While generally an underdog camera in the 6×4.5 market, the Pentax 645 is by far my favourite of all the cameras within the line. Probably because you don’t see many of them kicking around. I know of only three other photographers in my area that use the camera. But unlike its contemporaries this wasn’t a system camera. You got the body and that was it there was little you could do. But because of that you got a camera that had a built in light meter, motordrive, and grip. Plus the backing of some fantastic optics!
Type: Medium Format (120/220) Single Lens Reflex, 6×4.5
Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K-Mount (645)
Year of Manufacture: 1984
This is a clean and easy to use camera, and it’s ready to go in all modes right out of the box. And it’s a workhorse. The built in grip, eye-level finder, and drive make it the perfect camera for weddings, photojournalism, or even generally carry around. I often describe it as my point-and-shoot medium format camera. Another nice feature on this camera is the dual tripod sockets. This means that when the camera is being used with a tripod you can easily switch from landscape to portrait mode by moving the camera rather than adjusting the tripod. Power for the camera comes from six AA batteries, which again seems like a lot but it also means you can get batteries for it pretty much anywhere in the world. And finally the line of lenses avalible for the camera is excellent, my personal favourite is the 35mm f/3.5 probably one of the best medium format ultra-wide lenses out there with zero distortion! Plus all the old manual focus lenses will work with the newer autofocus models (645n and 645nII).
Probably the one thing that makes this camera an underdog is unlike the Maymia, Bronica, and Contax systems the Pentax 645 is not a system camera, what you get in the box is your camera. You can’t remove the eye-level finder, grip, or drive. The film is held in inserts rather than magazines so even swapping between rolls is impossible. The size/shape of the camera does make it an awkward camera to pack in a standard or smaller camera bag or backpack. While the average photographer may not need this, the camera only has a 1/60″ flash sync speed so working with strobes may be difficult as well.
The Low Down
If you’re looking for an easy way to get into medium format photography some will suggest the Mamyia m645 system, which is a great camera (and I’ll probably review one later on in this series) but for someone who needs a little helping hand, the Pentax 645 is great, any model. While the 645 is limited to a center-weighted meter, the 645n and nII bring in a great matrix (average) metering system which is (according to those who’ve used it) on par with the meter in the Nikon F4. Plus being an underdog camera you can probably get a good system on the cheap and have little contest in getting it. Just make sure that you get the 120 film inserts rather than 220. You’ll really only need one.
All Photos shot in Alisa Craig and Strathroy Ontario respectivly.
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Ilford Delta 100 @ ASA-50 – Ilford Perceptol (1+1) 13:00 @ 20C