Gear Test Pentax 645D with 40mp medium format sensor
Larger image sensors seem to be the way forward, but is there still a place for medium format in the digital age? Keith Wilson couldn’t wait to photograph the landscape with this 40MP camera
In the middle of the last decade, Pentax appeared to be playing a guessing game with the market by twice unveiling prototypes of a 645 format DSLR, only to put production on hold. This was due to the speed of the ‘megapixel race’ as successive generations of Nikon and Canon 35mm format DSLRs kept overtaking the pixel count of the larger Pentax sensor. It says a lot about the sensibilities of photographers (and camera makers) that in the digital age the pixel count is considered more important to a camera than the size and format of the image sensor. After all, in days of film, the Pentax 645 and 67 series were two of the best medium format cameras around, championed by landscape, travel and location photographers for their quality of construction and performance. So, adopting the smaller of these two formats to a digital sensor seemed like a logical step forward for Pentax to pursue.
Despite the false starts, the Pentax 645D finally ran off the assembly line in late 2010, with a whopping 40MP image sensor, measuring 44x33mm, nearly twice the area of 35mm format. The 645D has since won numerous awards from esteemed European, American and Japanese magazines more used to handing out such prizes to the smaller DSLR and compact system cameras (CSC). This shouldn’t be surprising because the specification, design and build quality of the 645D is comparable to the offerings of the Nikon D4 and D800, or the Canon EOS-1D X and 5D Mk III. Of course, there are obvious differences too. In truth, the 645D’s direct like-for-like competitor is…