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Pentax 645N

by Philip Greenspun, 1998


My friend Rob bought one of these. He said "I own the first autofocus medium-format SLR." I replied "You mean the first medium-format SLR for wimps, don't you?"

Let me air my prejudices first. I like the 6x6 format and used a Rollei 6008 system for many years. I love being able to defer horizontal/vertical decisions until I'm editing my photos on a light table. I take my best-composed pictures looking down into a waist-level view finder. For me one of the great joys of medium format is that you can take square pictures. Also, if you're going to suffer with the weight of medium-format lenses, then you should at least put film underneath as much of their image circle as possible, something that only a square format does.

Mechanical Impressions

The 645N is about the size and weight of a Nikon F4, which is pretty good considering that it produces a 6x4.5cm image (actually 41.5x56mm versus a Nikon's 24x36mm frame). The standard lens is a 75/2.8. Pentax cheaps out and doesn't give you a lens hood. What's worse, the optional lens hood does not bayonet around the outside of the lens as with a Rollei, Hasselblad, or top-quality 35mm camera lens. It screws into the 58mm filter thread. Speaking of screw-in filters, that's also what you get with Pentax lenses, not the delicious bayonet-mount filters of a 'Blad or Rollei.

The manual focus ring on the lens is rather too narrow for comfort. There is a somewhat-difficult-to-operate switch to kick the lens into autofocus mode.

Depth of field preview is accomplished by pulling a lever towards your hand. It is in exactly the right place; the best feature of the camera. Unfortunately, the shutter speed dial is too far away from the shutter release; it is tough to adjust shutter speed and then get back to take another picture.

User Interface Impressions

The viewfinder eye relief is just barely enough for me with my eyeglasses. The LCD displays of aperture, shutter speed, and under/over exposure are clear and will be very familiar to people who've used modern 35mm SLRs. I was able to figure out the entire camera including autobracketing without the manual.

The exposure and metering system are identical to that on my old Rollei 6008. You set your aperture and shutter speed and you're in metered manual mode. You move the shutter speed dial to A and you're in aperture-priority autoexposure mode. You move the aperture ring on the lens to A and you're in program autoexposure mode. You move the shutter speed dial to 1/60th and you're in shutter-priority autoexposure mode. I wish all cameras worked this way and we were freed from the mode dials and switches that clutter most 35mm SLRs.

Autofocus

Compared to my Canon EOS system, the AF is absurdly slow and noisy. It also hunts much more and is incapable of achieving focus on targets that a modern EOS body would catch in 0.1 seconds. Rather than license the USM motor system from Canon, lens focusing helicals are driven from a screwdriver-style blade inside the body.

If you try to manually touch up focus while the lens is in AF mode, you're treated to a sickening grinding sound.

The whole AF experience with this camera reminds me of my Nikon 8008 back in 1989, just before I turned off AF for good.

Good Features

  • all the old Pentax 645 lenses fit and work, although they won't autofocus of course
  • You can run the camera off six standard AA batteries that fit in the grip (300+ rolls with lithium AAs)
  • You can use a standard screw-in cable release.
  • Pentax is very precise about how frames are spaced on the film. They can thus get 16 exposures on 120 (instead of the usual 15) and 33 on 220 (instead of the usual 30).

The Worst Features

The viewfinder only shows about 92% of image area, similar to a 35mm SLR. But medium-format chromes aren't usually mounted and negs aren't sent to 1-hour labs so I think a lot of folks will be in for compositional surprises.

There is no mirror lock-up as far as I can tell. This will limit the camera's utility for macro and critical telephoto landscape work.

It is rather painful to adjust the ISO speed for the meter. I can't figure out why the Pentax can't read the bar codes that Fuji is putting on its 120 film these days. The Fuji "P&S-style" 120 cameras can. Then the 645N could set the ISO automatically for you.

No Polaroid back is available for the Pentax 645N, mostly because there are no interchangeable film backs for the camera. You can't leave the camera on a tripod and get chromes and negs by changing film backs the way you would with a 'Blad, Bronica, Mamiya, whatever.

The Slickest Feature

The 645N imprints exposure data, metering mode and compensation employed, even lens focal length. All of this goes onto the film but outside the image area.

So is this the future?

If you're used to the latest Canon and Nikon gear, the Pentax 645N will seem like a half-baked effort. If the Canon EOS or Nikon F5 engineers made a camera like this, they'd put in USM lenses, full-time manual focus, ability to shift AF to a button other than the shutter release, etc. But technical innovation comes slowly to the medium format market. Witness the fact that this AF SLR arrives more than a decade after the first 35mm AF SLR systems. So don't hold your breath for a 6x6 Canon EOS. If you want a medium-format SLR that autofocuses and that you can hand to your friend for a few shots and have the pictures turn out, this is your only option.

The price? With a lens, filter, hood, shipping, etc., you're going to be spending close to $3000 at the photo.net recommended retailers. The Hasselblad kits are actually cheaper but you'll get reamed when you want to buy more lenses whereas Pentax 645 lenses tend to be reasonably priced.

Where to Buy

The USA version of this camera is stocked by Adorama, a retailer that pays photo.net a referral fee for each customer, which helps keep this site in operation. For additional retailer information, see our recommended retailers page and the user recommendations section.

[December 1998 update: Contax (Kyocera) has introduced a 645 AF slr that is rather similar to the Pentax. The good news is that each lens incorporates a Canon EOS-style ultrasonic motor. The bad news is that the prices seem to be three times Pentax prices. I wish I could say that Rob and I have critically tested his Pentax against my Rollei. But instead I finished writing my book and he did the 45th anniversary cover of Playboy Magazine. Then Rob got a Sinar X and Nikkor 210 ED macro lens and the image quality is so breathtaking that it makes a 645 chrome look like an APS point-and-shoot.]

More

Stay tuned. Rob and I are going to stage a carefully controlled comparison between his 645N toy and a Rollei 6003/Zeiss 80 combo. We will post the results.

In the meantime, you can check Pentax's Web site for the official specs.


Article created 1998

Readers' Comments


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Adam Wade , April 05, 1998; 04:44 A.M.

I am looking forward to a more comprehensive review after Philip compares the Rollei 6003 and Pentax 645N. However, I have a few comments....

I believe the 645N uses a rather sophisticated mirror dampening that eliminates the need for a mirror lock-up. That should be a priority to test on his next review.

I agree that the AF is similar to a Nikon F4/8008 generation camera, but slighty better sensitivity.

The comment that a lens for 6x6 format uses more of the image circle of a lens is a little off in point, IMO. The 645 format requires a slightly smaller image circle than a lens designed for 6x6. Therefore, the 645 lenses are much more compact than 6x6 SLR lenses. Both the Pentax and Mamiya 645 lenses are simliar in size and weight to 35mm professional level lenses, and can be carried in virtually the same bag arrangements. This is not so with 6x6 lenses.

Waist level viewing is superior for composing and editing the shot before taking the shot. Just like looking a a chrome on the light box. But in a rectangular format without a rotating back, makes little sense.

Screw-in filters: well, they are far less expensive and dont get loose after a few years of use like Hassy filters. Rollei fixes this with sweet little ball bearings that snap lock the filters - even more pricy!

The AF switch on the Pentax Lenses is a pain!

There is a Polaroid back available from NPC I think, but its over $1,000. However, with removable backs you must finish the whole roll of film before taking another test shot - whats the point?

The lack of removable film backs is extremely annoying if you are used to using other MF cameras, but probably not an issue if you are upgrading from a 35mm system. Suppossedly, pentax chose to do this to keep their 645 more compact, which it does by a couple of inches, but I'd rather have the backs.

Don't forget Pentax makes a nice adapter to use the 6x7 series lenses on the 645 cameras - a nice feature.

Personally, I am a Rollei 6008 fan myself,(don't own one yet, but often rent it) but feel the Pentax 645N could be useful for quick candids, low light situations and action shots that one would miss with conventional manual focus 6x6 SLRS. I could see the 645N and the 45-85AF zoom being a nice addition to any Hassy system, let alone a great way to break into MF from the 35mm AF world.

Adam Wade , April 05, 1998; 04:52 A.M.

Sorry for the errors on my first comments. Specifically, the polaroid back comment should read without removable backs whats the point.

Pepe Alvarez , June 16, 1998; 04:58 A.M.

Forscher makes (or did make some years back) a Polaroid NPC Proback for the Pentax 645. It uses a fiber optic fused element that is inserted into the film chamber up against the film plane. Since the 645N uses the same film inserts as the 645 it will likely accept the same polariod back. Current production can be verified by their Photo Division. The last number I have for them is (616) 969 4523.

Rick Diaz , June 21, 1998; 01:31 P.M.

Philip, I'm entertained on your review of the Pentax 645N camera, but I like to point out several flaws that you have missed.

First of all, I shoot professionally with my F90x as my main 35mm platform and the F70 as my backup. I just bought the Pentax 645N AF camera so as to replace my old Mamiya 645 which broke down earlier. I didn't get the 75mm f/2.8 as you so degraded it. I agree with you that it is cheap.

No, instead I got the Pentax FA 45-85mm f/4.5, FA 300mm f/4 EDIF and the FA 400mm f/5.6 EDIF. And no, they're not cheap and they don't come with cheap hoods either. Your review seemed to suggest that cheap accessories are what you will get with Pentax lenses. This is completely untrue! I suggest you play with the 400mm f/5.6 EDIF for awhile. I assure you that the quality is very good!

Secondly in your mechanical impression column, you said that it is difficult to adjust shutter speeds and then get back to take another picture. Well, little that you know that the Pentax AF 645N comes with 8 custom functions that can only be activated in the repair depot. And one of the custom functions, custom function 1, allows you to set the TV setting to 1/2EV deviation via the up and down button. This is easier to set the shutter speed at 1/2EV just by punching the buttons instead of fiddling around with the speed knob. I know the feeling as I was using the F4s before and hated the knob. That was the reason I switched to the F90x. Also, if you like the Pentax PZ-1 or Z-1p program shift feature, you can enable that in the Pentax AF 645N via the custom function feature 2! Does Hassy has computerized aided program shift?

As to autofocus, I was told by my rep that it is the Safox 4 generation, same as the Pentax ZX-5 or ZX-5n series. It works best with EDIF lenses, but I admit that it ain't as good as my F90x or even my F70. But considering that this is a medium format camera, the autofocus feature I think does a great job.

As to the viewfinder problem, I don't see professionals complaining about the F90x's non-100% viewfinder coverage at all. And yet, you claim that the 92% viewfinder is the worst feature of all. I guess that my Nikon F90x 92% viewfinder coverage is one of the worst feature of all. I don't think so..

I have learned to accomodate that deficiency by framing carefully to anticipate that. I have never have any problems with my Pentax AF 645N either. And no, there are compositional surprises either, at least to me.

No mirror lockup on the 645N. True, but I was told by the rep again that the camera employs a sophisticated mirror braking system that virtually eliminate mirror vibration. So far, my pictures are no effected by the mirror vibration and I'm using the 300mm and 400mm a lot, so whatever vibration should be obvious on the 300 or my 400mm lens. I ofcourse use my beefy tripod for all my shots.

As to the slickest feature or features, data imprinting is one. But you neglected to mention that this 645N camera has 8 customized features that can be activated to make this camera even better.

They are, and not necessarily in their right order,

CF1 - 1/2 TV set CF2 - Program Shift CF3 - Bulb Timer custom CF4 - AE Bracket stepper change from 2/3 to 1/2EV CF5 - AE Bracket Shift CF6 - Film no & Counter CF7 - Film counting in descending order CF8 - AE Timer select

You can activate 1 or all of these functions for a fee ofcourse. Does other medium format cameras have that feature like the 645N?

I hope this helps update your review of the 645N AF.

Rick Diaz..

Brian C. Ellis , June 29, 1998; 09:41 A.M.

This guy's principal problem seems to be that the Pentax 645N isn't the Rollei 6008 that he is used to and likes. If his preferred mode of photography is a square format with a waist level viewfinder, why even both to print his review of a 6x4.5 format camera with an eye level finder? Reviews of equipment are most helpful when they review the equipment for what it is, not by comparing it to some supposedly ideal piece of equipment that the author favors. I haven't purchased the 645N, and don't plan to purchase it any time in the near future, but if I were going to do so I would pay very little attention to this review and I hope no one else does either.

D. Gonzalez , July 03, 1998; 05:07 A.M.

While the Pentax 645N is, in many respects, an obvious 'downgrade' from the older, pre-AF Ptx 645, I'm not so sure that it deserves the rubber boot award you've given it.

Comparing the camera to a Rollei 6003 only makes sense from a current price perspective and, as of 7/3/98, the camera is selling for around 90% of MFG's list ($2499 body alone), while its competition routinely sells for 65% of their respective list prices. The 645AF is having its introductory honeymoon and the price will settle to well below $2000 w/the 75mm soon (if history is any guide)

Next, I believe Phillip hasn't yet done a critical comparison of the 645N's 75mm against the Rollei's 80mm (Planar or Xenotar 2.8). Having made that comparison, my conclusion is that the (non-AF) Ptx 75mm can and will rise to the occasion. In one sense: contrast, the Ptx lens seems to beat all of the competitors.

I agree that the covering material is cheesier than the previous versions was. The knobs feel less than expensive and the ergonmics of the machine aren't as well done as the Rollei. Then again, the 645N is not so much made for that comparison.

IMO, the Ptx 645N is a kind of field shooters bridge camera built to provide the most comfortable, familiar interface/character for the 35mm photographer who wants to shoot quickly in a larger format. With the sorely needed additions of an AE lock button, an honest to God shutter dial and a useful manual display, I found the camera quite pleasant to work with and capable in most every respect. The Rollei, as Phillip knows, is in most respects without peer. True as that may be, it's large, it's expensive and it's not quite as simple to use as it first appears. I also would choose the 6003 from a features perspective and/or a quality perspective at the current price point. No doubt.

Big but is that it's just not a fair comparison. The Pentax 645N is not meant to sell for the money they're charging and will settle into a very nice value-for-the-money slot as soon as demand wanes just a touch. The Rollei wont be doing that until next year when they replace it with the next 6003 variant......

Danny Gonzalez

Brian C. Miller , July 14, 1998; 09:49 A.M.

After reading Phil's and other contributor's comments, I went to a local camera shop to find out what all the fuss was about the camera.

Yes, the autofocus is quite quick. Why isn't it as fast as, say, Cannon or Nikon? The lens is simply the same as the other Pentax 645 lenses, it just has a motor drive socket in it. The lens focusing ring must travel further than its autofocus 35mm counterparts. Is it fast? Any faster and (tall tales mode on) the camera would be wrenched from your hand by the torque. Is it as fast as manual focus? I think so. The camera went from near to infinity in less than one second, which I would say is quite adequate. The lens drive motor makes a bit of noise during far throws, about half the noise the film advance motor makes.

Robert Brown , August 04, 1998; 02:10 P.M.

I also agree that Phil was too harsh on this camera. I recently went to Prague with my Mamiya 645 Super and when I got there I realized I left the little cable release adapter at home so I couldn't use a cable release! I believe this was fixed with the 645 Pro but what a bad design. This alone got me thinking about trading to the Pentax. To me features like auto bracketing, exposure data imprinting, and exposure times up to 30 sec in auto are the features I really like. As well the Pentax is MUCH quieter than the Mamiya with a winder. The changeablle back of the mamiya is a definite advantage but with 120 film you only have 15-16 exposures so this doesn't bother me too much. All in all I was very glad to see modern features come to medium format.

Charles Wood , August 07, 1998; 06:55 P.M.

I purchased the 645n in May of this year. It has augmented my two EOS 35mm bodies and a complement of Canon and Tokina L and Pro Series Lenses. The 645n is also an adjunct to my existing Pentax 67.

Although the AF was a pleasant extra, it was the prime reason for my purchase. I travel extensively on business and I wanted a lighter, more compact MF system.

I considered the prior 645 but I preferred the brightness of the 645n viewfinder and it's ergonomics. The data imprinting was also very a very important feature, for me personally. When I purchased the 645n, I purchased it with the standard 75mm AF lens, a manual 645 35mm len and a 67-645 adaptor to allow my 200, 105 and 55mm P67 lenses to be used with it.

I have not for one moment regretted the purchase of the 645n. I only use my Canon A2e for P&S, low light handheld or long lens work now. I find the P67 and the 645n (with the 67-645 adaptor) make a dream field system. For air travel with new limitations on carry on luggage, I take the 645n and a selection of lenses plus one my EOS bodies and a couple of long lenses, and I'm set.

As for metering, I find the matrix mode excellent -- seemingly as accurate or at least to my liking as my A2e-- and as someone else, dead on in the spot mode. I'm getting the highest percentage of yield now with chromes that I have ever achieved with internal metering.

I found by using the Single frame mode rather than the predictive mode, the AF is quick enough for cityscapes, travel shooting and a non-factor when shooting landscapes.

I've examined frames shot from 1/8 to 1/30 second under an 8x loupe and they appear tack sharp. I have not done any macro work nor anything longer than 200mm but using a Reis Backpacker tripod, I've seen no problems with apparent sharpness.

Needless to say, I LOVE THIS CAMERA!!!

Adam Poll , September 01, 1998; 10:22 A.M.

Phil's comment about the shutter speed and aperture controls, "all camera's should be work like this". The MZ5, MZ5n, and MZ3 35mm SLRs all work this way. I find it intuitive and fast, not having to press a button or change a mode just to tell the camera what I want to change, I just change it!

Robert Johnson , October 20, 1998; 11:47 P.M.

For a long time I was considering buying the Rolie 6008 or 6003. That is until i actually picked one up in the store and played with it for a while, a long while, actually three times I went back. This is a very unintuitive camera. I had no interest in the Pentax until i was in a store and I wanted to show my girl friend what a Medium Format camera was and it just happened to be the closet one to try. I was amazed at how easy, fast and intitutive it was . I figured out how to operate everything in a few minutes with no manual. Can't say that about a rolie. I went back several times and each time I liked it even more. I have an EOS A2 and I think the Pentax focuses very fast! I wasn't in the market for a non changable back MF camera but i can really see a use for this camera and I am going to get one. It is Ideal for Wedding Photographers! Where you need fast focus and auto exposure and TTL flash. I plan to but one. Phil, if your friend is as displeased as you are, please have him send me a note and I will take it off of his hands.

Sidney Tam , April 15, 1999; 11:10 P.M.

I used Rollei 6008 plus couple of lens from 50mm, 80mm, 120mm, 180mm and 300mm. I was crazy about the quailty picture by Rollei, till today, I am crazy about it. However, I have a difficult time to use Rollei for my lovely kids while they are very mobile. Therefore, I go for Pentax 645N. Initially, I want to wait for Contax 645, however, when I learn about the price. I gave up. I don't think Contax 645 could deliver better picture quality than Rollei does, but charge us more. Pentax 645N should be the best price performer. It is fast, easy to use, and provides user enough feature to shoot quality picture under different environment. Prehaps, I may consider to have Contax 645 when the price drop to reasonable level. However, it is just my personal wish. I operated Contax 645 twice, but not shooting any picture. The feature sets are good, but not super than Pentax by mile. Again, what you pay for, what you get. Therefore, I go for Pentax 645N. It is a great machine on medium format. However, if you are really crazy about quality, go for Rollei. This machine will help you to develop your skill. Hasselblad is also a good machine, but you need to have skill before using it.

I love both Pentax 645N and Rollei.

Sidney Tam

Joe Nicholson , June 17, 1999; 02:31 A.M.

On the negative side for P645, I'd like to mention the slow flash-sync speeds. That can really limit its uses, especially for outdoors fill-flash or indoors with low depth of field, IMHO. Just my $0.02.

Joe

Paal Jensen , July 27, 1999; 08:28 A.M.

Pentax goal with the 645n was to to make a Medium Format camera that works like a 35mm slr. This should be taken into consideration when judging the camera. Pentax has been very succesful at this: Sales of the camera breaks all records and most users are first time medium format owners upgrading from high-end 35mm systems. The release programs for newer AF lenses are also behind schedule due to capacity problems.

Both 35mm and 4.5X6 have rectangular formats and appeal to those who like to do the cropping in the viewfinder. Neither the 645n or 99% of the 35mm cameras it mimmicks have a waist lever finder. Nor have they interchangable film magazines. If you want your medium format camera to work in the traditional manner; look elsewhere. Pentax clearly market the camera for field use; ie. its primarily intended for nature and outdoor use.

I really like the user interface of the 645n, which I prefer over that of the typical modern 35mm AF-slr (various Minoltas, Canon EOS-1, Pentax PZ-1p etc). I prefer conventional controls with a hands-on feel and direct readout. Metering selection, drive selector, and not to mention autobracketing are very easy to use. Ie. No mode selector and dials without direct readout. However, I would have liked to see the on-off switch removed to the drive switch.

The multipattern metering has a tendency towards underexposure (0.5 to 1 stop), this may, however, be due to stray light through the view finder. The meter is very accurate. The spot meter is dead on from the factory. I have had no use for calibrating my camera. The only thing I don't like about the meter, and probably only valid for someone who shoot carefully composed landscapes, are the fact that the camera meter only stays on for 20s. It will also immedialtely turn off when releasing either the shutterbutton or the exposure lock button if the 20s are exceeded. However, the 645n share this with most other cameras. However, this can be changed to 5, 10, 20 or 30s by custom function 8. This has to be done at service though. A neat feature is that the meter will turn on when depressing one of the up/down buttons for the ISO setting/custom functions preventing you from accidentally trigging the shutter.

The vertical tripod mount is surely the greatest thing since sliced bread. I shoot far more verticals with this camera than any other simply because it is so hassle free. Another great feature is the data imprinting function. Even the most experienced photographer can learn much from this. It is also a great benefit for low light/night photographers since it records the duration of exposure in B setting. Bulb mode shutter speeds can be programmed from 4 to 500 seconds via custom function 3.

The camera feels very solid, and all controls have a tight secure feel. Maybe even too tight, but they loosen up with use. The camera uses a heavy duty metal chassi similar to the F5. It is covered by thick (almost twice as thick as usual covering for 35mm slr's) polycarbonate. Even a rabid all metal camera person like me must admit that this camera does not suffer from the use of plastic.

The viewfinder is excellent, and is not cluttered with uneccesary information, only exposure information; Most other information can be accessed by taking a look at the top of the camera body. This is definitely a conscious, no-nonsense choiche by Pentax. The finder is also very contrasty and bright; a joy. Manual focusing is easy and far better than on most 35mm AF slr's. On the negative side is that the viewfinder do not show 100%.

The lenses are excellent - the results is spectacular. So far I have the FA 45/2.8 and the FA 75/2.8. The built quality of the 45mm is superb - all metal except the hood. The 75mm use a plastic lens tube, as do all(?) Pentax lenses were the construction warrants long traveling distance of the lens tube in order to focus. In other words it is designed identical as the A 75/2.8 lens. Probably to save cost. However, the lens feel solid and doesn't rattle or wobble. So I guess it is quite solid. The FA 75/2.8 has been tested as equal or better than the Zeiss 80mm for the Hasselblad. The MF/AF switch, that have been critizised here, is only present on the FA 75/2.8 lens. This lens has no room for the excellent (second only to Canon EOS-l lenses) Pentax clutch AF/MF mechanism used on all other lenses. All other lenses are also all metal designs and are better built than any 35mm AF lenses I have ever seen (no I haven't seen them all).

The AF is fast. Mine is virtually hunt free. Comments on AF from different users varies a lot; from slow to faster than the EOS-1RS with L-lenses. There are two mistakes done when comparing AF performance of this camera. The first is to worry about the time it takes to focus from infinity to the close focusing distance; a factor thats not very relevant for real life performance unless you have a hunt prone system. The second mistake is to set the camera in servo mode and not standing entirely still while the camera focus. I've used AF when shooting puffins in flight and the AF performed flawlessly. It really an experience to see bird and wildlife photos on chromes of this size.

Pentax have used off-the-shelf AF technology paid by the sales of millions of 35mm slr's. They have put this technology in a body whose all mechanical parts are derived from a camera released 14 years ago and long paid for. The only new is the electronics. This is how Pentax has been able to sell a fully professionally built medium format camera near the same price as a professional 35mm camera.

If you can live without interchangable film backs and a waist level finder, the camera is great and highly recommended. It has been labeled as a milestone and is the first medium format camera ever to win the Japanese camera grand prix. I bet it will also win the European camera of the year award [it turned out that it did. Best professional product award].

Raymond Valois , August 11, 1999; 04:15 P.M.

Common, Philip ... do the tests comparing the 645N with your "square shooter". I'm "kind of newbie" here, did mucho research, purchased my first MF - you guessed, the 645N - LOVE it and the AF 80-160mm, the AF 45mm, all used manual and AF, razor sharp images ... etc ... Needless to say, your comments have lost much credibility especially after three prestigious awards earned by this camera. I hasten to add, I would be making the same comments had I purchased another MF camera ... newbie speaking here - it is my firm belief that any comparisons made are really comparing the merits of a BMW against those of a Mercedes, ie, they are ALL excellent tools of the trade. So do the tests, yet! and maybe, get some credibility back. And please, just the facts, ie, no emotion as in your first "review". Ray

Scott Knudsen , August 29, 1999; 10:30 A.M.

I love this site because of the no-holds barred reviews that Philip gives. I read a article in Sutterbug on the Pentax 645n and of course they never had one bad thing to say about this camera...I guess that's what those full page color ads and free loan cameras do to a persons and companies morals!

Felix Mak , September 18, 1999; 11:14 A.M.

Personally, I am looking for a 645 camera at teh moment. I think the 645N did a splendid job already.

I don't think it is fair to compair it with the Contax or Rolli. At 645N's pricing and functionability catagory, it has no competitor at the moment.

I think lack of Polariod back from Pentax is a big mistake. what is the point having MF camera without Polariod (personaly point of view)? Why not stick to Canon or Nikon?

What I really want, is the battle between Pentax 645N and Mamiya 645 AF later on this year.

tom black , October 21, 1999; 12:08 A.M.

I have been an early ('60's) user of the SP generation of Pentax 35mm picking up a Pentax 6x7 along the way. For some reason switched to Nikon equipment in the '80's and was doing fine. Come time where client required larger than 135 transparencies and I needed more flexability than the 6x7. Had a quick assignment to Tahiti then Austria. Bought complete Pentax 645N system and literally packed and left. It is the easiest camera I've had to get to know, understand and love. Don't know much about the other 645 cameras but this one is helping to make me a hero with my client. An associate who is Swedish and worked for Hasselblad before coming to the States claims that he has tested Pentax lenses against Hasselblad in their factory and no one can discern the difference. Apparently upset them.

Richard Rooks , December 05, 1999; 05:16 P.M.

I have been a canon fan for years. The USM lenses are quick and quiet. Optics are great, etc. I decided to add a MF to my bag. After researching the Contax and the 645n I decided to pick up the 645n (only have the 75mm). I have just shot my first 3 rolls of B/W 120 film on it. Wow! I love the outcome. This is the perfect system for someone like me (adv am) who wants to progress to the next level. Much cheaper than the Contax (wish it did have the USM though) but it has all of the features required to take great pictures in AF mode. Yes, I too would like to change filmbacks in mid roll....but planning ahead is not that big of a deal. The data imprinting on the neg edge is going to due nothing but improve my pictures over time.

Can't wait to go out and shoot some color!!!

Richard

Jennifer Tsukamoto , January 09, 2000; 02:26 A.M.

As an amateur but successful photographer it is quite dizzying to read such technical and what I feel is ego inspired biased comments(especially from Greenspun). The plain facts are that the 645n is quite a remarkable and welcome relief to manual focus. It is a very capable camera that takes great pictures. Forget all the analyzing of microscopic technical garbage and go out and shoot more pictures!! Remember it was recently named as one of the 25 best cameras IN THE WORLD for Christ's sake! If you absolutely cannot let go of your so called need for perfection then relax and wait a year or two, because AF's medium format is on the way! Manual focus= Grandpa's old toy.

Shankar Sengupta , February 18, 2000; 12:19 P.M.

I do not know what qualifications you need to be a reviewer, but this review is completely inappropriate. I came here to read about Pentax 645N. Instead I got some body daydreaming about his Rollei. Thank God for the responses and alternate perspectives. Some of these folks need to be writing reviews, not Mr. Greenspun!!

Ian Marks , February 27, 2000; 06:42 P.M.

As an owner of the original (non-AF) 645, my comments may be a bit out of place, but here goes: I picked up this marvelous camera on a lark when I spotted one in a pawn shop with what I recognized as an NPC/Forscher polaroid back. The deal I was offered was $1400 with the polaroid back and wide angle lens. I did a a little mental calculation and figured that the back alone was probably worth $500 (turns out it sells for around $1250) and that if I didn't like the camera I could sell it and recover my investment. Here's what I've observed about the polaroid back: Yes, it works! That huge fiber-optic block produces a sharp, correctly-exposed polaroid sufficient to evaluate your composition and lighting. The back seems extremely well-made (except for the plastic bits that originate with Polaroid), with the parts that mate with the camera being exceptionally well-machined. It's tough to get on and off of the camera, requiring very careful alignment with the camera (the regular film inserts swap out in seconds). However, once locked in place it's as solid and secure as one could hope. The back barely clears the eyepiece and extends well below the bottom of the camera, making a tripod "riser" block almost a necessity. The back extends further rearward than the standard film insert, which along with its proximity to the eyepiece makes pressing your eye to the viewfinder difficult, and if you wear glasses (I do), it's even tougher, but not impossible. Also, the camera is hard to put down on a flat surface with the Polaroid back attached, unless you place it flat on its back, with the lens facing straight up (and the back surface of the back is one of the aforementioned "plastic bits"). Finally, the absence of a dark slide means that you have to waste a shot every time you mount or remove the back (the obvious - and expensive - solution to all of this, of course, is to dedicate a body to the polaroid back and leave it on all the time). All of this aside, the Polaroid back works very well, and for anyone with a large investment in the system who wants or needs to make Polaroid proofs with their 645 or 645N (and maybe an extra body to dedicate for Polaroids), its one way to go. As for the camera, it's the best-handling medium-format I've ever used (Rollei included).

Patrik Bjorklund , March 16, 2000; 06:50 A.M.

I have used the Pentax 645N for a couple of years and I am very satisfied with handling and performance. The P645N was ment as a complement to my Nikon system, but now I use the Pentax much more than the Nikon. The lack of mirror lock-up is not a drawback, the mirror dampening system works very well. I do a lot of close-ups and they look very sharp to me.

I use five lenses AF45, AF75, A120 macro, AF300, A600 and they perfom very well. The sharpest is the 120mm in my opinion. The 300mm is maybe too soft at f32 due to diffraction but very sharp at other apertures. I can recommend the system if you do not need changeable filmbacks and viewfinders.

Rich T , March 19, 2000; 08:09 P.M.

645N - "The little camera that could!" Wanting to move up to medium format, I spent 2 hours testing the Contax 645 and Mamiya 645AF in a poorly lit showroom. With the 140mm 2.8 on the Contax, it wouldn't focus on my friend's face who was 10 feet away, nor in dark corners. The Mamiya with a 150mm 4 was also disappointing, but a little better than the Contax, we guessed because it employed its IR assist. I couldn't justify spending ~$4K when these AF systems disappointed me, and I was about to give up. Then the salesman let us try a 645N from his rental department (Showroom was out of stock). WOW! Fast, tight focus, even in dark corners, even on black clothes, using the FA200mm 4 lens! I was awed when the fabric weave came into focus on my friend's black shirt, when the Contax wouldn't even focus on his face in that same light and at same distance. Admittedly, this wasn't a scientific comparison between the 3 cameras, but it was an exhaustive showroom trial with a very patient salesman and my pro-photographer friend guiding me all the way. We were all pleasantly surprised by the little 645N, and I'm going to buy one as soon as they're in stock. I won't miss having removeable film backs and other "high-end" features on the Contax and Mamiya, knowing that in a low-light duel, I'd be clicking away and they'd still be trying to focus. Plus having access to bargain non-AF P645 and P67 lenses is a nice feeling.

Suzanne Boulanger , August 08, 2000; 12:29 A.M.

I purchased the Pentax 645-N a year ago and I love it! It is a great camera to use for wedding photography. I especially like using it in the automatic mode since it gives me the results I want (it really helps me to keep cool on those hot days). I haven't had one complaint from my clients about their wedding pictures, but I've gotten tons of compliments. I used my 35MM Contax for 15 years but couldn't afford the 645-N. I did my homework before buying my Pentax 645-N and was impressed that it had won a number of awards. Another big plus is the price for additional lenses compared to the Contax or any other Medium Format camera on the market. At least I can afford to buy other lenses! I don't care what anybody says - IT'S A GREAT CAMERA.

Tom Schutz , October 14, 2000; 03:03 A.M.

Great ALL-AROUND camera. If I had to give up ALL my cameras but one, this is THE ONE I'd hold on to.

In addition to the 645n, I have (like 99% of this list's users, I'm sure) a ton of other cameras, ranging from vintage 35mm rangefinders, to various 35mm SLRs, to a honking view camera on a rail, to a couple of point-and-shoots. They somehow seem to accumulate and accumulate...

The 645n does almost anything, and does it very well to excellently. Obviously there are compromises: it doesn't make the biggest negatives of the bunch (or the smallest); it's not the most petite hunk of gear (or the bulkiest); it's not the cheapest system to try to build up (or the most exhorbitant).

But I can use it in slow, deliberate, tripod-mounted mode with fine-grained film and make landscape shots with quality and enlargeablity that blow away 35mm but are hard to tell apart from larger formats, at least in the 11x14 to 16x20 range(the largest I've done).

Or I can set everything to automatic (focus, aperture, shutter, TTL autoflash) and happily click away in point-and-shoot mode at my kid's birthday party, and get great-looking snapshots. Just TRY photographing children in action with a manual-focus rig (feeling lucky?).

My favorite pursuit, though, is just taking out the 645n when we're going somewhere, for a little bit of "street photography," trusting in serendipity, hoping to someday make that "accidental masterpiece." 35mm cameras also excel at this, but I prefer to have the bigger negative size for insurance, in case I want to enlarge past 8x10, or crop a lot.

I think the autofocus works great. It's not as fast, quiet, or slick as Canon USM stuff (based on my experience with renting an EOS-1 outfit for a few days), but it is definitely fast and quiet enough for the VAST majority of (at least my) everyday applications. I think that for a lot of photography, autofocus is great; less wasted film, fewer missed moments. With moving subjects, the extra sharpness of MF enlargements could potentially be defeated by inexact manual focus.

The obvious competitors are the Mamiya 645AF (more $$$, and when are they going to offer affordable zooms?) and the Contax 645 (there goes your kids' college educations). Did I hear a rumor that Bronica is coming out with a 645 AF camera? That might be awesome, if it has high flash sync speeds like the ETRSi. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

andi P. , December 24, 2000; 10:38 P.M.

Yes, I have just a few things to say. 1.) I have seen only one of these and I would like to think that you had a picture for all to see. I would like to see a nother one. 2.) This is an interesting site. I enjoy reading the comments other people have said about this. 3.) I would like to ask if someone would tell me where I could possibably get one. If there is any.. I am a professinal photographer and I would deffintly like to own one of these. If anyone comes upon one of these camera's and would like to sell it to anyone then email me at: lance_lover_1@hotmail.com Thank you.

Peter van Raak , January 10, 2001; 07:22 A.M.

While reading the various comments on the 645N camera, this thought came up to my mind: LET'S BE REALISTIC, GUYS! There is simply no camera-system to be found which meets all the needs of the individual photographer. The choice between good camera-systems is very large, so you have to think thoroughly about your very personal way of making photographs. Only then you can come to a well-thought-out choice. Otherwise you keep on being busy switching between camera-systems instead of focusing on what it's all about: MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS! My teacher always said: "the way you photograph is the way you are."

Thus my choice fell on the Pentax 645N. I'm a street and landscape (in the broadest sense of the word) photographer who likes sharp images and who doesn't want to carry too much equipment along the way. I don't need a Polaroid back. A mirror lock up feature would be nice on some occasions, but if using a beefy tripod, you don't have to be afraid of unsharp images: that is at least my experience. My view on the matter of autofocus: I rarely need it (photographing is anticipating), and when I use it, it is a nice convenience: nothing more, nothing less. And let's be practical: you can only spend your money once, so considering the optical quality of the Pentax lenses in relation to the cost, I can only be very positive about this camera-system.

Peter van Raak, January 2001.

Tim Jay , February 18, 2001; 10:05 P.M.

my brnd new 645N had a switch problem,after shooting about 10 220 rolls, it did not advance the frame,practically it was a jam. I took it to the pentax distributer said it was a minor problem. I would like to know that anyone else had this problem?

David Lowrance , March 01, 2001; 05:51 P.M.

I had been waiting to test a Mamiya 645AF with the new 55-105 zoom lens against the 645N 45-85 lens. Mamiya finally started shipping its 55-105 (ater a year's delay from announcement). I was sorely disappointed in Mamiya. I was going to use the lens for wedding work, but the Mamiya lens has a 5 foot minimum focusing distance. The Pentax 45-85 is 1.6 foot. That meand no closup ring or flower shots with mamiya - totally unacceptable. Pentax - You have my business.

Antonio Plaza , December 09, 2001; 01:12 P.M.

I just wanted to say that I didn't like this review at all, the author compares two totally different cameras, and degrades the quality of the Pentax to favor the one that HE personally likes. I have used many 35mm cameras, Hassy's and Sinar's, and I can tell that the Pentax 645N is a great camera.

Charles Wood , March 16, 2002; 06:03 P.M.


Fall Colors Oxbow Bend Grand Teton NP w/645n Provia F

I've now owned my 645n for four years. It has been to Asia, South America, Europe plus a week or more at a time in a backpack in the redrock canyons and deserts of the Southwestern US. It has never let me down. I own a classic 6x9, a Canon 35mm EOS system and I just sold my 4x5 Toyo. The 645n remains my favorite. I can make high resolution scans that produce superb prints that blow away 35mm and are easily the equal of prints that friends are achieving with their Hasselblads and other far more expensive equipment. I have NO regrets about this camera and the new 645nII should be even better.

Charles Wood , July 16, 2002; 11:31 A.M.

Here is a 645N tip that I learned by accident. Loading a 120 roll of film in the 220 film holder will yield 17 frames instead of the normal 16 frames. You will have to instruct your processing lab to clip the film carefully near the end of the film strip to avoid potential damage to the first frame. Also, when you shoot the 17th frame you'll have to manually click off 4 or 5 additional frames to "trick" the camera into winding off the roll.

Joe W , July 24, 2002; 09:42 P.M.

Charles - Shooting 120 film with a 220 insert means the film will not be at the correct plane. 120 film has a paper backing its entire length. 220 film has a paper leader and paper tail on each end of the film only. That's why a roll of 220 is about the same diameter as 120. What this means is that the film plane with a 220 insert is slightly more forward, because there's no paper backing. 120 film in a 220 insert will result in the paper backing being in the plane where the film should be and the film IN FRONT of that plane... SOFT PHOTOS! It's not worth trying to squeeze 1 more frame out of a roll.

Joe

David Holland , August 09, 2002; 07:14 P.M.

I remember reading Greenspun's comment right after I bought my 645N in April, 1998. It occurred to me at the time that he didn't understand what the 645N was all about. I have an RZ I use in my studio, and the Pentax retired my faithful, wonderful, tried and true F3. He's right that the 645N is just like a modern 35mm SLR, except that you get a negative almost three times as large. That's hardly a condemnation: the 35 SLR has benefited from the research and development that popularity and cash flow create for a manufacturer, to the point that they have become professional staples. Check out the sizes that professional films come in, and see how many come in 35mm but not 120 and vice versa.

When I read his article, I compared the Rollei 6008 with my RZ. It has a waist level finder and the other basic advantages of a the Rollei 6x6. I don't mind figuring out what I'm going to do, and then rotating the back to the right perspective, in order to get a negative about 25% bigger. Maybe it's the distant Scottish ancestry that makes me hate wasting part of my negatives, plus a natural preference for rectangular format, most of the time.

As far as I'm concerned, the two disadvantages of the 645N are that you can't change film in mid roll--I guess you give that up to get the auto film load/rewind, and maybe a little compactness--and worse, the 1/60 flash synch virtually eliminate using it hand held. The major advantage of the 645N is portablility and the ability to hand hold, but of course the rule of thumb for using a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of focal length doesn't adjust for format the way lens coverage does. For a portrait lens, using a fast film to get the shutter speeds up works without flash, but not when you have to drop down to synch speed. If I'm going to have to use a tripod, or go to a non-auto anything lens, I'll just rent a burro and take the RZ.

That said, I didn't do much fill flash with the F3, and I haven't run a roll through it since I got the Pentax. I agree with the comment that if I could only have one camera, it would be the Pentax. It can replace the F3 or the RZ and do a creditable job, but I really wouldn't want to use either of the latter to do the other's job.

Charles Wood , August 09, 2002; 10:01 P.M.

Joe, you raise a good point. I asked a friend who is a camera repair technician his comment. He told me that the tolerance for plane of focus for a medium format system is about +/- 7-8 thousandths or just about the thickness of the paper backing for a roll of 120 film. So, in theory, focus might not be appreciably affected unless the tolerance is skewed towards one side of the window allowed. In my case I see no difference between frames shot in the 120 holder and those shot in the 220 holder. Obviously due to manufacturing tolerances individual experiences may vary.

J. Brian Sanders , September 23, 2002; 04:57 P.M.

I know this is old news as the original review was done in 1998 and Pentax now has miror lock-up, but .. here goes.

As an owner of both a Rollei 6008 with numerous lenses and a 645N with just about all of them. . all I can say is the Rollei is a studio camera . . period . . . and the 645N invites you to .. take it with you.

I have used extensivly the Pentax 600mmF5.6(even with the 2X Barlow) and have never seen any indication of mirror shake (as well as being sharper than the 1000mm Zeiss!!).

Seems like the reviewer just decided that this was a fault and never tested it. If so, it invalidates anything else he may have to say about the camera.

As to lenses . . . a very very old prejudice about Japanese lenses . . . the Pentax lenses are every bit a sharp at the Zeiss . . . this is a good expample name dropping without benefit of a true, in the field, comparison test. Either both companies lenses are better than the ability of the film lense combination . . or they are so close as to be a wash. Both sets of lenses are far,far better than most phtogaphers ability. And as to build quality . . no diference in this humble persons opinion. (Yeah the didn't give me a shade for the 75mm . . but I usuall use a compendium shade any way.

I would like to ask how you get to be a reviewer? Is it a friend of a friend kind of thing . . . or is there some OBJECTIVE criteria on the part of photo.net? The original rewiew was absolutey worthless as a tool to evauate this cameras ability to perform the job for wich it was intended. All it was was a diatribe on the 'perfectness' of the Rollei. Such lack of objectivity is unworthy of the reviewer and photo.net. My Rollei is a beautifully made camera that will pobabley out-live me. But this camera has a number of foibles . . as does any camera.

6x6 doesn't waste film if you all you do is print square images! Sheesh . . . One of the reasons you go to MF is to put more photons on more film. If you need to crop extensively . . . you loose the advantage. As a wildlife photographer I have found I was cropping to an essentially 6X4.5 format with the Rollei and loosing the advantage of having those extra frames on the roll when I finally get something mavelous to shoot at.

Film backs? . . . . Studio issue . . yep the Rollei wins this one . . . so? . . . . In the field my expeience has been you have aleady pre-selected what film you want to use and have peloaded film inserts ready to go. Film wastage . . heck .. in the studio I waste more with the Rollei . .

As to Autofocusing speed . . . the 645N is not . .I repeat NOT a sports/action camera . . and guess what? . . the Rollei is even less so. Out in the field I have found the follow focus of the 645N an absoulte dream!!!! In the studio . .who needs autofocus? . . Nobody . .that's who. In the field . . . .I can't live without it. It is faster than I am and if your trying to get that perfect end-zone shot with either the Rollei or the Pentax . . . you got the wrong camera bud . . . .you sould have brought your Canon with the 300 F2.8.

Oh well . . people will alway fall for the " if it is more expensive . . it must be better" routine. . . . . sad. Anyway I hope photo.net uses more judgement next time in the selection of a review. I would like to see . .a true independent judgement rather than a justification for someones prior camera choices.

Sue Deva , September 23, 2002; 05:40 P.M.

There is one exceptionally fortunate thing about the 645N: the price for students. Pentax has a number of medium format equipment deals for students with official institutional affiliation. This typically knocks 45-50% off of the retail price. That can make a HUGE difference to someone on a budget. The 645N body is supposed to retail for $3203 (according to Pentax, seems a tad high), but the body is reduced to $1701 for students. The lenses and all the other accessories are similarly reduced. It may be possible to get an excellent deal on higher-end, used equipment, but if you have checked out the Pentax 645N or 67II and they meet your needs, this could be the way to go. (Personally, I have only used the 645N. I found it to be decent but pretty inelegant. However, being a student, I am tempted to pick one up.)

Scott Hays , December 02, 2002; 08:02 P.M.

along the lines of what Peter V said about the type of camera we use. I know that I am a little insulted if someone is appreciative of my work and the first question they ask is "what kind of camera" or "what kind of film" did you use. Isn't is more about our eye, and our ability to capture the object? The camera doesn't hurt, but I've seen some pro's take a disposable camera and take some wonderful shots, just to prove the point that the camera doesn't make the shot. It's the "photographer". Just thought I'd throw that in.

Keith Merrill , February 26, 2003; 05:07 A.M.

I just wanted to say what a great deal the pentax 645 line is. Used prices on the manual P645 and manual lenses are a great deal, this is what prompted me to pick one up. It is also built like a tank so it has survived all of the rigors I put a camera system through. After a few years of using the manual focus P645 I bought a P645NII. What an incredible camera that retains the same robustness while cutting down on the weight and adding some useful improvements. The metering in the NII is first rate, the new body is ergonomic, more so than the old body with its pesky battery compartment, and the fact that it has autofocus and motordrive make this a great camera. I can also use all of the manual focus lenses on the new body. I compared the P645nII with mamiya bodies and am absolutely positive I picked the best quality camera out there. Good job pentax

william wasp , April 11, 2003; 11:47 P.M.

I purchased a 645 a year ago from B&H, and have been very pleased with the crispness of image, heft and balance of the camera, and intuitive feel while shooting both in hand and on tripod. The points that originally sold me were the speed of the autofocus and the price. They also panned out. It came with a 75mm. I have just had the good fortune to land a near mint 45>85mm 4.5 zoom from National Camera Exchange in Minneapolis, for under $1000, and can't wait to try it.

Cameras, like computers and cars, evolve evey year, and with that comes "newer, better, faster....etc" I find if the unit works and it facilitates your growth in imagery - it's the right setup for you...bells and whistles be damned.

As a younger man, I was fortunate enough to take a 10 week course in B+W photography, taught by an older gentlemen who had spent time with Ansel Adams. Quite frankly, my teacher, a retired school photo instructor, spent quite a bit of time with me on the "zen" of photography. He focused on the melding of photographer and camera as a creative unit. He taught me that over time, one can "be the camera" and vice versa - to create an image that os subsequently transferred to film. Comfort with a camera, on a number of levels, creates that unit. The Pentax 645 has given me that feeling. It's a solid truthful camera that amplifies your talent.

Kurt Nelson , June 10, 2003; 10:13 P.M.

This Greenspun guy is a joke. I suppose he drives a BMW and trashes his friend's Hyundai when riding in it!

Landrum Kelly , August 10, 2003; 11:16 P.M.

Kurt, brand loyalty and corporate promotion make it very difficult for many persons even to know about the things that might not be optimal about many products. I took umbrage at Phil's review of the Olympus E-20 digital camera until I found out that he was overwhelmingly correct. Now I know what to look for in the next digital system I buy, and I can honestly face the limitations in the system I now have and compensate accordingly. Perhaps that can happen in the case of the Pentax 645N as well. Users can always be counted on to challenge Phil, and the final result of his approach is a very useful exchange of opinions.

Witold Grabiec , October 16, 2003; 04:52 P.M.

Pentax 645 is one of the best medium format systems ever created. If this review should compare the 645N to anything it should've been the original 645, have by now a follow up with the 645NII, and perhaps let in Mamiya 645AF and Contax 645. That's of course if the author had any guts to write a fair review. Mr. Greenspun has done it before so this half-a** review should come as no surprise to anyone who has read most of his takes on photo equipment. The key to this story is indeed that some of us can either drive a BMW or order a limo, nothing else comes into play here.

Jeff Sumner , December 16, 2003; 12:43 P.M.

What I found disturbing about the "review" above is that it compared, quite selectively, the various features of this camera against others to which it would always look bad- in other words, autofocus was compared to a 35mm camera known for good AF functionality. The fact that there was no removable back was compared to a different system that does, a system without autofocus!

This wasn't a review as much as a long "I found I didn't like this camera and kept contrasting it against others I owned." Instead of "the features didn't work for me, here's why, here's where I'm coming from, and here's their value." Give me something concrete, not crap like the above.

Hope we don't see you carrying one around and enjoying it.

Fred Mueggelhopper , May 23, 2004; 01:00 P.M.

It should be obvious that the reviewer has proffered a biased review of the Pentax 645N. His comments reflect the fact that he did not take much time to get to know the camera before bashing it. Nearly six years later we are still awaiting the "showdown" review of the "MF SLR for wimps" and his beloved Rollei 6003/6008. The Pentax 645N works very well for many photographers, myself included. Call me a wimp? OK whatever floats your boat.

Teo Calbaz , October 25, 2004; 10:24 A.M.


Hi Readers!

Well here it is six years after Mr. Greenspuns review. Last night Based on all of comments and critiques that have come back in response to this review I have gone ahead and purchased a Pentax 645N.

The only thing I worry about is the 1/60th sync speed. And if there is a solution or work around for that I would like to hear it.

Basically 99% of all of the reviews I've read about this camera gave the Pentax 645N high and glowing praise!

Thank you all for the great information that all of you have contributed in helping me make a good purchasing decision!



Ted

RJ Hicks , April 05, 2005; 02:56 P.M.

The workaround for the 1/60th flash sync is to use one of the two leaf shutter lenses available. One is the 75mm f2.8 LS and the other is the 135mm f4 LS lens. I have used the 75mm and can attest to its wonderful optical quality. I would say it is the same as the normal 75mm lens. You can get 1/500th sync with these lenses.

As to the above review, I can't quite understand why a reviewer will compare a medium format camera with a small format one, there different animals. I can say that I do everything with my pentax 645 that I do with my 35mm setup, even macro work and fast street shooting. The viewfinder of the nII makes manual focusing easy and the autofocus is there if needed. All in all, its an incredibly bad review not because it says negative comments about the pentax, but because the reviewer obviously hasn't used the camera much. Maybe its time somebody else, who actually used the camera for a time, will write a competent review for this camera system. Hmm, maybe I will work on one.

Pentax just announced that they are in the mockup design stages of a digital camera based on this system. I feel it could be very good.

Robert Clark , May 17, 2005; 04:23 P.M.

It might be a lot more useful if people that simply pick up cameras and play around with them for a while restrained their urge to write reviews. This is probably one of the least informed camera reviews I've read - totally unhelpful.

vital jr. , April 11, 2007; 12:27 P.M.

i'm selling my kit here http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=015&sspagename=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&viewitem=&item=250103773003&rd=1&rd=1

Peter Weyrauch , July 14, 2007; 10:00 A.M.

Pentax N versus Rollei

Normally I don't respond to these things as when it comes to the web and cameras as it seems too may people are obsessed about brand recognition or their favorite, but I have to agree very strongly with Mr. Clark and Mr. Hicks. I'll make part of the real review comparison here. I've owned and used professionally for 25 years plus just about everything in the book, but admit my preferences go to Nikon and Pentax. That being said, at one point I switched from Hasselblad to those accoladed Rolleis above after being pummeled by a rep. To make a long story short, TWO Rollei's failed on me on location in the Virgin Islands in the middle of a lucrative job (one even shattered the mirror when it wouldn't stop firing and we were NOT abusing them) and I had to have Rollei Fed Ex me replacements to complete the job. I dumped them shortly thereafter and went back to the Blads. A few years later I discovered the Pentax 645 and have stuck with them since. IMHO the 645 is a wonderful system and quite a few of the lenses are outstanding and comparable to anything out there, the 45 in particular which rarely leaves one of my N bodies as well as the 120 Macro. I've carried the cameras in stunt planes, on racing sailboats, in the backcountry at 13K feet, and run countless rolls of film through them. I've never had a glitch, not once, and they are very easy and quick to use. I've also blown slides and negs up to as large as 3x4 FEET and the clarity is amazing. The fact is what's important in a camera is YOU, the person using it. Some prefer X brand, some prefer Y, and that's all there is to it. If you look through photo archives you'll find that the greats have used just about every brand there is with exceptional results. I'm often asked what camera to buy/use and I always say the same thing, get the one that's ergonomically comfortable for you and meets your needs. I personally don't like Canons and prefer Nikons but that doesn't mean I don't think the Canon telephoto lenses are outstanding. Nor do I have to have a Zeiss lens over anything else and I have some vintage cameras that blow the doors off anything new with all those damn dials and menus. Take every review you read on the web with a grain of salt and if your gonna buy a pro camera, rent a few first and find out what you like, plain and simple.

Jean Philip , July 25, 2007; 08:45 A.M.

I do not shoot professionally, so I can't speak about the durability of the 645 in "real work". I do travel with a 645 and 645N throughout Europe and Asia and I find the 645s to always perform.

The light meter is accurate and I depend on it when I don't have time for the handheld meter.

The photos from the 45mm, 75mm, 150mm, and 200mm lenses exceed anything from my 35mm or digital cameras. Which are also Pentax versions.

I also shoot a Bronica SQA and Mamiya 6FM. I like the 6x6 format, and these cameras are not as comfortable and usable as the Pentz 645s.

Andrew Prokos , September 08, 2007; 02:33 P.M.

I use the Pentax 645N for over five years now and never a problem. It's the most durable and compact medium format system out there. The compactness comes at price though...you can't change the backs and therefore you'll never be able to use a digital back on these. I use mine primarily for architectural photography and for fine art work where I need to make larger sized prints. The lenses run the gamut from the excellent 72mm, 105mm, 200mm, and 300mm...all razor sharp. I find the 35mm and 45mm not so sharp as my Nikon lenses, but I think the newer models probably are. If this camera had the capability to take a digital back it would be perfect for my needs.

newton shrADER , December 11, 2007; 06:57 P.M.

With the perspective now of so many years use for the discontinued 645n and 645nii, how well does anyone think the auto focus works on scenery (auto focus to infinity)? Does everyone still prefer the auto focus of the Mamiya M645 AF, M645 AFD, or 645 AFDii?

Andy Andrews , January 23, 2009; 10:52 P.M.

I am a retired pro and enjoy my Pentax 645N. I shoot mostly scenics and nature stuff now and share these by projecting through my Leitz Universal projector for groups. My favorite lens is the FA45-85mm zoom. I chose this optic because of the fantastic stuff Tim Fitzharris was getting published in POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY. Most of the shots I really liked came from Tim's 45-85 on Velvia 50 with Singh-Ray filters. Dig out your back issues of POP and see if you don't agree with me that Tim's nature shots or scenics are among the best you've seen. I especially like the stuff he's had in PP during 2006 through 2008.

Eric McDonald , April 09, 2009; 03:21 P.M.

I painted portraits for many years and used a "Graflex Super D" 4X5 using "Tri-X" which served me well for 30 years, however as B&W film improved I purchased a Pentax 645N as backup equipment. I shot several roles through the Pentax occasionally primarily the equipment has remained in its original box in my camera closet. In my senior years, and painting less, I am beginning to let some things go. This Pentax equipment is in Like New Condition. Pentax 645N With manual -- in original Box SMC Pentax - FA 645 1:2.8 150mm (IF) Lens & Shade -- in original box SMC Pentax - A 1:2.8 75mm Lens & Shade 1 - 120 & 1 - 220 Film inserts & 1- film insert back case


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