When the Pentax 645 series first entered my life in 2011, it was my first experience with medium format. I had followed the internet's advice that the Pentax 645 was a good "first step" into a larger world (pun). This made it evident to me, that when I was ready for the second step, it was time to shuck the P645 system and move on to bigger and more expensive things.

Recent Pentax 645 shot of downtown San Jose on Portra 160NC

And move on, I have. In the five years since leaving the P645 behind, an embarrassing wealth of cameras has passed through my hands. And while some cameras were destined from the beginning to stay with me (such as the Hasselblad 500), the only camera that, after selling off, I truly missed using was the Pentax 645Nii.

In the years since selling the P645, I repeatedly and regularly found myself going back to the photos I shot with this system and thinking "if only I could find another system that can do that". It has taken me a long while to realize that I don't need to find another system that is as wonderful as the P645, I just need the Pentax 645Nii back.

Different this time

Re-acquainting myself with my "entry" system after years of more complex, difficult-to-use cameras is very easy. The things about the Pentax 645 I thought cumbersome six years ago, I now realize are just standard caveats of medium format. And more than that, the Pentax 645 system handles these caveats better than most other camera systems. I guess it really is a good "first step" into medium format, even if it also good past that point, too.

Check out all the buttons, switches, knobs, and dials

It's not about the buttons

As any blog post about the Pentax 645Nii will tell you, this camera has great controls. Every setting is exposed in some sort of switch, dial, button, or knob, which is the hallmark of great design. The camera's design has much in common with the Fujifilm X digital system I love so much. But my longing for the P645 over the years was not about its buttons, but rather about the photos themselves – the images coming out of this camera are just beautiful.

So let's look at some photos

So let's look at some photos. I mean, photos that aren't of the camera, but rather with the camera. On my first outing with the Pentax 645Nii in five years, we went up to San Francisco's Sunset District, to take photos of other people's cars and houses. Here's some of the better shots.