Image: Hugh Threlfall.
September 03 2011
We often discuss here the question of how best to be photographically well hung. DSLR the size of a kitchen appliance? Or a shrunk-down quality camera such as the Olympus PEN range, the Leica X1 and my latest shutter squeeze, the superlative Fuji X100?
On the basis that the best camera is the one you happen to have with you when a great photo op appears, it is far easier to have with you a small but serious camera with limited features than a massive machine that does 1,000 things you don’t need.
What, though, if picture quality were paramount; if you wanted to take digital photos you could blow up to the size of hoardings? You would then be looking at medium-format digital cameras – today’s equivalent of 120-format rollfilm cameras.
But when you get into medium format, you are talking very, very big cameras and price tags that might frighten even you. For instance, the latest 200-megapixel Hasselblad (coming here soon) starts at £33,500. The Leica S2, which I featured on Technopolis TV last year, comes in at about £20,000.
So if you like to think big, this latest from the often-forgotten Pentax brand is a bit of a steal at £10,000 with the bundled 55mm f 2.8 lens. I should mention that there is also an entry-level Hasselblad at a similar price (the H4D-31), but it’s a lot bigger and heavier and shoots at 31 megapixels, against the Pentax’s 40.
The Pentax 645D does feel like a piece of furniture when you first encounter it. Yet it fits beautifully in the hand and isn’t intimidating to use. In fact, its satisfying “clunk” and general action make it one of those cameras you just want to keep taking photos with. The clincher is that it’s weatherproofed to the extent that its sealed magnesium and aluminium body shrugs off rain, spray or swirling dust.
This is obviously a huge deal for anyone looking to take photos in harsh environments, on board yachts and in many other situations where it would be reassuring to know that your £10,000-worth of camera (plus lenses from a small but excellent Pentax range) is operating well within its comfort zone. The photos, I need hardly say, are magnificent.