If you shot 35mm all your life, you may wonder why on earth you should try medium format. Well, medium format, first of all, offers higher resolution and larger print size. But that’s not all! There is something exclusive to medium format images. The image seems to have a wider field of view, without looking stretched out, making it appear more natural – closer to what your eyes actually see in the real world. Also, shooting medium format is an excellent opportunity for you to grow as a photographer and improve on your technical skills. Plus medium format cameras are gorgeous and built to last. So without further ado, here is a list of nine great medium format film cameras that you need to have:
Produced in Japan between 1955 and 1966, the Minolta Autocord is a medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) camera known for providing excellent image quality with its legendary 3.5 Rokkor lens. It’s also really pretty. The film mechanism of the Minolta Autocord is simpler than that of most other TLR cameras of that time, making it easier to control focusing and other features. The camera allows you to create double exposures and its stage-less aperture lets you set the F-stop to any value you want. With no mirror obstructing the viewfinder, you can view the subject uninterrupted while taking a snapshot. Above all, this little guy is extremely cost effective making it a great choice for the beginners. You can grab one now easily for under $200 and with a little research under $100.
There are Mamiya people and there are Hasselblad people. If you don’t know which you are yet, we’d ask you to consider the Mamiya RZ67 - a medium format camera beloved by many professionals around the world. The first model of the Mamiya RZ67 was released in 1982, and later, two more models – RZ67 Professional II and RZ67 Professional IID – were brought to the market in 1995 and 2004, respectively. The Mamiya RZ67 is a medium format single-lens reflex (SLR) with a modular camera system. That means that many of its parts, including lens, film winder, viewfinder, and ground glasses are interchangeable. Another benefit of this camera is that it offers multiple film formats, including 6x7, 6x6 and 6x4.5, and accepts 120 and 220 film magazines. It also features Polaroid and the Quadra 72 backs. It uses a bellows for focusing, meaning that you can use any lens as a macro lens. The Mamiyz RZ67 is a little heavy for handheld shooting, but it is a versatile camera with loads of interesting features that allow for a wide variety of photographic applications.
A fan favorite, the Pentax 645 is simply a great medium format SLR. It comes with a built-in motor drive capable of 1.5 FPS, a number of manual and auto exposure modes, TTL metering system, and a complementary line of affordable interchangeable lenses. The Pentax 645 was introduced in 1984 and offers excellent image quality, however one downside of this camera is that unlike medium format “system” cameras it does not offer interchangeable backs or viewfinders. Because most people opt for the upgraded version of this camera - the Pentax 645N with an auto-focus system - the original is pretty cheap for medium format. You can easily grab a Pentax 645 now for under $300.
4. Hasselblad 500C/M
We can state with (probably) little debate that the Hasselblad is essentially the Rolls Royce of cameras. Introduced in 1957 by the Victor Hasselblad AB, Hasselblad 500C helped replace the 1600F and 1000F models which had some issues with their focal-plane shutter. The 500C came with a new leaf shutter lens system with optics from the famous lens maker Carl Zeiss. In 1970, the upgraded version 500C/M was released with some advanced features, such as the A-series film magazines, an improved automatic back, and an interchangeable focusing screen. All tech specs aside, Hassleblads are known for their exceptional image quality regardless of the model, and digital Hasselblads are still one of the top choices of pro photographers today. What’s the downside to this beautiful specimen? We’d have to say it’s hefty price tag, as this camera is most certainly an investment. We can also state with confidence that it’s an investment you won’t regret. Check out some of the photos we’ve featured shot with Hasselblad cameras for inspiration, and also head over to our Guide to the Hassleblad System.
The Japanese manufacturer Bronica released their first medium format SLRs in 1958. At that time, Bronica cameras would accept only Nikkor lenses and it wasn’t until 1980 that Bronica started producing lenses of their own, along with the SQ camera. The production of SQ-A cameras started from 1982 and continued until 1991. The Bronica SQ-A specifically comes with some advanced features, such as multiple exposure options, mirror lock-up, and auto exposure with a new viewfinder. Bronica SQ/SQ-A cameras use the traditional 6x6 square negative format. Their lower price tag and good quality makes them an exceptional alternative to a Hasselblad.