Pentax 645Z Announcement

Earlier this week, Ricoh Imaging introduced the Pentax 645Z, a high resolution 51.4 MP medium format DSLR camera. While Nikon has been relatively quiet on the resolution front with its now 2+ years old 36 MP D800/D800E models and Canon has not stepped up above 24 MP, Pentax is stepping in with a larger sensor that provides super high resolution 51.4 MP images. With its 43.8 x 32.8mm size sensor, the 645Z has a smaller version of the medium format (MF) sensor that is similar in size to the Leica S-System, although with a different aspect ratio of 4:3 vs 3:2. Compared to full-frame sensors, the physical size of the 645Z MF sensor is about 166% (or 1.66 times) larger, which is a huge difference. Enough of a difference to allow for relatively large pixel size of 5.3 microns – bigger than 4.8 microns on the Nikon D800/D800E. Why does this matter, you might ask? Well, that’s because the Pentax 645Z comes with a CMOS sensor, which is similar technology as we see on all modern DSLR cameras. Compared to traditional CCD sensors used on medium format cameras, a CMOS sensor is capable of yielding images with very little noise at high ISO sensitivity levels. As a result, the Pentax 645Z has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 204,800, which is a mind-boggling number for a medium format camera.

Pentax 645Z

With its 51.4 MP CMOS sensor, the Pentax 645Z captures images at 8256 x 6192 resolution. Since Pentax is now using a Sony sensor, we can expect it to produce exceptionally beautiful images with very high dynamic range and superb colors. If the pixel-level quality of the 645Z is superior to the D800/D800E (and it should be, given the larger pixel size), the extra resolution will create more down-sampling opportunities to yield clean images with lots of detail even beyond ISO 6400. I won’t be surprised if the Pentax 645Z steals the “low-light” crown from the Nikon Df at when it is tested. In fact, other CMOS MF sensors from Phase One and Hasselblad will probably rub against each other in such tests, since the sensor technology is pretty similar. At the same time, I am not sure if DXOMark will hit a ceiling with its test procedures on such a high-resolution sensor, since their methodology to down-sample to 8 MP images might skew results badly.

The most exciting part about this announcement is the price – compared to the previous generation Pentax 645D that cost $10K MSRP, the price of the 645Z has been lowered to $8,500. And with the introduction of this new camera, the 645D was offered for around $6,500 in March, before the announcement. With medium format prices constantly pushing downwards, it is pretty clear that Pentax wants their 645-series cameras to serve as “a bridge” to medium format for pros and enthusiasts shooting with full-frame DSLRs. Compared to the very expensive PhaseOne and Hasselblad offerings that start at $27.5K, the 645Z is certainly a bargain.

Pentax 645Z Side

If you have shot with medium format film or digital before, you know that these things are not designed to be small. With its body dimensions of 156 x 117 x 123mm, the 645Z is significantly larger than a full-frame DSLR. Its box-like body comes with a lot of different controls and even has two separate tripod mounts – one on the bottom and one on the side for vertical / portrait orientation shooting.

Pentax 645Z Top

The autofocus system on the 645Z has been significantly improved compared to 645D, with a total of 27 focus points, compared to just 11 on the 645D. This is no sports or wildlife camera, so do not expect the AF system of the 645Z to be anywhere as good as on something like the Nikon D4s. Medium format cameras are built to be slow and the 3 fps continuous shooting speed reflects that. That’s expected, given the size of the sensor and the amount of data that is processed on medium format cameras.

Pentax 645Z Back

Here is the official press release:

DENVER, CO, April 9, 2014 – It is not often that a camera can be referred to as a game-changer. One that can provide photographers with the tools that not only enrich their craft but are capable of producing images so distinct they are easily set apart from the competition. Today, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation is pleased to announce the game-changing PENTAX 645Z medium-format DSLR, thus altering the landscape of professional photography.

Developed on the multi-award-winning legacy of the PENTAX 645D and the historic PENTAX 645 film cameras, the PENTAX 645Z improves upon one of the most lauded cameras in the company’s 95 year history. Featuring an amazing 51.4 megapixels on a high-performance CMOS image sensor, the PENTAX 645Z assures super-high-resolution images with a stunningly realistic sense of depth combined with vivid colors and rich shadow detail. The resulting images feature a uniquely distinct look and an unmistakable brilliance that clearly differentiate professional photographers to their clients. The thoughtful inclusion of a CMOS image sensor enables live view on a tiltable LCD panel while also making the 645Z the first and only camera in the medium-format category to offer video recording capabilities, resulting in footage that captures amazingly lifelike reproductions with tangible depth and incredible dynamic range.

“Our diverse lineup of DSLRs enables us to offer professional tools like the 645Z at a price point within reach of many photographers,” said Jim Malcolm, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Imaging. “Today’s photographers are looking to differentiate their craft and the 645Z offers the perfect option as an exceptional medium-format camera that does not sacrifice in quality or specification, with affordability.”

The new PENTAX 645Z has also received several significant enhancements including an improved and highly responsive shooting experience that can capture an incredible three frames per second—a significant benefit when compared to other medium-format cameras featuring CMOS sensors and an equivalent resolution—with a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. The 645Z is equipped with an amazing top ISO of 204,800 for images with exceptional quality, even in situations with very low light or pushing for higher shutter speeds in all lighting conditions, providing the photographer with totally new creative options far beyond the scope of existing medium-format photography. Additionally, the 645Z is compatible with the recently introduced FLU Card, providing remote operation of the 645Z including the ability to release the shutter, view a live-view, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a wireless connection to a smartphone, tablet, computer or any web browser enabled device.

Widening the 645Z’s already diverse applications for shooting is an articulated LCD with a 3.2-inch LCD monitor with approximately 1,037,000 dots, ensuring even the most agile photographer captures waist-level, high and low-angle images with precision and ease. Finally, the PENTAX 645Z features an incredibly sturdy and dependable body with a magnesium alloy frame and a diecast aluminum chassis, complemented by 76 weather-seals for a cold-resistant, weather-resistant and dustproof shooting experience.

In conjunction with the launch of the PENTAX 645Z, Ricoh Imaging is also excited to announce the availability of 13FA 645 lenses to support an even wider variety of optics providing the perfect system that spans numerous shooting scenarios.

Since the corporate headquarters of Ricoh Imaging USA is located right here in Denver, I reached out to them today and asked if they would be open to working together in the future. Hopefully I will hear back from them and get a review sample pretty soon, so stay tuned for more exciting coverage and comparisons!

Pre-Order Options

The Pentax 645Z is currently available for pre-order from our trusted partner B&H Photo Video. The expected availability for the camera is June 2014.

  1. Pentax 645Z Medium Format DSLR Body Only for $8,498

Pentax Medium Format Lenses

Here is the list of lenses that are available for the 645Z:

  • ColinB

    Ooh….Now this looks like a seriously desirable piece of kit at a (relatively) very attractive price point. Especially when you look at the very reasonable lens prices. A body plus say the 45/75/150 primes would be a fantastic outfit and very affordable for a working pro. New cameras are frequently hyped as ‘game changers’ but this could legitimately qualify as one. I think back to my studio owning days when we used Contax 645s with Phase One 5 and 10mp backs (which cost A LOT more than the Pentax) and remember the gorgeous 30×20 portraits we got out of those. I can only imagine the images that this Pentax will produce. There’s still nothing like the medium format ‘look’.

    • Nasim Mansurov

      Colin, I agree! Can’t wait to get a hold of one of these and test it out for landscapes and portraiture. I am sure it will be killer!

  • Muhammad Omer

    Hello, Nasim, you earlier posted a review of the fujifilm XT-1 and showed some pictures that you captured ” in a hurry” but still they were extremely sharp and the colors were wonderful even though they were jpeg files.
    Do you expect that kind of image sharpness with focusing that quick on modern entry level Nikon dslr cameras?

    • Nasim Mansurov

      Muhammad, yes, of course the entry-level DSLRs are fully capable of producing superb images similar to what you can get from Fuji cameras. Their JPEG output won’t be as good, but RAW files will be very similar.

  • Rick Keller


    This is a very interesting announcement. The 645Z looks like a fine and advanced digital camera, yet I have to chuckle in amusement about Ricoh’s arrogance about “altering the landscape of professional photography.” Hardly. This camera’s image area is still far smaller than medium format film’s *smallest* format (6x 4.5, 42 x 56 mm), which is 2.6 x larger than 35 mm (and FX digital) and still does not come close to matching medium format film’s resolution, dynamic range, or image quality at it’s even smallest format.

    Further, medium format film cameras cost a *fraction* of this 645Z (and certainly the outrageously priced higher end medium format digital models) and are still unmatched for landscape photography in terms of providing the best combination/compromise of image quality, portability, and cost, with all due respect to the King, large format, of course. :-)

    The 645Z may prove to be an excellent studio camera for a digital photographer, but honestly, I don’t ever forsee it ever overtaking film for landscapes. Nonetheless, I do look forward to reading a review of the 645Z for down the road for its performance in a studio.

    Thanks for the preview!



    • G Dan Mitchell

      “still does not come close to matching medium format film’s resolution, dynamic range, or image quality at it’s even smallest format”

      You are making some entirely unwarranted assumptions about film and digital formats. In terms of the three elements you mention, digital typically performs roughly the same as the next larger film format. So one can make prints form full frame DSLRs that compete on those elements with MF film. MF digital compete on those parameters with 4×5 LF film.

      The 50MP 44mmx33mm “mini” MF format will exceed the capabilities of traditional MF film and lie somewhere between that and LF film.

      Now if you have a preference for the way that film looks then you have a different issue.


      • Rick Keller

        “Entirely unwarranted assumptions about film and digital formats”?

        Look who’s taking. MF film is superior to MF digital is just about every aspect of image quality. In fact, it wipes the floor with digital. I can pull out a whopping 150-200 MP resolution image from my 6 x7 cm slides; digital can touch that.

        MF digital competes with LF? Hardly. Now, that’s as an unwarranted assumption as anyone will ever read on the internet.



        • G Dan Mitchell

          Rick, you are welcome to your preference for film over digital. I have several friends who continue to share that preference, including one very fine photographer who continues to make a successful career from shooting LF and MF black and white film and producing absolutely lovely prints.

          However, the “film is superior to digital” notion doesn’t hold water, objectively or in the light of actual practice among photographers. While some photographers, like the friend I mentioned above, still have a preference for film, the vast majority of photographers of virtually all types disagree with your position.

          As to your “hardly” comment about MF digital competing with LF film, my friend Charlie Cramer, who shot LF film for many, many years, did some careful investigation of the developing MF digital systems starting some years back. (You can read some older articles/experiments here: If you don’t know who Charlie is, before you blast back, take a moment and look him up and find out his qualifications. In any case, he no longer shoots LF film. He mostly shoots a 80 MP digital MF system and makes (beautiful) inkjet prints.

          Blustering about how film is superior in every aspect of image quality doesn’t make it better. Today photographers make stunning large prints from DSLR systems, and even more impressive work from digital MF systems. I think that if you could let go of your prejudices (as Charlie did, after three decades of shooting LF film) and look at the results for what they actual are, you might come to a different conclusion.

          Take care,


  • Tuan Doan

    Dear Nasim:

    I have been a silent reader of your site, since The Mansurov, for several years. I really appreciate your great works and tell all my photography friends about you.

    I think you would better extend your scope of works in term of multiple brands rather than exclusively cover only Nikon. I am sure Canon shooters would appreciate for all thoughts and ideas you and your team would share with them about experience with Canon system.

    In the beginning introduction of this review, perhaps you missed a point that Canon has just announced their 1DW designed for wildlife shooters, 39MP, 24 frame per second, eye detection AF. That is very excited, as Nikon seems to forget to make a new version of D300s so far…

    Wishing you and your team all great success.
    Tuan Doan

    • Nasim Mansurov

      Tuan, we are doing everything we can to cover other brands. And we have so far extended our reach to Fuji, Olympus and Sony. Hard to cover everything.

      However, your comment on the Canon 1DW cracked me up :) You do realize that it was April 1 “Fool’s Day” joke right?

      • Tuan Doan

        Hahaha, thank you, Nasim, for your serious response, I really did not know about the 1DW joke. Keep doing great works and have funs :-)

  • Claude B.

    Lovely! It remind me my old Mamiya645 camera in format (Still have it with a kit lens of 45, 80, 135mm) I would love to get back with that format but in digital. :( It is to expensive for retired budget!

  • Benjamin Brosdau

    I’m really not sure about the comparision between 645 film and 35mm digital Rick. My D800 is running circles around my Mamiya 645AF regardless of filmtype/ speed and scanning method. Yes, you can get a scan from a 645 film area that has more pixel than a D800 file but does it contain more detail? Clearly not in my experience. My friends 6×7 and 6×9 can come close when circumstances are ideal.
    That being said I still prefer the look of film, watching 645 velvia slides in a rollei slidefilm projector is amazing!
    I think the Pentax will yield excellent results, I wonder though if we will see 50Mpx+ in a 35mm form factor at some point.


    • JamesV

      I think you hit the nail on the head there Ben. No matter how good the modern digital cameras, current video projectors still don’t come close to a Velvia slide in a decent analog projector.

    • Claude B.

      The pellicule of a 645 format is very closed to the Imax film in size. The projection is simply HUGE!

  • Mike Banks

    Years ago when I still did wedding photography and the Mamiya RB67 came out I was one of the first to employ that kit for event photography with many of my peers still use Speed Grafix equipment. Then Pentax introduced the 67 format film camera and I bought one of those which gave me the feel of a 35mm camera with a larger negative size. When I stopped doing weddings and switched to product photography I sold the Pentax, kept the Mamiya for a while but shot mostly with 4×5 and 5×7 view cameras for those clients. Finally I sold off my Mamiya equipment as I started to move into more journalistic work and invested heavy into Nikon F series cameras and lenses. Fast forward to digital.

    Since the advent of digital I have been drooling for a large format camera and often take out my Phase One literature which has become drool soaked over time. The new Pentax 645Z makes my move back into medium format doable. Evan as a professional I find the Hassy and Phase kits too expensive but a very nice kit with the Pentax can be accomplished for about the entry price of a Phase one. Ok, I’m drooling again.

    Nasim, one question for you. What am I going to have to have for a lap top in order to process these files?

  • AK

    Ah at last something to get excited about…Very interesting.

    • Nasim Mansurov

      I agree! Can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.

  • Patrick Downs

    Looks interesting. IIRC, Leica is coming out with a new S in the fall that is CMOS, and PhaseOne has a CMOS sensor too, both very expensive.

  • Jay

    At last there is a Pentax that Nasim reports on! If I only wanted to invest in this new 645Z, I already have the skills to use it thanks to my lovely Pentax K-3. Now if Pentax would only come out with a full frame, but looks like their strategy is to produce the best APS-C and large format sensor cameras and bypass the full frame 35 format?! Ricoh has really reinvigorated the Pentax brand and now has made history by being in this Nasim report!

    • Nasim Mansurov

      Jay, we have covered Pentax before, but mostly limited to announcements:

      Hopefully, we will start doing more coverage of Pentax products in the future. The K-3 seems like a solid camera and Pentax has a long history of making killer gear!

      • Doug B.

        I would love to see more Pentax related reviews, comparisons and commentary on this site not just product announcements. I recently picked up a K-5II and was amazed at the low light capability of this camera. These new sensors they’re putting into cameras are amazing in that respect.

        Maybe when the 645Z is released you can get hold of some of those new to the U.S. 645 lenses and do some testing. I sure would if I were in your shoes!

  • Martin

    A seriously interesting release, indeed!

  • Alan Spink

    Looks good, good price, Any LS Lenses? (or do old 645 ones fit, all be it manual focus).


    • Nasim Mansurov

      Alan, yes, the old 645 lenses will work fine with this camera.

      • Alan Spink

        Hi Nasim,

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        I’ll start saving my pennies!



        • Claude B.

          That’s great. But it will work only in manual mode without electronic circuits, I think!

          • Alan Spink

            I was expecting that they would only work in manual – may not be the deal breaker? I may be old fashioned or a fool but AF can be overrated ! Did Ansel Adams have AF? If your not moving and you subject isn’t moving why do you need AF? Even if your subject is moving is isn’t the end of the world – I shot sports for 30 years without AF.

            Have fun out there guys and girls – remember what’s between your ears is more important than the kit your using!



            • Claude B.

              Hello Alan,

              I was not thinking about Auto-focus, but also the metering , what is the lens aperture, etc…

            • Alan Spink

              Hi Claude,

              In an ideal world I would want it all to work AF/metering etc.. But what I really want is the big sensor and a Leaf shutter. Without spending shed loads of money!

              I can overcome not having AF and TTL metering.

              Thanks for comments guys, keep them coming.



  • Craig Leavitt

    This is by far the best endeavor I’ve seen into digital medium format. Once the arsenal of lenses actually become available, and for the prices listed, this camera should take off. But they are still lacking one important lens. And that would be lens in the 20 to 25 mm range.

  • Jason


    Thanks for the review Nasim. This seems like a very interesting camera, especially for landscapes. When I print landscape images I like to print them large, usually 32×48 and 40×60, so I like a lot of megapixels for the detail in the large prints. Even though this Pentax is still cheaper than the Phaseone/Hassleblad systems it is still more than I can justify to spend.

    I still love my D800, it’s a great camera. I’m patiently waiting to see what Nikon will offer as a replacement, hopefully we will hear something soon.

    I do have one question about something you pointed out in the article. Why is DXO’s method of downsampling to 8MP potentially hazardous to the testing process of sensors in terms of performance and expected results? Everything I have heard about down sampling is purely beneficial.


    • Nasim Mansurov

      Jason, thank you for your feedback!

      The reason why down-sampling to 8 MP for super high resolution sensors is not ideal, is because at some point the measurements become too “neutralized”. High resolution sensors have a lot of advantages and if you rank them purely at 8 MP, their resolving power is not being fully taken into account. Pixel-level performance also disappears from such measurements and becomes too irrelevant. We discussed this issue in detail right here: check out the comments between myself and Brad Hill.

  • JR

    I used a film Pentax 645 for a number of years and loved it. I sold a Linhof Super Technika to buy that Pentax and never regretted it. The Pentax 645 lenses were good, not great, and certainly nowhere near as good as the Canon L lenses I was using at that time. But for shooting landscapes on a tripod with cable release, the 645 was very enjoyable and the lenses were sharp enough. It was one of the few “portable” medium format systems of that era and I used it often for backpacking trips.

    The irony never seizes to amaze me…

    …we have this new Pentax 645Z, with a much larger sensor than anything offered in the DSLR world, and considerably heavier and larger than the 5DMIII or the D800, and everyone is salivating over it – and rightly so. I’d LOVE to have one of these babies, but I’d have to sell one of my babies in order to afford one!

    Yet, most of the noise these days is about the ‘compact’ systems, aka “mirrorless”, and how they will KILL DSLRs! And here’s Pentax trying to entice the full frame DSLR crowd with none other than…..a HUGE DSLR!

    Too funny, really.

    Of course, Sony may follow up with a 60Mpx sensor and stick it into a box the size of phone, just to prove that it can be done. Then, they will have to offer all sorts of grip gadgetry in order to make the thing actually useful.

    Funny world, this photography business. If you try to guess where it’s going, chances are you will be off the mark.

  • drew

    Hi Nasim,
    I suspect some of those folk desiring the new 645ZPentax have not managed to hire or borrow a Medium Format system kit. They will be unpleasantly surprised.
    As with many previous posters, i went through a long stint with MF (Hassleblad) in professional work. What a sweat carrying all that kit. What a sweat trying to get edge sharpness in hot weather where the emulsion popped in the film holder of the A12 magazine. What a sweat trying to keep the light out the Light-slide slot on A12…. I should go on.
    Like many a digital MF system was unaffordable, but imagine some of the problems were solved with a digital back.
    Come on people wake up. You are so lucky with what you already have; namely stonking resolution, incredible lenses, blistering handling speed (which you won’t get from MF), and manageable file size.
    What, you still want to make your life willingly more difficult? Ok, but you won’t get better results (bar in a studio).
    Prefer the April 1 Canon, myself.

  • Alan Spink

    Hi Drew,

    You have raised some very good points and I guess the bottom line is why buy any kit at all that “over delivers” When you consider that even the great Peter Lik is shooting with Nikon 800 these days!

    In my 35mm flim days I never spent more than £100 on a camera body (usually second hand) I did spend a bit more on good glass of course!

    Personally I think its a great effort from Pentax – only time will tell if it succeeds against the rest.


  • Richard

    Nice announcement but i think everybody (intersted in a medium format camera) would still be in favor of a hassy, mamiya/phase one due to the fact that this new pentax 645z hasn’t got 16 bit raw files (color depth) which is one of the main advantages and arguments for portrait/commercial (better skin tones) and landscape photographers ( “bigger shadow/highlight buffer” ) to buy a medium format camera rather than a fullframe dslr (e.g. d800e)…..

    What a bummer Pentax…. not implementing 16 bit Raw files….

  • Doug B.

    I’m not a professional photographer, just a hobbyist. For years I shot with a Pentax K10D. More recently a Pentax K-5II. Both wonderful cameras. Certainly not the best for their times, but good enough to produce pleasing images with wonderful color and depth. I have watched as Pentax went through tough times and seemed to fall behind technically compared to other companies products.

    Now Pentax is coming out with what will appear to be a fine digital medium format camera, and at a price point that is far and away lower than anything else in the marketplace. Sure it’s not modular, it does not have the largest sensor and there are not as many auto focus lenses available for it but it is relatively affordable. So many more professional photographers and well healed amateurs can now have a taste of what was until now was forbidden fruit. That in itself is the main point I see in all this.

    • Mike Banks

      Doug B.

      I agree that Pentax fell behind the other manufacturers for along time. Back in the film days Pentax would be considered one of the big three.

      I’ve wanted a medium format digital camera ever since I got to use a friends Phase One but could never justify the cost. Pentax has made that more enticing. I’m thinking that as the camera gains more acceptance, Pentax, will come out with more lenses for it. However, as Nasim lists here there are a good deal of lenses available already when one considers how this equipment will be used. \

      I have not yet pulled the trigger on this one but at less than $10,000 it is likely I will add the 654Z to my kit. With at least three lenses I’m looking at a gross expenditure of about $18000 which is close to the price of the Phase One body only. For me, this makes the choice affordable for the type of work I want to use it for.

      • Doug B.

        Mike Banks, Not knowing what lenses you would consider I would think you could get away with spending considerably less than $18,000. If you go with the FA legacy primes you could get as many as four lenses. Camera is $8500 so you would have $9500 to spend. Now if you are going with the three DFA lenses (… and who could blame you!) then I can see how it adds up.

  • Mike Banks

    Doug B.

    Looking at the list of available glass I couldn’t tell you what I might want to start with. I’m thinking when the time comes I’ll most likely make a trip to New York and pay a visit to B&H. This would give me a more hands on feel for what I might want. For me this camera will definitely be tripod mounted so I’m not wholly concerned with weight. It certainly won’t be the camera I chase my grandchildren with. LOL