pentax 645

Pentax 67 review

Ever since I first picked up a film camera and got slowly drawn deeper into the wonderful world of film, I’d heard tell of a mythical monstrous machine called the Pentax 67, today dear friends I am happy to report that my long held dream of owning such a mechanical marvel is realised - behold! the behemoth!!

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So… another new camera eh? yes dear friends - let me take a moment to explain… I’ve sold all my Digital camera equipment!! I’m officially now full time film only! regular visitors to the website will have noticed a different look/format - no more commercial/events/wedding pages, in fact I’ve completely re-imagined my photographic practice so that it’s more in line with my passions and interests and one thing that i had realised for some time was that my digital gear only ever saw the light of day for commercial/events work - having decided to forgo that area of work my digital kit was effetively rendered redundant - i loved my Canon 6D, it served me very well in the 33,000 ish clicks that i made with it.

Having decided on this course of action and sold off all my digital kit and studio lights i was in the market for a suitable main battle camera to replace my 6D and of course in a very short space of time my attention rested upon the Pentax 67!

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I’ve spent the last couple of weeks putting the Pentax 67 through it’s paces,adding a few more lenses and accessories to the set up, just generally getting to grips with it and starting a complete overhaul of my portfolio with the resulting images, let’s take her out for a spin and I’ll show you around….

A BIG part of the draw towards this camera was this lens - the Super Multi Coated Takumar 105mm 2.4 - it is properly LEGENDARY!! able to simultaneously render dream like out of focus areas alongside super sharp and crisp details, giving a wonderfully 3D effect - it’s my favourite lens ever, ever, ever! Here are three of my fave portraits shot with it so far :)

The 105mm fulfills the ‘standard’ focal length on 6X7 format giving an equivalent field of view to a 58mm lens on standard 35mm format, what’s even better is that thanks to a cheap adapter I can also use this amazing lens on my other Pentax medium format camera the Pentax 645 (see review of that camera HERE) when used in this way thanks to the smaller negative size of the 645 it works as an 85mm portrait lens :)

Anyway back to the Pentax 67 - in use it’s actucally a very simple and surprisingly ergonomic experience for such a large camera, as usual the internet is rife with ill judged, misinformed claptrap perpetuated by people who’ve never even held the camera - first and foremost being the “you can’t shoot it handheld” to which i say (insert swear word of choice) I’ve had sharp results hand holding this beast consistently at 1/60 of a second with no problem at all and with a bit more care and attention 1/30 is totally doable too, the mass of the camera is such that any mirror slap is soaked up by the sheer weight of the camera body, plus most of the vibrations/noise comes from the mirror returning to it’s start position i.e. after the shutter has closed and the frame has been exposed so total myth about handholding.

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My version of the Pentax 67 is the thrid version and dates from about 1989 - 1994 (I have no idea how to specifically date the camera by it’s serial number) and to my mind is the best version; earlier models had some mechanical issues present within them from the outset and of course are also much older, there is also a later model the 67ii which is the pinnacle of the range but… it’s EXPENSIVE! and really the only thing it adds is a built in grip (I don’t need this) and an aperture priority mode (I don’t need that either)! so if you’re looking for one of these cameras then go for one that says ‘67’ on the front of the body (earlier models have 6x7 written on the front)

It’s a modular system which means that you can change the prism finder to a wasit level if you like or a metered/non metered head - mine came with a metered head. looking through the prism the finder is about 90% of the actual image which is a bit of a shame but i guess having a 100% finder on a camera this big would have rendered it too unwieldy, it’s not the brightest viewfinder in the world but it’s good and pops into focus well, remove the prism and the focussing screen is HUGE and wonderful!!

let’s get this out of the way… it’s heavy… no denying that, you’ll notice that you have this camera slung over your shoulder!! it’s also big, no getting away from it - although considering the format of negative you’re working with it’s actually smaller than other 6x7 cameras, I really like the straight forward SLR format too - this makes it very easy to transition from your 35mm manual SLR camera and just start shooting straight away.

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My camera came with the wonderful 105mm 2.4 lens already- i swiftly added the very cool looking lens hood to this and then started casting about for more lenses to try out, the great thing about this system is that these lenses are generally very large and so aren’t really coveted by the mirrorless digital camera crowd, this means they are pretty cheap! By shopping around (in the case of the 200mm that meant importing from Japan and in the case of the 55mm it meant not being too picky about cosmetic condition of the lens body) I was able to put together a selection of three amazing additional lenses for my 67 for less than £250 in total! here they are:

From left to right:

55mm f4 - a wide angle lens equivalent to about 28mm on 35mm format

165m f2.8 - a short tele lens equivalent to about 85mm on 35mm format

200mm f4 - a medium tele equivalent to about 100mm on 35mm format

I’m still testing these lenses out and deciding which to keep in my line up, since I love the 105mm 2.4 so much the two portrait lenses don’t get much of a look in at the moment, despite being fine lenses in their own rightonly time will tell if they will remain in my collection; the 55mm on the other hand is a keeper! Just to prove that the P67 is a flexible camera and suitable for landscape as well as portraiture here are a few shots I got on a short hike in the wonderful West Yorkshire Moors near my home and all shot on the 45mm f4.

It’s a bloody brilliant landscape shooter - I don’t know why this surprised me since it is basically an oversized 35mm SLR, but i was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was to shoot on this walk, it’s weight is a bit of a limiting factor for longer walks and as someone who enjoys the great outdoors I’m not sure I would i regularly take the P67 on a long hike as it is a heavy beast to lug up hill and down dale but I’d definitely take it on shorter walks or to shoot specific scenes with the intention of darkroom printing the results, the 6X7 negatives are wonderful, lots and lots of lovely detail and the 45mm lens is amazing, I’m looking forward to getting into the darkroom soon and printing some of these!

So there we have it, my dream camera is living up to expectations (if not exceeding them) the P67 has helped me to transform my portfolio in a way that no other camera has, it’s flexible enough to shoot on location for portraits and is a very capable landscape shooter too - as with any camera nothing is perfect, but the Pentax 67 is the next best thing!

Pentax 645 medium format camera review: My new favourite portrait camera

Some cameras attract your attention because of their sleek industrial design others with their classic style and charm - the Pentax 645 is not one of those cameras!

Seen here lurking in it's natural environment -the pentax 645 sneaks up on an unsuspecting roll of Fuji pro 400H.....

Seen here lurking in it's natural environment -the pentax 645 sneaks up on an unsuspecting roll of Fuji pro 400H.....

At first glance the Pentax 645 looks like a big plastic box with a lens sticking out of the front and at second glance it also looks like a big plastic box with a lens sticking out the front, but hey this ain't a beauty contest! it's a camera and a bloody awesome one too! in fact (and yes I know that I say this a lot) it's my new fave camera and i really, really,really-really-really mean it this time, honest.... no, really....

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I think I've reached that point in my film camera tomfoolery where I'm looking for my cameras to do different things or have specific purposes - I've shot loads of different cameras so I can speak with some experience that most 35mm film SLR cameras are a variation on a theme - they have various control layouts/feature sets etc but ultimately they are much of a muchness so whilst I am thinning out my collection of 35mm film cameras which all do pretty much the same thing I am also expanding the collection to include cameras which do things a little bit differently - and therefore in my warped Gear Acquisition Syndrome afflicted brain I can be justified in purchasing...the Pentax 645 which is a medium format film camera and it's amazing, let me introduce you..

The first thing that is obvious is what era this camera hails from - this thing is so 80's it hurts!! the buttons and the chunky design are total give aways and i love it!! despite it's brick like subtlety the 645 is actually very ergonomic and I love the button placement, there are loads of hokey reviews out there on the net talking about all sorts of nonsense about this camera like the viewfinder being dim (it's not - it's VERY bright and HUGE) and there is an even larger amount of claptrap out there about the shutter being VERY LOUD (it's not.... yeah you can hear it but it's not THAT bad) what else... oh yeah people complain about the button placement, for me this is just not an issue at all....this thing is so easy to shoot with!! it has a full range of shutter priority, aperture priority and full manual modes (there are also people out there claiming that the 645 doesn't have a full manual mode, erm yes it does)..... the great thing about all these crap reviews and internet forums recylcing this duff info about the camera is that nobody wants to buy it - so it's CHEAP!!! like REALLY cheap!! hurray!

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These cameras are not particularly common in the UK these days so I imported mine from Japan and even with shipping and Her Majesty's rip off merchants at UK customs it was still a good deal! If you think you want a Pentax 645 then buy one - you will not be dissapointed! Mine came with the standard 75mm 2.8 lens attached already and I very quickly added a 150mm 3.5 lens too - the pentax 645 glass is AMAZING! it's a totally manual focus system and that's the way (a ha a ha) I like it! very smooth focussing action and a lovely bright viewfinder to nail focus - Love it!!

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Above you can see my set up - the Pentax 645 itself sporting the 150mm lens, a spare film back which can be preloaded with film making it much easier in the field to load a new film, a light meter which I've just started using to help nail exposure and of course a few rolls of film - the 645 is a bulky beast, but it's not mega heavy, I use my Joby slingstrap with it and I've carried around for a few hours at a time during a shoot with no bothers.

Anyway enough with the camera review stuff - I don't shoot film just so I can review cameras, in fact the real reason I shoot film is in no small part becuase as a photographer what I like to do is take photographs!! yes i know! crazy! what I mean is I'd like to spend a little more time on the photograph taking side and a little less on the sitting in front of the computer editing side of the euqation - I fully believe that editing and processing is an important part of the photographic process but with film it's a much more hands on process, film also gives you some constraints to work within and I like that too, oh and it looks flipping awesome too - did i mention that already?

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Anyway for someone who is trying to reduce the amount of camera review waffling I don't half bang on about cameras - let's call it a work in progress, now let's talk about the photos instead though shall we? These images were created on a modelshoot with the amazingly talented Pandora Belle - for the shoot we took a walk in the woods on a bright sunny day just outside Bradford in a place called Judy Woods, a beautiful setting with soft light filtered through the trees, the bluebells were in full swing and Pandora suggested a goth look which I think works great in this setting. Over the moon with how these turned out - this is how I want to work from now on, spend more time being much more intentional about visualising the shot and getting the compostion and exposure right during the shoot so that the images look how I imagined right off the bat - beautiful!

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I've been wanting to incorporate film into my professional work for some time now - in particular for portraits, but to do that i first needed to build some experience of shooting portraits on film and at the same time build my portfolio in that direction so i have something to show people, this is where working with models on a TF (Time For) basis is a great option as it helps us both build our portfolios so it's mutually beneficial - it's also a good creative outlet and you can test out new ideas (like shooting with film) without the pressure of a paying client.

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These images were shot on Fuji pro 400H film and wow!! I love how they look - i intentionally overexposed the film which is a way of creating a more light and airy feel to the images and I think it's worked great, what this means is I rate the film as 200 speed so in effect treating it as though it requires twice the amount of light and voila! amazing tones and lovely feel to the photos - I did next to nothing with the scans I got back from Exposure Film Lab because to my eye they look exactly how I'd envisioned things, fantastic stuff :)

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Exposure Film Lab did such a great job of developing and scanning the film - it was my first time using these guys but I have to say they did a wonderful job and I cannot recommend them highly enough, and also a huge thank you to Pandora Belle for working with me on this shoot - she's a very creative and talented model and I'm sure we'll work together again soon!