Taking the Pentax 645Z on a wildlife and nature trip through South Africa

mei 08 2015
Post's featued image.

In april 2015 I went on a road trip from Cape-town to Port Elisabeth in South Africa. A mix of culture, nature, vineyards, unspoiled beaches and national parks. Completely different from the usual trips into the untamed and remote bushes, but a great trip to get a sense of life along the south western coast of Africa
I was given the chance to get some hands on experience with the current flagship from Pentax, the 645Z medium format camera. I was eager to use the 645 lenses again that were “retired” after I resigned my Pentax 645n analog medium format camera.
The Pentax 645Z medium format is Ricoh’s second digital medium format, following on from the 645D. The camera features a senor 1.7 times the size of a full frame DSLR sensor with almost 52 million pixels to help capture the smallest details in a scene. It covers a huge dynamic range and performs fantastically well in low light, all things that are of great importance to the subjects I shoot and the times of the day that wildlife and nature are at their best. The 645Z felt very similar to the K3, the menu’s were all in the same places and button layout took only a short while to suss, it handled just like a scaled up DSLR.

Normally medium format is considered a landscape or studio format, both disciplines I hardly would call “home-turf”. I’m like a nature paparazzi, always on the move and looking for right moments to press the shutter. Careful compositions or the coaching of a model are normally not my cup of tea.

Keurboom beach sunset

Pentax 645Z with the FA 80-160mm @F18, iso 640, 30 seconds

As I already said, apart from the Pentax K-3 that is part of my basic kit, I had the chance to use a selection of my older medium format lenses on this trip.
Ricoh imaging / Pentax borrowed me their flagship medium format camera, the 645Z and with some lenses that were coming from my own kit,  I set out with this camera and the following range of lenses:

  • The wide(ish) angle FA 645 45mm
  • The medium zoom: FA 645 80-160mm
  • The stellar macro FA 645 120mm
  • The longer zoom FA 645 150-300mm

I had to keep a selection at home (like the bulky FA* 300/4.0 lens), but with this kit I managed to make a very nice series of images. The 645Z showed it’s full potential and the strenghts of digital medium format.

Knysna TuracoPentax 645Z with the FA 150-300mm @300mm, F5.6, iso 6400, 1/25s
Handling, image quality, high iso noise and responsiveness: all were excellent.

The camera is much more portable than I imagined and it’s currently high on my wish list. The images have a quality to them that I hardly can put into words, but I hope this small gallery will give you an idea about it’s capabilities.

Ostrich farmPentax 645Z with the FA 150-300mm @ 300mm, iso 400, F9, 1/5 second

I could use another trip to appreciate the full potential of the camera though. During sunrise and sunset, times of the day where the light quality is often at best, I was hesitant to switch to high iso. A big mistake, when I returned home and had a go at selecting the images, I found that iso 6400 was a piece of cake! I wish I had know that before as that would open new possibilities during these low level light times of the day.

GrasshopperPentax 645Z with the 120mm macro, iso 400, F9, 1/160 second

Please have a look at the more complete gallery over here: Travels with the 645Z

Submit a Comment

error: The content on is protected!