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Just today, Ricoh unveiled the first successor to the Pentax 645D Medium-Format DSLR. Already in a league of its own as the only weather-sealed Medium-Format digital camera and having the most powerful autofocus system among those, the new 51 megapixels Ricoh Pentax 645Z takes thing even further with the fastest performance of any competing camera, the highest sensitivity among Medium-Format models and the world’s first such camera to capture video.

Pentax 645Z

The core of the 645Z is its newly developed Sony 50 MO CMOS sensor paired with the Pentax Prime II engine designed to extract the maximum image-quality possible across a whopping ISO 100 to 12800 sensitivity range, something only achievable by a handful of cameras with smaller full-frame sensor. In fact, the 0.8 crop of the Pentax 645Z makes notably larger than all full-frame sensor.

The PRIME III processor delivers an unsurpassed performance by shooting continuous 51 MP image at 3 FPS with a buffer suitable to keep this u for 30 JPEG images or 10 RAW files. A standard shutter-speed range of 1/4000 to 30s, plus Bulb exposures of an unspecified limit, affords the Pentax 645Z great potential, minus stealth due to considerable size of 645Z.

There are currently 3 lenses optimized for the digital 645-mount of which only one is  compatible with the 645D and 645 due to its 0.8X crop-facor, rather than the usual 0.5X which is compatible with film cameras. Along with the launch, Ricoh revealed that 13 older 645 lenses will start production again. Full details to be unveiled some time on April 24th, so stay tuned.

With a suggested retail price of $8500 USD or $8999 CDN, this is certainly a high-end offering aimed squarely at professionals. It offers a plethora of buttons, including dual control-dials, more external buttons than any other camera, plus a dedicated Mirror Lockup-Up  dial. There P, A, S, T, TA, M, X and B modes with choice of meting and precise control over White-Balance. Dual SDXC memory-card slots plus dual tripod-mounts really label the 645Z as a serious digital camera.

The 645Z is limited in two areas. The most disappointing is the paltry 95% viewfinder coverage. Considering that Pentax sells cameras with 100% OVFs for 10 – yes ten – times less, this is truly a shame. The second is that they including a tiling display in this otherwise very sturdy and freezeproof body, gaving it one serious weak point which could disable the camera completely of broken.

It’s certain that the Ricoh Pentax 645Z is an innovation which can shake-up the rather small Medium-Format market. The Pentax 645Z is scheduled to be available June 2014. Preorder it now from B&H Photo or  Adorama right away!

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