How To Get Started In Medium Format

Why would somebody start with medium Format? One thing in advance: I'm not talking about those expensive digital medium format cameras. Here we talk about film. So back to our question, why would somebody start with medium format? There cold be a couple of reasons. Better resolution, cool camera gear, better possibilities in enlarging or all reasons together. If you want to enlarge or you want to have the images for hybrid workflow as scanning why don't you take large format if you want a better resolution? Well, large format means sheet film. Sheet film means you need holders and if you need holders your equipment becomes pretty large and usually heavy too..

Medium format is a good compromise. You have roll film so you have more exposures until you need to change the film. The image size is sufficent for most enlargements and still the equipment is not that bulky as you might think.

If you take a 645 camera (Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645 as an example) they are a bit bigger than their little 35mm brothers are and the negative size is still decent as we see on this comparison chart.

So if someone wants to get into medium format, you need to ask yourself following questions:

1. Do I need the bigger image size?

Well this will be the first choice to make. If you like images with big grain it won't bother you if you shoot 35mm and enlarge them to sizes bigger than 30x40cm. If you are more into commercial photography your client want to see a perfect image with no grain and a super high quality image with those outstanding product details.

So yes medium format is an option, but more likely will a large format camera fit in this case.

2. Can I effort it?

Great question, huh?! Yes, Medium format is more expensive. All related equipment has a higher price. If you just take the standard 6x7 medium format lenses (90mm) compared to usual 35mm standard lenses (50mm) they have bigger glasses, bigger bayonet mount, bigger housing so everything including all kind of accessories presuppose a bigger wallet to buy them. Not forget to mention the prices for film are much higher too. Nowadays there are several low budget cameras out there. You can shoot with a Holga 120 pictures and you can shoot with an Hasselblad as well. The question is the quality you want to get. If you are more experimental or a starter, grab yourself 50 bucks and buy a Holga. If you considering a used medium format camera be sure to test them in advance. Nothing is worse than light leaks or a stucked shutter in the beginning of a film.

3. Do I want/can walk around with a bulky and heavy camera? Maybe you can and maybe you want to do it too but is it the right thing for you? If you are more into street photography a little camera, preferable a range finder is the way you want to go. Classical types of medium format cameras for the streets are TLRs (Twin Lens Reflex). They have a fixed lens and a waist level view finder. If you want interchangeable lenses this will be more tricky. Sure you can walk in the streets with a Texas-Leica (Fuji GW690) or a Mamiya RB67 (as I do) but you will be more likely stand out. Selv versed street photography is possible in this set-up as well even if it's not ideal.

Of course there are some more aspects but I think this are the main questions someone needs to ask. I primarly shoot medium format but of course you will see me with a 35mm too, especially when I'm too lazy to carry this big camera with me, or as mentioned above I don't primarly need the bigger image size.

If you want to start with medium format you don't need to spend hundred of bucks to try it. There are several Do-it-yourself medium format projects on the internet. You can try pinhole cameras without any lenses, so pretty afordable. You could also take a look into the Hasselblad clone, Kiev-88. However why you want to start medium format try to find the best solution for yourself. There are so many cameras out there. It's not necessairly needs to be the Rolleiflex 2.8 to get started, a

Yashica-A will do the job too. So have fun with photography, no matter how big or how small your camera is! -P

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