Continued from Part 1.
Chassis, Handling, Interface and Autofocus
It’s not hard to know where to start here. The Pentax 645Z is clearly a large and bulky camera. If we wanted to be cruel we would describe it as half a tissue box (filled with concrete) with a handle on one side. But the problem with this somewhat accurate description is that it bears no relation to the actual interaction with the camera. Despite everything the Pentax 645Z might appear to be, it is one of the best handling cameras I have ever used. Heavy, for sure, but a tool you want to pick up and use.
Build quality is Titanic, but for now lets forget that the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage and her sister ship Britannic also went to the bottom in quick time. Instead, lets associate the Pentax with what the Titanic was meant to have been: a solid and dependable workhorse that could take the worst the elements could throw at her. In the case of the 645Z, the solid metal chassis (and everything that is attached to it) inspires confidence. The dials turn with just the right weighting and buttons are positive. Sure, there are reminders that there are APS-C DSLR parts and inspiration knocking around there somewhere, but Ford switchgear did not stop Aston Martin selling their cars for a lot more than a Mondeo. This camera is beautifully put together, nothing feels remotely cheap or poorly assembled and, frankly, it is perfectly in keeping with the price. I cannot find a single fault in terms of perceived construction quality and so will end right after concluding that this is a camera built to withstand heavy use for many years.
Now for the picking it up and the ‘it staying picked up’ part: The Grip. It is deep, fits my male hands beautifully and offers a degree of purchase you simply do not find elsewhere. I have handled all the large pro-sec FF DSLRs, but the Pentax 645Z is much more secure. Why? It is because the recess for the fingers goes so deep and is deeper in the centre than the edges, where there is a distinct lip (the top and bottom of the camera). This means that the camera closely resembles a block of clay that you gripped and pressed/hooked your fingers deeply into. On top of this, the rubber on the grippy parts is rubbery and grippy, rather than plasticky and greasy when touched by sweaty hands. What does this mean? It means you can hold the camera in the ‘straight arm down’ position, to reduce the load on your arms when at rest, and it is perfectly secure. Really. There is no need for a wrist or finger strap with this camera, because the only way it is likely to fall is if you either don’t pick it up properly, you drop it deliberately, or your fingers fall off (or a Japanese hornet stings you in the eye). All this is a good job, because it’s darned expensive. All in all, one is far less afraid of dropping this camera than the bar-of-soap-shaped Leica M, for example.
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