Saturday, March 17, 2012


Front Royal, Virginia 3 March 2012

For the first week of March, we were on spring break at my university, and I took advantage to go shooting, but with something different in mind this time. After much searching and researching, I finally found a camera store on the east coast (the only one, btw) that would rent me a Pentax 645D body. They are located in Ashburn, VA, and I took advantage of their rent it for a weekend and pay only a one day rental fee. It has been on my mind to find a way to get into medium format digital for some months now, but with the high price of such machines, I thought it best to rent one before leaping off that financial bridge. The Pentax 645D has been the sleeper in the group which includes Hasselblad, Mamiya, Phase One, and Leica. It has a 40-mega-pixel CCD sensor made by the former Yellow Father (same sensor as in the Leica S-2, btw). The advantage that Pentax offers is they expect you to use their legacy lenses from their 645 film cameras -- currently they only make one lens specifically for the camera, and even legacy lenses from the Pentax 67 system. I have been shooting P-67's since 1995, and am the proud owner of eight lenses from 45mm to 300mm. Since the advent of the 645 film camera, they have made an adapter that allows P-67 lenses to be used on the 645, and this holds true for the 645D, also.

So I had the camera for two-and-a-half days, rainy, snowy, sleety days I might add. Oh, I forgot windy. The first image I shot with it was Ellen eating lunch just after receiving the camera, and was interesting in seeing how well it would perform at 1600 ISO, it's top ISO. I spent lunch time learning the camera which was surprising easy especially when you consider they couldn't find the instruction book. The guy told me just to hold one of the control buttons down and if the front wheel didn't change anything then the back control wheel would. He was right, it was just that easy. Nothing you need to make the camera function is buried in the menu system. One of the truly great things about the camera is the dedicated mirror lock-up knob located on the right side of the lens mount protrusion. One push of the shutter locks the mirror up, next push fires the shutters and returns the mirror to viewing position. How great is that? The only problem is I forgot to change the ISO back to something more reasonable for my next image -- an little, old, green trimmed, white church in the back woods of NW VA. It was literally raining, sleeting, and snowing while I held the umbrella over me and the camera to make the image. I went back to the protection of the raised open hatch of my Pathfinder before I realized my mistake. As I was changing the ISO to 400, the camera announced it no longer had enough charge to continue shooting. Thankfully we had an inverter in the truck where I could plug-in the battery for recharging as we wondered down the road.

Raw files range from about 65-70 megs, and converted out of ACR, they are about 225-230 megs. Dynamic range from the sensor is fully two stops more than my Canon 5D2 -- one more in shadow and at least one more in highlights. Colors are lush without being harsh. Native print size at 300 ppi is 18x24.25 inches. If you don't have a printer that will print 24 inches wide, you'd be wasting your money -- thankfully I have one at school (Epson 7900). Prints are absolutely beautiful. I printed everything at full res, and that's big enough for me ---- for now.

The attached image was shot in Front Royal, VA early Saturday morning (3/3) using my P-67 75mm 4.5 perspective control lens. And while I realize that this quick edit JPEG can in no way express the beautiful tones and detail of this image (I can read the electric meters in the file), it'll give you some idea. Just imagine looking at this image on a piece of 24x30 Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. Yeah, I going to buy one.

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