At the time of release, PENTAX 645D was a model that offers the world-class high-quality images in the price range under a million yen. As the de facto flagship model, it still creates the best quality pictures. However, as the market changes, 35-mm full frame single-lens reflex cameras were released by a number of companies. The quality of pictures produced by PENTAX 645D is as good as them, but the number of pixels has become increasingly similar. Thus, we decided to release PENTAX 645Z as a new flagship model in 2014 to call attention to its superiority in image quality overwhelming 35-mm full frame cameras. As for the price, the price range of medium format digital cameras was 3 to 4 million yen, which is hardly payable, but PENTAX 645D was put on sale at the barely reasonable price of 800,000 yen, making an impossible dream come true. PENTAX 645Z has directly inherited the excellent cost performance of PENTAX 645D. This fact has a very significant meaning. How could we keep down the cost? One of the reasons is the design of components to be used in common with K-mount APS-C camera. PENTAX 645Z is designed based on K-series and uses common members and UI with it. With PENTAX 645Z, you would be able to manage a difficult and special use for an ordinary medium format camera if you know how to use K-3 class camera. You can shoot superb pictures with a very ordinary use. In particular, it is designed to exert the performance nicely without a personal computer and we wish that general consumers could feel the professional-level quality. Also we do hope consumers to print shot images on A3 size or larger sheets just for once to find the subtlety with their eyes rather than to be satisfied with shot images on a personal computer monitor.
PENTAX 645D has been promoted focusing on scenery photography. It would sound good, but in fact, we had to do so in a sense. It depicts pictures very excellently, but the camera response and portrait shooting was not always matched well. Certainly, some consumers use it for portrait photography. As the manufacturer, however, it was a little difficult to appeal to customers extensively. But, PENTAX 645Z, the new model, was developed paying great attention to portrait photography to such an extent that we need not produce PENTAX 645Z unless high-speed response is attained. The conventional frame speed was 1.1 frames per second. The problems are how to increase the frame speed and how to improve the comprehensive response at the same time. In addition, the drive system is to be reviewed to ensure durability. Since the vertically moving mirror and the shutter are large, the appropriate drive power is required. It was extremely difficult to enhance durability while also improving the response, because we have tested the product estimating that 100,000 shots would be taken. In case of PENTAX 645D, it was 50,000 shots, just a half.
Therefore, it is a great achievement that consecutive shooting of approx. 3 frames/second, three times as rapid as conventional cameras. We believe this model would revolutionize the world of medium format digital camera remarkably.
The highest ISO sensitivity of PENTAX 645Z is ISO 204800, which is 128 times of the sensitivity of PENTAX 645D, ISO 1600. Namely, as the competitor, we see 35-mm full frame cameras rather than medium format cameras offered by other companies. Though it is just a matter of sensitivity, we always had the stringent stance in developing the [standard sensitivity] instead of the [extended sensitivity]. Ultimately, the judge is human eyes. We see the border line between the permissible range and the impermissible range. A big chance to show our skill was found in moving this line to expand the permissible range. Consequently, we imagine that consumers will be able to shoot objects which could not be shot so far or objects of which shooting had to be given up. With this model, we expect that pictures nobody has ever seen can be taken one after another. It is right that new pictures can be taken with a high-sensitivity camera. Moreover, if such a high-sensitivity camera is used with a low-sensitivity setting, the low-sensitivity image quality is very excellent because the camera has the remaining capacity to the upper limit.
In the film age, color reproducibility was changed by film selection. Then, how a digital camera reproduces color? Faithful color reproduction is available, but, in fact, it is not enough. In the film world, we can get brilliant printing. We would like to bring forth such a feature unique to Ricoh Imaging. Therefore, we have a considerable persistence to color reproduction. Reproduction of green and blue is quite different from that by other companies. As for tint, we originally started tint creation for film and some parts changed gradually. In the digital world, we produce colors with constraints.
Since too impactful colors tend to be collapse, we stick to establish coloration based on easily acceptable memory colors but a touch of eccentricity is added. The image producing modes originally contained "Bright" and "Natural" only. We offered "Vibrant" and "Muted". Especially, upon the release of "Muted", some customers use it habitually and proactively. A digital camera has various features to offer to customers. We would keep dealing with new challenges.
With PENTAX 645Z, we stepped into a new field, including studio shot, which use to be out of reach. So, in the beginning, there was a significant gap in perception between product planning staff and development staff. Of course, the development staff showed understanding toward the request of a tilted LC from the start. For example, at a site of close-up photography such as a situation of shooting flowers, low-angle shooting was laborious since the silver-halide age. In the development stage, elimination of laborious work was pursued by mounting the angle finder, an option accessory. The live view image on the waist level has a very advantageous point, that is, precise focusing is available with LC monitor, not on a left-right inverse image but on a normal image unlike the angle finder. Furthermore, it is available after partially enlarging a through-the-lens image. One of the specifications the development staff was split over is motion picture. People will hardly accept a digital camera without motion picture shooting function. If motion picture is adopted as a medium format, what difference could be obtained? To this question, the size of the middle format sensor gave a definitive answer. We can take pictures with delicate blurring that cannot be expressed with 35-mm full-frame sensor camera or APS-C camera. The difference is almost as seen between the image shot by a so-called home video recorder and those shot by a camera for film shooting. We hope consumers will make the most use of such a feature.
The lenses mountable to PENTAX 645Z are 3 D FA lenses and 13 FA lenses, 16 lenses in total, as far as the lenses exclusive for 645 are concerned. It is a forte of 645 system in the world of medium format digital cameras. Even if you don’t use the silver-halide medium format lenses you purchased in the past, we would like you to take advantage of the asset. Hoping so, we continue to produce cameras using the mount remaining unchanged. A wide variety of lenses are available and placed on the market. Of course, it is necessary to use old lenses with MF. Thanks to the above-mentioned enlarged through-the-lens image focusing, however, old lenses are very easy to handle. It is very advantageous to make use of the conventional system without making an investment again. When PENTAX 645D was put on sale in 2010, the silver-halide 645 and 67 lenses stocked at recycle shops were sold out in succession. This story is a remarkable indication. The lens asset possessed by those who shift from a medium format film camera to a digital camera will not go to waste. The conventional 645 lens is very cost-effective lens to be served in the future.