The Pentax 645Z may be the perfect camera for high-end wedding photographers. Of course it may seem like an unusual choice in an industry now dominated by Nikon and Canon, but the 645Z has some advantages over the competition.
Can it get the job done?
Shooting inside a gloomy church, a makeup room, or at the reception are now possible with ambient light. The new CMOS sensor in the 645Z means that you can use higher ISOs when required. This has been an issue with many other medium format digital cameras including its predecessor the 645D.
Rain, no problem. Weather sealing on the body and lenses means you can keep on shooting no matter how “ironic” the wedding day is.
Dual memory card slots, giving you redundancy in case of card failure.
The “weaknesses” of the 645Z compared to the top of the line DSLR’s in terms of focusing speed and frames per second may be an issue for sports photographers, but unless you have an actual runaway bride it shouldn’t be an issue at a wedding.
What makes it special?
Sensor size. 50 megapixels means you can produce huge prints, and have fantastic image quality. Using the 645Z to take a passport photo is overkill, it does not match the customer’s needs or budget. Clients looking for a high-end wedding photographer, however, may see the advantage of larger file sizes, demand the best, and be willing to pay for it.
Dreamy bokeh when you need it.
The size of the camera itself also has its advantages, but it’s more to do with theatrics than image quality.
In the age of film, wedding photographers were often using medium format film. The person with the big Hassleblad, Mamiya or Pentax 67 was the person in charge. As technology has progressed it’s now possible to shoot weddings with a digital SLR or something even more compact. Cameras have also become far more ubiquitous and this can lead to a few perception issues. You can create amazing wedding images with a diminutive Fujifilm x100, but for some in the wedding party the fact that the photographer has a smaller camera than half the congregation can be disconcerting.
Weddings are performances. The dress, the jewelry, the Rolls Royce, the enormous cake, they are all beyond the norm. A photographer with a huge camera is another actor in the play. Some photographers will scream obscenities reading this because “Wow, that’s a nice camera, it must take great pictures” is not what they want to hear. And yes, in reality, it doesn’t matter what other gear people have because the photographer has the experience, skill, and vision. But, maybe the same people who marveled at the size of your camera, will be the ones selecting the photographer for their weddings.
Any possible issues?
Cost – Switching to a 645Z system is going to be a significant investment. A couple of bodies and a selection of lenses is going to be around twenty thousand dollars.
Weight – The 645D with the 90mm, 25mm and particularly the new 28-45mm lens are going to give you a serious workout.
Sync Speed – The flash sync speed of 1/125 of a second, could be an issue for some photographers who shoot with strobes outside. In the following shot you can see there is some motion blur in the bouquet as it flies out of the bride’s hand. The Profoto B1 strobe freezes the action but the 1/125 of ambient light causes the blur. In this image I think the blur actually adds to the shot, but there are occasions that you might not want it. In those situations there are advantages to using a leaf shutter lens, and although there are no new leaf shutter lenses available for the 645Z, there are rumors that they are on the horizon.
Processing Power – You’re going to need a powerful computer to maintain a rapid workflow when processing the larger files produced by the camera.
In my opinion, the Pentax 645Z system is a fantastic option for wedding photographers. It’s definitely worth testing out at the very least. Once you take hold of the gloriously chunky grip, and look through the bright viewfinder, you may just be hooked.