I am always flattered when one of the big camera manufactures ask me to work with them. A couple of weeks ago, I was tasked by Pentax with helping to show what their new Pentax 645D camera could achieve.

A good day was had as we lit and photographed a selection of cars and then, just to have a challenge in lighting, with a model alongside. We did this in front of an invited audience.

My first thoughts are that the camera has a good dynamic range, and plenty of latent image quality to bring to the fore, plus a good selection of onboard tools with a couple of omissions maybe.

But not yet having had the time to look in detail at all the images shot, I cant say much more than that at this stage, except for a couple of immediate things that went through my mind.

First is that the design, not just of the body, but of the menu system is photographer friendly. Hardly a surprise, as the 645D is based around a proven family of cameras, that have been refined over the years. Although I am used to working my way around cameras this one, without an instruction book, was with a few minutes no problem to operate with a logical approach to the menu features.

Handling was also good with a range of lenses, but most of the shots were taken with the new 55 mm f/2.8 lens that is introduced with the camera.

Hand held, the Pentax 645D is comfortable and roughly felt similar to say a Nikon D3x or Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III for example in weight. That said, some may it find feels better some not, but you should not just take the weight by the grip, but support the body also. Then it is probably slightly better.

I was a little disappointed though with two things, nothing disastrous and they may simply be because the camera was new to me. The red AF indicators in the viewfinder I would have liked to be a little more pronounced under our studio conditions. And I think ‘Live View’, or rather the lack of it is a disappointment for some kinds of work.

Image © John Clements

I had a quick look at the Pentax software provided with the camera which was basic, and may need some refinement. But what was nice is that apart form shooting Pentax PEF Raw files, you can also encapsulate the Raw file into a DNG format out of the camera. We shot with that and used Adobe Photoshop CS3 to review what we had captured on the day.

I can see where the camera is a logical consideration for those shooting travel or landscapes in particular. There is already an extensive range of lenses to support it. and more to come, so a true system camera ready to run from the off. That is not always something you find as you wait for a manufacturer to come up to speed.

Depending on where you start from, you might see it as a competitor for the previously mentioned top Nikon and Canon models, but also Hasselblad, Phase One or Leaf products.

Such products are not cheap so consider your options, but it is fair to say there is now another one for those wanting to explore the potential of top end image quality. There are of course pro’s and cons of small or medium format digital capture and I may talk more about that soon. Likewise I will add and talk about more images in the near future.

End. (06/12/10).645D