Tag Archives: Pentax 645D

smc Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens performance

In the quest for a lens with a focal length that would be considered close to normal, I tried the following two lenses:

  • smc PENTAX-DFA 645 55mm F2.8 AL SDM AW [IF]
  • smc PENTAX-FA 645 45mm F2.8

The first is the lens that was originally released with the Pentax 645D camera. While the image sharpness was fine at the centre, the soft edges were not acceptable for the type of work I do. Same comments are true for the 45mm lens. I returned both and purchased a 45-85mm zoom to see what it can do.

In my blog post on the 45mm fixed lens, I photographed a brick wall to see how the centre versus corner sharpness compared. The same wall is featured below with the 45-85mm set to 45mm and an aperture of f/8. Due to the closer camera to subject distance of the asphalt in the lower corners, I’ve chosen a crop slightly up from the bottom of the frame.

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - overall view

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – overall view

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - top left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – top left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - top right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – top right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom left corner with chromatic aberration adjustment enabled

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom left corner with chromatic aberration adjustment enabled

The crops from this image demonstrate the superior performance of the 45-85mm zoom compared to the 45mm f/2.8 fixed lens. The centre and corners, except for the top right, are consistently sharp and exhibit good detail. Focus was set to Auto as it is generally more reliable than my eye. Camera was on a tripod and ISO was at 200.

The second last image in the series shows the chromatic aberration that can show up with this lens when it is shot at 45mm. Turning on the correction in Adobe Lightroom (same as Adobe Camera Raw) eliminates the colour fringing very effectively. The lens exhibits barrel distortion which can also be removed by enabling the lens corrections.

I was very impressed with the performance of this lens at the wide end of the zoom range. In the more than three years that have elapsed since shooting this test and creating this post, I have shot with this lens extensively. Focusing manually is challenging with the slow maximum aperture, however I have found using autofocus is mostly reliable and any shortcomings in image sharpness have usually been related to insufficient depth of field or not choosing a focus point that maximizes the available depth of field.


Long-term with the Pentax 645D – A Redux

In August of 2013 I posted my experience with a shutter failure on my Pentax 645D. I was  disappointed, but what can you do when you’re now the owner of a $9000 brick? You get it fixed so it can continue to earn you money.

I approved the nearly $2000 repair estimate and off to Japan my camera went. Apparently a new shutter is not something that can be installed in the Canadian repair office.

It took roughly two months to have the camera repaired. For a full-time professional this would not be acceptable and is the reason backup plans need to be in place. Lens Rentals.com rents the 645D out for $375 for a 5 day period. I suppose as long as it wasn’t a last minute or weather-dependant photoshoot this could be a viable option. I’m not in a position to justify a second 645D body or a backup Nikon/Canon system. Borrowing equipment from friends did come in handy a couple times.

Earlier this year Pentax announced the 645Z—a fairly major upgrade to the 645D. Many sites have a full listing of the new features, however one really caught my eye. It has a shutter rated for 100,000 activations. Sounds like an attractive upgrade to me.

Long-term with the Pentax 645D

I’m closing in on three years with the Pentax 645D. Overall, I still enjoy using this camera. There’s a lot to like.

I spent about three weeks with a Nikon D800 and D800E. After shooting many images side by side with the 645D, I am confident that it still has an edge over the full-frame 35mm DSLR bodies when it comes to per pixel image quality. More to come at some point on that one.

This summer I was looking forward to some personal photography to add to my Deserted Lands series. Looking at the image below, I didn’t drop the camera. Instead, after roughly 9,500 images the shutter decided to pack it in. I recall reading online somewhere that is it rated to 30,000 images. Not that it matters when you’re standing in Montana wishing the camera would capture an image.

Ricoh (Pentax) Imaging Canada has been very helpful and had an estimate within a couple days of receiving the camera. Here’s where I feel potential purchasers of a 645D should be fully aware of what they’re buying. You already know this is a niche product. My shutter is being fixed in Japan. This is not a quick process. Nor is it inexpensive. At nearly $2000 for the repair, I’m two thirds of the way towards buying a Nikon D800 body.

What does one do? Fortunately I have clients that have a flexible enough schedule and can postpone their projects. I’m hoping the new shutter lasts a lot longer that the first one. At the current rate, it’s costing me nearly $0.20 each time I fire the shutter. I take solace that it’s still cheaper than a frame of film.

Will it last?

Will it last?

Moiré and Lightroom 4 (beta)

I saw mention of the addition of a moiré removal option for the adjustment brush in the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta that is currently available on the Adobe Labs site. Moiré has long been an obsession of mine since I started shooting with a medium format digital back in 1999. I was hoping that the Adobe engineers had come up with a tool that matched this technique. This link documents a technique that as far as I can determine, was invented in late 2002 at an Advanced Applied Color Theory class taught by Dan Margulis. Seems hard to believe nearly a decade has drifted by since then.

Most of the moiré “removal” tutorials I’ve read focus on blurring away the color moiré. Easy enough done in Lab color mode. However this is where things usually end. Or, where there is a lot of painting or cloning as the next step. Either way, the detail in the fabric is usually destroyed or the luminance moiré is left behind.

So, how does the moiré removal brush in the Lightroom 4 beta stack up? I have a library of images with moiré that I keep on hand that I use in a couple of my courses at Langara College. Some are shot with DSLR cameras and others are from medium format digital backs. Generally, the blurring effects of the low pass filter present on nearly all DSLR cameras means moiré is seldom a problem. The downside is an image that has lost some of its fine detail.

The example image below was shot with a Pentax 645D with a 45-85mm lens. After shooting thousands of images with this combination, I can confidently say it can produce a spectacular level of detail. The first image shows the overall image (with excess background cropped away). The subsequent images are 100% crops of the same area of the image. Being as they are presented on this blog, they are JPEG format, however are saved at the highest quality setting.

My conclusion? A couple images showed very promising results with the moiré removal brush in Lightroom 4 (beta). However, it’s images like the next one that truly test the feature. I’ll still be using the 10 year old technique on the stubborn images. Maybe Lightroom 5 will nail it completely. In the meantime, cameras like the just announced Nikon D800E and medium format backs will deliver the fine detail some photographers demand, but with the chance that moiré will add to their post-production time.

Full Image - Crops are from lower left corner


100% Crop showing moiré in original image

Moiré removal using Lightroom 4 (beta)

Moiré removal using LAB blending technique


Trying out the smc Pentax-FA 45-85mm f/4.5 lens

The pause in blog posts has not been due to lack of happenings, but rather quite the opposite. In the past few posts I’d been discussing the challenges in finding a decent mid-range lens for the Pentax 645D. I have written about the older FA 45mm lens. Most users are going to be disappointed by the performance of that lens. Similarly, the new “digitally optimized” 55mm lens also has poor corner sharpness. Twice bitten, now what?

I had read online about some users obtaining good results with the smc Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 zoom lens. This seems to go against the usual wisdom of a prime lens being sharper than a zoom, but I was willing to try anything at this point. My other option was to turn to a Pentax 67 lens with an adapter for the 645D and that was not a road I was interested in traveling just yet.

There is a camera retailer in the U.K that I had purchased my smc Pentax-FA 645 200mm f/4 lens from in December. Great prices and good service. I figured it was worth another email now that I was looking for the 45-85mm lens. Once again, Mifsuds was excellent to deal with and my lens arrived a little more than a week after my email was sent. I normally try to support my local dealers, however going that route in this case would have meant a 3X surcharge.

It’s worth looking at the recent prices on EBay to see what lenses are proving to be popular on the Pentax 645D. The 35mm, 45-85mm and 120mm Macro have all experienced stronger pricing since the 645D became available outside of Japan. It does not appear the 75mm has seen the same increases, although it is an excellent piece of glass as well.

Within a day of it’s arrival, I was out shooting with the 45-85mm lens. It is tougher to focus manually than the 45mm or 55mm lens since its maximum aperture is about one and a half stops smaller. The focus just doesn’t “pop” as well. This is not unique to this lens, however. It’s just a fact of using a slower lens.

So far, I’ve found the 45-85mm to be a good performer with the autofocus system in the 645D. Most images are in the “keeper” category, though keep in mind that I’m mostly shooting subjects that either don’t move or move very slowly. It’s possible to manually focus this lens successfully in good light.

In my next post I’ll show some examples with the 45-85mm. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a mid-range lens for the Pentax 645D, this is the one to go with or should at least deserve your strong consideration.