Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home

Show Printable Version Search this Thread
08-17-2011, 07:50 AM   #1
Forum Member

Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Seoul
Posts: 98
why shoot medium format?

just curious. i admittedly know NOTHING about medium format (except what ive read about lomography). seems to be difficult to have developed. difficult to find the film. and fewer frames per roll. im nothing saying medium format isnt a great form of photography. in fact i would to experiment with it someday. just wondering what attracts you personally to use a format different than the standard 35mm. i would love to know... aside from 40 mp on digital.

08-17-2011, 07:55 AM   #2
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
LaurenOE's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Photos: Albums
Posts: 3,657
When I take my 645 out- which is rarely - I use it primarily for something that I am going to enlarge and hang on the wall. It's about the negative. Since it requires so much extra effort and cost to use my 645, I use it sparingly and with great care. The sounds and feel of the 645 are also very special. It's a great feeling to use one. It's a use of love more than anything.
08-17-2011, 07:59 AM   #3
Site Webmaster
Adam's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Arizona
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 49,600
Medium format gives you a LOT more resolution. If that's what you need (whether it be film or digital), medium format will do a much better job than smaller formats would.
08-17-2011, 08:00 AM   #4
Veteran Member
Nesster's Avatar

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NJ USA
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 13,056
Just talking film medium format for the moment: the much larger film area does wonders for both taking lenses and scans. The obsession with lens resolution is not so critical in the medium format world... and the usual Epson flatbed scanner is more pleased with the larger film.

I like having 8 or 11/12 or 15/16 shots per roll, granted it is an adjustment but it also concentrates your photography.

True, you typically can't take your 120 roll to the chain pharmacy for development, but there are plenty of places that develop it. I find developing my own 120 is easier in fact than 135 - no opening of cartridge, no snipping of leaders.

Seemingly, with vintage cameras, the performance advantage of the larger negative does wonders for picture quality. Messing with vintage 120 cameras is fun.

Finally, the FOV / POV of 120 cameras - everything is scaled larger - gives a different look than 135 (think of the difference between a p&s digital vs an APS-C dSLR). It is a classic portrait look, and with a good set up there's just something about the results, a 3-d thing, a focus DOF thing, that isn't so easy to get with a smaller format.

In this twilight era of film, for me, the 120 format offers charms beyond the 135 format, what can I say?

08-17-2011, 08:01 AM   #5
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
Digitalis's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Adelaide.
Posts: 10,116
because working with larger formats is a great challenge to oneself, it requires better technique than 35mm,you focusing has to be more accurate, the lenses are sometimes substantially slower - so using a tripod in some cases can become mandatory but the image quality you get from it is worth the extra effort.

The same things goes for 4X5 and 8X10 formats - they require superlative technique but when you look at a contact print from an 8X10 large format camera and compare it directly to an 8X10 enlargement from 35mm the differences in image quality will stand out.
08-17-2011, 08:15 AM   #6
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter
blackcloudbrew's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Cotati, California USA
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 4,298
I got back into film last year for fun. 35mm was a format I well understood from years ago and clearly, it's more convenient from a lot of aspects. However, I also decided to give MF a whirl too and picked up an original Pentax 645 camera plus some nice primes for it. Given that a 645 negative is (as I recall) the smallest of the MF film sizes, it's still 2.7 times larger than a 35mm negative. Whether printing the images or scanning the negatives, MF just gives you better resolution period. In getting back into this, I have found no problems getting film or getting rolls processed (now I typically develop my own b&w rolls), as I have two photo shops that are well stocked and can process film within a short turn around period.

MF just requires you to slow down and think more about what you take. That's generally a good thing.
08-17-2011, 08:19 AM   #7

Join Date: May 2011
Location: All over the place
Posts: 2,879
I have found my move into medium format challenging but at the same time rewarding. I'm finding myself working harder at composition and PP than ever before, and still have much more to learn. I have been told in other areas of my life that I am a quick learner, hoping the same is the case here! I noticed pretty much straight away that focusing needs to be far more accurate as I went out on my first trip with it in Tokyo and came back with very soft shots (softer than the ones here). It is a challenge I relish and I am enjoying my photography more than ever.
08-17-2011, 08:45 AM   #8
Veteran Member
cali92rs's Avatar

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Long Beach, CA
Posts: 3,354
why shoot medium format?

-Because you haven't graduated to Large Format yet

08-17-2011, 10:23 AM   #9

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Seattle
Posts: 8,881
The question should be, why not.

Last edited by tuco; 08-17-2011 at 10:32 AM.
08-17-2011, 10:56 AM   #10
Otis Memorial Pentaxian
stevebrot's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Vancouver (USA)
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 37,230
...all of the above with two additional notes of emphasis:
  • DOF
  • Tonality
A side-effect of the larger format is much less DOF. This is true even at "moderate" taking apertures and even with wide angle lenses. Believe it or not, there is significant creative potential for limited DOF with a wide angle. Very cool. The effect is even more pronounced for normal or portrait length lenses and for larger formats. That is why view cameras feature movements. They are pretty much essential to control the plane of focus for subjects at near to moderate distance.

A frequent criticism of medium format systems is that the lens options are uniformly "slow" (f/2.8 is typically the max). The flip side is that there is no way anybody would want to be shooting with a f/1.4 lens onto a 6x7 negative! The DOF would truly be razor thin.

Much emphasis is given to increased resolution with a larger format, but less attention is given to improved tonality (transitions from dark to light) and smoothness of tone (apparent in skies). Part of this is due to the decreased prominence of grain and part due to the richness of tonal data in the captured image.


Last edited by stevebrot; 08-17-2011 at 11:02 AM.
08-17-2011, 11:14 AM   #11
Veteran Member
lbenac's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Burnaby, Canada
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,313
QuoteOriginally posted by cali92rs Quote
why shoot medium format?

-Because you haven't graduated to Large Format yet

+1 on that one.
08-17-2011, 11:16 AM   #12
Veteran Member
lbenac's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Burnaby, Canada
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,313
QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
A frequent criticism of medium format systems is that the lens options are uniformly "slow" (f/2.8 is typically the max). The flip side is that there is no way anybody would want to be shooting with a f/1.4 lens onto a 6x7 negative! The DOF would truly be razor thin.

Comon' Steve you could do it even with one eye closed on a windy day and get the tip of the nose in focus
08-17-2011, 12:13 PM   #13
Inactive Account

Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 224
There are several reasons, and mine are probably not the same as others.

#1: Image quality – This isn't just about resolution. You get a different "look" because of better corrected lenses with smaller relative apertures at the same DOF as on a smaller format. The background blur is generally much smoother at the same time as sharpness is greater, which makes the images "pop" more. Local contrast is higher per image height and there are less artefacts (such as visible grain).

#2: Physical properties – SLR:s and TLR:s do have a much larger matte screen and thus in most cases superior viewfinders. This enhances the whole experience when taking photos. Also, handling the film (if we're not talking digital) and loading the camera is a very nice thing, especially if you develop it yourself too.

#3: Limitations – "Only" 8-16 images per frame is not a bad thing. It makes you concentrate more and you'll hopefully come home with more keepers at the end of the day. At least if you are not shooting some sort of action.

#4: Different aspect ratios – With smaller formats, you are limited to 3:2 (unless you step down as far as MFT or pocket cameras), which in my opinion sucks really bad. For many years I never found any focal length that I really liked, and now I understand that it was the aspect ratio that was wrong, not the angle of view. With 6x7 any lens will make me feel "at home". It just feels right. Square is nice too, but a bit challenging.

All of this has been a real eyeopener for me. I've never before enjoyed photography as much as I do now and I've never before gotten so many good images out of the times I raise the camera to my eye. This is what I've wanted since I started photographing, without knowing about it until recently.
08-17-2011, 12:21 PM   #14
eddie1960's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Toronto
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 12,875
all the above comments are great reasons, for me it's just fun. there are tons of options for shooting Mf and all have their own character. I shoot a 645, a 6x7 and have a couple of holga and a 6x6 tlr. the only one that doesn't produce stellar images (as long as I put the time into it) is the holga, but it does produce fun images
yep the film costs more, and you need to go to a good lab for processing (read more money) or process yourself (dead simple in b/w actually easier than 35 i find) Easier to scan as well. you can get a pretty good scan out of a moderate flatbed with 120 , it's a bugger to get a good 35 scan this way
the TLR option is a good way to try it out without spending tons. the 6x6 format is great for composing, and can easily be cropped to a different aspect ratio. TLR's make great street machines BTW see Vivian Maier Photographer | Official website of Vivian Maier | Vivian Maier Portfolios, Prints, Exhibitions, Book and documentary film for inspiration
the biggest drawback to getting into Medium format is you'll start lusting for large format
08-17-2011, 12:57 PM   #15
Otis Memorial Pentaxian
stevebrot's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Vancouver (USA)
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 37,230
QuoteOriginally posted by lbenac Quote
...and get the tip of the nose in focus
The most important part!!!


  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
camera, format, medium, medium format
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
First Medium Format straightshooter Pentax Medium Format 7 12-02-2019 10:11 PM
Going into medium format? dugrant153 Pentax Medium Format 15 08-28-2010 12:54 AM
new to medium format krystalgem85 Pentax Medium Format 3 08-02-2010 02:20 PM
Medium format... D4rknezz Troubleshooting and Beginner Help 9 04-06-2010 03:59 PM

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:07 PM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]