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09-01-2017, 12:20 PM   #1
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"Upgrading" decision, Pentax 645Z or Nikon D850(810)

Hi, I really don't know what to choose.

I currently own a Pentax 645D, and although it has great resolution and image quality in general, I do feel limited by the dynamic range and ISO performance. Being a professional cinematographer, I'm used to 15 stops of dynamic range and at least ISO 800, although I can use up to ISO 2000 with great results in some cameras.

I'm not a profesional photographer right now, I don't make any money from stills, but I want to change that, I'm currently creating a portfolio of portraits and headshots, to see if I can make some money on that front. Cinematography right now in my city has stalled for the moment.

Like I said, the 645D is a great camera for the studio, with controlled strobes, but when you shoot on location, either inside it's hard controlling ambient light at ISO 100 or 200 with an aperture of 5.6 at the most, for depth of field or lenses that don't open more with sharp results. And going to ISO 400 or more loses DR and sharpness. And outside the DR is too limiting, you only have about 1.5 to 2 stops on the high end, so you need to expose for the highlights, leaving the pictures looking underexposed and hard to judge on the LCD, specially the focus or even see anything at all in sunshine.

So, I want to upgrade to something with more DR and better low light picture quality. So a CMOS it is. I'll have around $7,000 USD to spend, so that's only leaves the 645Z, because I will only need the body and a 150mm 2.8 and 120mm macro, I have all the other lenses I'll need. And I'll buy the body used, I've seen it around $4,500 -$5,000.
Or a Nikon 810 used with the 70-200 used and an 135mm f2 and an 85mm 1.4 or even 1.8. Or a new Nikon 850.
I can even go with a Nikon 610 and more lenses for that price, but I'll be losing about half the resolution.
The other big advantage of Nikon is the possibility to use HSS without the use of third party unreliable triggers.

So, what are your opinions on what should I buy? I'm not considering Sony, because I know nothing of it's models and lenses. But if you have any suggestion, please do so.

Thanks in advanced for any suggestion, or reply.

09-01-2017, 12:56 PM - 1 Like   #2
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No doubt the D850 is one heck of a FF camera. You'll get more resolution and DR out of the Pentax. Keep in mind you would be working with a 3:2 aspect ratio. I saw a review where someone claimed the D850 is the best wildlife camera they've ever shot. Ignoring the hyperbole for a minute, the D850 is a versatile machine. You would have hundreds of lenses, new and old, to choose from.
09-01-2017, 12:57 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I've shot many lenses over the years. The best I've ever shot is the manual focus Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens. It currently is available in both Canon ZE mount, and Nikon ZF mount. It costs $1800 new.

In my opinion, one does not really need auto-focus for portraiture.

While I don't shoot portraits professionally, the Milvus 85/1.4 is called by Zeiss themselves the King of Bokeh and it's highly rated as a portrait lens. It's so good in fact, that if I was going to be a pro portrait stills photographer I would not hesitate building my new system around this lens.

I'd definitely choose the Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 lens over the 70-200 or 135/2 Nikkors. I'd choose IQ over auto-focus any day of the week.

If in your shoes, I would purchase a Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 ZF lens and use it on the new Nikon D850 camera. And for those jobs where you absolutely need auto-focus, I'd also buy the 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor (I used to own it - good/affordable/fast-autofocus lens).
09-01-2017, 01:05 PM - 1 Like   #4
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The 645Z is kinda famous for its dynamic range and would be my choice.

I am curious as to why you need a 150mm 2.8 and a 120mm macro to go with a 645Z. For portraiture I would get the macro.

09-01-2017, 01:24 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablo Villegas Quote
So, what are your opinions on what should I buy?
Why not a K1 with the Limited 77mm f1.8. I have this combo and I am blown away by the images it produces. It is almost an overkill for portrait work! The only place a 645Z or an 850 might have an advantage over the K1 (Non pixel shift) is in landscapes and ultra large prints.

I almost bought the 645Z but held off for the K1 and I am loving every minute of using the K1 with my FA Limited lenses. BTW, the K1 and the Tamron 70-200 at f4 and beyond are as good as any camera and lens combo I have ever used.

Go K1 and save yourself a ton of money. For portrait work, I do not see $3K plus difference between K1 and 645Z. Nikon 850 is a compelling proposition but costlier than a K1 package for not much gain. Remember, for portrait work 36MP of the K1 is more than enough. I can print 40"x60" portrait and headshot images all day long.

If you go used, you can have the K1 and the FA 77 Limited for about $2,200 or so. Show me another camera that would give you that much bang for the buck.

Just me two cents.
09-01-2017, 01:45 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I second the K-1 recommendation. It's more versatile than the 645Z and will allow you to experiment before deciding if a/which bigger purchase is right for you. The D810 is essentially identical to the K-1 for stills (and lacks SR and super resolution), so I'd otherwise go straight for the 850 if you decide you prefer FF and want even more resolution.

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09-01-2017, 03:08 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Pentax 645Z and you have chosen the best lenses for your stated purpose. The FA 150mm 2.8 has a formidable reputation as a portrait lens, the FA 120mm F4 will reveal every pimple in blood curdling detail. You may find that the price of the Z drops if Ricoh put together its (rumoured) 100MP successor, but you probably don't want to get involved in the waiting game - especially with Pentax! I have not shot MF digital, but my limited experience with the 645N and these two lenses tells me you're on the right track.

The Nikon D850 may well be an excellent all rounder, but you have a specific purpose and know that the dynamic range from a MF format camera will be all you could wish for.

I know it wont make a blind bit of difference to the quality of photographs, but exclusivity is an important factor. Clients might not be too impressed if you turned up with the same camera as their Uncle Tom or Aunt Cobly!

Good luck, whatever you decide
09-01-2017, 05:44 PM   #8
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Thank you very much everyone!

I'm choosing to buy both the 150mm 2.8 and Macro 120mm because they both serve different purposes, the 150mm gives you shallow depth of field and it's less sharp, specially wide open. And the 120mm macro is super sharp. You can use it on male clients. And the 150mm on females.

I would like to go with AF lenses, because I have a hard time focusing manual on the 645D. Unless I'm on a tripod and the subject doesn't move at all, but specially wide open, you'll get around 2-3 inches in depth of field on a headshot, if the subject moves a little bit you can miss focus and judging focus on 40-50MP on such a small viewfinder is hard
I don't own or have even used a FF 35mm DSLR, all I have are two APS-C cameras, both with autofocus(Canon T1i and Fuji X100). So I don't know how is the manual focus on an optical viewfinder in that sensor size. Maybe using live view on the 645Z or on the Nikon 850 is a good way to judge focus. But I don't have that on the 645D, so don't know.
Although I haven't used a Zeiss still lens, other than the old Hassy V lenses. I have used them in numerous ocasiona in cinematography, the last film I shot I use vintage Zeiss High Speeds(T1.3). Stills from that film, taken from the footage. Las Reglas Del Rey Stills | Flickr

I loved those Zeiss High Speed, they're incredible with high resolution digital cinema cameras. But in cinematography it's different, you want lenses with more character, new Zeiss lenses are too sharp for most of what I shoot. I prefer Cooke S4 lenses. But I have used the Zeiss Ultra Prime and Master Primes on many occasions. But I'll definitely test the new Zeiss still lenses if I get the Nikon.

I know the K1, is excellent and every bit as good as the Nikon 810, in picture quality. But the only reason to move away from Medium format is because of ease of use and compatibility. I hate having to look for ways to use HSS, and use something like cam ranger, or even work thetered. And most solutions and pretty cumbersome or expensive.

That's the only reason I would use a FF 35mm DSLR for convenience. And I would chose Nikon for IQ over a Canon.

I have three months to make a decision, I'm getting paid a TV series I'm shooting right now, and I'll buy it with part of that.

PS: I tested the Fuji GFX, and it's a great camera, but it's more expensive, and I would have to sell my 645D and lenses to buy the body and 1 lens or maybe two. And I don't know how much improvement there will be from a 645Z which will be cheaper for me.

Thanks again, and if you have some more suggestions or comments, please leave them.

09-01-2017, 08:31 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablo Villegas Quote
Thanks again, and if you have some more suggestions or comments, please leave them.
I've looked at that gallery of photos, lots of them are done in dim light. For shooting in low light , and fast enough shutter speed , full frame + fast primes is a better(*) choice than 645z. You could get a K1 or a D850, but since we still haven't seen the fast primes for Pentax promised by Ricoh, you'd select the Nikon D850 with f1.4 primes and shoot wide open. Anyway, the D850 AF is said to be able to focus at -4ev, so, for your application D850 is simply the best choice.
09-01-2017, 08:36 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablo Villegas Quote
Thank you very much everyone!



I'm choosing to buy both the 150mm 2.8 and Macro 120mm because they both serve different purposes, the 150mm gives you shallow depth of field and it's less sharp, specially wide open. And the 120mm macro is super sharp. You can use it on male clients. And the 150mm on females.



I would like to go with AF lenses, because I have a hard time focusing manual on the 645D. Unless I'm on a tripod and the subject doesn't move at all, but specially wide open, you'll get around 2-3 inches in depth of field on a headshot, if the subject moves a little bit you can miss focus and judging focus on 40-50MP on such a small viewfinder is hard

I don't own or have even used a FF 35mm DSLR, all I have are two APS-C cameras, both with autofocus(Canon T1i and Fuji X100). So I don't know how is the manual focus on an optical viewfinder in that sensor size. Maybe using live view on the 645Z or on the Nikon 850 is a good way to judge focus. But I don't have that on the 645D, so don't know.

Although I haven't used a Zeiss still lens, other than the old Hassy V lenses. I have used them in numerous ocasiona in cinematography, the last film I shot I use vintage Zeiss High Speeds(T1.3). Stills from that film, taken from the footage. Las Reglas Del Rey Stills | Flickr



I loved those Zeiss High Speed, they're incredible with high resolution digital cinema cameras. But in cinematography it's different, you want lenses with more character, new Zeiss lenses are too sharp for most of what I shoot. I prefer Cooke S4 lenses. But I have used the Zeiss Ultra Prime and Master Primes on many occasions. But I'll definitely test the new Zeiss still lenses if I get the Nikon.



I know the K1, is excellent and every bit as good as the Nikon 810, in picture quality. But the only reason to move away from Medium format is because of ease of use and compatibility. I hate having to look for ways to use HSS, and use something like cam ranger, or even work thetered. And most solutions and pretty cumbersome or expensive.



That's the only reason I would use a FF 35mm DSLR for convenience. And I would chose Nikon for IQ over a Canon.



I have three months to make a decision, I'm getting paid a TV series I'm shooting right now, and I'll buy it with part of that.



PS: I tested the Fuji GFX, and it's a great camera, but it's more expensive, and I would have to sell my 645D and lenses to buy the body and 1 lens or maybe two. And I don't know how much improvement there will be from a 645Z which will be cheaper for me.



Thanks again, and if you have some more suggestions or comments, please leave them.


The one part i think gets left out is the aspect ratio. If you were to continue with the 645z you would still get the 4:3 aspect ratio. The fuji has the benefit of newer lenses and better weather sealing and much much lighter. Even lighter and smaller then the k-1. It also utilizes the same sensor as the 645z just a little newer.

As far as the nikon id imagine the smaller and lighter body would be appealing, with a better selection of lenses. Better autofocus as well. Also support is better with the nikon over the pentax system. If the images are better then the a7rii because of the newer sensor, well its hard to over look the d850. You have more options on lighting, lenses, and accessories. I cant really add anything because i haven't shot with Nikon though. Oh and if you were to pick the d850, there is a good chance you will have to wait a good year, there was a article on i think petapixel stating that they had more pre orders then they planned for and it will take a long while for them to fulfill the orders that were placed.

The 645z is an awesome camera non the less. I prefer it over the k-1. Although i think i get better low light performance with the k-1 sensor, the af of the 645z in low light is better then the k-1 with the cameras i own. I do like the images and the aspect ratio of the 645z over the k-1 though. It would be nice if the 645z was a wee bit lighter, it is a heavy system. You do get better dynamic range with the 645z then the 645d, and i find the 645z easy to use hand held, especially manually focusing. The viewfinder is bright. The live view option on the z is also very useful. Also all the lenses you own will work with the 645z and you dont have to start over acquiring new glass for a different system.

Anyways good luck on your decision.


09-01-2017, 09:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
I've looked at that gallery of photos, lots of them are done in dim light. For shooting in low light , and fast enough shutter speed , full frame + fast primes is a better(*) choice than 645z. You could get a K1 or a D850, but since we still haven't seen the fast primes for Pentax promised by Ricoh, you'd select the Nikon D850 with f1.4 primes and shoot wide open. Anyway, the D850 AF is said to be able to focus at -4ev, so, for your application D850 is simply the best choice.
Thanks, that's a movie. So in cinema you always light everything so it doesn't looke lit. You tend to have minimalistic lighting in new indie cinema. You always use available light when you can. That's not necesarily what I'm gonna be doing with portrait and headshots on still photography. I'm gonna have my first real session on still photography on Tuesday, I'll post some pictures later in the week, of what I intend to do with stills.

Btw, that movie was shot at T2.8 in interiors and night exteriors T5.6 in day exteriors. Very rarely I used T1.8 or T2.0. Never lower than that. It's hard pulling focus at 1.8, at 1.3 it's impossible.

This is similar of what I intend to do with still photography, but more professional, that's just mostly family and vacation photos. https://www.flickr.com/photos/32577294@N06/albums/72157677713676872

---------- Post added 09-01-17 at 09:33 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Fcsnt54 Quote
The one part i think gets left out is the aspect ratio. If you were to continue with the 645z you would still get the 4:3 aspect ratio. The fuji has the benefit of newer lenses and better weather sealing and much much lighter. Even lighter and smaller then the k-1. It also utilizes the same sensor as the 645z just a little newer.

As far as the nikon id imagine the smaller and lighter body would be appealing, with a better selection of lenses. Better autofocus as well. Also support is better with the nikon over the pentax system. If the images are better then the a7rii because of the newer sensor, well its hard to over look the d850. You have more options on lighting, lenses, and accessories. I cant really add anything because i haven't shot with Nikon though. Oh and if you were to pick the d850, there is a good chance you will have to wait a good year, there was a article on i think petapixel stating that they had more pre orders then they planned for and it will take a long while for them to fulfill the orders that were placed.

The 645z is an awesome camera non the less. I prefer it over the k-1. Although i think i get better low light performance with the k-1 sensor, the af of the 645z in low light is better then the k-1 with the cameras i own. I do like the images and the aspect ratio of the 645z over the k-1 though. It would be nice if the 645z was a wee bit lighter, it is a heavy system. You do get better dynamic range with the 645z then the 645d, and i find the 645z easy to use hand held, especially manually focusing. The viewfinder is bright. The live view option on the z is also very useful. Also all the lenses you own will work with the 645z and you dont have to start over acquiring new glass for a different system.

Anyways good luck on your decision.
Thanks, that's something I really haven't thought of, aspect ratio... the digital cinema cameras I use are either super 35mm 24.89 mm ◊ 18.66 mm (4:3) but you never use the whole sensor for final delivery, you'll use 16:9, 1.85:1 or 2.40:1 or close to that. Or use a Vista Vision Sensor, 40.96 mm x 21.6 mm, again, with a wider aspect ratio. So I guess I'm used to wider aspect ratios, but never really tried to compose for 4:3 or 3:2 in profesional work. I need to think about that.

Yeah, I want the Pentax 645Z for that better DR nad better low light images. But I also get that form the Nikon 850 or 810. I guess I just need to know if there's any difference between the Nikon and the 645Z in image quality, other than resolution.

Last edited by Pablo Villegas; 09-01-2017 at 09:23 PM.
09-01-2017, 10:40 PM - 1 Like   #12
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You're looking at arguably some of the best stills cameras money can buy, so I don't think image quality at the body is really going to be an issue between the 645Z, D810, K1, and D850. And the quality of glass you're looking at also precludes most discussion of potential IQ as well.

What "look" do you want? Medium format still has a different feel to it, due at least in part to the longer focal lengths for a given field of view and the amount of glass needed to cover the format. And 35mm has the advantage of faster lenses, in theory giving better performance in low light. If it's a wash to you, I'd err to the smallest setup that can get the job done.

Keep in mind that there are older leaf shutter lenses available for the 645.

If available where you are, consider renting each body and lens your considering for a few days or a shoot. It's probably well worth the couple hundred bucks when your looking to spend in the neighborhood of $7000.

Go for the glass you want and whichever body they fit.

Last edited by skierd; 09-01-2017 at 10:52 PM.
09-01-2017, 10:51 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by skierd Quote
What "look" do you want?
I was thinking about color rendering between brands... and I read your post. Beside resolution, yes, there is a difference between brands depending on the CFA they use, that's more difference to be considered compared to the difference between a 645z, K1 or K3.
09-02-2017, 01:20 AM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablo Villegas Quote
Hi, I really don't know what to choose.

I currently own a Pentax 645D, and although it has great resolution and image quality in general, I do feel limited by the dynamic range and ISO performance. Being a professional cinematographer, I'm used to 15 stops of dynamic range and at least ISO 800, although I can use up to ISO 2000 with great results in some cameras.

I'm not a profesional photographer right now, I don't make any money from stills, but I want to change that, I'm currently creating a portfolio of portraits and headshots, to see if I can make some money on that front. Cinematography right now in my city has stalled for the moment.

Like I said, the 645D is a great camera for the studio, with controlled strobes, but when you shoot on location, either inside it's hard controlling ambient light at ISO 100 or 200 with an aperture of 5.6 at the most, for depth of field or lenses that don't open more with sharp results. And going to ISO 400 or more loses DR and sharpness. And outside the DR is too limiting, you only have about 1.5 to 2 stops on the high end, so you need to expose for the highlights, leaving the pictures looking underexposed and hard to judge on the LCD, specially the focus or even see anything at all in sunshine.

So, I want to upgrade to something with more DR and better low light picture quality. So a CMOS it is. I'll have around $7,000 USD to spend, so that's only leaves the 645Z, because I will only need the body and a 150mm 2.8 and 120mm macro, I have all the other lenses I'll need. And I'll buy the body used, I've seen it around $4,500 -$5,000.
Or a Nikon 810 used with the 70-200 used and an 135mm f2 and an 85mm 1.4 or even 1.8. Or a new Nikon 850.
I can even go with a Nikon 610 and more lenses for that price, but I'll be losing about half the resolution.
The other big advantage of Nikon is the possibility to use HSS without the use of third party unreliable triggers.

So, what are your opinions on what should I buy? I'm not considering Sony, because I know nothing of it's models and lenses. But if you have any suggestion, please do so.

Thanks in advanced for any suggestion, or reply.
I owned the D810 and found it to be an excellent camera, with all the flexibility that 35mm brings...but careful lens choice is necessary to maximise the IQ from the sensor.
I eventually sold all the Nikon gear in favour of the 645Z , and invested in a mix of current (90mm , 28-45mm and 55mm) legacy lenses (150mm) and the (excellent value) 67 lenses 165LS, 105mm, and 300mm M*.
My experience is that the main difference is 'better' IQ (more pixels) , but the latitude of the 645Z files in post-processing is amazing.....highlight and shadow both respond very well to changes during manipulation, and the newest lenses deliver astonishing image detail....the 'older' 150mm is no slouch either!
My only caveat would be that if your longer term markets might include action/sports then 35mm would be more suitable simply due to size/weight and ease of use in the field (i.e what if portraiture is also a saturated market in your area?).
Unless and until a 100MP Pentax comes along, its very doubtful that I would switch , despite some of the well know drawbacks (e.g. tendency to image blur due to shutter-shock at slower shutter speeds, and poor Ricoh field service) .
HSS is now possible on the 645Z ( see Mark Kitaoka's novel trigger solution elsewhere in this forum, even used on his 'old' Einstein studio units), and I've no doubt that other solutions will eventually surface....
09-02-2017, 02:37 AM - 1 Like   #15
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Just one other factor to throw into the equation - you say you currently have the 645D, so this will be something you are familiar with anyway, but it bears saying: - in professional photography (which I don't currently do, but have done in the distant past) an 'edge' makes a big difference - a bigger camera makes you look more 'professional' and provides images that have a different look to them than those that can be obtained by any 35mm format camera, no matter how brilliant it is - so people are less likely to think that they can do it themselves with the equipment they have and be happier that they have hired a real pro, not somebody making a few extra (name your currency) at weekends. It does make a difference.
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