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Pentax 645Z versus Nikon D850

The Pentax 645Z and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2014 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a medium format (645Z) and a full frame sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 51.1 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Pentax 645Z and the Nikon D850 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 645Z – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Pentax 645Z vs Nikon D850 front
645Z versus D850 top view
645Z and D850 rear side
Body view (645Z on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is somewhat smaller (1 percent) than the Pentax 645Z. Moreover, the D850 is substantially lighter (35 percent) than the 645Z. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Pentax 645Z (⇒ rgt) 156 mm 117 mm 123 mm 1550 g 650 YES 2014 8,499 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 YES 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 98 mm 71 mm 725 g .. YES 2016 8,995 latest check
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 YES 2015 7,450 latest check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 YES 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 YES 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 YES 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 YES 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 3,299discont. check
Pentax 645D (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 117 mm 119 mm 1480 g .. YES 2010 9,995discont. check
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 72 mm 507 g 220 no 2015 3,299 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 61 percent) than the 645Z, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Pentax 645Z features a medium format sensor and the Nikon D850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D850 is 40 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.79 and 1.0. The sensor in the 645Z has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D850 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Pentax 645Z and Nikon D850 sensor measures
Sensor size
noscript
Sensor size

With 51.1MP, the 645Z offers a higher resolution than the D850 (45.4MP), but the 645Z nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 4.35μm for the D850) due to its larger sensor. However, the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 years and 3 months) than the 645Z, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

645Z versus D850 MP
Sensor resolution
noscript
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Pentax 645Z (⇒ rgt) Medium Format 51.1 8256 6192 1080/60i 26.0 14.7 4505 101
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 45.4 8256 5504 4K/30p 26.4 14.8 2660 100
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.7 12.4 2381 87
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) Medium Format 51.3 8272 6200 1080/25p 26.2 14.8 4489 102
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 25.0 13.4 1821 88
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/60p 24.8 14.5 2956 93
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.7 14.8 2853 97
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/60p 24.4 13.3 3074 89
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 no 24.6 13.1 3279 89
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.3 14.4 2853 95
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.6 14.3 2979 96
Pentax 645D (⇒ lft | rgt) Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440 no 24.6 12.6 1262 82
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 1080/60p 25.8 13.9 3204 97
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 1080/60p 23.9 13.2 3702 87

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D850 provides a better video resolution than the 645Z. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 645Z and the D850 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Pentax 645Z (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 tilting no 4000 3.0 no no
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 9.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 920 fixed YES 2000 2.3 no no
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) 4400 YES 3.0 1040 fixed YES 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 tilting no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 no no
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no
Pentax 645D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 1.1 no no
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 4000 5.0 no no
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 921 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no

Both the 645Z and the D850 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The 645Z replaced the earlier Pentax 645D, while the D850 followed on from the Nikon D810.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Pentax 645Z better than the Nikon D850 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Pentax 645Z:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2014).

Advantages of the Nikon D850:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1037k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has a higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 545g or 35 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (61 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 3 months of technical progress since the 645Z launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 2 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

645Z 02:09 D850

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 645Z or the D850 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Pentax 645Z (⇒ rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 8,499 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) HiRec 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 3,299 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - 4/5 2016 8,995 latest check
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2015 7,450 latest check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) - 81/100 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2012 3,299discont. check
Pentax 645D (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - 4.5/5 - 2010 9,995discont. check
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver - reviewed 4.5/5 2015 3,299 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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