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Old Apr 13, 2012, 2:07 PM   #1
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Default 645D or not 645D? That is the Question. Help needed!

I have been shooting quite a bit of film the last couple of years and collecting film cameras as a hobby. I shoot 35mm 6x4.5, 6x9, and 5x4. Hitting small medium and large format as well as digital 35mm equivalent SLR's. The area where I live makes it almost impossible to find film and processing for these so I usually have to order film and processing online and mail the film to a lab.

This cost of film use just reinforces the reasons why I originally moved to digital in the first place but film, especially medium format (and even more especially using my Pentax 645 camera) just gives me the detail and photo image quality that I couldn't get with a digital SLR. Really there is a big difference when you blow up the image for large prints.

But now Pentax has delivered the answer to my prayers (the 645D) but they still have priced it higher than I can afford at the moment (around $10,000 with the kit lens). I can wait a year or two and then buy a used
one but I want one now. From the reviews I've read it is the format and photo IQ I need and want. But just out of reach for my wallet.

I'm 63 years old at the moment and nearing retirement and a fixed income. Photography is my hobby and my joy. I plan on continuing it long after I retire and filling my days with it. Film photography would just be too expensive to maintain after I retire and constantly upgrading as well.

I have started to sell off my camera collection and what is left of my lens collection except for the lenses I can use with a 645D.

The question is (and I ask it here as you are all the people who's opinion on this matter I most respect) is this the way to go?

I don't mind the large files or the slower speed of the 645D as I'm accustomed to it from shooting large format. In fact the 645D is lightning speed compared to shooting 5x4. My wife says it is just too expensive but really compared to shooting film it is a cost saver. What are your opinions here?

I know I ramble on but this is a decision that will be a determining factor in enjoying the retirement years I'm looking forward to and I don't have many more years to decide.

Let the advice begin. And many thanks in advance.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 2:54 PM   #2
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Well, Big Dawg...you and I are in the same age bracket. I've retired and I enjoy every minute of it. Also I have spent an inordinate amount of my retired life photographing.

It's wonderful to have the time. I've also spent an enormous amount of time driving, in my retirement, around my province, adjoining provinces and a bit into the Dakota's (USA) . Kind of like...a modern day Paladin..."Have Camera, Will Travel".

Always with with 2-3 DSLR bodies (Pentax of course) and occasionally my little Canon (G12)...also assorted lenses.

I'm sure, when you retire, you will explore your state and adjoining states....it's amazing the amount of photographic items out there.

I've been an avid photographer since I was about 18 and bought my first serious camera...a Pentax S1a in 1968.

I've generally used 35 mm SLR's...but, back in the '80's I bought a 35 Rangefinder (Leica) and a medium format film system, a Mamiya 220 Pro F TLR with 3 lenses.

I went into medium format for exactly the reasons you cite. Photo quality and enlargements.

The MF bug bit me after I rented a Pentax 6 X 7 with the 90mm F 2.8 Leaf Shutter lens. The pix quality was in a word....Wow !

With digital I've often thought of the Pentax 645 D, but the price is too much for my budget.

I also would like to take one out for a test run and see how good the pictures are, when enlarged to say 11 X 14.

Another thing, especially in the last month that has made me think has been the introduction of the new Nikon D800 full frame, with is it...36 MP's or so ?

Now I know this camera is a full frame, not a medium format. I'm one of those guys that does not consider a full frame...the new medium format, probably because I did a lot of work with both Mamiya and Pentax medium format film, before digital.

To me....medium format is medium format and full frame is full frame...their sensors are different sizes, just like back in the film days...a 645, 6 X 6, 6 X 7, etc....were significantly bigger in negative size than 35mm .

But I have to say, the new Nikon D800 intrigues me and the price while expensive is less expensive, than the Pentax 645 D, although the 645D is the most reasonable in price of all the medium format digitals, to my understanding.

I think I would want to check out photo quality between the 645D and the D800....before I made any decisions. Think there's stuff online that you can check out, enlarge, compare pixels, etc.

But another consideration for you especially....is as one of the prime camera and lens collectors out there in Pentax land...I would think you probably have a number of older, fine Pentax medium format lenses that would work well with the new 645D. So maybe in terms of MF lenses you are already covered.

With the D800...it's starting from square one with accessories and expensive Nikon lenses.

BTW, I don't know if you have a K-5, but although it is a cropped ASP-C sensor...this camera is very impressive.

Another consideration...many are speculating whether Pentax will bring out it's own full framer DSLR. Whether Pentax-Ricoh will or not is anyone's bet, at this point.

So in conclusion...I'm sure I've been of absolutely no help...but those are some of my thoughts...disconnected as they may be.

I still have my Mamiya TLR, with it's 55 wide angle, 80mm normal and 180 mm super telephoto.

I wish I could get it converted to digital at a reasonable cost...I'd love to use it again.

But as you say and I agree...digital has it over film when it comes to processing, costs, etc.


Last edited by lesmore49; Apr 13, 2012 at 3:37 PM.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 3:59 PM   #3
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My wife tells me life is too short and I should get what makes me happy. For me, the question is whether the bang worth the buck? The 645D is way out of any possible realm I would shoot. I would not hesitate for a moment, however, to spend $10,000 on an exotic diving trip, which many people would think is nuts when I could go on a perfectly fun trip for $2,000.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 4:28 PM   #4
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G'day BD

I have read your OP several times now - each time with slightly differing reactions, but PBs comments above hit it on the head with "I would not hesitate for a moment, however, to spend $10,000 on an exotic diving trip" .... could equally be converted into a sea-voyage to any 'exotic' location - the however is a life-long return on investment vs a 7-10 day cruise

Doug - we are all of a similar age, the Baby-Boomer generation, now retiring or near to retiring. My thoughts for you is "what do you wish to do with this superb IQ that you'll get with the 645 ... are you going to exhibit? are you going to create photo books for sale? what do you have in mind? - or do you even have to have a plan? I dunno mate

I also am well aware that this period of life is not a practice run for the next period ... so I would seriously suggest that you take that cruise / sorry diving trip / sorry again get that bloody camera!!! and get on with it

Regards, Phil
Has Lumix mirrorless & superzoom cameras and loves their amazing capabilities
Spends 8-9 months each year travelling Australia
Recent images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozzie_traveller/sets/
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 4:37 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ozzie_Traveller View Post
I also am well aware that this period of life is not a practice run for the next period ... so I would seriously suggest that you take that cruise / sorry diving trip / sorry again get that bloody camera!!! and get on with it

Regards, Phil
Good point pboerger and Ozzie Traveler.

If the budget is there ...why not.

As baby boomers (in our 60's or older) ...right now is prime time.

That's the rationale I used to get my K-5, 10-17 fish eye, 12-24mm wide angle, etc.

At my age, I subscribe to the theory that as long as I can afford it.... and it won't affect my family...then enjoy that valuable commodity.... life.... and take that trip...buy that item.

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Old Apr 13, 2012, 10:14 PM   #6
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I'm not quite in the same demographic, but I'm not too far off either. I'm in my mid 50s, still have another 7 years to go before the mortgage is retired, and I have one kid in college and another starting graduate school in the fall. Obviously, I am not in a position to even consider buying the K645D. I agonized over buying the 5D, and I have to say I'm delighted that I did.

If it won't completely bust your budget, and if you'll get a lot of enjoyment from using it, there are much worse things that you could do with the money.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 10:51 PM   #7
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Hi Dawg,

I think that Medium Format Digital is a definite step up, but. . . consider that film is different than digital in one very important aspect -- film resolution is always directly proportional to format size, but the same is not true in digital. With film, at a given print size, the image captured needs greater magnification to print from smaller negatives, but with digital, the file is essentially the same size for a given MP count regardless of format size of the sensor, so no magnification is involved, and there's no loss in resolution from the magnification.

Note that I'm not saying that all 12 MP sensors, regardless of size are capable of the same Image Quality, just that theoretically, they all share the same resolution potential (all of them will print to 13.3x8.9" at 300 DPI). Larger sensors with their larger photosensors are obviously capable of less noise, better color accuracy and depth, and greater DR, especially when you start packing the sensors with more pixels.

The thing is, virtually everyone compromises ultimate image quality to budget, otherwise, we'd all be shooting full frame 645 Phase One IQ180s at $48 K for the digital back alone. IMO, the only really valid reason for medium format digital is if one regularly prints larger than 18x24". It's really a matter of how much of a compromise you're willing to live with, and the difference between crop sensored MFD and a high MP count 24x36 format digital is not really that great.

The D800 muddies the water with a near MFD resolution sensor and a $3000 pricetag -- My preference would tend to favor this camera over a MFD because it would be more versatile, less expensive, and easier to carry with a complement of lenses. Older pro grade manual focus lenses can be gotten at relatively reasonable prices if working speed is not really that important, and modern AF lenses can be had for subjects that require the speed. Low light performance would be considerably better than the 645, and you'd have pro level speed if you had a need for it. At this price for the body, you'd have a considerable differential in cash to get lenses, and we all know that you have a particular talent in that regard. I think that between 24x36 and MFD, this is probably the best bang for the buck, and not too much a compromise in IQ potential. Add to this the versatility of the Nikon flash system, and you should have a lot to play with in with the additional time you'll have once retired.

As much as I'm adverse to recommending Nikon (it's a Pentaxian thing. . .) but if I was considering this from your shoes, this is probably the route I'd take at this particular point in time.

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Old Apr 14, 2012, 1:36 AM   #8
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If I think about such things logically, I would have never bought th two FA ltd lenses I have. Just as thinking logically should lead me to the conclusion that I don't need the DFA 100 macro WR lens. But that never stopped me from wanting one.

I'm another that says life is too short, if the budget allows, why not?
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Old Apr 14, 2012, 6:38 PM   #9
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I'm sticking with both, myself. Since I know that my Kowas won't be obsolete until film disappears entirely, they're still relevant, so if I want that detail and enlargability, it'll do. Everything else can be done with my 60D.
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Old Apr 15, 2012, 12:31 PM   #10
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Big balancing act in life.
You cant (budget wise) be crazy and put yourself into financial danger just cause you want something but, lets not forget ... you cant take it with you. Go for it man but rent or have a good return policy on one first to make sure it lives up to what you desire.
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