Pentax To Sell HD-Shooting, 51MP 645Z Medium Format Camera with CMOS Sensor for $8,500

April 15, 2014

By Dan Havlik

Pentax became the latest company to introduce a medium format camera with a CMOS sensor tonight but the new model comes with several major twists. For one, the new 51.4-megapixel Pentax 645Z camera can shoot full HD video, which is a first for a medium format camera.

The Pentax 645Z is also one of the fastest medium format cameras on the market, capable of shooting up to three full RAW images per second. In contrast, the Phase One IQ250 digital back and Hasselblad H5Dc camera system, which both use CMOS sensors, can shoot at up to 1.5fps.

The Pentax 645Z is also weather sealed with 76 seals, making it cold-resistant, weather-resistant and dustproof; and it sports a 3.2-inch, tilting LCD screen on back with 1,037,000 dots of resolution, which are both firsts for a medium format camera.

Competitively Priced
But the biggest thing that differentiates the 645Z from its competitors might be its low price for a medium format camera. When it goes on sale in June 2014, the Pentax 645Z will sell for $8,499.95. In comparison, the Phase IQ250 retails for $34,990, and the Hasselblad H5Dc is selling for $27,500.

Where the 645Z is like those more expensive models is that it uses the same 44x 33mm, Sony-made, CMOS chip, which Pentax rates at 51.4MP and Phase One and Hasselblad rate at 50MP. In the past, medium format cameras were equipped with CCD sensors prone to producing excessive noise in photos when shooting in low light at high ISOs. Our test of the Phase One IQ250 proved that a medium-format system with a CMOS sensor can capture high ISO images that look as clean and crisp as those from some full-frame DSLRs.

The Pentax 645Z pushes the low light shooting spectrum even further, with the ability capture images from ISO 100 to 204,800, which is another first for a medium format camera. The 645Z uses a 27-point focus system, with 25 cross points, and has maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. Unlike competing models which use single CF slots, the 645Z comes equipped dual SD Card slots.

HD Video
Many photographers will be most curious about the 645Z’s ability to shoot 1080p HD video, which is captured in the MPEG4/H.264/MOV formats. The camera can shoot at 60i/30p frame rate, and has an HDMI port, a stereo microphone port and and a built-in stereo microphone.

The 645Z also has auto/manual for sound level recording and a sound level indicator. In another first, the 645Z can shoot 4K (AVI:3840×2160) interval time-lapse movies. There are also various video effects function in-camera and frame editing in-camera.

What will be, perhaps, most interesting about the HD video feature in the Pentax 645Z is what the results will look like. As with the Canon 5D Mark II, which was the first digital SLR to shoot full 1080p color HD video, the 645Z will, likely, produce very dramatic shallow depth of field in its footage, thanks to it large sensor. In fact, the 645Z has nearly 70% capture area than 35mm-size sensors, and resulting HD video should be particularly striking.

Faster Speed
Jim Malcolm, executive vice president of Ricoh Imaging, which is the parent company of Pentax, told us in an interview before tonight’s launch that the 645Z is approximately 5x faster to use overall than its predecessor, the 645D.

“Everything is more responsive in the camera,” he said. “Once the image gets into the internal memory of the camera, it manages the data much quicker; from the A/D conversion, to the anti-noise reduction and the 14-bit RAW pipeline. The overall processing speed is much, much faster.”

He added that the 6435Z is also a faster focuser: “The focus lag from the previous model is not just markedly improved, it is greatly improved on the 645Z.”

The 645Z is also compatible with the recently introduced, wireless Pentax Flucard , letting you remotely operate the camera, including triggering the shutter, viewing live view, and browsing and downloading images via a wireless connection to a smartphone, tablet, computer, or any web browser enabled device.

The Pentax 645Z has a similar camera body to its predecessor, with a magnesium alloy frame and a die-cast aluminum chassis, creating a lightweight but relatively sturdy build, which weighs about 3.4 pounds.

New 645 Lenses
In addition to the 645Z announcement, Pentax has unveiled 13 new FA 645 lens to use with new medium format system. The new FA 645 lens go on sale today at the following focal lengths and prices:

SMC-FA 645 75MM F2.8: $839
SMC-FA 645 45MM F2.8 : $1,319
SMCP-FA 645 150mm f/2.8(IF): $1,679
SMCP-FA 645 300MM f/5.6 ED(IF) : $5,759
SMC-FA 645 400MM F5.6 EDIF: $3,479
SMC-FA 645 ZOOM 45-85 F4.5: $2,879
SMCP-FA 645 120mm f/4 MACRO: $1,679
SMCP-FA 645 200MM f/4 (IF): $1,319
SMCP-FA 645 80-160/4.5: $2,519
SMCP-FA 645 33-55 f/4.5 AL: $3,239
SMCP-FA 645 ZOOM 150-300MM F/5.6 ED: $3,239
SMCP-FA 645 35mm f/3.5: $1,919
SMCP-FA 645 55-110 f/5.6: $2,039