Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring the camera options, part of Advanced Photography: Medium-Format Digital Cameras.
- Choosing a camera always involves a complex web of trade offs. What kind of image quality do you demand? What sort of lenses do you need for your subject matter? What kind of size and weight are you willing to carry? Do you have particular workflow needs? And around all of these issues is the question of whether you can afford the camera that puts all of your other requirements. In this chapter, we're going to look at several things you'll want to examine when considering a move to small medium format. Now I've already mentioned this several times but probably the biggest concern when considering the medium format is the price.
Right now, both the Fuji GFX50 body and the Pentax 645 body can be had for around $6,000. The Hasselblad body clocks in at a higher price, around $8,000 - $9,000. Now remember, these are just body prices, you don't have a lens in there, you've got to pay for that extra. Let's say you opt for the Fuji and decide to stick with a basic 50 millimeter equivalent lens, that will be Fuji 63 millimeter F28 which can be had for around $1,200, so let's call it $8,500 to get into a basic system.
Right now, I can buy a Canon 5DS body which is a 50 megapixel full frame camera, for $3,500. A Canon 50 millimeter F1.2 sells for $1,300 so we'll call it $5,000 for an equivalent full framed system. Now I should point out that for that $5,000, the Canon delivers a faster burst rate, a higher flash sync speed, a broader range of lens options and the 50 millimeter 1.2 can deliver slightly shallower depth of field than the Fuji 63 millimeter and is obviously faster, so it allows for higher shutter speeds in low light.
In other words, you're not even getting equivalent feature sets, so why should you spend $3,000 - $4,000 more for the medium format camera? Honestly that's a tough question and it really gets to the heart of what we're trying to figure out in this course. As you'll see later, the Fuji will definitely deliver better image quality than the Canon but is it twice as good? You might think it needs to be if you're going to pay twice as much. The amazing thing about these new small medium format cameras is that it's not just their sensors that are smaller, the bodies are much smaller than previous medium format cameras.
The Fuji is not that much bigger than an SLR, depends on, or a full-frame SLR, depends on what size of lens you have. The Hasselblad is definitely smaller. Still when considering any camera, you'll want to consider the size and weight especially if you're a landscape or street shooter who spends a lot of time carrying gear over long distances. When considering weight, don't forget to factor in the weight of the lenses. Lenses for medium format cameras have to cast a large image circle, which means they have to have a large diameter. Fortunately modem materials technology means that even a large lens can be surprisingly light these days.
When considering weight, don't forget to calculate the weight of additional lenses you may be carrying. It's not as much as the camera that you're holding that can give you back pain, the other lenses in your bag need to be considered as well. As with smaller sensor cameras, the two mirrorless options here, the Fuji and the Hasselblad are lighter than the Pentax SLR. Lens size across all these cameras is all pretty much the same though, they're big. Note though that though these cameras all use the same sensor, they don't all use the same lens mount, each of these cameras has a proprietary lens mount so you can't swap lenses between them.
Lens selection will be an important consideration when you're shopping amongst these different cameras. If you only ever shoot with a 50 millimeter equivalent, then you won't have any trouble with any of these cameras but if you regularly use long teller photos or tilt shift lenses or do a lot of macro work, then you'll want to pay close attention to the options available for each of these models. These cameras all feel like a normal SLR, or mirrorless camera like this 5D. If you knew nothing about medium format and simply grabbed one of these cameras and started using it, you would have no trouble finding your way around the controls.
In fact, you might not assume it was anything other than a really big, full-frame camera but for the really large bright view finder and the 43 aspect ratio and possibly a sense of slightly slower performance. It may sound strange to call out familiarity as a feature but if you're using, if you're used to larger medium format cameras, then you know that those cameras often have much more cumbersome handling with odd size bodies and kind of clunky controls. The fact that these cameras feel so much like an everyday camera, is really a breakthrough.
As far as the basics of the body go, you'll ideally want to get your hands on these cameras to assess whether the control layout and menus make sense to you. The good news is all of these cameras use SD cards for storage, so if you've already got an investment in cards, you can possibly keep using them with these cameras. I say possibly because these cameras produce a lot of data, a single raw file from these cameras is going to come in at around 120 megabytes. If you want to shoot quickly and not wait too long for your cards to transfer to your computer, then you're going to need fast media. Battery life on the mirrorless models might be a little less than what you're used to on a full frame or cropped sensor SLR but it's still very good, but for travel, extra batteries will be useful.
Finally, one of the ideal uses for medium format is landscape shooting which can sometimes leave you standing out in the middle of nowhere in really bad weather. All three of these cameras are strongly weatherproofed, making them ideal for landscaped shooting, in all kinds of conditions, assuming that you're using a lens that is also weatherproofed. So far, none of these issues are anything you wouldn't consider with any camera purchase but there are some media format specific things that you'll want to think about when evaluating small medium format cameras. We'll look at more of those, throughout the rest of this chapter.
- SLR and mirrorless design
- Focal length and aspect ratio
- Exploring camera options
- Workflow and tethering
- Shooting with small, medium-format cameras
- Dynamic range and medium format
- Medium format and commercial, architectural, and landscape photography
- Determining if you need a medium-format camera