For those hardy Pentaxians who have weathered the storm for a long time with their trusty Pentax 645Z medium format camera, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to a long-awaited successor.
While Pentax can't decide which lenses will be renewed, what we do know is that if a Pentax 645Z-beater gets built it won't be a mirrorless camera.
• Some of the best medium format cameras aren't actually mirrorless!
This rather curious news doesn't comes from rumors, but actually comes directly from Pentax itself via an interview in Japanese Cameraman magazine (by way of a report by Pentax Rumors).
Apparently Pentax is currently considering new sensors for the next 645 camera, but it doesn’t have anything specific to say about the choice at this stage – other than suggesting that, if it exceeds the current 50MP sensor, it might put older 645 FA lenses into question, due to their ability to work with higher resolution sensors.
By these comments, it's obvious that Pentax has not reached the testing stage at this time – or it is keeping its cards close to the chest, as testing might have found issues.
The panel continued to say that, "The current 645Z is extremely good value
– it would not be possible to come out with something at the same price now." Which is probably quite an understatement, as I am sure we all know prices have gone up a lot.
Currently the Pentax 645Z with the 75mm f/2.8 kit lens at B&H or Adorama is priced at $3,996.95 – that's an amazing $3,000 off! The deals continue in the UK where camera stores such as Wex or Park Cameras have the 645Z + 55mm f/2.8 listed for just £4,999 – which is £1,500 off.
There is no arguing that even today this 50MP camera is more than capable of producing outstanding images – and being the first weather-sealed medium format camera to market that championed taking the studio outdoors, the prices above are really a good deal. So what is Pentax going to do to up the ante?
Going mirrorless is the obvious option, although consistent with Pentax' ongoing strategy this is not going to happen.
"It would be unfair to the people who had gathered their existing lenses," said the panel. And, when it was suggested that an adapter would solve this, "Yes, but there would be an expectation that they would come out with a whole set of new lenses, which would not be realistic for many years."
So, is the Pentax 645Z a sitting duck? I don't think so. There are many loyal Pentax owners who swear by the 645Z, or even the older 645D; the systems have a vast amount of AF lenses, with the FA and FA* lineup, and also the older manual focus lenses from the 120 film days. So there is still plenty of life left in the system.
But we can't also ignore that time moves on – now more quickly than ever – as evidenced by the likes of the Fujifilm GFX 50S II or Fujifilm GFX 100S with their amazing modern mirrorless specs, excellent image quality, and an attractive price tag to match.
Will Pentax be able to compete with a non-mirrorless camera, in a now mirrorless market? It will all come down to costs, but there are plenty of medium format backs out there that have up to 80 and 100 megapixels that are capable of being used with mirror-mechanical cameras. So it's certainly not over until it's over…