Pentax 645Z — DSLR-Like Medium Format for a Quarter of the Price

You’ve read all the rumors, now camera and specs are confirmed. The Pentax 645Z medium format camera is officially announced, and boy does Ricoh, the new owner of Pentax, know what it’s doing. At its heart the 645Z has the same 50MP Sony sensor (another growing Sony dominance) as the digital backs of the Hasselblad H5D-50C and Phase One IQ250 with retail prices of $29,000 and $37,000, respectively. From June onwards the Pentax can be yours for $8,499 — and the Pentax will not only give you a larger ISO range with an unheard of medium format maximum sensitivity of ISO 204,800, you’ll also get a more state-of-the-art AF system, class-leading 3 fps with improved burst rates, tiltable LCD, live view plus full HD video recording.

Pentax 645Z -- a relatively affordable medium format shooter to weather all the elements.
Pentax 645Z — a relatively affordable medium format shooter to weather all the elements.

Soon Leica’s first CMOS medium format S system camera will enter the post-CCD fray with expected announcement this summer. Its price will be no less astronomic than the Hasselblad’s and Phase One’s, meaning Pentax is not only the most DSLR-like medium format camera, with the 645Z Ricoh is positioning itself as a serious force to be reckoned with in the large format market. Just look at the price. The 645Z is nearly a fifth cheaper than its own CCD predecessor, the 645D.

A medium format camera of excellent built quality with weather seals, rubberized dials for better grip and magnesium alloy body — this is the first medium format camera to take for a serious ride and not fear the elements whereas the certainly more fragile competitors prefer the comfort zone of a studio. It’s a hefty piece of equipment with a body-only weight of more than 1.5kg.

Certainly a dream come true for the serious, expenditure-conscious photographer who doesn’t want a medium format camera with the price tag of a limousine. Add the availability of 13 lenses for this durable 645 system.

For more information on the 645Z and complete specifications visit Ricoh.

+++ You can order the Pentax 645Z from B&H Photo and Adorama.

  • Andy Umbo

    Lots of traffic about this on other sites, and the most interesting comments are that if you look at the new CMOS sensor size for this camera, compared to Nikon’s D800 full frame, well, the difference is like APS-C to FF! It’s barely bigger than full frame 35mm! It’s a third to a quarter the price of most Medium Format Digitals, but it three times more than a D800 with a sensor that’s not all that much smaller! Someone needs to make a true 645 sensor. Lots of pro shooters that shoot both Medium Format Digital, and 35mm DSLR based digitals, say in the past, the CCD sensors of former have a better look than the CMOS sensors of the latter, so I’m not sure moving to CMOS is a “plus”.

  • Well talking pixels, the Pentax has a resolution of 8,256 x 6,192 pixels, the Leica S(2) of 7,500 x 5,000, the Hasselblad of 6,132 x 8,176. So in fact the Pentax offers the most pixels, albeit on a smaller surface as you say, with top-of-the-line specs…

    The 645Z’s sensor size is 44 x 33 mm. the Hasselblad’s 49.1 x 36.7 mm, the Leica’s 45 x 30mm, Phase One’s 44 x 33mm… Tempest in a teapot?

    And yes, CCD always tops a CMOS output around base ISO, but at only minor ISO increases the CCD’s drawbacks become very obvious unfortunately. Shooting landscapes in sunlight all the time = no need for CMOS. Oh, and add the latter’s better battery performance.

  • Bengt Nyman

    This new Pentax 645Z Medium Format sensor delivers disappointing results compared to the top FF cameras.
    Pentax 645Z: Overall score 82. ISO score 1262
    Nikon D600E: Overall score 96. ISO score 2979
    Unless the new Hasselblad outperforms The Pentax by a wide margin MF is no longer the king of Image Quality.
    Is FF the new MF?

  • Let’s wait and see. Full-frame is certainly making very strong inroads in this innovation cycle. You’re however referring to the 645D — DxOMark didn’t get their hands yet on the Z model:

  • Andy Umbo

    The type of person that uses pro Medium Format sized DSLR’s is far less likely to need any high-speed asa performance, and most likely uses it at the lowest asa, for best performance. Not saying that the boosted asa performance of the CMOS isn’t nice, just that someone pumping it and shooting way low light probably isn’t using a Medium Format DSLR.

    The “small” sensor size of Medium Format DSLR’s is more problematic. The “live area” film frame size of 645 is something like 42mm X 58mm, their long side really matching the short side of the film live area, so you can see that these sensor sizes are substantially smaller, certainly in percentage range of APS-C to FF, going from FF to 44X33.

    Pixel size and quantity are more problematic. I’ve been told repeatedly that at nominal asa’s , the same size megapixels regardless of size, are about the same: i.e. that 24 megapixels from an APS-C and FF camera are substantially the same at low asa’s, it’s just that the noise that increases with the smaller chip as the asa goes up. I’ve also been told that doubling megapixel count really doesn’t double resolution, it goes up only by about a 1/4 to a 1/5th, so that would be very little resolution increase at all between the 36 megapixels of a Nikon D800 and this 50 megapixel Pentax.

    You can certainly make the case that 16 bit color is superior to 12 or 14 bit color of FF cameras (and more “film like”), but again, it’s incrementally small when your work gets converted to CMYK and reproduced in a magazine and a lot of the color info gets “tossed out”.

    It’s actually great for us to see a “reasonably” priced Medium Format DSLR in the mix, for those of us who always shot medium format film (like me). But even at $9,000 (with lenses that are $2,000 or more a crack, I might add, so no “deal” here), when you look at the math against the Nikon D800, in both sensor size and megapixel count, there doesn’t seem much reason to pay even that amount more. I think the next “jump” form the Nikon is to the 80 megapixel stuff!

  • Interestingly, and that’s why I wrote “DSLR-like,” this Pentax aims at a different crowd than the type of person that uses pro medium format. Weather-sealed, tiltable LCD and boosted ISO address more mainstream lustings and concerns.

  • Bengt Nyman

    WOW, Thanks Dan. You are of course right. Sorry Guys !
    Dan, please feel free to delete my missleading numbers above.

  • Bengt Nyman

    Which of these sensors are made by Sony ?

  • The Hasselblad’s sensor — world’s first CMOS-based medium format imager — is made by Sony. Phase One as well uses a Sony-designed sensor. Same goes for the CMOS Pentax…