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Thursday, 01 May 2014


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So I guess that box of jazz LPs I gave to Goodwill was worth a tax deduction? Too late now.

It's more expensive than my motorcycle, but still cheap enough that it just tips into the realm of possibility (if I were really going to dive into a long project that benefited from such a lovely beast, maybe). But I'll wait and see what the new Sigmas' output looks like, since they are definitely possible.

Oh look, a waist level finder on a medium format camera!

I'm anticipating that Sony CMOS chip that's in the new Pentax and Hassalblad et al will be showing up in a mirrorless body pretty soon.

I'm telling you, it's going to be the next big thing. Or the big NEX thing. Or maybe a Contax?

And now the Pentax 645d is only $4,000ish online second hand which is a very reasonable price for a very good piece of hardware!

The camera body is only half of the system.

Even with all of the bells and whistles on the 645z, the 645 lens catalog is still looking somewhat neglected. While the lenses are quite good, the majority are now decades-old designs, and only available on the used market - particularly the two leaf shutter lenses.

For both Pentax and Leica S, the leaf shutter lenses provide 1/500 flash sync (vs. 1/125 normally), but for Pentax, the two lenses are very, very old school - manual focus, manual aperture, and you have to cock the shutter by hand before each exposure.

For the S system, Leica offers four leaf shutter lenses which are new designs and fully automatic (including focus). They also have brighter max. apertures. Obviously, much more expensive, but much more complete.

May be cheap depending on how ya look at it- but damn ugly any way ya look at it.

Yes, that's a cheap shot; yes, it's just a tool, and a very fine one; yes, it's insane to judge a camera solely on its looks- understood, but...

You knew this was coming:

Depending on which end of the 70's you're talking about, your spending limit of $5 ca 1970s translates to $20-30 in 2014, according to the US BLS inflation calculator at http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

So, compared to the original vinyl issue at, say, $25e, a brand new deluxe remaster on 200 gram vinyl at $30 sounds pretty reasonable; and makes the non-deluxe 180g pressing a bargain at $16 ($16 today is equivalent to $3.64 in 1974 dollars). Buy the latter for $19 from Amazon and they throw in the mp3 too.

Not so sure about the 45rpm version at $150 though.

Whatever--I'm revisiting CDs again, for listening to lossless rips off hard drive and ipod, so I may go for the $9 CD instead.

Thanks for another great album recommendation!

There's a BIG difference between the value propositions of the upcoming Pentax 645Z and the Leica T. The T's specifications and capabilities have long since been met and exceeded by brands/models with lower fashion chic but also substantially lower price tags. That is, the T is a terrible practical value from any angle.

Conversely, the Pentax 645Z inverts the price/value relationship in the medium-forma digital segment of the photo market. Its predecessor already launched that missile but the 645Z will likely kick-in its afterburners. (Pardon the OTT metaphor storm.) The same Sony sensor packaged for tens of thousands by Phase One and Hassy, here offered in a pug-cute/ugly-but-über-functional package with the patron-standard-of-amateur-photo-brand Pentax emblazoned on its forehead --- for under nine grand --- stand back folks.

I've never even held a Pentax camera but I have to say that even I find this a compelling offering. I am sure that the folks at Phase One and Hassy are not happy right now. If this 645Z camera is even a "good" performer they're going to have to respond to this aggressively or melt.

No, the question is not whether or not the 645Z is a good deal. It is, as you say, (probably) an "insanely" good deal. The looming question is whether or not Sony plans to introduce its own packaging around its new medium-format sensor. Maybe it's a better proposition to sell OEM to Phase, Hassy and, now, Pentax/Ricoh. I dunno.

Parallels with hi-fi are obvious. I had the chance to directly compare a Heed Obelisk Si (around £1200) with a Plinius Hiato (£6800 without a phono stage). At volumes from neighbour friendly to antisocial (and through some reference cans) the Heed sounded just as good, if not even more pleasant (at least on classical).

Both will make a complete mockery of any mass market hi-fi system when coupled with a good source (analogue or digital) and both are niche products, but whereas one is almost affordable (relatively speaking) the other is eye-watering.

By comparison a D800 is more akin to a top end Pioneer amp (eg. best of the mainstream and more than adequate for just about anyone, until of course you compare it side by side with either of the above).

Incidentally, I still believe that the reason vinyl is still so popular is because so many CD releases are poorly produced. I guess the assumption is that very few people will ever notice, which is sadly probably true.

Very well put, Mike. We have the 645D in our shop just recently as the price dropped £1,000 - ! - and it seemed that it would be attractive for some of our customers who wanted a real step up in resolution, etc.- and it is a fantastic camera to handle. The 'Z' has amazing spec's with even better handling and it really is a steal for medium format. For me it really is one of those handful of special cameras and I would be sorely tempted to sell my Leica film gear to finance half of it. One caveat, the lens range isn't stellar.

A person I know well says that she doesn't care what kind of car she drives as long as it starts every morning and takes her where she wants to go. As long as it's a Lexus.

After tinkering with the Sigma DP2M for a few weeks (another Mike influenced purchase, thanks Mike), I have to wonder about buying large, as in large sensor, large body, large lenses. The little DP2M is producing image quality that does rival medium format. All for $600 (used kit complete with lens shade, fist full of batteries, & flash). Haven't seen images from the new DP2 quattro yet, but if there is even incremental improvements in image quality, then this is where my camera $ are going, not into mammoth systems, with the necessary weight and bulk. Granted, the sigmas are not for all shooting styles, far from it, but it does fits my style perfectly.

I want people to sell LPs that come with a USB stick with the MP3 on them ... or a code for a download.

That way I can look at the LP while I listen to the music ... but I don't actually have to go to the hassle to play the vinyl.

Dear Mike,

If I ever decide I want a “big” camera again, that's going to be the one for me.

Regarding the price of vinyl, real inflation since 1974 has been approximately 7X (the CPI does not reflect real inflation––it's just a government metric for evaluating financial and aid programs). Your $30 vinyl today would have cost about $4.50 40 years ago.

So, despite the fact that a $30 platter also makes my heart skip a beat (and not in a good way, but then so do five dollar loaves of bread), it is not unreasonable. Dammit.

pax \ penurious Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

P.S. If you'd prefer median household income as a metric (sensible for consumer analysis), that's up about 5X since 1974, so your $30 vinyl is $6 in '74 bucks.

It's good to see new cameras like this; not because I could ever buy a Pentax 645Z, but because it means that my D800 is still relevant in this age of mirrorless cameras. It must be, if someone's buying this Pentax behemoth!

According to Wolfram Alpha, $5 in 1976 is worth $20 today, so those new records aren't much of an extravagance.

OK, it's dang cheap. But is it worth it ?

Oh good, now I have to go out an buy more lottery tickets...

[I tried that. It doesn't help. --Mike]

I really appreciate Pentax announcing this pricing level.
It hopefully keeps Leica from pricing their next S offering for four times the price of the Z.
Competition is good for buyers.

"You can look at this as a fantastic deal on a medium format based DSLR, or a camera that's not going to give you much addition IQ than a Nikon D800 for three times the cost...." (Tom Kwas).

This was very much NOT my experience with the Pentax 645D. I moved to a Nikon D800 and the loss of image-quality was considerable (and I have excellent Nikon "glass"). The D800 is very, very good, excellent even, but it is not in the same league as the 645D, at low and moderate ISOs. The difference can only be explained by the slightly larger pixel-pitch and CCD instead of CMOS.

Now if someone would just put a sensor like that one in a Rolliecord body for me ;)

You are comparing body costs and not lenses.

In any system that I have used I have several lenses. In the end, 90% of the system cost goes into the glass and not in the body.

I use a 500cm Hasselblad and have a: 38mm, 40mm, 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 120mm and 150mm lenses. Most of the cost of this system was in the lenses.

I had long thought that a bigger sensor would yield better images and that still holds some truth but I have been astonished at the quality of images that I can get from a Micro 4/3rds system.

And so my desire to get a larger sensor is no longer the motivating priority but camera size, weight and value proposition is.

If you compare the lens architecture of the Zukio Micro 4/3 lenses to the Hasselbad or Leica MF offerings you will find multiple aspheric elements, high refractive elements, and elements with two different aspheric surfaces in the Micro 4/3 lenses but few in any of the medium format lenses.

The reason is simple. Small diameter elements can be molded into any shape and large elements need to be ground and grinding aspheric surfaces is an expensive process.

And so the performance of a Micro 4/3 lens can easily exceed the best of the medium format offerings and by doing so narrows the image quality gap between these sensor sizes.

Now if they just did the same with the 6x7 ... mmmmm ...

Mmm vinyl...

I pretty much buy second hand only these days. I use a second hand Townshend Elite Rock turntable with matching Excalibur tonearm, which I bought back in the late 80's for - um - a song. But I use it about as much as my film cameras, which is almost never.

The convenience of the digital formats of both audio and video overwhelms my preference for the subtleties disclosed by the analogue formats (even if those subtleties are only forms of distortion; I can't tell, they are just my preference).

As to megapixels, it is my wholly uninformed opinion that the size of the sensor and the corresponding size of the pixels is far more important to the look of an image than the number of pixels on the sensor. Unless, of course, massive resolution is needed for enormous prints - and I quite happily print to A2 from my best Nikon D3 images (12mp on a "35 mm" FF sensor) - or some other technical reason.

I have been delighted for several years with a Mamiya ZD, which has the form factor of a DSLR (but not all that much bigger) with a sensor that is (if I recall) a bit bigger than the Pentax, and 22 megapixels (big ones).

It is a bit like using a film camera, as highest ISO is 400, and best is 50 but it lives for tripod work and landscapes. Although the body is a bit of an orphan, never imported to the states, a killer advantage is buying the autofocus Mamiya 645 lenses for pennies on the dollar. I think they are really good, especially since the ZD uses the sweet spot of the lenses, much like the cropped sensor DSLRs.

The ZD was obviously breathed on by photographers: push one button and you get mirror lockup. My take on it is that there truly is something better with MF. Feel free to look at my website michaelstockhill.com for some exemplar images.

Meh. Still way overpriced and won't hold a candle to say, an RZ67 with film. You could buy two RZs, and every lens made for that system and still have thousands left over for film and processing. I know because I've done it.

It's not only insanely cheap by comparison. It also may be "insanely cheap" because for me, at least, it may indeed mark the end of the upgrade path. With 24 (in 2010, Sony...) mp FF many of us saw what we thought was a glimmer of light up ahead in our tunnels. With the D800 it seemed that glimmer was actually real, not just our imaginations. Now add the A7R (which I just bought in Jan.). Then this startling news, which is less like a glimmer ahead but instead like turning a corner an being startled by the actual end of the tunnel.

I will probably get this camera, pretty much as it hits the street. It is really what I have been waiting 15 years for, as I was a MF and LF person before digital. I already have a 645N system I picked up for a relative song (I had NOOO idea this Z was coming...)and so had a base of several lenses. In the last 10 days I have scooped up 5 more lenses for less than I paid for my CZ 16-35, 3 of which are excellent to outstanding, one a leaf shutter, and one a Hartblei 45mm shift (a very very rare bird....try searching for it)! So, based on what this camera represents to me, in terms of need and want fulfillment, that it may signal the end of my digital camera quest, and that I now have 8 lenses for the system already....yeah, actually, it's pretty damn cheap in the end, all in. Possibly a lot cheaper than where I am now with 3 digital cameras (not including my phone and waterproof fishing camera) in 2 sensor sizes and 2 mounts, with lenses sprawled out between them

Now I'll shed a bunch of gear, possibly including one really beloved camera and one really handy one, and go with the Z and the A7R (with a reduced set of lenses)to cover my needs better than ever before. Probably I'll keep only one film camera, my Fuji 6x9. So, for some of us this new camera is a real bargain.

The main point of using a medium format such as the Pentax 645 is theunique visual rendering of images: using longer focal lengths for the same field of view. Now, at this price tag i am seriously considering at last that digital MF is doable also in financial terms. I want that look, it's not just a matter of sharpenss, acuity and detail.

According to the number cruncher at http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ the current equivalent value of the Canon 1Ds of 2001 would be $7342. Remarkable.

A certain Pentax owner's Forum has many advocates for a full frame Pentax, and are waiting for the camera that they are sure is coming. I don't think it is.

With this and the previous 'D' we already have Pentax's take on the idea. I can't see Pentax also producing a full frame camera; there are not the new lenses for it.

Have to say to Mark B, that there's no proof that the new Pentax will have "noticeably" better detail than the Nikon D800, as someone said on here before, double the pixels isn't double the resolution, and the Pentax only has 15 megapixels more than the Nikon (the Nikon's close to 70% the size of the Pentax!), and isn't all that bigger chip. As an adjunct to my previous post, it's interesting that the "new" CMOS medium format chip size is really a 645 "Half-Frame", it's the MFT's of Medium Format! The long "44" side of the chip, is really only a few mm's larger than the live film area of the short size of 645 film! Ditto for the "33" side, being almost half the live film area of "real" film 645!

I've erroneously read that the lens conversion is going to be about 1.3X, but that was the lens conversion for the old original almost full size 645 digital chips, in regards to film, the lens conversions on these are going to be almost 2X!

To the MF film partisans who believe that film is better than digital still... film is different than digital, but each might have its advantages. Most end up feeling that in most ways the digital format will equal the next larger film format, excluding from consideration those things that only digital can do.

A single frame of the 33mm x 44mm "mini MF" format is roughly equivalent to stitching two full frame DSLR images—in other words, very good and in a number of cases noticeably better than FF on several levels. There are downsides, too, to consider. For example, given the excellent quality and liberating flexibility of FF DSLR systems, will the potential image quality advantages of mini MF still be compelling enough. Each photographer will come to a different conclusion.

But if you are interested in larger digital formats, no one but a curmudgeon would be unexcited by what Pentax is doing here. Yes, it isn't perfect (what is?) and we would love to have more lenses (though 3 excellent ones would be enough for most photographers) and it is bigger than DSLRs, but at this price point and in this well-designed package we have a kind of camera that simply hasn't been available until now.

Count me as being among those who are quite impressed.

To David Paterson, I'm perfectly willing to agree based on the both slightly larger original Pentax digital 645 chip, and it being CCD vs. CMOS. I have plenty of friends that have been shooting medium format based digital (and using it on their view camera backs), that will swear CCD is far better than CMOS at asa's around 50-160. But I'm commenting on the "new" Pentax 645 digital, which has both a smaller chip AND CMOS. Only when we get our hands on one will we be able to ascertain the difference, and I'll bet there isn't much...

The "real" live film area for 645, is roughly 56mm X 43mm, what we should be asking is why, if CMOS is so much cheaper to make, and so much cheaper to toss in the manufacturing process, why isn't anyone making a 56mm X 43mm sensor chip and charging the same as the new Pentax (it'd probably also be about 90 megapixels!).

As if on cue this morning I received an email offering from Phase One for a used IQ140 (40 mp) kit consisting of: a Phase One 645DF+ camera, an IQ140 digital back and an 80mm LS lens, all pre-owned. Price: $14,990

Any further questions regarding the value proposition of the forthcoming Pentax 645Z?

I want to know more about this camera! I have a K5 and some excellent Pentax lenses. Also a Panasonic GX7 (which unfortunately for my pleasure of long exposures doesn't have a Bulb mode). Is the 645Z the compliment to my gear? I look forward to the possibility of your review.

I'd rather read about pool. Who knew you'd reopen the old wounds of film vs digital, "full frame" vs the other frame, etc. Fortunately the vinyl vs digital thing didn't take off.

I have cameras covering from APS C to 8x10 sizes, but the APSC is my format of choice by default. A small, light, silent and fast camera that makes it easier to capture the images I like. Only if I plan to print big do I use the other. Large format film is a little different though. Its not only about image size, but the different way of seeing and shooting that it requires.

By the way, one of the strong points of the Pentax system is the incredible lenses from the film body. The 120 and the 75 are every bit as good, if not better than the hasselblad counterparts. And they are super cheap. I bought a 35, 45, 55, 75, 120, and 200 for the price of one Hasselblad.

Today I shot a roll of Velvia 50 with my Pentax 645N, using the A-series 55mm, 75mm and 300mm lenses. While I absolutely love making images with this camera and the bag-full of lenses I carry around (35mm, 55mm, 75mm, 120mm, 150mm, 200mm, 300mm) as well as the numerous options presented by the 67 to 645 adapter, there is something that is strangely appealing about the cropped digital 645 option, especially with this new release. Of course the hands down strongest advantage of the 645N over the 645Z is really quite simple. I can afford the former, and I can't even come close to affording the latter! :( Anyone looking for a tax write-off?

Tom Kwas says: "it's interesting that the "new" CMOS medium format chip size is really a 645 "Half-Frame", it's the MFT's of Medium Format!"

Actually 645D is the "half frame" of medium format film so a more accurate simile is "645D is the APS-C of 645 medium format film".

APS-C (24x16mm) is close in size to a half frame 135 film (or the size of 35mm cinematographic film) at 18x24mm but it's a different aspect ratio.

MFT is "quarter frame" of 135 film. The diagonal is half the diagonal of 135 film (so you can fit four in a single frame -- think about it).

AlanH is correct;
Canon's original 'full frame' 11 megapixel Eos-1Ds 'streeted' for $7,999 when it came out in 2002. I know this because I purchased one as soon as it was released, selling my extensive Pentax 35 mm SLR system to fund it. (Sigh. Still regret selling that fabulous Pentax 85 mm f:1.4 lens.) Seems pretty exorbitant now that you can get that many megapixels from your cell phone, I know. On the other hand, the 1Ds really was a landmark camera, because well-exposed files compared favorably, no apologies, with scanned 35 mm film. Its big competition in 2002 was nominally Kodak's 14 megapixel DCS Pro 14n, but the 14n proved to be a major disappointment and a big first step toward Kodak's demise.

To Michael Stockhill's point, I always thought that the Mamiya ZD was going to be the "it" camera. I've always been sad it seemed to be still born, some technical teething problems and lack of sources to see, buy or rent in America. I remember endlessly checking on line, about the camera repeatedly when it was out, trying to find a source to rent it. Makes me sad just to remember it...

The 645D is a brilliant camera. I went from shooting medium-format film to that. The money I saved in film and processing paid for the 645D in about one year. I will not be selling this camera for the Z, but the Z is probably going to be another fine camera.

It is good that finally Ricoh is selling the 16 FA lenses new here in the US. That makes 19 lenses available with one more on the way. A couple of the FA lenses are not that great--the 45mm is the one most disliked--but some of them are great where a "digital" version will not make them better. I have a D800E and I have a harder time finding sharper lenses for that, especially in terms of corner sharpness. But working with both cameras, the 645D wins hands down for ergonomics and a better viewfinder, The images are comparable, but they are not the same. That might come with personal preference. I find the 4:3 format easier to use than the 3:2.

I regularly print 40" or larger. I can't find anything wanting in the files. Even with the D800, I don't feel limited in DR--we all look at the specs, but I don't think we really understand what they mean visually.

Finding a camera is very personal. Budget is a very real limitation. But I have never found that buying something cheap makes an impact on the quality of my work, at least not a positive one. I have found if I get the best camera for me, then that does change the quality of my work as well as the consistency. I like the D800, but I so much prefer using the 645D, and by the same token, my work from that camera has an edge.

It is charming in the age of digital photography that we still measure it against film technology. The definition medium-format in digital is not much different than film. It was simply smaller that large-format sheet film sizes with 4x5 being the most inferior, but larger than the miniature camera format of 35mm. The 645D and Z are medium-format digital with the format of 44x33. There is no thing as a crop format, just as 4x5 was not a "crop" format of 8x10, even though they shared lenses. Primarily because of cost and because it is easier to miniaturize and still retain quality, digital formats are smaller. And they are plentiful--m4/3, APS (several of them), 35mm, 44x33, etc. Changing format size has real implication to the image. None is better, just different. I am glad for the choices.

I preordered the 645D in 2010; persuaded to do so when I read Mike's interview with Ned Bunnell on this site, wherein he stated that few very of 645Ds would be imported to the US. I've never regretted that decision (aside from the time my VISA bill arrived). The camera is a pleasure to use, I have had zero problems (including dust on the sensor) and it still produces among the best digital files.
As to the lenses: new lenses have always been available in most of the world and now are also in the US (B&H lists 16). Some of the designs are older, but if they perform so what? Many are quite sharp on the cropped sensor and have very little CA, which is easily corrected. Some are outstanding, e.g. the 120mm out resolves the sensor. Used lenses are very inexpensive and easy to find. The manual version of the 120mm lens, which is better for macro work than the AF version, costs around $400.
I'm in no hurry to get the 645Z and I'm not falling for the limited supply again :). The A7r is very tempting however.


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