Pentax 645Z Field Test Part I

Ricoh's mighty medium-format takes on the mile-high city

by Mike Tomkins |

I've shot with many professional DSLRs over the years, right back to when even the most expensive of pro gear consisted of digital innards shoe-horned into a repurposed film SLR body, but there was one type of camera that I'd never managed to get my hands on -- at least, away from the trade show floor. Until now, I've never had the chance to shoot a medium format DSLR. The Pentax 645Z is a first for me, and it's one I've been greatly anticipating. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that it's living up to my expectations.

As I said on our news page when I posted my Pentax 645Z gallery a few days ago, this could never be considered a stealth camera. For a medium-format camera, it's actually reasonably compact, with similar width to a professional full-frame DSLR like the Canon 1D X or Nikon D3/D4-series, and since it lacks a portrait grip, it's significantly less tall than any of these. But with the best will in the world, there was little Ricoh could do to reduce its depth -- it has to fit in a medium-format mirror box, after all -- and so it's in this dimension that the Pentax 645Z stands out from other pro cameras. Depending on which of these pro cameras you choose to compare it to, the 645Z is about 30-50% deeper.

How did I get on with my first medium-format experience while shooting in Colorado?

Read Field Test Part I

Pentax 645Z Field Test Part II

Straying outside of the medium-format comfort zone

by Mike Tomkins |

When I published part I of my Pentax 645Z Field Test a little before the Photokina tradeshow, I promised that another report was on the way that would look at Ricoh's mighty medium-format camera in more challenging conditions. After a manic stretch of camera announcements and news coverage for the show -- plus a little time to recuperate -- I'm finally back and fulfilling my promise. It's time to take this medium-format DSLR outside of the traditional comfort zone for medium-format cameras!

And boy, did I ever have some fun shooting the 645Z at night in downtown Denver, my extremely patient wife serving as lens caddy while I carried the 645Z and a Feisol Traveler CT-3441S tripod all over town looking for interesting shots. I'd have liked to have had a sturdier tripod with me, but the Feisol was small and light enough to fit in my carry-on, yet rated for a reasonably generous 22 pounds, and actually did a pretty good job.

What did I think of the Pentax 645Z after shooting in more challenging circumstances?

Find out in Field Test Part II

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