As I mentioned before, the biggest surprise was the brightness and clarity of the viewfinder.
I mainly use modified lenses on the camera, which means using manual focus almost exclusively. I do not have any issues with focusing the camera. The viewfinder makes focusing fast and accurate.
With my Contax, I had plenty of out of focus photos, but my “keep rate” for focus with the Pentax is around 95-100%.
On the rare occasion when I do use auto focus, I find that it is nothing like a SLR camera in terms of speed (it is SLOW). But it is more accurate and a little faster than the Contax.
Ease of Use & Metering
The Pentax 645Nii is a pretty straight forward camera. I like that I can use it as a manual camera without any issues or problems.
When I got mine in the mail, I didn’t feel like I had to read the user manual before I could use it. The controls on the Pentax 645Nii are clearly labeled and very easy to use.
I exclusively use the camera in manual mode. The camera has a built-in matrix meter which is rumored to be pretty accurate.
I shoot mainly black and white film, so I meter using a handheld light meter. When I compare the handheld meter reading to the camera meter reading, the two readings are pretty close.
I know quite a few photographers that use the in-camera meter and are quite happy with the results.
Downside to the Pentax 645Nii & Loading the Film Back
One of the “quirks” about this camera is the lack of interchangeable backs.
There isn’t a way to switch film stocks mid-shooting. I wish it had a system with a few different backs so I could switch between film stocks during sessions.
Loading the back with film takes a bit of patience due to the way the film threads through the back, but, after a few times, it became second nature for me.
The interchangeable back is not a deal breaker for me because the camera system has more than a few redeeming qualities, such as the battery system.
The Pentax 645nii takes 6 AA batteries. At first, I thought I would hate using so many batteries. But I bought rechargeable batteries, and, after the initial investment of the batteries and charger, I don’t invest any more money into the batteries.
I am also a big fan of being able to pick up batteries almost anywhere instead of ordering obscure camera batteries online.
Lenses & Adapting Lenses for the Pentax 645Nii
One of the most exciting reasons I switched systems was the ability to adapt and use lots of different lenses for this camera. It opens up so many possibilities for experimenting with different lenses.
The first lens I used was the 75mm that comes standard with the camera. This lens is the equivalent to the 50mm on a 35mm camera. This lens has the best autofocus capabilities and doesn’t add much weight to the camera.
The next lens I purchased was a lens designed for the Pentax 67 camera. I purchased the 105mm F/2.4 lens and an adapter to use it on the 645 system.
I really liked the lens, mainly the bokeh it produced and the ability to focus on subjects very close to the camera. The downside of this lens is it is a large and heavy, not much fun to travel with.
Looking for an alternative to the bulk and weight of the 105mm lens led me to The Bokeh Factory and their wide variety of lenses they modify to fit the Pentax 645 system.
I eventually saved up almost $2000, and purchased the Contax 80mm F/2 lens. After experimenting with the different lenses, and shooting hundreds of rolls of film, I finally felt like I had found “my lens.”
I really love the combo of the Pentax with the 80mm Zeiss lens. The bokeh is very unique and adds such a three dimensional look to the photos.
The downside to this conversion is that the lens is now a fixed aperture lens. It can’t be moved from F/2. I still have my other lenses for situations where I need to stop down for an increased depth of field, like group photos, but I use the Bokeh Factory lens for 99% of my photos.
Overall, I am very happy with the Pentax system. I think as a photographer it is important to find the tools that work for you as an individual artist.
After trying a few different camera systems, I have shot with the Pentax for almost 4 years now and am very pleased with the photos it helps me create.