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12-17-2012, 07:48 PM   #1
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Full frame vs Pentax 647 medium format

I know what a medium format camera is, from film days, using 120 or 220 roll film, and creating a larger negative than 35 mm, and I even occasionally shoot a roll of 120 in my Mamiya 67 or Yashicamat. I also realize that a full-frame digital camera is equipped with a larger sensor than those used in K-10, 20, 30, 7, 5, etc. What I am a little confused about is the difference in a full-frame digital camera such as the advanced Nikon full-frame model and the Pentax medium format camera. Are they essentially the same? or is there some definite and defining difference in these two categories of cameras. Hoping someone can clarify this issue for me -- and hoping I am not too far off-topic for this group. Thanks.

12-17-2012, 07:53 PM   #2
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See here: Nikon D800E vs. Pentax 645D - Introduction - PentaxForums.com

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12-17-2012, 08:03 PM   #3
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The largest and most basic difference is the sensor size: Nikon D800 = 24x36mm 36mp sensor, Pentax 645D = 33x44mm 40mp sensor. Full details in the link posted by Adam.
12-18-2012, 08:12 AM   #4
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All the names for different formats and sensor sizes get confusing.
Large Format: 4" x 5" and 8" x 10" sheet film cameras
Medium Format: 120 roll film in 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9 (those measurements are in cm. and the actual frames are a bit smaller)
Small Format: 2.4cm x 3.6cm (This is commonly known as 35mm)

These format sizes were all popularized during the era of film photography. Then when digital cameras emerged they had much smaller sensors. APS-C became the standard sensor size for DSLR cameras and it is approximately 18mm x 24mm. These are often called cropped sensors. When manufacturers finally started to make DSLR cameras with sensors that were more like the original 35mm film cameras they started to call them full frame, which makes it sound like they are huge. But in the bigger picture these are just the old "small format" otherwise known as the "Leica format".which was historically used for compact cameras such as the Leica.

Then to further confuse things manufacturers began making "medium format" digital cameras. But like their predecessors in the smaller format, almost all of the so called "medium format" digital cameras also have cropped sensors. True 645 cameras have a frame size of 56mm x 42mm whereas the digital Pentax 645D uses a sensor that is only 44mm x 33mm.. Of course this is still bigger than small format (35mm) but it is significantly smaller than true medium format. Eventually Pentax and other manufactures will probably release medium format cameras with normal sized sensors, and will likely call them "Full frame medium format".

Of course it should be remembered that 645 is the smallest of all medium format sizes, and in Japan it is referred to as "Semi-format", implying that it is "almost" medium format...


Last edited by revdocjim; 12-18-2012 at 11:34 PM.
12-18-2012, 10:33 AM   #5
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A great summary revdocjim.

One other thing to point out and I hope I don't ruffle any film shooter feathers' here, but digital sensors, especially of late, provide really great detail compared to the same size film. For example, the 645D with a 33x44 sensor, arguably beats the 'full frame' 645 film counterpart in terms of clarity when all is said and done. Same goes for 35mm film vs. Nikon D800, which I think would be even more one sided towards the digital sensor, given that smaller sensors are always advancing faster than larger ones, due to cost of producing them.

Some may even argue that the 645D prints rival those of Pentax 67 film. Personally, I don't have any solid evidence to support that, but suspect it may be true based on some of the prints I've seen made from that camera compared to some of my 645D prints.

As for looks in terms of color, etc., well film and digital are quite different and I don't think one can argue for or against a matter of taste or preference for shooting style.
12-18-2012, 10:34 AM   #6
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Of course, ISO, lenses used, etc. all play major rolls in my above statement and work to muddy the waters.
12-18-2012, 12:36 PM   #7
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At one time what we call medium format today was called small format, I believe. And 35mm was miniature format. But lenses and film got better and you didn't need a king-size negative to get acceptable quality.

Last edited by tuco; 12-18-2012 at 12:42 PM.
12-18-2012, 12:51 PM   #8
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Full-Frame cant match medium format. Just basic calculate:

Full-Frame size : 36 x 24 = 864
Medium size : 60 x 45 = 2700 (3.125 larger than full-frame)
70 x 60 = 4200 (4.86 larger than full-frame)

So you have the answer ? :-D

12-18-2012, 01:29 PM   #9
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It is interesting the inference here. When we say "better" it assumed the perfect pixel and shots like landscapes that may be blown up to very large sizes. But what is better to a sports, wildlife, photo journalist, etc can be different story. The photographic diversity of today's FF 35mm digital is impressive.

If each step I take toward a wall is half the remaining distance, a physicist might say I will never reach it. But an engineer might say I reached it a long time ago. In other words, when you have to start picking the fly crap out of the pepper to notice the difference it is the content of the meal that counts not the tinny detail of the spice.
12-18-2012, 01:51 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Tischer Quote
Of course, ISO, lenses used, etc. all play major rolls in my above statement and work to muddy the waters.
And film type in addition to ISO For instance Technical Pan was always fined grain and more detailed than similar ISO conventional films.
12-18-2012, 04:19 PM   #11
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Full-frame versus medium format

Thanks a lot everyone. This answered all my questions. I love this forum for more reasons than one. Now I know.
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