Pentax 645Z Announced – It’s a Beast!

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Pentax is one of the only few camera companies out there that still produces and manufactures medium-format cameras.
Today they they’re announcing their newest medium-format entry, and it is a 51.4mp, (almost) 4k video CMOS sensor beast.

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For those of you that don’t know, ‘Medium-format’ usually applies to cameras that utilize media larger than 24 x 36 mm (full-frame) but smaller than 4 x 5 inches (large-format). This basically allows for a lot more detail in pictures with a lot less noise; you’ll be shelling out a bit more money than the average 5D Mark III if you plan on grabbing one.

So let’s move on to the specs of Pentax’s newest camera: the 645Z. When you compare it to its predecessor, the 645D, there’s a lot that’s left the same. The form, the presence the viewfinder, the buttons, and the mount type are all basically pushed over to this model, which is fine considering not much needed to be changed there. But there’s definitely a lot that the 645Z will improve on.

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For starters, the sensor is a massive 51.4 megapixels. Alongside that is the fact that it’ll perform great in low-light environments as well, thanks to its medium-format advantages. Like the K-3, however, the 645Z will allow 4K interval shooting – that is, time lapse shooting – as a feature, but that’s as far as 4k goes for this model, which may disappoint a few people. But honestly, if 4K video was still a priority at this pricing point for you, you’d be better off going with a full-on video camera from a company like Blackmagic.

As for the rest of the specs, here’s a few big ones listed below:

  • An ISO range of 100 to 204,800
  • PRIME III image processor
  • SAFOX11 AF system: 27 point (25 cross type), LW -3 to +18
  • 3.2 inch 103.7M-dot tilting LCD
  • TTL metering with 86k RGB sensor
  • Live View capable
  • Focus peaking

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645z_5While price price will be announced in June, an earlier leak placed it at a non-consumer point of $8,496.95. This is a highly professional-leveled camera, and the weird thing here is that the $8500 price tag is relatively cheap for the line it’s competing in. The price may be a bit beyond many of our comfort zones at this point, yeah, but it’s great to see eve the high-high-end range stepping down to become more affordable to consumers.

Here is the full feature breakdown from Ricoh’s press release:

Super-high-resolution images made possible by approximately 51.4 effective megapixels

The PENTAX 645Z features a high-performance CMOS image sensor, with an imaging area (43.8mm x 32.8mm) approximately 1.7 times larger than that of a 35mm full-size sensor. By combining this sensor with the PRIME III imaging engine — with its advanced image-processing and noise-reduction capabilities and anti-aliasing filter-less design — the 645Z makes full use of the imaging power and approximately 51.4 effective megapixels to deliver super-high resolution and exceptional depth rendition.

Since the 645Z effectively minimizes annoying noise during high-sensitivity shooting, the photographer can comfortably take pictures even at super-high sensitivities up to ISO 204800. This provides the photographer with totally new creative options beyond the scope of existing medium-format photography.

Responsive and high-speed shooting experience accommodates even the demanding professionals

The 645Z continuously records as many as 10 images in the RAW format (or up to 30 images in the JPEG:L・★★★) at a maximum speed of approximately three images per second. It also offers quick-view function, UHS-1 speed class compatibility for high-speed data storage (in the SDR104 bus speed mode; with a compatible SD memory card), and USB3.0-standard data interface for easy transfer of recorded images to a personal computer. Thanks to its high-speed response, rivaling that of 35mm-format SLRs, the 645Z assures active, flawless shooting in a wide range of applications required by professionals.

Articulated, 3.2-inch LCD display with approximately 1,037,000 dots

In addition to its wide-view design, the 645Z’s 3.2-inch high-resolution LCD display with approximately 1,037,000 dots (in the 3:2 aspect ratio) has a tilt mechanism to adjust the monitor angle, making it easier for the photographer to capture low- and high-angle images. Its front panel is made of tempered glass for extra protection. To optimize visibility during outdoor shooting, the LCD display features a unique air-gapless construction that eliminates the air space between the LCD layers to reduce the reflection and dispersion of the light, with an AR (Anti-Reflection) coating to minimize reflections on the screen.

High-precision AF system

The 645Z incorporates a newly designed SAFOX 11 phase-matching AF module with 27 sensor points (including 25 cross-type sensors). It also detects the light flux of an F2.8 lens to optimize focusing accuracy when using a large-aperture lens. Its wide AF working range of –3EV to +18EV (at ISO 100; at 23oC) to assure pinpoint focus with dimly illuminated subjects, which are difficult to focus on accurately with the naked eye. Thanks to the new CMOS image sensor with high-speed data readout, it even provides a live-view function allowing the photographer to make more minute focus adjustments using the contrast-detection AF mode on the live-view screen, or by magnifying the on-screen image. Full HD movie recording at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 60i frame rate

The 645Z captures beautiful Full HD video clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60i/30P frame rate) in the H.264 recording format. Its large image sensor is effective in recording shallow-depth videos with an effectively blurred background. In addition to the built-in stereo microphone, it also provides a stereo mic terminal for external microphone connection and an audio level control function. It even provides interval video recording of 4K-resolution images (3840 x 2160 pixels; in Motion JPEG or AVI video format) to add a new dimension in creative imaging.

Solid, dependable body

Both the 645Z’s exterior housing and the LCD monitor frame are made of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy, while the chassis is made of diecast aluminum to optimize kinematic accuracy and thermal stability against excessive heat. The LCD panels — one on the camera’s top panel, another on its back — is covered with tempered-glass plates for extra protection against scratches. The 645Z is also designed for a durable and dependable shooting experience even in harsh outdoor conditions. It’s not only weather-resistant and dustproof with 76 seals applied around the body, but it’s also cold-resistant against temperatures as low as –10°C, while its dependable shutter unit has withstood a punishing operation test of more than 100,000 shutter releases.

High-precision exposure control supported by PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System

The 645Z features the innovative PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, which consists of an RGB light-metering sensor with approximately 86,000 pixels and a fine-tuned algorithm. This system not only assures much-improved exposure-control accuracy, but also utilizes the data obtained by the light-metering sensor to further enhance autofocusing accuracy and white-balance adjustment. By accurately assessing the type of scene or subject using the light-metering sensor, the 645Z not only selects the exposure settings that are more consistent with the photographer’s creative intentions, but it also makes a clearer distinction between the subject and the background to assure more accurate control of a discharge level in flash photography.

Large, bright optical viewfinder

The 645Z features a trapezoid-shaped glass prism, in place of a conventional pentaprism, to assure compact dimensions. Its optical viewfinder provides a field of view of approximately 98% to facilitate image composition, while the time-proven Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen offers a sharp, clear viewfinder image for easier focusing and reduced eye fatigue, even during extended shooting sessions.

Smartphone-support functions*

By installing the optional FLUCARD FOR PENTAX 16GB O-FC1 memory card in the 645Z, the user can release the 645Z’s shutter, check the live-view image, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a smartphone.

* This software supports smartphones operating on iOS6 or later and Android 4.2 or later.

DR II to eliminate dust from the image sensor

The 645Z comes equipped with the highly effective DR (Dust Removal) II mechanism to eliminate annoying dust spots on recorded images. By shifting the UV/IR-cut filter placed in front of the image sensor at supersonic speed using a piezoelectric element, this mechanism effectively and efficiently shakes dust off the image sensor. The 645Z also provides the Dust Alert system, which helps the user detect any dust particles clinging to the image sensor prior to shooting. Thanks to these user-friendly features, the photographer is assured of beautiful, spotless images, even when the lenses are changed in dust-prone outdoor settings.

Advanced, professional-grade features

  • When the camera is positioned upside down such as in copying work and bird’s-eye-view photography,  the user can select “Auto Image Rotation mode” that allows the automatic rotation of the image 180 degrees on the camera’s LCD monitor or on a computer screen for easier viewing based on the selected position data.
  • The fine square grid on live-view helps you confirm the subject’s position in the image field during live-view shooting. The user can select grid color from black and white.
  • Lock button disables the camera’s control buttons and dial to prevent the accidental shift of settings.

Other features

  • Dual SD card slots for memory card flexibility (compatible with SDXC, SDXC UHS-1 speed class in SDR104 bus speed mode)
  • Flexible white balance control, with a newly added Multi-Pattern Auto mode
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting mode, with RAW-format data filing
  • PENTAX-invented hyper control system for quick, accurate response to the photographer’s creative intentions
  • Attachment of copyright credits on recorded images; detection of image tampering using the accompanying software
  • Automatic compensation of lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, brightness level at edges, and diffraction
  • Compatibility with Eye-Fi wireless LAN memory cards
  • Compatibility with USB3.0-standard interface accessories, with HDMI (type D) terminal
  • Digital Camera Utility 5 software included, to provide enhanced image-processing performance and speed using its newly designed engine
  • Compatibility with IMAGE Transmitter 2 software, for easy transfer of recorded images to PC (optional; available soon)
  • aaronbrethorst

    This looks spectacular, but $8500 is definitely, uh, a bit steep for me. I wonder what it’ll do to the price on the 645D, though…

    • spqr_ca

      It’s steep if you’re a traditional 35mm SLR or smaller shooter, but its a fraction of the price of any similar medium format camera… Hassy and Phase One aren’t going to like this.

  • Bekka

    W.O.W.

  • http://www.Aspheries.com Hervé Leclair

    Nice machine… Hope I’ll get my hands on it one day! Now the two main advantages are not covered by this paper: larger sensor means tiny DOF, therefore a high capability to isolate your subject from it’s background, and, – the most interesting feature from my point of view – central shutter allowing for high speed synch while using off-camera flashes.
    But does the 645 still have an central shutter? That’s key!

  • spqr_ca

    This is a camera aimed squarely at the landscape shooter, as are many of the cameras that Pentax produces, but in the medium format space this has a chance to really change the game. The sensor in this camera is also in Hasselblad and Phase One cameras, but Pentax is dropping an $8.5K price versus approaching a $35K price. While there’s some possibility that those two companies can figure out a way to justify a $27,000 uplift on price versus Pentax, I just can’t figure out how. I think I could buy this, plus every lens, and still come under the price of the Phase One back…

    if Hasselblad and Phase One aren’t getting nervous shakes, they should be, Ricoh has not only thrown down a gauntlet, they’ve started to swing the sword.

  • Jon

    Oh great, and here I just bought a Pentax Q. I knew I should have waited. ;-p

  • Amaryllis

    Ironically… for that price it would be possible for me to afford it when I’ll turn 25, with what I inherited from my aunt. But then I’d need the lenses, too, and that’ll make it a bit tougher on the budget, but hey. I do wish I could have one of those!