Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let's revisit the Medium-Format DSLRs now that the K-7 and K-x are available. Could the 645D be Pentax's next big move?

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Hi Pentaxian friends.

I just thought that this article published in July was appropriate now that Pentax has the K-7 and the K-x available.

Pentax will never make a Full Frame (24x36) DSLR as they believe this is a market that will disapear in favor of much larger sensors. As the prices of sensors goes down and technology advances even more, sensors equivalent to medium-format cameras will be cheaper.

Pentax has experience with medium-format cameras in the 645 and 6x7 film cameras. They already have a good lens base. They are going to introduce the new Pentax 645-D in Japan early next year. It will not be only sold in Japan for long. I bet everybody will want one and the price will never be as much as the competition such as Hasselblad, Phase One, Mamiya, etc.

Just look at the Leica S2, and you will look at the future of Digital Photography. Canon and Nikon never produced a medium-format camera before and they will likely continue to push the Full Frame format inherited from the 35mm film cameras. Imagine a sensor the size of a 645 medium-format camera or bigger. The point and shoot cameras will be replaced by APS-C DSLRs or 4/3rd DSLRs or Hybrid cameras. The Full frame will be replaced by the medium-format sizes.

This will put Pentax in a good position for both markets. You know that the Leica S2 will start a new Professional standard, but at a much higher price than Pentax will. You just wait and see...Pentax will rise again. In the past, with film cameras, the 35mm was mostly used by amateur photographers and Large-format by Pros.
Here is another article I posted earlier about the Pentax 645-D.

What do you think?

Of course this is just my opinion only and I am 90% right 20% of the time, like the weather man!
Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque


Jan Moren said...

I think that you're half right. Pentax is doing the right thing by pushing digital MF. They have a large, loyal customer base from film MF and some of those will clearly be tempted to get the 645D.

Where I think they're making a mistake is discontinuing the film MF cameras (though an understandable one if the rumors are true that they'd need to commit to another longish run of parts for the 645 and/or 67ii to continue).

The thing is, digital MF is already here, in the shape of their film cameras. I picked up a Pentax 67 this winter after having played with another MF camera fora while. And even with my decidedly consumer-grade scanner I am getting around 30MP from the film I shoot with it. A better scanner would easily give me 40Mp if I'd ever need that kind of resolution. And the cost of one 645D - relatively inexpensive as it may well be - will keep me in film for years and years.

So, get a 645D if I win the lottery? Perhaps - but frankly I'm so happy with my P67 that I really don't see much of a need for it.

Enche Tjin said...

In couple years from now, I think compact users will go to either to advance mobile phones, or go to micro 4/3 because of the size and convenience factor.

The pro will (already) go to full frame format because it is compact and versatile while the image resolution is bigger and better up to 24mp now.

APS-C users (hobbyists and enthusiasts) will likely to upgrade to full frame format as well.

Because of that,I will see that crop factor camera market will shrink in couple years.

Developing digital medium format is tricky because the rapid technological change. If in the end image resolution is close to full frame cameras, than this format will be in trouble.

On other word, Pentax position is pretty dangerous and they will be forced to innovate once again to break from this this fierce battle.

stanleyk said...


I think you make a couple of very good points. I got into digital rather late (as well as photography in general). I find that when discussing full frame sensors, in the end what really is troubling is the lens part. A lot of people just don't like it that the APSC makes their lenses non-ompatible with the standard 35mm field of view. Your 50 becomes a 75, ect. However, it's my understanding that the aspect ratio of the the sensors is the same. For the average person like me who who really likes photography, but is not making a living with it, the APSC sensor is just fine. I've used a full frame Nikon (a friend with rich parents has one). Quite frankly I can't tell the difference on an 11X14 print between that and my K20 or K10. I just don't see most people doing prints larger than this. On the lenses to some extent Pentax has tried to address this with sizes like 43, 77, et al that are different than standard 35mm. It's just for older folks like myself, it takes time to get used to new standards. Young people who started photography with digital aren't going to be wedded to their 28 or 50 or 85 or 135 the way older people are.

On the medium format, I agree also. If you are earning a living from your work, the entry price for medium format will not be daunting. It's just the price of doing business. I'm not talking about the person doing wedding photos on the weekend for extra money. That person is fine with an APSC.

Anyway, I work at a university and the two photo profs (who also by the way show/sell their work) tend to agree with this. BTW- We stopped offering film courses except at the 3000+ level for art students. No one had film cameras and they were having to purchase them. It was getting the parents upset. One instructor regularly has over 50 students in his 1300 level Intro to Photo course. Not one of them has ever walked in with a Full Frame.

Full Frame will be a niche market. APSC will be the new standard as the 35mm equivalent. I think older people like myself should just get used to it and learn to use your old lenses accordingly.

Art photographers aren't really going to carry what the format is. They will shoot whatever is available because art photography does tend to be different than say fashion or nature photography (not that they can't overlap). Again, if they do, those people will use medium format (or some varaint on large format) as they always have.

I personally think from a business perspective this is a good move by Pentax.

I am curious about the Olympus EP-1. But to show you how old people don't like change, I just can't frame without a viewfinder. But a couple of young people I work with could care less about the viewfinder. Times change. On this one I think Nikon and Cannon might be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Dear Yvonne,

Can't agree with you more. I bought into the Olympus 4/3 system, and for me it offers a great solution for everyday shooting. Great system. And I kept all my 645 lenses (and cameras) hoping for Pentax to make good on their promise. Those lenses together with a medium format sensor would just be the ultimate for professional-type images. Best of both worlds. Hope you are right.

shaloot said...

"90% right 20% of the time" - I have got to remember that line, it's just brilliant!

Miserere said...


I only partially agree with you. Yes, I think it makes sense for Pentax to produce an "affordable" medium format digital camera. Where I don't agree with you, or them, is in the body format, and the body format will dictate its success or failure (in my opinion).

I will explain: The Leica S2 is a stroke of genius: it offers a larger-than-35mm digital sensor in a body that is smaller than a Nikon D700. Pentax, on the other hand, will offer the 645D, with a cropped medium format sensor (1.3x crop factor with respect to film MF) in a 645-sized body, one that is big, cumbersome, and not exactly portable.

I think Pentax had a chance to make history here, and they chose not to. Using the technical expertise garnered by designing the petite K-7, they should have built a DSLR sized camera around the 48x36mm sensor they'll be using and offer backwards compatibility with 645 lenses through a fully automated adapter.

If they had offered a camera the size of a Nikon D700, but with a sensor that's twice as big, and at a price similar to a Nikon D3X or Canon 1D, would that not have been something amazing?

I hope they sell their initial production run of the 645D and don't lose any money with the new lenses, but I suspect the 645D will simply become a footnote in Pentax's history, instead of the chapter it could have been.


Somanna said...

Excellent observation Mis.

Yvon Bourque said...

Miserere & Somanna,

I actually don't know for sure if the Pentax 645 will be the same body that they have been showing the last two years. Pentax has surprised us with the design of the K-7 and maybe they will have a larger sensor in a "Leica II" body style. I'm (we) are talking like if the 645 was already out, but it's still a future endeavor. Maybe Pentax will still make history here. I have no concrete ideas where they are going with the 645.