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Hands on with the Pentax 645Z

Ricoh Imaging's Pentax 645Z is the newest entry into the digital medium format world. Medium format camera sales have been slipping since the days of film (and the rise of full-frame digital), and Ricoh hopes that the 645Z will reverse that trend.

The 645Z finds itself amongst some very pricey competitors, both of which use the same 50MP Sony sensor (with no AA filter, as you'd expect). The Hasselblad H5D-50C camera and Phase One IQ250 digital back have retail prices of $29,000 and $37,000, respectively - several times greater than the $8,499 MSRP of the 645Z. Pentax's experience with consumer DSLRs has allowed them to give the 645Z a larger ISO range, more sophisticated AF system, faster burst rates, and video recording - all of which the other cameras lack (though they have their own advantages, too).

That consumer-friendliness means it can also be seen as a rival to high-resolution DSLRs such as Nikon's D800E. It's not so readily hand-holdable, but it does make a 36MP full frame sensor suddenly sound less impressive.

The camera will be sold in a body-only kit for $8499.99 / £6799.99 or with a 55mm F2.8 lens for £7699.99. You can pick up a 645Z for yourself in late May. To put this in perspective, this is a around 17% less expensive than the existing, CCD-based 645D was, at launch.

We've been lucky enough to spend some time with a pre-production 645Z, and have some first impressions to share on the following slides.