Pentax 645N Film Camera Review by Samantha Stortecky

Pentax 645N medium format film camera
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Written by Samantha Stortecky

Hey friends! Today, we’re reviewing the love of my life, the Pentax 645N.

I’ve been shooting with this camera for years, and it has helped me create some of my all-time favorite images and was my trusted companion when shooting weddings. 

Most avid film photographers have probably used or at least heard of the Pentax 645N camera before due to it being a much better financial option compared to the Contax 645.

But while this medium format camera is a fraction of the cost of the Contax 645, it sure is a force to be reckoned with as time and time again it creates gorgeous art.

Let’s jump into all the details about this beauty!

Find the Pentax 645N at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Pentax 645N Film Camera Review
Pentax 645N Film Camera Review
Pentax 645N medium format film camera

Technical Details of the Pentax 645N

The Pentax 645N is a medium format SLR camera with autofocus, creating 6×4.5 format images.

The camera most commonly uses a 75mm F2.8 lens and is compatible with other Pentax 645 lenses and backs.

This camera uses a shutter-speed knob ranging from 4 seconds to 1/1000th of a second and has an LCD viewfinder that showcases the shutter speed, aperture, and focus indicator.

It also has a self-timer function, as well as multiple shot or multiple exposure switch.

The Pentax 645N uses 120 roll film (16 exposures) or 220 roll film (32 exposures), and the film is loaded onto an interchangeable film holder.

It requires 6 AA batteries that will allow you to shoot around 130 rolls of 120 film or 100 of 220 film. 

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a couple.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a lake landscape.
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Loading the Pentax 645N Film Back

Loading film into this camera can get a bit tricky the first couple of times you try to load and unload film.

The film holder will always have an empty film spool that you’ll weave your film into so the camera can unload it from its current spool onto the new one.

Here’s a great video tutorial of the loading process if visual learning is your jam!

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a woman on the beach.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a woman holding flowers.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a woman walking around candles.

Pros of the Pentax 645N

Let’s jump into the pros.

A huge one for me is the price. The Pentax 645N not only creates stunning images but typically only costs around $500-600 used! Considering that the Contax 645 runs around $3K (check it out on eBay), this price point for the Pentax 645N is awesome.

You can learn more about the Contax 645 here.

Another huge pro for this camera is the internal light meter. I rarely use an external light meter when using this camera as the internal meter does fantastic on its own.

This is such a time saver, especially if you are shooting a wedding where you need to be constantly moving and shooting!

Another pro for this camera is the functions and flexibility you have with taking pictures. Its multiple exposure switch is one of my favorites to use and creates such fun, experimental images.

And not only that, but it utilizes battery life wisely. I’ve gone through a whole wedding and still had plenty of battery life left afterwards!

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of Niagara Falls.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of portrait of a man.

What About the Cons?

Now, let’s get into a few of the cons.

For me, the biggest con of this camera is its weight and shape. If you’re not used to holding a camera in your hand for long periods, this one is going to leave your wrist and arm sore.

And forget about using a camera strap, your neck and shoulder will never forgive you. For me, this camera is one of my favorites to travel with but can become such a pain (literally) when trying to lug it around all day.

She, for sure, is a clunky and heavy camera.

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a woman holding flowers.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a save-the-date card.

Another con is a common one when being a film shooter. Almost all film cameras are going to be purchased second hand, and this doesn’t always guarantee that your camera is going to be in tiptop shape.

As great as this camera is, it’s still a film camera, and without cleaning and proper maintenance, this camera can break or have back focusing issues internally. 

And lastly, a con for this camera is the amount of time it takes to unload and load film into the camera back. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed vital shots because I was busy trying to make sure I had film loaded into the camera.

Because of this, if you’re using this camera for special occasions, at weddings, or anywhere else where you need to take pictures at a moment’s notice, have an extra back always preloaded with film.

Or even better, have an assistant who can focus on unloading and reloading your film while you are shooting!

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a table setting.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a bottle of wine.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Pentax 645N can be a bit awkward to hold and can take a bit of a learning curve, but it is an absolute staple for me. It creates some of the most stunning images, and its pros far outweigh its cons.

It’s the perfect companion for anyone looking to jump headfirst into medium format film!

Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a couple dancing.
Medium format film image with the Pentax 645N of a landscape.

Thank you so much, Samantha! Samantha is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, including a Fujifilm Instax SP-2 printer review and Pentax A3000 Camera Review.

You can also check out more of Samantha’s work on her website and Instagram.

Let us know any questions you have about the Pentax 645N medium format film camera below in the comments, and you can pick up one for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay.

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Samantha Stortecky

Samantha Stortecky is a family photographer and a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as How to Shoot Kodak Portra 400 and 5 Unique & Experimental Film Stocks You Need to Try.

Blog Comments

Hi, thank you for this concise review. I bought the Pentax 645n a few months ago and I still haven’t seen the results. I have 4 films exposed and waiting to shoot some more for a bulk developing. Mine it came with the two usual zooms, the 40-85 and the 80-160. I have read excellent reviews for both but they make my camera even heavier of course. It’s a pity that the standard 75mm is so expensive. What lens did you use on the wedding shots? They have a nice shallow death of focus. Was it the 75mm? Thanks again!

Not sure you’ve been clear on this but the 645N does not have interchangeable film backs. Yes you can preload the film but it’s main weakness is the lack of this feature IMHO. Other than that that I love mine. That and the fact that it actually handles just like an SLR albeit a heavy one.

This was a great article! I am looking into purchasing one and possibly an extra film back later on down the line. My question is about the lenses. In my search to buy one, I have noticed some are SMC A 75mm f/2.8 and some are SMC FA 75mm f/2.8. I have tried to research the difference but wondering if you could explain it a bit more for me. Again, great article like so many articles on this site.

Hi Andi! The Pentax 645N is compatible with SMC A lenses and SMC FA lenses. FA lenses have autofocus and A lenses do not have autofocus, only manual focus. That’s the only difference, but either lenses will work with the camera!

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