Ricoh Imaging Company has announced several great additions to its Pentax DSLR lineup, which includes an updated 645Z medium-format camera and the K-1, a compact, full-frame DSLR. Professional photographer and Ricoh/Pentax Photo Ambassador Joey Skibel discussed the innovations and features of both cameras.

PENTAX 645Z

PENTAX 645Z

PENTAX 645Z

This latest update of Pentax’s professional camera boasts 51.4 megapixels, with a 43.8 x 32.8 CMOS image sensor that is 1.7 times larger than that of a 35mm DSLR. “One of the main reasons I use this camera is for my landscape photography,” Skibel relates. “I travel around the world shooting landscapes and sell very large gallery prints, so the 51.4-megapixel sensor gives me the quality that I need.” The HD PENTAX-DA 645 28-45mm F4.5 ED AW SR and HD PENTAX D-FA 645 MACRO 90mm F2.8 ED AW SR lenses also incorporate PENTAX SR 11 (Shake-Reduction) technology, which helps reduce camera shake for sharper images.

“I’ve tried every medium-format camera on the market,” Skibel says, “and I chose Pentax for several reasons.” First, he explains, the 645Z is very user-friendly, with buttons that are all very accessible. “When I shoot a sunset, I have to keep the mirror locked up, and it takes only one click to do this with the 645Z. With other cameras, it can take five minutes to make this adjustment.” Secondly, he praises the 645Z for its weatherproof sealing. Many Pentax cameras are weather- resistant and airtight, important features for nature photographers and others who shoot in inclement weather conditions. He also acknowledges that the batteries last much longer in subfreezing temperatures than those of comparable cameras. Skibel describes a winter shoot in Yosemite in frigid temperatures. “With other cameras, I would be changing the batteries every 30 minutes. But with the Pentax, I literally shot for three hours with one battery at a temperature of 8°.”

© JOEY SKIBEL

Nambia landscape, shot with the PENTAX 645Z & 28-45mm F4.5 ED AW SR lens. / © JOEY SKIBEL

The Vari-Tilt LCD screen on the 645Z provides a convenient way for photographers to capture waist-level, high- and low-angle images while looking at the Live View display from a more comfortable position. “Sometimes when I’m in the field, I’m shooting at extremely low angles,” Skibel notes, adding that he often positions his tripod-mounted camera down on the ground. “In the past, I sometimes had to lie in the snow to look through the viewfinder to get the shot. Whereas, with the articulated screen on the 645Z, I can just kneel down and view it.” Likewise, when he shoots straight up at Aspen trees in Colorado, he positions the camera on the ground pointing straight up in the middle of a forest. “I can point the articulated screen towards me and still focus in Live View.”

He points out that another convenient feature of the 645Z is a tripod attachment on the side of the camera as well as on the bottom. “I can go from a vertical to horizontal format in a matter of seconds just by quickly releasing the tripod head and repositioning it.”

Furthermore, Skibel attests that the lenses designed for use with the 645Z are the sharpest ones he’s used. “The HD PENTAX-DA 645 28-45mm F/4.5 ED AW SR lens is sharper than any fixed-focallength lens I’ve ever shot with.” He also praises the smc D-FA 645 55mm f/2.8 AL (IF) SDM AW and the HD D-FA 645 MACRO 90mm f/2.8 ED AW SR. Skibel says that he typically shoots with Pentax’s 28-45mm f/4.5, 55mm f/2.8, 55-110mm zoom and 90mm f/2.8 macro lenses.

The PENTAX 645Z retails for $6,999.95 (camera body only).

PENTAX K-1

PENTAX K-1 with 28-105 lens

PENTAX K-1 with 28-105 lens

This compact, full-frame camera is equivalent to a 35mm SLR — and, like the 645Z — is dustproof and weatherproof to enable shooting in rugged environments. It offers 36.4 megapixels and delivers 14-bit RAW-format image recording. The K-1 incorporates Pentax’s SR11 5 Axis, 5 Stop in-camera shake-reduction technology, along with a flexible tilt-type LCD monitor.

“I use the K-1 when I shoot weddings, mainly for the speed,” Skibel comments. “The zoom lenses are great too.” He says that he can cover an entire wedding with just three lenses — the HD PENTAX-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8, HD PENTAX-D FA 24- 70mm f/2.8, and the HD PENTAXD FA* 70-200mm f/2.8. He emphasizes that the maximum, bright aperture of f/2.8 is especially important when shooting in low-light conditions. It’s seamless to move from the K-1 to the 645Z, Skibel adds, as the interfaces on these cameras are nearly identical. “Normally, when you switch from a DSLR to a medium-format camera, you have to sit down and become acclimated to using a larger-format camera, but Pentax has made it easy to move from one format to the other.”

Skibel says that the K-1 is the only DSLR with a feature called Pixel Shift, which captures four images of the same scene by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel for each image, and then combines those four images into a single composite RAW file. An Operation Assist feature provides LED lights on the camera for easy operation in low-light situations, a feature that Skibel compares to the light on a reading lamp. Operation Assist illuminates the lens attachment, battery door, LCD screen and memory card slot. “Pentax really cares about what a photographer needs in the field,” he says.

One of the K-1’s most impressive technological advances is its GPS/Electronic Compass/Astrotracer, which utilizes GPS and electronic compass data to track stars and celestial objects to capture the night sky. It also offers several HDR (high-dynamic range) settings, which allow photographers to capture three RAW images in varying exposures to get one image that incorporates detail from each of the exposures. The PENTAX K-1 retails for $1,949.95 (camera body only). For more information on Ricoh/Pentax photography products, visit us.ricoh-imaging.com. All work on Joey Skibel’s website was shot using these two Pentax cameras. Visit www.JoeySkibel.com.