Medium format. Back in my film day, medium format cameras were “da bomb”. Like digital shooters today, I started out with a 35mm camera. After a couple of years I heard about these magical “medium format” cameras that were SO much better than the 35 mm camera I had been shooting. But better is a relative term – the main thing that made them better is that medium format cameras shot on much wider film than 35 mm camera. They were not necessarily better for sports or fast action, but the image quality of any medium format camera surpassed 35 mm cameras of the day – primarily because the image was stored on a bigger chunk of film. But medium format cameras were expensive and bulky and hard to use. I tried several medium format cameras back in the late 90’s including a really nice Mamiya RZ67 system. It took great pictures but I seldom used it because it was bulky, slow, and hard to use.
Since that time I have shot mostly with 35 mm cameras and digital since 2000. I still shoot large format 4″x5″ film just because I like the slow process and movements available in a large format camera. I sold my medium format gear years ago (wish I still had it) and just recently got back into medium format film cameras when I discovered the Pentax 6×7 camera. Holy cow, if I had tried a Pentax 6×7 back in the day I might have shot a lot more medium format film! Love that camera. It handles like a big SLR so easy to use like my Nikon cameras. The glass on my Pentax 6×7 is outstanding – some of the best lenses I own.
So when I was recently asked by Eric Williams at Bedford Camera if I would like to try out a Pentax 645z camera system, I emphatically said “YES”! I wanted to see what Pentax offered in a medium format digital camera, especially now that I was regularly using a Pentax 6×7 and loved it.
Today I picked up the 645z and have spent about an hour playing with it and reading the manuals. Very nice camera. Not nearly as heavy as I expected, although it is not a light weight camera by any means, it is substantially less weight than my Pentax 6×7, which is good. The 645z seems to handle very much like a DSLR (a good thing) with lots of buttons and dials (another good thing in my opinion). I spent a lot of time going through the menu system and trying to understand how to customize the 645z to my liking.
Where is the menu item to disable focus on the shutter button?
That is my big question I can’t figure out so far. Most pro photographers I know disable the autofocus feature on the shutter release and instead use the dedicated autofocus button on the back of the camera. The 645z has an autofocus button on the camera, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to disable the autofocus on the shutter button.
I have an assignment in a couple of hours and I had thought about trying to use the Pentax for this assignment rather than my Nikon gear. But if I can’t decouple the autofocus from the shutter, I might have to postpone those plans.
So far I like the Pentax 654z, although I haven’t seen any images from this 50 megapixel monster. I have a week to play with the camera so will be giving it a good test over the next few days.
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