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Yorkshire based Professional Landscape and Wildlife Photographer

A Weekend With the Pentax 645Z

Posted on 22/06/14

I've been chatting to Russ and Graham at the Flash Centre in Leeds over the past few weeks about the eagerly awaited arrival of the Pentax 645z medium format camera. Through a series of fortunate events, I managed to get my hands on one to use this weekend, just when I had a studio session with some spiders, snakes and other critters booked in for Sunday.

After finishing a commercial job photographing kitchens on Friday afternoon, I picked it up and drove round excitedly for a while trying to decide what to shoot first. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, but eventually calmed myself down and headed to Brockadale to look for butterflies. There was a part of me that was apprehensive about using the camera though. I mean this is a medium format camera, I'd never used one before and there reputation is that they are really difficult to use... Once I got to Brockadale I found quite a few marbled whites, as expected, but for the first time I found three grouped together on one flower whilst holding a dream camera... This was a good acid test, as in the field, the flower was blowing around and the light wasn't ideal. But using the 645Z wasn't really any different to using a SLR. Even though the camera is bigger and heavier with the deep hand gripI was able to hold it with one hand whilst steading grass stems.

3 Marbled Whites

I had to shrink the above image to 800 pixels in order to upload it to the website. The original size is 8256 pixels. To demonstrate the resolution capabilities of the camera, the image below was cropped to 1000 pixels wide and exported at 800 pixels to upload to the website. Bear in mind that this image was taken at ISO 1600, in the field, hand held.

crop 1000 pixels wide

3 Marbled Whites 2

On Saturday morning, I went to a local pond and was lucky enough to see a recently emerged damselfly. I photographed it with its exuvia still in view. In the images below, I have used the same cropping method described above.

Damselfly just emerged

After I had finished my commercial shoot on Saturday, I got the studio ready to use the Pentax there on Sunday. I'd like to send a massive thank you to Sean Marren at Urban Jurassics, and Matt Pedder at Tyrannosaurus Pets for providing animals and to Sean for helping control them during the day. Also big thanks to the guys at the Flash Centre and Pentax for allowing me access to the camera.

We kept things simple during the day and just went for straightforward studio shots using two diffused studio lights and a black ceramic tile. We went for a nice, docile subject to start with, and photographed this friendly gecko.


We then went on to a slightly more tricky subject - this Blood Python.

Blood Python

Next was this beautiful Ornamental Frog.

Onrnamental Frog

Sean's old Chilean Rose was a perfect subject to show the resolution capabilities of the camera - the full image and a heavily cropped image are below.

Chilean Rose

Rose crop 1000 pixels wide

This is my favourite image of the day - I really like the symmetry.

Stick insect

The final subject of the session was this gorgeous young Leopard Gecko.

Leopard Gecko

It's been a full weekend - I'm blown away by the quality of images produced by this camera, and I'm going to come back to this blog and add some more details at the beginning of the week.

Edit - After reflecting for the evening one of the key things that has jumped out at me with this camera is usability. Whilst knowing my way round Canon SLRs my perception was that using a medium format camera was going to be difficult. I hadn't used the Pentax system before so again thought this would take some time. But the reality was that this was a easy camera to use. First session out with it felt good and delivered results.

If anyone's got any questions, feel free to ask.

Cheers, Ol.

PS I used the new Pentax Macro 90mm for all the above shots.

  • Some stunning images, ty for sharing

    MelJD46 - 23 June, 2014
  • Great blog Olly. The image resolution is stunning ......... is this the start of something?

    Peter Anderson - 23 June, 2014
  • II’m not a professional photographer but I was fortunate enough to shoot a 645Z with the 90mm f/2.8 macro lens attached at Houston Camera Exchange in Houston, TX this past weekend. I was not able to keep the photos I took but a few that were taken by me and others were posted on facebook. (See link) When I looked at the photos on the LCD screen and zoomed in as much as I could, I too was blown away. Stunning detail. I shoot a Pentax K-5II so going to the 645Z was not that much different. It is easy to use. I just wish I could have spent more time with it.

    Douglas Barrow - 30 October, 2014
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