Medium-format advantage

Hassleblad 501CM

Just a few years ago the large negative size and promise of top quality images meant that most enthusiast photographers aspired to own a medium-format camera, but the prices put them out of reach.

Now, there are lots of medium format cameras available on the second-hand market with very attractive price tags. Furthermore, the availability and relative

affordability of high-quality scanners means that medium-format cameras

are still a great choice whether you want to produce traditional film or

digital prints.

Medium-format cameras are generally larger than 35mm film and full-frame digital SLRs, but they also come in a more varied range of shapes and designs. Some are modular and can accept different film holders (also known as backs),

viewfinders, winding mechanisms and, of course, lenses, while others just accept interchangeable lenses.

Choosing between the different formats and systems isn?t easy, but you need to consider factors such as what size and aspect ratio negative you wish to produce, the type of photography you want to do and how far the camera will be carried between shoots.

As the imaging area of a medium-format camera is much larger than a 35mm film frame, medium-format negatives don?t need such dramatic enlarging to make prints. This gives the larger cameras a distinct advantage because flaws such as film grain and chromatic aberration are less visible and larger prints are possible.

The larger size and predominantly manual control of medium-format cameras mean they are slower to use than the average 35mm film or digital SLR. This, plus the fact that it is usually only possible to make 10 or 12 exposures on a roll of 120 film, means that medium-format photography tends to be more considered than smaller-format work.

Consequently, photographers often experiment more with composition and depth of field before pressing the shutter release.

As a result, in addition to having a higher ?hit rate?, many enthusiasts find that using a medium-format camera is a terrific learning experience and it improves their photography.