Medium Format Cameras

Medium Format Cameras

Taking photos with a digital or film medium format camera is becoming increasingly popular. Today the medium format doesn't mean a huge and cumbersome camera body, it is a portable camera that can produce magnificent high-quality images. Find out what are the best digital and film medium format cameras.

medium format cameras

Medium Format vs Full Frame Comparison

So, what is medium format? This term refers to a class of photographic equipment that has a frame measuring 45 by 60 or 60 by 90 mm. The main difference between the medium format and ordinary cameras is image quality. This is definitely not the best camera for amateur photographer. Due to the large matrix size and the larger frame area, the camera captures more information, and the pictures are more detailed. Initially, such cameras were used by professionals who take photos for advertising and billboards, and the 60x90 mm film was used to print material for magazines and posters.

medium format vs full frame image comparison

So why medium format cameras have become so popular again? The answer is simple - no matter how hard the developers of digital cameras try, they still can not reach the quality of common film cameras. A film camera, released in the last century, has a resolution of 50 megapixels, exceeding all digital analogs. Of course, the pictures it takes will be chosen for printing large banners, because it has a stunning detail with minimal distortion. I have prepared a list of 10 medium-format cameras, both digital and film ones, which are considered the best in their class.

10 Best Medium Format Digital Cameras

Top 3 Best Medium Format Camera

Most of the times when professionals understand that they lack the quality that full-frame cameras can offer, they choose medium format cameras. Manufacturers realized this and in 2010 they started to release the new digital cameras with a large digital sensor, which is similar to the film format. As in the case of film cameras, turning from usual 35 mm to the medium format, you get the color rendering accuracy and high image detail.


1. Hasselblad X1D-50c

hasselblad x1d-50c View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Very high image quality while shooting in RAW
  • High dynamic range
  • Great color rendering
  • High-quality assembly
  • Two slots for UHS-II SD cards
  • Relatively low price
Cons-
  • Low burst mode speed
  • Slow and not always accurate autofocus
  • Lack of stabilization
  • JPEG low quality
 
 

Hasselblad X1D-50C is the world's first mirrorless medium format camera. The camera is reliable, user-friendly, has a compact and lightweight body. The photographs are of high quality with rich realistic colors and finest transitions of light and shades.

This Hasselblad`s medium format camera lacks speed, autofocus is not yet perfect, quality of JPEG and video, and ergonomics also require a number of improvements. 

The high results that Hasselblad X1D has demonstrated in the studio and during a real-live shooting test allow me to recommend it for shooting landscapes with many details and significant brightness differences, as well as for portraits, which require gentle shade transitions and accurate color processing.

Recommended camera lens:

Hasselblad XCD 80 mm f/ 1.9

This lens has the largest aperture among Hasselblad lenses at f/1,9. It is compatible with most common filters and threaded accessories as it`s front diameter is 77mm. Use it for portrait, nature, and product photography with amazing bokeh.

hasselblad camera photo Photo by Hasselblad XCD 80 mm f/ 1.9

2. PENTAX 645Z

medium format camera pentax View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Excellent ISO performance 
  • Large, bright viewfinder
  • Universal tilting LCD screen
  • Large range of lenses
  • Fast autofocus, which works well in low light
  • Decent battery life 
Cons-
  • Rather bulky
  • AF points are grouped around the center of the frame
  • High default saturation, contrast, and sharpness
  • Buffer cleaning may take some time
 

If you regularly make extra-large prints, need extremely high-detailed images, you’d better use this medium format camera. This Pentax camera body will impress you with amazingly high-resolution details of each shot. This is one of the most astonishing cameras I ever happened to use. The photos demonstrate a truly impressive dynamic range, with no alternatives among other medium format cameras. 

The high dynamic range and color sensitivity make it optimal for shooting landscapes, portraits, and still-lives. The camera has two SDHC slots, so there will be no problems with the cards.

Recommended camera lens:

Pentax HD 645 28-45mm F4.5

A lens with characteristics like this is suitable when you need to get a wide viewing angle and to get an outlined perspective in combination with a large depth of sharpness (for landscape and indoor photography).

pentax camera photo Photo by Pentax HD 645 28-45mm F4.5


3. Fujifilm GFX 50S

best medium format digital camera View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • The most affordable medium format digital camera
  • ISO up to 12800
  • User-friendly interface
  • A huge number of settings
  • Best Fuji medium format
  • Fast autofocus with a tracking feature
  • Removable viewfinder
  • High resolution rotatable touchscreen
Cons-
  • The inconvenient arrangement of some interface buttons
  • Shutter speed limited to 1/125 s
 

Fujifilm GFX 50S is a mirrorless medium format camera for those who need the highest image quality. The camera allows capturing the object in high detail, rich undertones, bright and vibrant colors. In addition, it preserves a significant number of details in shadowed and highlighted areas of the frame that can be later “pulled out” during the image editing.

The 50-megapixel sensor hidden inside the GFX 50C provides stunning image quality along with an extended dynamic range, greater depth of the image and excellent color rendering.

Recommended camera lens:

FUJINON GF 23mm F4 R LM WR

Nano GI coating reduces ghosting and glare. It’s a perfect lens for clear landscape images taken far away. The lens is dust- and weather-sealed so you can take photos in harsh climates and temperatures as low as 14°F.

medium format photo Photo by FUJINON GF 23mm F4 R LM WR


4. Hasselblad H6D-100c

hasselblad h6d View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Amazing color rendering
  • 4K video RAW recording
  • Wi-Fi connection
  • Touch screen and menu layout
Cons-
  • The work of lenses leaves much to be desired
  • Bugs and lags
  • Poor focusing system
 

Hasselblad H6D-100c model is equipped with a 100-megapixel CMOS-matrix and supports 4K-video recording in Hasselblad RAW format. Improved image processor, a shutter speed range from 60 minutes to 1/2000 seconds, a maximum 12 800 ISO, continuous shooting at 1.5 frames per second, 15 levels of HDR mode and Hasselblad H mount application.

Recommended camera lens:

Hasselblad HC 3.5-4.5/50-110mm

HC 50–110 mm zoom lens has all the advantages of a focal length range from wide-angle to telephoto. It has an extremely high quality of the picture even at high ISOs, whether it is a film or digital. It is one of the best Hasselblad X1D lenses for fashion photography.

large format photo Photo by Hasselblad HC 3.5-4.5/50-110mm

5. Pentax 645D

medium format camera pentax View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • High matrix resolution 
  • Accurate color rendering
  • Relatively low noise levels even at high ISOs
  • Waterproof body
  • Compatible with old lenses
  • Capacious battery
Cons-
  • No control via computer
  • Focus points are concentrated in the very center of the viewfinder
  • Work with slow SD cards
 

Pentax 645D is the most affordable medium format digital camera. 645D images are very clear, with high details and very low noise level, excellent color rendering, and a tonal range. No exaggeration, it is a unique camera. Being equipped with moisture protection, the camera is a perfect medium format camera for landscape and wildlife photographers. The battery is very capacious, which can last several days of shooting. The autofocus is accurate and stable (although its points are concentrated in the center of the frame). 

An important advantage for some photographers may be the compatibility with the old “film” lenses of Pentax 645 system (the autofocus function is preserved) and the non-autofocus Pentax 67 lenses using an adapter. Unfortunately, the camera cannot be controlled directly from the computer.

Recommended camera lens:

Pentax SMC FA 645 120mm f/4 Macro

For fans of catalog shooting and magazine macro photography, PENTAX presents a medium format autofocus lens with a minimum 15.4” focal distance.  120 mm focal length allows you to shoot an object at a 1:1 scale. The high resolution of the lens, combined with low aberrations along the edges of the frame, make the image as clear and realistic as possible.

medium format image Photo by Pentax SMC FA 645 120mm f/4 Macro

6. LEICA S2

best large format camera for beginners View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Excellent picture quality even at 6,400 ISO
  • Very handy body construction for shooting with hands
  • Very good and huge viewfinder
Cons-
  • Only one point available in the autofocus system
  • Not very high resolution in comparison with its analogs
  • The uncommon control layout of four buttons
 

S2 refers to medium format cameras because it is equipped with Kodak photosensitive CCD sensor with a 30x45 mm frame size, which has a capacity for 37.5 million useful pixels. But at the same time, it practically does not differ from DSLR cameras with a full-frame 36 x 24 mm sensor, in terms of size and weight. 

Professional studio photographers often have to work in strict time frames, so they have to think out clear schemes and conditions for portrait, event, interior photography, etc. Leica S2 provides an opportunity to save up to four user settings of the camera (profiles), which will allow you to start working with a familiar subject quickly.

Recommended camera lens:

Leica Summicron-S 100 f/2 ASPH

The Summicron-S 100 f/2 ASPH it is a dust and waterproof lens with a fixed focal length for the medium format cameras of Leica S system. The use of complex multilayer coating technology provides for great color rendering and natural color tones in the pictures.

medium format photo Photo by Leica Summicron-S 100 f/2 ASPH

7. Mamiya 645df+

mamiya 645 camera View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Excellent dynamic range and resolution
  • Great back interface
Cons-
  • Clumsy mirror and shutter
  • It is difficult to press some buttons
 

This is a camera, which was released in collaboration of two companies (Danish Phase One and the Japanese Mamiya), that’s why you can meet different names of this product. You can use this medium format camera Mamiya for reportage and street photography. The back is most likely the main advantage of the camera, and you will spend long hours viewing your photos in 100% crop. This camera’s raw photos can be edited deeper in Capture One.

Recommended camera lens:

Schneider Kreuznach 110mm LS f/2.8

It is a long-focus lens with a fixed focal length for medium format Mamiya 645 camera. It is equipped with sufficient optical compression for a full-length portrait, fashion and beauty shooting. Among its distinguishing features are high lens speed and excellent optical characteristics that ensure flawless image.

mamiya camera photography Photo by Schneider Kreuznach 110mm LS f/2.8

8. Hasselblad 500cm

hasselblad medium format film camera View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Ability to work with modern backs
  • Many lenses
  • Durability
  • Excellent shooting quality
Cons-
  • Bad and inconvenient ergonomics
 

Hasselblad is the name and brand, which photographers primarily associate with their film models. This product has earned a good reputation thanks to its durability, mechanical precision, and various high-quality lenses. Let's be honest, the medium format camera Hasselblad is fantastic, but it has drawbacks too. 

It is heavy, so you will not be able to work with it for a long time without a tripod. Another thing that lacks here is a built-in exposure meter. I used iPhone application, and later Pentax exposure meter. The camera allows you to change the types of films without having to finish the roll. This medium camera offers great bokeh and depth of field, excellent sharpness combined with a unique Hasselblad shade in your photos.

Recommended camera lens:

Carl Zeiss Planar T* 80mm f/2.8

It has a fixed focal length for medium format SLR cameras of Hasselblad 500th (V) series. It was released for a number of Hasselblad cameras, having undergone several modifications. This lens has a shutter speed control and a central shutter (it was built into the lens), providing appropriate synchronization with cameras.

medium format film camera photo Photo by Carl Zeiss Planar T* 80mm f/2.8

9. Pentacon Six TL

small medium format film camera View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Square format is very nice
  • Excellent build quality
  • Very precise viewfinder
  • May be portable
Cons-
  • The lever of the film movement is not ergonomic
  • Inserting the film is very difficult
 

This is the camera that was especially popular in the era of film photography and is still gaining popularity. The camera has a relatively small size for medium format and a very simple design. Pentacon Six TL medium format film camera is not the easiest to use. You really need some time to understand how it works. 

Don't get me wrong, it's easy enough to shoot, but Pentacon Six TL requires extra accuracy with inserting the film into it, as well as taking it out. There is no autofocus here, but there is a viewfinder, which is quite bright to get into focus. The camera has a fantastic Zeiss lenses range available. Everything in this camera is completely manual as well.

Recommended camera lens:

Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80 2.8

It's rather strong and heavy telephoto lens with excellent ergonomics. The focus is really smooth and accurate. The aperture settings are located in the center of the lens barrel. You can hear a small click on each of them. I like the various aperture textures and focus settings. This lens is very sharp. Even being wide opened it'll work very well.

medium format photography Photo by Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80 2.8

10. Bronica SQ-A

medium format film camera View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Really sharp lenses
  • The flash synchronizes at any speed
  • Support for metered finders
  • Very bright viewfinder
  • Not too heavy
Cons-
  • If you use the medium format camera first, you’ll need a little time to learn it
  • Not the fastest lenses
 

This product has become an alternative to the classic heavy cameras. It has a medium format sensor size of 60×60 mm. In the front part of the body, there is a shutter release button and a sync connector for flashes. The synchronization is coordinated by the electronics that control the shutter speeds, so the lens cannot be accidentally disconnected from the camera. 

It is not protected from damages. A great advantage of SQ-A is all electronic and well-designed mechanical interlocks that work throughout the camera. They are created to protect the user from inappropriate removal of the wrong module.

Recommended camera lens:

Zenza Bronica Zenzanon-PS 40 mm f/ 4

It’s a super wide-angle lens with a fixed focal length suitable for Bronica medium format cameras (60x60 mm). A good choice for street photographers.

medium format film camera photography Photo by Zenza Bronica Zenzanon-PS 40 mm f/ 4

Top 10 Medium Format Cameras

Image Camera Features  
Hasselblad X1D-50c
Hasselblad X1D-50c Camera
OUR CHOICE
  • 50 MB
Check PRICE
PENTAX 645Z
PENTAX 645Z
BEST DYNAMIC RANGE
  • 51.4 MB
Check PRICE
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Fujifilm GFX 50S
BEST COLORS
  • 51.4 MB
Check PRICE
Hasselblad H6D-100c
Hasselblad H6D-100c
IMAGE QUALITY
  • 100 MB
Check PRICE
Pentax 645D
Pentax 645D
  • 40 MB
Check PRICE
LEICA S2
LEICA S2
  • 37.5 MB
Check PRICE
Mamiya 645df+ / Phase One 645df
Mamiya 645df+ / Phase One 645df
  • 80 MB
Check PRICE
Hasselblad 500cm
Hasselblad 500cm
  • 35-50 MB
Check PRICE
Pentacon six TL
Pentacon Six TL
  • 35-50 MB
Check PRICE
Bronica SQ-A
Bronica SQ-A
  • 35-50 MB
Check PRICE

How to Choose a Medium Format Camera?

If each medium format digital camera gives you a perfect image, and the question is about choosing a brand, additional functions, and financial capabilities, finding a film medium format camera requires being responsible.

Mind the Price

I know what comes to mind when someone talks about the advantages of medium-format film cameras over digital ones – what about the film cost? What about the costs of its development? And the scan?

Do not worry, because a usual cheap medium format camera will cost you about $4000, and among the film ones, there are many available full-featured medium format cameras, new and used. For $500, you can purchase a very good film camera, add the cost of a scanner that scans 35mm and a medium format that costs less than $150. In total, you will spend about $700, and you can buy films for several years ahead with extra $3300.

Type of Film

medium format film

There are two medium format film types. 120 film has a paper coating along the entire length and can accommodate 12 frames of 60x60 mm per reel. 220 film does not have a paper coating over the entire length and can accommodate 24 frames of 60x60 mm per reel. Not all medium format cameras are compatible with 220 films. Therefore, I recommend working with the 120 film.

Film Scanning

best scan for medium format photos CHARACTERISCTICS

For this purpose, I recommend purchasing a flat-bed scanner with a backlight in the cover. On the market, there're some models from various manufacturers. There're also special film scanners for medium format film, but they're very expensive.

A flat-bed scanner is an excellent decision, and it will help you achieve great results. My Epson 4490 allows me to scan film strips up to 120 mm long, which means that it can work with the negatives of the most interesting devices on the list of medium format film cameras. Just search the flat-bed scanners that are labeled as “photos” or something like that. My cheap film scanner scans a 35mm negative so that the big side turns out to be of 6300 pixels. It means that, theoretically, 35mm negative is 26 megapixels. But if we consider the grain on the film with different photosensitivity, it is not so much. But if we scan the negative 60x60 mm so that one side turns out to count more than 10,000 pixels, it will be more than 50 megapixels. There're digital backdrops and medium format digital cameras that can take 50-megapixel pictures, but they cost over $20,000.

Choosing the Lenses

Everything is a little different here. If you have the opportunity to change the lens for your film camera, just pick up the lens that is suitable for its bayonet. But film cameras are of two types:

TLR

large format camera lens

The medium format camera includes several types. TLR - Twin Lens Reflex. One lens is needed for focusing, and the second is directly for shooting. In these cameras, you look through the top of the device to see the image. It's the cheapest kind of "professional" cameras. The main benefit of them is that they're equipped with non-replaceable lenses. Therefore, you are attached to the lens with a certain focal length that the camera is equipped with.

SLR

medium format SLR lens

We all realize what SLR cameras look like - Single Lens Reflex. Such type of camera is the most common and accessible among advanced cameras. But medium format SLRs may look completely different. Depending on the budget, I'd advise considering SLR cameras from Bronica or Hasselblad. In such cameras, you can change your lenses, and the choice of lenses depends on the manufacturer. There're also adapters that will help you, but if you look at the lenses from the camera manufacturer, then the situations are often good, as these cameras were produced quite a long time ago, and they have collected a large optical stock.

Weight and Ergonomics

If all the DSLR cameras have almost the same shape, then everything is different with medium format ones, as each has a unique shape and weight. One looks like a cube and the other looks like a more classical camera. If you take the weight of a medium format camera with a lens, it will be about 4.4 pounds, which is significantly more than the usual weight of a camera. Therefore, choosing such a product, you should pay attention to its convenience as well, because there are more compact and convenient variants, such as Fujifilm GFX 50s, and there is Hasselblad 500cm, which is much larger and not so convenient.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more