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Medium Format Photography: The Facts Behind the Hype

Jun 25, 2008
If you're like many photographers, you're always looking for the perfect image. In addition to being aesthetically and compositionally flawless, you also crave perfect representation of color, texture, and the finest of details. You want your photos to show the fine textures, subtle hues, and crisp edges of your subject matter. You want the ultimate image.

Medium format photography can help get you this image. As you may know, medium format photography uses a film format that is significantly larger than the standard 35mm format that we all know and love. By using a larger film area, medium format cameras can capture significantly more information, and therefore a much sharper, more vibrant image. A larger slide or negative will always give a better image, all other things being equal, as it simply allows for that much more information to be stored.

Additionally, since medium format cameras a generally all "professional" cameras, the quality of the lenses used is very high. In fact, some of the highest quality optics in the world can be found on the front of medium format cameras. You're not going to find much cheap, low quality consumer grade glass in the medium format world. Rather, the finest lens makers of all times have tasked their best engineers with the mission of creatin amazing lenses for their medium format cameras. Some of these lenses are a wonder to behold, and can help you create some spectacular images.

All these factors add up to give you an amazing quality image that will blow away any 35mm image taken under similar conditions. If you look at a medium format negative or slide under a loupe, you will be shocked by the magnitude of detail that is visible. It's hard to describe, but the difference is immediately visible and striking. This is not a small quality improvement that is visible to only an elite few, this is a radical change in the quality of your photos.

Indeed, it is this quality that leads many professionals to deal with the added cost, size, and weight of medium format gear. To be sure, its not the most convenient and affordable of formats. The larger negative requires a larger, more complex camera to deal with. A larger lens is required to focus enough light to expose the medium format film pane. These larger, more complex cameras and lenses are also significantly more expensive than 35mm cameras. Medium format cameras are not for the average photographer, but rather for the professional or amateur who demands only the best looking images possible, while still allowing for some flexibility and portability, which large format lacks.

So, should you go out and buy a medium format camera today? Quite probably not, given the complexity of most medium format systems. However, if you're looking to greatly improve the quality of your images, and you're not too daunted by the complexities and expense involved with a medium format camera, you should start shopping for one today, as nothing else will fulfill that desire as well as medium format camera can.
About the Author
David Wilson is a photography enthusiast and webmaster. He invites you to buy a Hasselblad, the finest medium format camera in existence, or simply shop for photography gear . It's an amazing hobby that will last you a lifetime.
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