Friday, July 11, 2014

Pentax 645Z

I put in a request for a Pentax 645Z about a month ago, after a number of others had done so, and was very surprised to come home from work yesterday to find a phone message that my camera had come in. This morning I happily picked up the camera and 25 mm. lens. I already had 35, 75, 120, 150, 200, and 300 mm. lenses, all but the 300 manual focus. I already knew the 120 was extremely sharp.

Some have worried that the camera isn't sufficiently better than the Nikon D800e (and soon to be released 810) to be worth the limitation in lenses, the weight and the bulk.

I have to say, I used my old camera bag that is a bit smaller than the heavy one I lugged my Nikon around in, and managed to fit into the bag, the camera and a lens mounted (even the 300), separate storage for the 300, 150, 120, 75 and 35. I had doubts about the older version 200 so didn't worry too much With a bit of fiddling, I even found room for the rather large 25 mm. lens. The weight is a little more than the previous Canon equipment it used to hold, but not by a lot and certainly not a concern. So, no more space, not sig. heavier - already a good start.

It was easy to set up the camera for raw DNG, no jpeg, two cards, one then the other, iso 100 (a dedicated iso button), and quickly found the button to change to 2 second self timer, mirror up at the beginning).

I had purchased RRS plates for bottom and side and used my RRS 34 tripod with BH55 lever release head.

The camera feels great in hand and the controls are very straight forward. I once pressed the iso button instead of the exposure compensation button, but quickly found my error and that was it for problems working the camera.

Format is the second last menu list in the last category, part way down - too bad there doesn't seem to be a my my menu like Canon uses, but knowing where to find it it doesn't take long to get there.

I took a few snaps hand held but once I was in the building I wanted to photograph, I relied entirely on live view.

I discovered that while a tilting and swinging lcd screen would have been nice, the tilt only lcd still helps in vertical pictures where the camera is aimed up or down - you just have to accept that you are looking at it at an odd angle. I didn't find it especially difficult to aim the camera viewing this way and it was much better than trying to crouch down and tilt my head up painfully to look at a fixed screen.

I found the magnify for focus button is the ok button and works great for focusing accurately. I did wish that one could see where the magnified image was going to be like the Sony A7r does, and I also wished that I could scroll around the screen a lot faster than the camera does to get to corners for a focus check, but this is nit picking. Other than that, there was nothing I found difficult. Live view is with the lens wide open, same as Canon and opposite to Nikon and Sony - a system I much prefer. Focusing with the lens stopped down to f11 or f16 is a nightmare even though with live view it's bright - just too much depth of field.

The lcd screen was a little dark in the bright sunny afternoon so I cranked it up to max and lost no quality and gained much brightness and it was thereafter decent in full sun - all I could ask of it.

The viewfinder is a delight and focus confirmation works well even with the manual lenses, and the 300 autofocuses even in my house tonight - no complaints there.

The 300 does not have a lens collar but with the size of the camera and width of the lens mount, and the light weight of the 300 5.6 lens, I didn't feel this was needed or even desirable.

So, what about image quality? Well, it's early days. It's at least as good as the Nikon was and a lot less frustrating to use. Love that 120 Macro. the 25 held up well if not perfectly (my Zeiss 15 didn't either). The files stand a lot of manipulation without breaking up.

I feel really good about this purchase, certainly better than I did with either the Nikon or Sony. I now realize that the Sony electronic viewfinder is largely for hand holding, that I rarely do, and so is surplus to requirements.

On the way home from my shoot, I stopped to photograph some horses standing in a field, using the 300, iso 400, hand held and of course no IS. The camera and lens performed just fine.

I will do more formal testing in the coming days and post examples, but there is enough on the net already for that to be of less than critical importance. I would like though, to establish just what I can expect from each of the lenses.

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