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11-26-2012, 04:07 PM   #1
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Pentax 645D lenses : which ones to go for ?

Hi there,

First of all, this is quite a resourcefull forum - boy, tons of people here

Here is my drama, not a troll ( known user of LUF / RFF / getDPI ) whatsoever.

I have to do some product photography for the next months and medium format or the usual suspect - D800E come to the arena ;

Trying to sell "myself" the 645D - its no doubt the most versatile MFD camera out there, the most featured one but... I dont get along with the lens.

Let me explain - D800E is getting all the raves but... to me, the images do not "pop". They dont do any "zing" to me. They are just big, plasticy, digital flat files.

I downloaded a couple of files ( around 15 tbh ) in NEF to play with and they are just flat.

My current Leica M9 spoils me with rich, micro contrasty , 3D like images. Unfortunatly, for macro / food photography its just as usefull as a dagger in a machine gun fight. a small dagger.

Leica S2 is fantastic. Everything I need : portable, integrated, best glass. Problem is that I have to sell the house. Unfortunatly my wife doesnt like living under a bridge and having a S2 as a pillow. Go figure. Women.

H3DII are nice : decent glass ( love the 3D effect of hassie glass but only a couple of lens ) but the higher iso's ( meaning higer than 200 ) are just dreadfull. That means carrying a tripod is mandatory the second I leave the studio. Would love to use the MF camera for some handheld shooting and landscape photography and this is a big no no. Mules are harder and harder to come by and carry tripods around.

Contax 645 : now, if only I could get a P40+ back to trade for my 0.95 Noctilux, this would be golden. Love Zeiss / Contax lenses. They are all gorgeous.

And here I go back to the 645D : nice camera ( albeit I'm not a great fan of the Pentax body to be honest ) , super value for money sensor wise, weatherproof, super decent higher iso.

But the lens. I just can't fall in love with the lenses; granted, I'm trying to read and read and read about Pentax 645 and 67 lenses. Its a complete new world to me. 25mm seems a great one. 75mm 2.8 a nice one, albet the number of bad copies around scares me. 55 is just.. well.. meh.

MF for me equals gorgeous, silly, bokeh. Dont see that in Pentax lenses. Dont see that 3D "pop" effect on the images. Can someone point me in the right direction ?

11-26-2012, 04:46 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by proenca Quote
Hi there,

First of all, this is quite a resourcefull forum - boy, tons of people here

Here is my drama, not a troll ( known user of LUF / RFF / getDPI ) whatsoever.

I have to do some product photography for the next months and medium format or the usual suspect - D800E come to the arena ;

Trying to sell "myself" the 645D - its no doubt the most versatile MFD camera out there, the most featured one but... I dont get along with the lens.

Let me explain - D800E is getting all the raves but... to me, the images do not "pop". They dont do any "zing" to me. They are just big, plasticy, digital flat files.

I downloaded a couple of files ( around 15 tbh ) in NEF to play with and they are just flat.

My current Leica M9 spoils me with rich, micro contrasty , 3D like images. Unfortunatly, for macro / food photography its just as usefull as a dagger in a machine gun fight. a small dagger.

Leica S2 is fantastic. Everything I need : portable, integrated, best glass. Problem is that I have to sell the house. Unfortunatly my wife doesnt like living under a bridge and having a S2 as a pillow. Go figure. Women.

H3DII are nice : decent glass ( love the 3D effect of hassie glass but only a couple of lens ) but the higher iso's ( meaning higer than 200 ) are just dreadfull. That means carrying a tripod is mandatory the second I leave the studio. Would love to use the MF camera for some handheld shooting and landscape photography and this is a big no no. Mules are harder and harder to come by and carry tripods around.

Contax 645 : now, if only I could get a P40+ back to trade for my 0.95 Noctilux, this would be golden. Love Zeiss / Contax lenses. They are all gorgeous.

And here I go back to the 645D : nice camera ( albeit I'm not a great fan of the Pentax body to be honest ) , super value for money sensor wise, weatherproof, super decent higher iso.

But the lens. I just can't fall in love with the lenses; granted, I'm trying to read and read and read about Pentax 645 and 67 lenses. Its a complete new world to me. 25mm seems a great one. 75mm 2.8 a nice one, albet the number of bad copies around scares me. 55 is just.. well.. meh.

MF for me equals gorgeous, silly, bokeh. Dont see that in Pentax lenses. Dont see that 3D "pop" effect on the images. Can someone point me in the right direction ?
We're actually about to post an in-depth review of the 645D vs D800E. Given the age of the 645D's sensor, the D800E unfortunately wins in terms of general IQ (dynamic range and noise), while the 645D still has a small resolution advantage. Stay tuned for the review early next week!

Last year I compared the 645D with the D3x and the Pentax was the clear winner, but unfortunately, the D800E has more or less taken away the big advantage that the Pentax held last year, and at 1/3 of the price...it's definitely the most cost-effective way to go IMO, as much as I hate Pentax isn't the best option for you.

The other issue is that in the US, you're basically limited to looking for second-hand A and FA lenses for the 645D, because only the DA 25mm, D FA 55mm and (soon) D FA 90mm macro are available. If you want a good lens for product photography, the FA 120mm macro works well. See it in our 645 lens database here:
Pentax 645 Medium Format Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

If you decide to go down the Nikon route, the 24-70mm F2.8 zoom or the 85mm F1.4 are excellent lenses for product shots.

Adam
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11-26-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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I think the 120 A especially and also the 80-160 FA have nice bokeh, but I'm a landscape photographer so what do I know!

The 25mm D FA is very sharp up to about f/16, then diffraction starts setting in (again, I shoot landscapes, so I can't speak much about the wider apertures or quality of bokeh). It's an expensive lens, but worth it if you use it enough. I got my D FA used from a forum member here for $4K USD.

I've also heard that the lenses vary a lot in quality from one to another and that this is because they were originally designed for film, which has more forgiving tolerances than digital. The good news is that many of the used lenses are pretty cheap, so to buy them and try them out won't be too huge of an expense, though it may waste some time.

There are some really good prices on 645 glass at KEH right now, especially the manual focus. Pentax 645 Fixed Focal Length Lenses - KEH.com

and here are the zooms: Pentax 645 Zoom Lenses - KEH.com

I have the 45-85FA and 80-160FA, both are very sharp, especially on the wide end. 35 A is very sharp, even pretty sharp to f/22 the max aperture.
11-26-2012, 06:20 PM   #4
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The Pentax67 75mm 2.8 and the 100 Macro and the 400mm 4 and the 55-100 4.5 are all lenses which do give very high level of Image Quality on a 645D.

11-26-2012, 10:24 PM   #5
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This question seems to have come up a billion times since the introduction of the D800 and you will get different answers depending on the application. For example my primary interests are landscapes and places which the pentax is great for. The controls are great and despite smaller dynamic range numerically compared to the D800, the files do look different (more subtle) if you try the camera in various scenarios outside of test charts. While I'm considering getting a D800e as a backup body, in practical terms the 645D files are more useful to me.

For example I like to print on standard size sheets whenever possible. The 4:3 format fits on a magazine cover without cropping, prints with an even border on a 8.5x11 sheet, scales the same to a 17x22 sheet or a 30x40 all without having to crop the edges. I also shoot 4x5 film which also crops nicely to 4:3 without a lot of image loss so I can print images from both cameras without having to stock printing supplies (plastic sleves, boxes, etc) for multiple formats . A 36mp image from the D800 suddenly becomes closer to 32mp when treated the same as my 645D image which stays at 40mp.

Many images need to be straightened, especially architecture which on average in my case takes aways 1 or 2 megapixels of resolution on images that need it. Once again when printing big every single pixel counts.

On test chart comparisons it seems like the D800 holds it's own against the 645D but I yet have to see a real world image at 1:1 of dense distant branches or foliage that is as well resolved and has the same micro contrast as the 645D.

Having said that, the price difference is big enough between the cameras that the D800 is without a doubt a much better deal especially as a general use camera. I believe the nikon is more versatile so the 645D might not make you as happy at the end. If you already own a 645D buying a D800e is not an upgrade in image quality at all (unless you want high ISO performance). If you already have a D800e then spending the extra money on a 645D might not make a lot of sense at this point. At a certain point a small increase in quality is a huge increase in cost. This is true for most tools, the last 20% usually costs 80% more money. If you are discriminating enough to see the difference then the choice is much easier to make.

If you want the best dollar per pixel quality ratio get the Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill

As far as lenses go, the 55mm is not a bad lens, the 25mm DA is also a great performer, especially when it comes to colour rendition. The 120mm macro is a very nice lens as well and you can get it pretty cheap. Pentax needs more time to make some more lenses for the 645D but it will take time. Hopefully when (and if) the 645DII is ready we will see another few good lenses. I'm very curious what pentax is planning with their medium format offering, I'm also very curious what will happen with medium format digital going forward as the economics of scale are not on it's side.
11-27-2012, 12:57 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by proenca Quote
to me, the images do not "pop". They dont do any "zing" to me. They are just big, plasticy, digital flat files.
Are your product shots/macro/ food photography limited to digital? There are plenty of films that have the zing and pop you describe. Yes I know that many publishers don't like film, however with high end scanners, that quality can be maintained. Both the Pentax 645 and 67 are proven.
11-29-2012, 12:27 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by larkis Quote
This question seems to have come up a billion times since the introduction of the D800 and you will get different answers depending on the application. For example my primary interests are landscapes and places which the pentax is great for. The controls are great and despite smaller dynamic range numerically compared to the D800, the files do look different (more subtle) if you try the camera in various scenarios outside of test charts. While I'm considering getting a D800e as a backup body, in practical terms the 645D files are more useful to me.

For example I like to print on standard size sheets whenever possible. The 4:3 format fits on a magazine cover without cropping, prints with an even border on a 8.5x11 sheet, scales the same to a 17x22 sheet or a 30x40 all without having to crop the edges. I also shoot 4x5 film which also crops nicely to 4:3 without a lot of image loss so I can print images from both cameras without having to stock printing supplies (plastic sleves, boxes, etc) for multiple formats . A 36mp image from the D800 suddenly becomes closer to 32mp when treated the same as my 645D image which stays at 40mp.

Many images need to be straightened, especially architecture which on average in my case takes aways 1 or 2 megapixels of resolution on images that need it. Once again when printing big every single pixel counts.

On test chart comparisons it seems like the D800 holds it's own against the 645D but I yet have to see a real world image at 1:1 of dense distant branches or foliage that is as well resolved and has the same micro contrast as the 645D.

Having said that, the price difference is big enough between the cameras that the D800 is without a doubt a much better deal especially as a general use camera. I believe the nikon is more versatile so the 645D might not make you as happy at the end. If you already own a 645D buying a D800e is not an upgrade in image quality at all (unless you want high ISO performance). If you already have a D800e then spending the extra money on a 645D might not make a lot of sense at this point. At a certain point a small increase in quality is a huge increase in cost. This is true for most tools, the last 20% usually costs 80% more money. If you are discriminating enough to see the difference then the choice is much easier to make.

If you want the best dollar per pixel quality ratio get the Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill

As far as lenses go, the 55mm is not a bad lens, the 25mm DA is also a great performer, especially when it comes to colour rendition. The 120mm macro is a very nice lens as well and you can get it pretty cheap. Pentax needs more time to make some more lenses for the 645D but it will take time. Hopefully when (and if) the 645DII is ready we will see another few good lenses. I'm very curious what pentax is planning with their medium format offering, I'm also very curious what will happen with medium format digital going forward as the economics of scale are not on it's side.
Very Well Put and excellent thoughts put forth and mirrors much of my experience with both cameras.

Dave (D&A)
11-30-2012, 04:37 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
We're actually about to post an in-depth review of the 645D vs D800E. Given the age of the 645D's sensor, the D800E unfortunately wins in terms of general IQ (dynamic range and noise), while the 645D still has a small resolution advantage. Stay tuned for the review early next week!

Last year I compared the 645D with the D3x and the Pentax was the clear winner, but unfortunately, the D800E has more or less taken away the big advantage that the Pentax held last year, and at 1/3 of the price...it's definitely the most cost-effective way to go IMO, as much as I hate Pentax isn't the best option for you.

The other issue is that in the US, you're basically limited to looking for second-hand A and FA lenses for the 645D, because only the DA 25mm, D FA 55mm and (soon) D FA 90mm macro are available. If you want a good lens for product photography, the FA 120mm macro works well. See it in our 645 lens database here:
Pentax 645 Medium Format Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

If you decide to go down the Nikon route, the 24-70mm F2.8 zoom or the 85mm F1.4 are excellent lenses for product shots.
there is more than dr in a photo. no sample of d800e i have seen has the rendering, color depth, smoothness of tone of the 645d. The 645d files have a a natural feeling that d800e don't have.

11-30-2012, 04:41 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by larkis Quote
This question seems to have come up a billion times since the introduction of the D800 and you will get different answers depending on the application. For example my primary interests are landscapes and places which the pentax is great for. The controls are great and despite smaller dynamic range numerically compared to the D800, the files do look different (more subtle) if you try the camera in various scenarios outside of test charts. While I'm considering getting a D800e as a backup body, in practical terms the 645D files are more useful to me.

For example I like to print on standard size sheets whenever possible. The 4:3 format fits on a magazine cover without cropping, prints with an even border on a 8.5x11 sheet, scales the same to a 17x22 sheet or a 30x40 all without having to crop the edges. I also shoot 4x5 film which also crops nicely to 4:3 without a lot of image loss so I can print images from both cameras without having to stock printing supplies (plastic sleves, boxes, etc) for multiple formats . A 36mp image from the D800 suddenly becomes closer to 32mp when treated the same as my 645D image which stays at 40mp.

Many images need to be straightened, especially architecture which on average in my case takes aways 1 or 2 megapixels of resolution on images that need it. Once again when printing big every single pixel counts.

On test chart comparisons it seems like the D800 holds it's own against the 645D but I yet have to see a real world image at 1:1 of dense distant branches or foliage that is as well resolved and has the same micro contrast as the 645D.

Having said that, the price difference is big enough between the cameras that the D800 is without a doubt a much better deal especially as a general use camera. I believe the nikon is more versatile so the 645D might not make you as happy at the end. If you already own a 645D buying a D800e is not an upgrade in image quality at all (unless you want high ISO performance). If you already have a D800e then spending the extra money on a 645D might not make a lot of sense at this point. At a certain point a small increase in quality is a huge increase in cost. This is true for most tools, the last 20% usually costs 80% more money. If you are discriminating enough to see the difference then the choice is much easier to make.

If you want the best dollar per pixel quality ratio get the Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill

As far as lenses go, the 55mm is not a bad lens, the 25mm DA is also a great performer, especially when it comes to colour rendition. The 120mm macro is a very nice lens as well and you can get it pretty cheap. Pentax needs more time to make some more lenses for the 645D but it will take time. Hopefully when (and if) the 645DII is ready we will see another few good lenses. I'm very curious what pentax is planning with their medium format offering, I'm also very curious what will happen with medium format digital going forward as the economics of scale are not on it's side.
i completely agree with you. the files from d800e are the same files from k5 just with more resolution, the sensor have indeed the same technology from sony.- but they don't have the natural feeling the rendering, the clarity i see using the 645d. maybe are the lenses, most of nikon lenses struggle with d800e, or simply they cannot produce a high quality image.
in addiction dr is true, k5 or d800e had more than a stop in shadow and this is good. but they clip highlight much easer and with less recovering capabilities. so with both camera you have to underexpose and push shadow in pp introducing some king of noise. with 645d you can shoot more to the RIGHT and then recover easily the highlight, creating a much more natural images.
11-30-2012, 04:45 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
We're actually about to post an in-depth review of the 645D vs D800E. Given the age of the 645D's sensor, the D800E unfortunately wins in terms of general IQ (dynamic range and noise), while the 645D still has a small resolution advantage. Stay tuned for the review early next week!

Last year I compared the 645D with the D3x and the Pentax was the clear winner, but unfortunately, the D800E has more or less taken away the big advantage that the Pentax held last year, and at 1/3 of the price...it's definitely the most cost-effective way to go IMO, as much as I hate Pentax isn't the best option for you.

The other issue is that in the US, you're basically limited to looking for second-hand A and FA lenses for the 645D, because only the DA 25mm, D FA 55mm and (soon) D FA 90mm macro are available. If you want a good lens for product photography, the FA 120mm macro works well. See it in our 645 lens database here:
Pentax 645 Medium Format Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

If you decide to go down the Nikon route, the 24-70mm F2.8 zoom or the 85mm F1.4 are excellent lenses for product shots.
for product shot i suggest if you go to d800e route to buy a cambo adapter and rodenstock lenses, most of the nikon lenses cannot produce the best image, while rodesnstock will give you amazing quality work. in addiction camboi will give you tilt and shift possibility and they are a great tools for product photography.
i have an idea of buying a view camera for my 645d and use a chinese 45 adapter, to use long rodenstock lenses and tilt and shif movement
12-02-2012, 05:27 AM   #11
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Have the 645D and love it. Both the 120 and the 80-160 give excellent results. Also am quite pleased with the images from the 300
12-04-2012, 04:46 PM   #12
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The 35 (I only have experience with the FA model) FA 45 - 85 , FA 120 A 200 are all fantastic in my experience. The FA 400 is also a good sharp lens. I have the normal D800 as well as the 645D. The D800 tends to win out when I can only bring one camera (as I have focal range from 14 - 500mm covered: !4 - 24, 24 - 70, 28 - 300, 80 - 200, 200 macro 300 + 1.7TC plus Zeiss 35, AFS 50 1.8 + AFS 60 macro AFD 85 primes).

When I see the files side by side (and I'm not a pixel peeper) I find myself preferring the 645D's results. Can't put my finger on exactly why. it's accessibility and weather proofed lenses from 14mm up that makes the Nikon win out at the moment.
12-04-2012, 04:58 PM   #13
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I would buy a Hasselblad to 645 converter and by Planar T* 110/2,0.
12-06-2012, 07:15 PM   #14
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The A120Macro has been my loyal product shot specialist when I need 120 images for over 25 yrs.
12-08-2012, 06:54 PM   #15
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645D lenses to recommend

I initially used a friend's 645 film zooms, specifically the 33-55mm (quite good), 45-85mm (also good), 80-160mm (another fine copy). Once I found a 67-645 adapter from KEH I could test and use my 67 glass. I then sold my 35mm Fisheye (not wide or sharp enough), 45mm (not near good enough for this sensor but fine for Velvia), and kept my 55-100mm (excellent results!), 135mm Macro (very fine detail), 200mm (fairly good results), and the 300mm ED (really fine quality), plus tested the 1.4X and 2X Pentax teleconverters and was very pleased with them mated to the 300mm ED.

I now also have the 55mm 2.8 and 25mm digital lenses, and they are both superior optics, but for me it's the 25mm that makes this system sing. It's both a wonderful landscape and travel lens, and I can't imagine working without it.

Kerrick James
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