I have the Pentax 645n and it is delightful. The 645nii adds mirror lockup, unnecessary according to The Luminous Landscape, and I think imprints the lens used in addition to fstop and shutter. The lens imprinting would be nice. While you can use the Pentax 67 lenses with an adapter (which is difficult to find, being made of Unobtainium), according to the instructions some 67 lenses will vignette with it! Strange but true, according to Pentax.
Fully coupled extension tubes in a set of three are out there, as is a focusing extension tube. Also a 2X tele converter.
A really thoughtful touch, common I think to all 645s, is two tripod sockets so that with a quick release plate in each one can switch from horizontal to vertical without significantly altering framing or unbalancing the whole shebang. Genius!
At least in the 645n and nii an ordinary cable release can be used, as the camera gods intended. Praise tha' Lawd! If you really must there is an electric release, shared with at least the PZ-1p. This brings up my perennial question: If the 645n with an electronic shutter can use a proper cable release, why can't EVERY camera offer this option? My Pentax K5 wants an IR remote. Fine, but why not also a cable release? (End of rant!)
My lenses are all manual focus; the introduction of the 645d jacked up prices of all 645 glass and the AF stuff is just too expensive for me. The glass I have 35, 55, 75, 120, and 200 are all excellent; the 120 macro is a marvel, 1 to 1 in one rotation, the 35 (about equivalent to a 20mm on a 35mm format) is essentially distortion free and really sharp.
If you want to do macro, closeups, etc, a right angle finder is available, if you can find one. Worth the search to avoid lying at full length on the dirt to shoot a bug up close.
From what I've read the "Ur" 645, while a worthy machine, is no where as pleasant to use as the 645n. Ken Rockwell mentions this in his "review." BTW, the 220 inserts are easily converted - a small cross head screwdriver and 20 seconds - to 120 or back to 220, a plus with the paucity of 220 film. Oddly the 645 yields 15 exposures on 120, the 645n 16. In my experience frame spacing is excellent.
The 645n and nii offer center weighted, spot, and matrix metering. In my experience the meter is excellent. Have a look at http://www.pentaxforums.com/camerare...ax-645nii.html for a tabular comparison of all three, plus user reviews, some are probably biased. :D
I've used the various Mamiya 645 models, the older Pentax 645, and Bronica ETRSi and currently use a Bronica SQ-Ai. I don't think there is a lot of difference in weight between the two Bronica models. The reason I bring it up is that you could just add a prism, a Speed Grip, and a 120-J 6x4.5cm back to your existing SQ-Ai. The Speed Grip, if you haven't seen it, adds a manual winder in the same position as a 35mm SLR handgrip. Presto, then you've basically got a camera that looks, feels, and acts like a 645, but with the option of switching back to 6x6 anytime you like. Sell your 35mm gear, and put the money into your existing SQ system, that's my advice.
OP, GRHazelton's summary is well worth reading. I think he has summed up the 645N in a very readable way
I think the only point I would add is that the AF can be a little slow when attempting to take pics of kids between say toddling age and when they will at least stop for a second and listen to you.This is the perpetual and unpredictable motion age :D My experience of snapping a very lively granddaughter is limited but the AF often failed to keep up. The 645N will take great negs in this kind of shooting but just be prepared for a few focus failures in the way that might not happen with a F5 and AF lens
Yup it is a great camera!
You can read a little more about it here.
If you really want something that is more portable, I think that you may want to consider a Fuji GA645zi or other Fuji fixed lens cameras. I have a Hasselblad kit and the Fuji 645zi when I want portability. I sometimes miss the close focus capability, but the Fuji is really a remarkable camera. The lens quality is as good as any fixed prime lens....really. The lens is slow, but with the leaf shutter, you can hand hold it down to 1/15 on a good day. The only thing I don't like about it is that it is noisy....focus and film advance. Still a great beast. This is about $5-700 on KEH. The Bronica 645 rangefinder seems nice too, but a bit less common, although I see KEH has one now.
All that said, you wouldn't be disappointed in the Pentax either.
Thanks guys for all the querries and info.. I think I have made up my mind and its gonna be the Pentax 645N or Nii with the 75mm f2.8 FA lens to begin with.
Will now start the market research to find one in great condition..
First off, I should say that I prefer German Engineering and Optics.. secondly, I would like to admit that mostly all German stuff is overpriced and/or rather expensive. I have recently purchased 2 ETRSi bodies, a motor drive, a speed grip, a regular prism and a metered prism, 2x120 backs, 1x220 back, a 150mm, a 50mm and 2x 75mm lenses for less than $400 (2 separate purchases) and I attribute my success to the 6.2 volt Silver Oxide battery. So here is how it happened. The ETRSi and the Pentax 6x7 share a common feature. The shutter is operated by the 6.2 volt power source. Without the battery, the ETRSi will only fire at 1/500th of a second and the Pentax, well.. without a battery, it just will not work. The solution? Buy extra batteries.. the silver oxide has a 7+year shelf life and are fairly cheap when bought in bulk (I bought 20 for about $50) although with the early Pentax (the 6x7, not the 67) there is a bypass trick.. you can jury rig (4xaa=6v) a remote energy source for your time exposures as the 6x7 uses juice all through the exposure and is the reason for constant battery failure. Anyway, about the 645.. both cameras had battery issues. One had a new battery but the motor drive (uses 6xAA) had a design flaw. The battery contact is a rivet that can go bad if the unattended power pack is left loaded in storage. The corrosion between the rivet and the metal strap kept the contacts from.. well contacting. Took me about 10 minutes to fix it by stripping a piece of copper wire and following the pathway to assure contact. I purchased this camera with a Pentax 6x7 which in addition to being a pain to cock and fire, it also had a bad battery. The second ETRSi I bought simply had a bad 6volt battery which also had the effect of not being able to cock and fire the shutter.
So the point? Check the battery. Many people just give up, sell or trade and I am the benificiary of their impatience.
Ahhhh... my first post!