and something like a 24mm or wider would be awesome .... I'd definitely grab one.

As for the dough - this camera will end up costing me well over $20K ..... the refinancing to afford the 645D also meant some extra cash for home renovations. a new pc and a few other bits and pieces ....... but when we refinanced our home loan it ended up costing me an extra $30 a fortnight so not to bad
(just got to silence the little voice in my head it's $30 a fortnight for the next 10 to 15 years!!!).
08-25-2010, 05:53 PM   #15
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maybe a stupid question, but I guess you can't put pentax 35mm lenses on the 645? Would be very tempted if you could use pentax m glass on it
but I doubt you can
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