Pentax 645Z. A medium format system for wedding photographers.
A while ago I had some exciting news, but held back a little on the announcement to make sure it was infact exciting. Just like when you want to make a wish come true, you sure as hell don’t tell anyone about it, my lips were sealed. I can now say it is freaking amazeballs!!
I recently started using A Pentax 645Z system to accompany my usual canon gear on weddings. I often fantasized about using a heavy hitting MF digital camera instead of the 645 & 67 film cameras that I often use (they will never be replaced). The dream became reality not too long ago and I have been testing out the 645Z out to see how she would go on the job.
My first impression was that the 645z would be a very technical camera, as all the features were described to me in great detail about how to customize everything. It was a little overwhelming, however after reading the manual and spending a whole battery messing around in the menu, I realised that most of it I will never use, unless you have a strange perversion for shooting jpegs. Not that jpegs don’t have their place, but if you are shooting jpegs, you don’t need this camera to shoot them. Don’t get me wrong, some of the features will have landscape shooters drooling, like the in camera Exposure Blending or HDR RAW files or the (if you forget your cable release) one button bulb mode (so no need to hold the button down). All awesome stuff. Made me want to hang with Christian Fletcher. However I didn’t need a lot of the stuff for my regular raw workflow with weddings. The Raw files and the DNG files come out super flat, with some weird purple magenta-ry looking cast despite what you do in the settings because, well they are raw files, the preview might look different in different software, but I was using Photomechanic and they look pretty strange until you release the juice! And they are juicy as hell. So juicey that Notorious B.I.G would be jealous. The files need to be post produced and will stare back at you begging to be tweaked until the god ugly sight of its dirty colour and flatness annoy and embarrass you so much that you do it.
When you do play with the files, it is pure joy. A quick WB correction and contrast adjustment will have you sighing in relief. I was able to make my own presets to match my Canon pretty easily, but you can push the hell out of the files if you are into that sort of thing. You can bring images back from the dead. The shadow detail is very impressive. The highlights not so much. So if you shoot it like you were shooting Transparency Film you are sweet. That’s a bit of a lie, just shoot it like any other digital camera.
My second impression was how easy it handled! It’s lighter than my Canon 1Dx and feels like a Super sonic 35mm camera, which is dangerous, as you don’t want to start running and gunning and shoot thousands of frames with this beast. The files are 60 to 100mb each. Also if you get it wrong even a little bit, it really shows, as there are 50 megapixels to zoom in on and prove that you missed focus or had camera shake. However if you are mindful of technique, you can use this in situations where you would never contemplate using a MF system before. With a pretty snappy auto focus and exposure controls similar to the lay out of a Nikon I have found myself using it fast and without restriction. The ISO is ridiculous. Im not even going to go there, you can google that if you want. It is way better in low light than anything I have ever used before. I have been using it during the location shoot (first looks or between the ceremony and reception) when I have a little more control over what happens. It certainly won’t replace my 35mm canon setup, but it sure is a great accompaniment.
The other day I found myself in a situation where I needed a wider lens than what I had, so I had a crack at a handheld stitch in low light. The image below is the result. 1/125 f4 ISO1600 off camera flash 8 image stitch. The following image is a 100% crop.
The rest of these images are unretouched and have had just a simple colour correction applied and have been shot with the standard 55mm lens.
I’m super happy to have this as part of my regular kit now thats for sure!