Pentax 645D, 25mm f/4 AL (IF) SDM AW Lens, f/11, five frame HDR, ISO 200.

Lately, I’ve been exploring medium format photography.  I recently rented a Pentax 645D digital medium format kit from LensRentals.com. This let me really test out the format and the camera.

What I Got

The kit I tried included the camera body and three lenses. I also found that the battery was really good.  It lasted all day without dropping below half. It’s a wonderful setup, and LensRentals’ service was superb with phone calls to help me with a question, and clear instructions and a shipping label for returning the gear. I highly recommend their service.

The Costs of Medium Format

The question is, why would anyone spend the money for a medium format kit? First of all, the cost of entry varies incredibly depending on which camera you get. Some brands exceed $60K for the body only. Lenses on average are more expensive than for 35mm format.

The camera I used is the least expensive at just $6,500 for the body. Also, Pentax just announced their latest camera, the 645Z, and it’s amazing. My mouth waters every time I think about it, and at just $8,500 my wallet is starting to itch, too. It’s a lot of money, no doubt, but there’s one thing that makes me think it worthwhile.


Why Shoot Medium Format?

The simple answer?

It’s BIG.

As digital photographers, we love the “Full Frame” DSLR’s, which have sensors roughly 24mm by 35mm. The 645 has a 44mm by 33mm sensor. That means you get to see more of the world every time you put your eye to the view finder.

This is a difficult thing to explain, but it’s kind of like looking out the window in your kitchen above the sink and enjoying the view, and then going out on the porch and enjoying the view. It’s the same view, but the porch lets you see more all at once, and that’s all the difference in the world. As a professional photographer, I get paid more for the things that make me different.


First Thoughts

I made the above photographs at Ecola State Park in Oregon, and the larger sensor in the 645 really shows me a new world. Also, the four thirds ratio is energizing. I’ve been shooting my D800 in the 4×5 crop mode lately to emulate it and that’s been fun, as well.

My advice? Head over to LensRentals.com and schedule this bad boy for yourself to try. In fact, with the new model coming out we may see a price drop on the current model…hmmm…I think I’ll go check the couch cushions for change….

I’ll share some more pictures next time.


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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I forced myself to use a 35mm 1.8 lens inside a redwood forest some months ago. People were suggesting I use a wide angle, but how many wide angle forest shots have I seen? Lots. I loved how my pictures came out. Fun to try to push oneself into doing something different. Really opens the mind. Now, if only my photography could get better lol.

  2. If the larger sensor delivered better dynamic range so that you never had to use HDR …

    Given the prices and weight though, only a very small fraction of photographers will have a chance to use the format.

    The would-be Ansel Adams of the 21st century can’t afford to lug such expensive kit into the wilderness, to wait hours for the perfect light …

  3. […] Read this article: Is Bigger Better? Exploring Medium Format Photography […]

  4. I liked this article but it left me wanting more! There are many of us that would like to move up to medium format.

  5. I’m glad that you like the medium format! WCO, I know it’s expensive…in fact, it’s a few hundred dollars more than the Canon 1DX, and yet I see lots of amateurs shooting the Canon! Personally, I can’t afford to buy one right now, but I’m working on making it happen. Maybe I can sell plasma…

    I had the opportunity to spend a few hours one on one with a major camera manufacturer the other day and they asked me for input about cameras. Medium format was my big request!

  6. Pentax really does have an interesting offering for the MF shooter in the 645D/Z. The weather sealing and the full array of announced lenses should be great. LR/LA set me up with my H4D-50, and the images are just amazing. Even showing images online isn’t fair – you don’t get full understanding until you see them printed up – single images at 36×48 at photo quality without any help.

    If there is anything bad about MF is that any imperfections in your process will show. Bigger is better, especially when wanting to separate your services from others.

  7. […] camera is small.  I mean very small.  My crop-sensor Canon looks like a medium format giant comparatively. Any smaller and this camera would be hard to handle without a housing or […]

  8. medium format is nice very nice butt not for me ……simply i could never get the money for it , its the saying born a dime will never become a quarter ……for me ever too get the money for a F2.8 lens on my camera would be like christmas :) you’re talking serious money……

    nope i will keep on dreaming thats for sure :)


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About Levi Sim

Passion drives Levi to make photographs, teach, and help new friends. He tells people he's a photographer, but he really does more than just make pictures. His professional photography is primarily commercial work for businesses, both small and large, and he really helps show how great it'd be to work with those companies. He excels at photographing people, from two-year-olds to oil field workers to couples married for 60 years, everyone has a good time making pictures with Levi. Besides people and businesses, Levi enjoys all other aspects of photography, and practices landscapes and still life, as well. Other people enjoy photographing everything, and Levi wants to be able to help, so he practices as much as he can to be ready to help. He also runs a local photography club, is a Rotarian, actively helps at church, is a husband, and poppa to a peppy four-year-old girl. Levi writes regularly for Photofocus.com and is co-author of books on Adobe Lightroom.


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