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04-08-2011, 01:28 PM - 10 Likes   #1
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My final thoughts on the 645d...

These are my final thoughts on the 645d and a compilation of works for the past six months. In summary, the 645d is a great value to those who consider the quality of prints the highest priority.

A. Image Quality

(1) Quality of each pixel most likely exceeds that of any high end DSLR, no idea how it compares to the other medium format digitals.
(2) Images sharpen very well, compared to d3x, 1ds III or 5d ii, the RAW files contain finer details and less artifacts when sharpened with the same parameters in ACR (compared at 100%).
(3) Achieving pan focus is much tougher for landscape photographers due to larger sensor size. For pixel peepers, if you demand high quality for each pixel, meaning very small circle of confusion, DOF will always be a problem when you include close-distance objects (e.g. less than 10-15ft when you are shooting at 35mm, f/13), focus stacking is something you may want to consider.
(4) The dynamic range seems to be no different than any other DSLRs, the specifications from the manufacturer seem to support my experiences.
(5) ISO 100 produces better images than ISO 200 (even though ISO 200 is default), although I never tested above ISO 400.
(6) Color rendition is very natural. Red channel tends to be suppressed compared to the canon DSLRs (maybe it's the other way around, Canon tends to oversaturate).
(7) TERRIBLE white balance. Especially photographing sunsets and sunrises gives you a number of logistic challenges, the auto WB is almost never right. Need to take mental images of the scene and correct WB in RAW converter based on memory.
(8) Diffraction becomes noticeable at f/16, the best aperture seems to be f/11-f/13 for landscape photography.

B. The Camera

(1) Definitely larger than any top of the line DSLRs, but light for its size.
(2) Ergonomically designed, handles very well.
(3) Feels very solid and well made, the dust / weather seal offers great protection.
(4) Viewfinder is large and bright, displays all essential information.
(5) Mirror is well dampened, lock-up is very useful for landscape shooters.
(6) Electronic level is convenient and accurate, also offered inside the viewfinder.
(7) Very useful dedicated control buttons / knobs for bracketting, mirror lock-up, metering, AF mode, AF, white balance and drive mode.
(8) Battery life is more than enough, purchased three extra batteries, never had to use more than two batteries in one day.
(9) Separate mounting plate can be attached on the left side of the camera for vertical shots, very useful since some ball heads cannot support the weight of the camera when tilted.
(10) 3" LCD is one of the best features, superb quality. The camera offers fast zoom to check the focus / sharpness (usually zoom to 14X-16X gives you a good sense of the 100% original).
(11) Auto focus seems accurate, didn't have a chance to carry out precision tests.
(12) Lack of liveview is a major disadvantage compared to high-end DSLRs.
(13) It takes about 4 secs to review a shot even with Sandisk Extreme 32GB SDHC cards (30MB/S), (with lens corrections off), which can be frustrating from time to time.

C. Lenses

(1) Most FA lenses seem to perform very well with the exceptions of FA 33-55mm and FA 45mm. Tested lenses : FA 35mm, FA 33-55mm, FA 45-85mm, FA 55-110mm, FA 80-160mm, FA 45mm, D-FA 55mm, FA 75mm, FA 150mm.
(2) A 35mm marginally outperforms FA 35mm, although the quality of the very edges with a 645 full-frame sensor remains to be seen.
(3) A 35mm seems to offer larger DOF than FA 35mm focused at the same distance with the same f-number, probably due to less field curvature. A test will be carried out shortly.
(4) FA 33-55mm is almost unusuable for pixel peepers, due to extreme field curvature, it's never sharp from corner to corner below f/16, so almost always substantially diffraction-limited. The lens performs better from 35mm to 45mm. Two copies tested, both calibrated by Pentax Japan.
(5) FA 45-85mm and FA 80-160mm perform slightly better than FA 55-110mm, all three lenses produce very sharp images.
(6) D-FA 55mm seems a tad softer at the edges than the FA 45-85mm, but slightly sharper in the center of the frame, both lenses perform very well.
(7) D-FA 25mm is on its way, will report back in a few weeks.

D. Prints
(1) Tested up to 30"X40", offers great quality and amazing details.
(2) Expected to offer prints up to 39" X 52" that are sharp upon close inspection (assuming 1.5 ft of viewing distance) when properly processed and sharpened.

E. Suggested Improvements
(1) 80MP full-frame sensor.
(2) Development of tilt lenses (to control the focal plane and avoid diffraction).
(3) Liveview.
(4) Improved white balance.
(5) Faster image review.
(6) Articulated LCD.

F. A Nitpick
The factory remote control F has a tiny button. It's tricky to use because you have to press it with your fingernail and sometime you end up missing the shot. Aftermarket remote features a larger button, cheaper and works better.

G. Samples
All of the sample pics are optimized for the following display settings, conventional LCD monitors may show them too bright / blueish.
Temperature = 5000K / Gamma = 2.2 / Luminance = 120

Ano Nuevo State Park, San Mateo, California (A 35mm)

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California (FA 35mm)

Davenport Beach, Davenport, California (FA 35mm)

Cataract Falls, Fairfax, California (FA 35mm)

Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada (A 35mm)

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California (A 35mm, panoramic)

Hole in the Wall Beach, Davenport, California (A 35mm)

Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona (FA 45-85mm)

Montana de Oro State Park, Los Osos, California (A 35mm)

Mossbrae Falls, Dunsmuir, California (FA 35mm)

Bonny Doon Beach, Davenport, California (FA 35mm)

Convict Lake, Mono, California (A 35mm)

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, California (FA 45-85mm)

Subway, Zion National Park, Utah (FA 35mm)

Wilder Ranch State Park, Santa Cruz, California (FA 45-85mm)

Mount Shasta, Siskiyou, California (FA 35mm)

Swinging Bridge, Yosemite National Park, California (FA 35mm)

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California (FA 80-160mm)

Cataract Falls, Fairfax, California (FA 35mm)

Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada (FA 35mm)

Red Rock Canyon, Clark, Nevada (FA 45-85mm)

Garrapata State Park, Carmel, California (FA 35mm)

Subway, Zion National Park, Utah (FA 35mm)

Bonny Doon Beach, Davenport, California (A 35mm)

South Tufa, Mono Lake, Mono, California (FA 45-85mm, panoramic)

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona (A 35mm, panoramic)

The Watchman, Zion National Park, Utah (FA 35mm)

Valley View, Yosemite National Park, California (FA 35mm)

Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California (FA 35mm)

Last edited by harklee; 05-05-2011 at 03:30 PM.
04-08-2011, 01:42 PM   #2
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Wow. Nice work. Thanks for the summary. Looks like you've been traveling a bit.
04-08-2011, 02:00 PM   #3
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Very nice work. I wished I lived in california so I could hit that many spots up I was in Yosemite in late feb and got some really nice shots.

My biggest complaint with the camera is the preview time. 4 seconds is a lifetime when you are trying to get a shot...but hey I got no preview back in the film days

I actually find the auto white balance to be much better than my Canon system (5d MKII) but then again I am color blind so I always have a color checker passport with me

Again beautiful work. Antelope Canyon shot is my favorite....I feel like I am wearing 3d glasses viewing that picture....very well composed and different than most of the Antelope Canyon shots i see.
04-08-2011, 02:02 PM   #4
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Awesome pictures and review! 6 months and you've traveled to all these places! Jealous....

04-08-2011, 02:08 PM   #5

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Wow. Iím overwhelmed at the thoroughness of the report and the striking images.

Thank you very much for this effort.

Itís interesting that you find the 35mm A superior to the FA version. That is contrary to conventional wisdom and yet consistent with many comments about the 35mm FA on the 645D. Can you expand on your conclusion?

I notice the direct sun in some of your shots maintains a circular shape; Iíve had difficulty with such shots with the 645D. The blown highlights around the sun lose the circular shape and become an unattractive, irregular shape. Any suggestions? Hereís an example:
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04-08-2011, 02:16 PM   #6
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Thanks very much for this article and excellent photographs, Harklee.
I purchased 645D a week ago and still did not have enough time to spend with it. It is my first PENTAX and middle format. I am looking for a good portrait lens for 645D. Anything you would recommend me?
thx a lot
04-08-2011, 02:34 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by harklee Quote
Image quality of each pixel most likely exceeds that of any high end DSLR.
it is a MF camera it will be good to compare with Hasselblad , Phaseone/Leaf , Leica S2

E. Suggested Improvements
(1) 80MP full-frame sensor.
it will be a disaster, FF with 50 mp is what is needed for most photographers

Last edited by erick; 04-08-2011 at 02:41 PM.
04-08-2011, 03:03 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Original Poster
Thanks for the comments,


About A 35mm vs FA 35mm, that was very surprising to me too, but since the 645d only utilize the center part of the image circle we will probably see some difference with the full frame sensor. A professional japanese reviewer also mentioned the same thing FYI. I am not saying that FA 35mm is bad, A 35mm is a 'tad' better.

About your picture, there are two things you can do, (1) shoot when light is better (when you have open clear sky, the overall contrast increases a lot even at sunset, so very hard to photograph), look for overcast conditions with slight opening over the horizon). The sun can be only photographed like that from about 5 mins before the sundown to sundown when the weather co-operates. (2) Most of the digital sensors are still not capable of matching human eye's dynamic range, use graduated neutral density filters, do exposure bracketing and manually blend in the highlights or try HDR.


Of course it will be good to compare with the other digital medium formats. I will be happy to do that review when I get the money to buy all of those things. Pentax 645d is designed for landscape shooters, and for those who care about the print quality, 50MP is never enough. Why do you think people still use 8X10 view cameras?

Last edited by harklee; 04-08-2011 at 03:16 PM.
04-08-2011, 03:22 PM   #9
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Wow! That is just wonderful stuff. Seriously quality info images. I'm stunned.
04-08-2011, 03:51 PM   #10
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Ditto the Wow In 6 Months? :-O

Great landscape shots and thanks for the detailed review.
I think the 4sec delay might be because of limitations in either CCD readout or processing speed in the 645D. K-5 users (essentially the same engine) are reporting roughly 19MB/sec max write speed out to the SD cards, so it's more likely the processing speed...
04-08-2011, 04:13 PM   #11
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What stunning images! Very fine work!!!
04-08-2011, 06:59 PM   #12
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Hi harklee,

You should be congratulated on both your extremely fine summation of the 645D body and many of it's lenses as well as your spectacular images. Nice going and most definitely your posting is a valuable resource.

I've been working intensely with multiple samples of most all of the FA 645 single focal length lenses and a few select zooms with use on the 645D body. I hope to eventually post some of my observations, which concur with many of yours. The FA 35mm is one of two lenses that's unusual in its performance on the 645D cropped sensor and its spherical curvature causes some problems with edge corner sharpness, especially when shooting distance subjects at great distances. Interesting observations regarding it's comparison with the MF A 35mm which I haven't used but what complicates the issue somewhat is the wide variety of performance differences between different samples of the FA 35mm lens, even after exhausted testing and adjustment of the 645D Af fine tuning for each lens. This last step I have found is key to extracting best possible performance at a wide variety of distances with the FA lenses.

In any case, the proof is in the pudding and your posted images speak for themselves. Again a big thank you!

Dave (DandA)

Last edited by DandA; 04-08-2011 at 08:14 PM.
04-08-2011, 08:25 PM   #13
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Succinct review and superlative photographic work presented here Harklee.

I am personally looking at the Leica S2 and the Pentax 645D - the 645D being a much more versatile landscape photographers camera, having a wider array of zoom and fixed focal length lenses than what Leica has on offer. However in the studio I suspect the leica with it's leaf shutter* and wider aperture lenses would be a more compelling choice, and don't forget the S2 has a slightly larger sensor than the 645D has. Though after viewing images on my new 27" Ezio monitor, I suspect that the difference between the pentax 645D and the leica S2 would be rather trivial.

*I am aware pentax makes a 75mm f/2.8 and 135mm f/4 leaf shutter lenses but everyone I know seems to be in the dark about their functionality with the 645D. The consensus is that they do not work, though personally I cannot see why they wouldn't work.

Last edited by Digitalis; 04-08-2011 at 08:31 PM.
04-08-2011, 08:44 PM   #14
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Hi Digitalis,

I may be mistaken but I believe the consencious is the Pentax LS lenses DO work properly on the 645D and I don't see why they wouldn't. I think someone posted a thread on their use with the 645D recently. In any case it would be helpful if someonw who has tried them on the 645D would confirm their results.

Dave (D&A)
04-08-2011, 08:46 PM   #15
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WOW! What stunning images. Great work. (I logged on just to say that).

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