I’ve been shooting with 35mm point-and-shoot film cameras for most of my life. I remember as a boy sitting with my dad in his loft, watching him develop his rolls of 35mm film. So I have a long affiliation to film. However, when I had the opportunity to acquire a Bronica, a Medium format camera, which I found in a local Charity shop, I jumped at the chance – for me Medium format is the next obvious step. After all, the image quality of Medium format cameras is a major advantage; whether they are film or digital!
As you may know, the 120 film size has traditionally been used in Medium format photography. It’s much larger than the 35mm film format I grew up with. It is the foundation of modern digital photography today. Similarly, the sensors in Medium format cameras are much larger than the 35mm full-frame standard. One of the other advantages is most older vintage lenses can be made to work on new digital cameras, as a full-frame sensor is roughly the same size as a single frame of 35mm film.
Medium format cameras aren’t just known for their image quality; they’re also known for being ‘system cameras.’ This means instead of a single camera body, they are modular, made up of different pieces. This is what enables the conversion of old obsolete Medium format film cameras to digital. As different lenses, viewfinders and digital-backs can be fixed to most Medium format systems – depending on your preferences. I prefer the waist level prism viewfinder. To me, it adds a more classic and authentic field of view.
While there are certain specialist digital Medium format cameras, such as the Fujifilm GFX 50R, Medium format film cameras can easily be converted into digital cameras. This is done by simply replacing the 120 film magazine on the back with a ‘digital back’; all thanks to their modular construction. This is simply a digital sensor that fits into the space where the film holder used to be.
Its rumoured that a Bronica Medium format camera was used on the Apollo mission – it can be also converted into a digital camera – not that I can see why you would want to do this. I love the classic analogue look film creates.
Some camera manufacturers like Fujifilm, have added more megapixels also, as much as 100MP in some of their models. Fujifilm have even used larger sensors, creating an even greater image resolution. The 51MP GFX50S for example is approximately 1.7x bigger than a full-frame sensor they originally made. You get much bigger and better quality photographs using a Medium or Large format camera, compared to 35mm film.
Images taken using a Medium format camera differ slightly from those captured with a full-frame or a crop sensor camera. Most photographers agree the images look so much better, yet I’m sure the average person just viewing say your holiday snaps would notice little or no difference.
Medium format cameras do have the disadvantage of being big, heavy and sometimes fragile. They also get lots of attention, most times I’m using it someone will approach me, and ask questions about it. One disadvantage, is they do have a much slower burst rate, and less advanced focusing technology. This I understand could be restrictive in some circumstances.
Medium format cameras are mostly used in advertising, portraits and fashion photography. But I use them more for Landscapes, as the slower style of shooting and depth of field, works better for my style, than say faster Street photography. A Medium format camera is used to shoot the bulk of magazine covers today. When working in a studio, image quality is obviously so crucial. A Medium format camera’s image quality, such as its sharpness and depth of field is a massive benefit.
I must stop waffling and dribbling over my passion for Medium format camera. I’ll post some images and write more about my experiences with my Bronica Medium format camera soon.
Any questions, drop me a line!
This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images