Although the Pentax 645Z medium format DSLR has been out for a few years, I only had a chance to try it out earlier this year, during my trip to Death Valley. I have been wanting to try the 645Z for quite some time, since I heard so many good things about it. With medium format digital being traditionally out of reach in terms of cost for most photographers out there, including myself, I did not really have much interest in trying out cameras that are as expensive as some nice cars. However, the Pentax 645D changed the game back in 2010, by being the first sub-$10K medium format digital camera at launch.
It has been a while since I posted the “How was this picture made #11?” article, where I showcased a very high resolution image of sand particles with tons of detail. The image was massive in size and resolution when I extracted it out of Lightroom. In fact, the image was so big, that I had to downsize it to 4096 pixel long resolution in order to keep the size at less than 10 MB with as much JPEG optimization as I could. When dealing with so much detail, even the highest JPEG compression levels will still yield large files, since there is so much pixel-level data. And that’s what you get when you have an image produced from a sensor that moves one pixel at a time in order to create a super high resolution image! And combined with the power of focus stacking multiple images, you get insane levels of detail from a macro shot like this. So how did I do it? Let’s talk about the specifics of this particular shot.
I just got back from a trip to Yellowstone National Park to test out the Nikon D500, Nikon D5 and Pentax K-1 DSLRs (reviews to be posted soon) and I wanted to share my experience, specifically my frustrations with visiting and photographing this amazing location, which has been my top spot for many years for photographing both wildlife and landscapes. I spent a week in Yellowstone and my original plan was to stay there for longer if needed, depending on how much wildlife I would encounter. But I had to cut my trip short, because I was just getting tired of seeing the same behavioral patterns of park visitors over and over again – to the point where it was just getting absurd, abusive and downright stupid.
Ricoh has just posted image samples from its upcoming Pentax K-1 DSLR (see our announcement post for details). Although all of the images were shot at ISO 100 and we are yet to see high ISO image samples, the 36 MP sensor on the K-1 seems to be very similar to that of the Nikon D810 in terms of image quality and color reproduction, which is superb. At $1800, the Pentax K-1 represents phenomenal value, not only because of the sensor alone, but also because of the different technologies packed into the camera body. The “Pixel Shift” capability, in particular, deserves a lot of attention, because the camera is capable of moving its sensor in order to capture all the colors that a typical Bayer sensor is incapable of capturing in a single shot. As a result, one can get results previously only possible when shooting with a medium format camera in terms of extreme detail. This kind of technology is disruptive, because it is innovation we have previously not seen from any full-frame camera.
Today is a big day for Pentax fans, because the company has finally announced its much anticipated full-frame DSLR, the Pentax K-1. Featuring a 36.4 MP CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 100-204,800, PRIME IV Image Processor, 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS), 33-point AF system, 3.2″ Cross-Tilt LCD, 4.5 fps continuous shooting, built-in Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, dual SD card slots, a fully weather sealed magnesium alloy body, full HD video recording and a few other extra features like AstroTracer, the K-1 looks like a tool that packs practically every feature a DSLR shooter could think of. And the best part isn’t even the list of features – it is the price! At $1,799, the Pentax K-1 is the cheapest professional-grade DSLR ever made; even Nikon’s entry-level full-frame DSLR, the Nikon D610, had an MSRP of $1,999 when it was launched. Pentax users have every reason to rejoice, because the K-1 is without a doubt, the most feature-rich and value-driven DSLR we have seen to date…
Having been out of town for a few weeks, I am just catching up with some major news, so I decided to post some announcements that I consider to be newsworthy. In this particular case, it is the announcement of the Pentax K-3 II, which I believe deserves a spotlight for the innovation it brings. Sporting in-body image stabilization, high-resolution sensor shift mode, star tracking, anti-aliasing filter simulator, built-in GPS and durable construction, the K-3 II brings some great innovative features which we have never seen on a DSLR before. Looking at this powerful APS-C camera, I am excited to see what Pentax will do with its upcoming full-frame camera. And I hope that both Nikon and Canon are taking notes from Pentax, because such innovation is much needed in the DSLR market to keep it healthy, now that the mirrorless market is steadily growing.
Even though the new and upcoming full-frame Pentax DSLR camera will support existing brand lenses for APS-C sensor cameras, Ricoh realizes full and well that having a 35mm camera is only part of the package. Lenses are simply crucial to make such a system make any sense at all. That is why Ricoh-Pentax has announced two new lenses designed to cover the image circle of a full-frame sensor, the HD Pentax-D FA * 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW and HD Pentax-D FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6ED DC AW. It’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it? But I am focusing on the wrong things as both lenses, along with the upcoming full-frame camera, mark a new chapter in the history of the famous brand. Let’s take a closer look, then.
The ever-raging Canon vs Nikon debate might have you believing users of those particular systems are the most loyal to their brands. From what I’ve seen, though, neither Canon nor Nikon shooters have anything on those who shoot Pentax and swear by it. It’s a very niche system, that. No other DSLR manufacturer has such an array of competitive products priced so aggressively, that are also so compact and, when it comes to high-end models, so brilliantly rugged. No other DSLR manufacturer has such a great lineup of tiny, high quality autofocus prime lenses. And no other DSLR manufacturer has had so much trouble trying to find its identity. For a while now, Pentax has been experimenting with the narrowest of niches, launching boldly styled cameras, or boldly tiny interchangeable lens cameras with even smaller sensors. And yet those loyal to the brand always stuck by it. How happy they must be now that those who always ridiculed the brand will have their most valuable argument brushed away – “Pentax has no FF camera”. It’s true, there is no full-frame Pentax camera. But there will be, and rather soon. And for those who would rather avoid the pointless which-system-is-better debates, it means a new alternative to the best DSLR cameras on the market is soon to present itself.
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.
A number of our readers have been asking our team about our recommendations on different mirrorless cameras. With so many different options on the market today, choosing a mirrorless camera can get very confusing. In the new series of articles, we will compare all the options on the market today starting from entry-level, mid-level to high-end. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing mirrorless camera systems that are available today from different manufacturers. This below charts will be updated periodically with new / updated information. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Discontinued systems such as Pentax K-01 and Ricoh GXR are not included. The list is sorted alphabetically and had to be split into two parts to fit. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras.