Pentax 645n Review
I have been on the search for a solid medium format camera that I can use for weddings and portraiture, for a while now. The cameras in this field range from the "point and shoot" 645 offerings of the Fuji GA645, Hasselblad V series cameras, Hasselblad H series cameras, TLRs, and onward.
Following camera trends, most wedding photographers gravitate towards one of three camera systems, the Mamiya 645, the Pentax 645, and the Contax 645. These systems are all stellar systems to get into and each produce amazing results with the right photographer at the helm. The question becomes, "what do you want from your system?" and "how much do you intend to pay?"
The Mamiya system and the Pentax system are comparably priced, with someone able to get into them for under $1000. Both systems existed before autofocus, and have a manual version. Both systems are backwards compatible, meaning that the lenses you purchased for your 645 will work on newer cameras, inserts for the 645n will work on the 645 and 645nii. The mamiya system however, switched from inserts to backs.
The Contax 645 system is a completely different horse, though. They seem to be the trending and coveted camera for wedding shooters at the moment, commanding upwards of $3000.00, but there is a reason. The lenses for this system are Zeiss lenses, and the 80mm F2 is pretty amazing.
I chose the pentax for a number of reasons, it has inserts instead of backs, which cuts down on size and weight. You do lose the ability to change film mid roll, but I rarely ever did that anyway. You can have multiple extra inserts loaded and ready to shoot, though, which is what I do. The 645n has autofocus, which I wanted. Nothing about the camera is removable except the lens and inserts. The Mamiya system, everything is interchangeable, the backs, grips, winder, viewfinder, and body are all swappable, which makes the system much larger.
I've owned and used the 645n for about a year now, and I can confidently say that it is an amazing camera. I purchased it from a seller on ebay, I paid less that 400 for the camera, a 120 back, a 220 back, and an 80-160mm zoom lens. I sold the lens and purchased a 45mm F2.8 FA, which is the autofocus version. As an update, I started writing this in July, prices seem to have jumped a bit since then.
The camera itself fits wonderfully in the hand. The grip fits my hand perfectly, and the buttons are placed in natural positions. The meter lock button is placed on the back of the grip, right above where my thumb sits, which is great. I have used cameras that have the button placed far from the thumb, causing a good reach. The depth-of-field preview is located on the side of the body near the grip as well, which is a perfect location.
The viewfinder is bright, much brighter than the mamiya I had previously tried. The viewfinder is a pentamirror, not a pentaprism, which is a mirror instead of a solid prism; either way, it is bright. The focus points are either center or center weighted, I just leave it on center. When using older, non-af lenses, there is a confirmation beep, or confirmation dot to let you know when the center is in focus. Using the 105mm f2.4, this is great to have.
An upgrade of the 645, the 645n has all the functions on dials, the 645 has a them in menus. The shutter speed dial is to the right of the eyepiece, and the exposure compensation dial is to the left. Under the shutter speed dial is your metering mode, which includes center, center weighted, and matrix metering.
Shutter speeds go from 4 seconds to 1/1000th with bulb as well as flash sync, which is 1/60th of a second, unless you get one of the few leaf shutter lenses.
Under the exposure compensation dial is the ISO and bracketing switch. On the left of the camera is a multiple exposure switch as well as a PC sync port. Around the shutter button (which takes the standard shutter release) is a switch for single or multiple shots, as well as a timer.
One other feature the camera has is date imprinting, which imprints the shutter speed and aperture for each shot just outside the frame.
The lenses for this camera are manual focus (A) and auto focus (FA). The manual focus lenses came out with the 645, but they are the same mount, so they will work just fine, though you will have manual focus. The FA and A versions are the same optics, just one is manual and one is auto. They are extremely sharp, I use the 45mm F2.8.
One thing that is wonderful about this system is that Pentax designed all the 67 system lenses to be used on it with an adapter. The 67 system has the coveted 105mm F2.4, which is a stellar portrait lens and one most people use.
What really matters is how the camera performs. I love it. The autofocus is good, as I use mostly manual focus cameras, this is just an extra bonus. It seems accurate.
I only use this camera for wedding and portrait work, and it performs wonderfully. I'm super glad this was the camera I decided to get.