What IS a "medium format" camera?

Nov 15, 2019
Hi, hi, obviously a newbie here, but I don't know really what a "medium format" camera is. Anyone care to educate me?
What are the advantages of it? There must be some, there's a whole forum section set up for it, hehe.


Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
Camera sensors come in different sizes, and it's like the days of film when the bigger the negative, the better the quality – only now it's sensors! Until recently, 'full frame sensors' were every photographer's dream, as they are the same size as the 35mm film negative. But medium format sensors now offer the same step up in size and quality as old medium format film cameras did over 35mm. Medium format cameras are MUCH more expensive than regular digital cameras, but to pros and really keen enthusiasts, they are the next big thing, as it's only recently that cameras with these larger sensors have become remotely affordable.
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Nov 18, 2019
a medium format camera is simply a camera that uses a sensor or film that's somewhere between 35mm and 4x5". anything larger than that is considered large format.

in digital a bigger sensor means bigger files (which means it takes more hard drive space and processing power) which means bigger prints. it also means more details and resolution. something you'll never really notice at web sized images.

it also changes the way lenses act. so on a full frame camera with a 50mm lens at f/2.8 you expect it to look a certain way. on a medium format camera it would be zoomed further out, depending on how big the film/sensor is. on a fuji gfx50r a 50mm lens would look more like a 40mm lens. and at f/2.8 there would be less in focus. in comparison, on a 1.6x crop sensor (aps-c) a 50mm lens would look more like an 80mm lens with more dof at f/2.8.

to put that another way, with a medium format camera i can get wide sweeping views without the need for a really wide lens. unfortunately, to get shots really far away i would need a much longer lens than i'd need with a full frame. with an asp-c/crop sensor camera i can get things further away with shorter lenses, but i sacrifice the wider views and i have smaller files (less room to crop).
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Chris George

Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
Interestingly, some digital medium format cameras are described as large format cameras... as cine cameras used for serious moviemaking are known as large format if they have a sensor that is larger than full frame! But I admit this is very confusing for those that remember the traditional definition, and when 35mm was known as a miniature film format!
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Dec 12, 2019
The most basic definition used to be any camera that accepted or used 120 or 220 roll film. The 220 was just a longer version of the 120 omitting backing paper to allow a same size reel. many different format negatives were shot on 120 film , 6 x 4.5 (see old Pentax and Mamiya for examples), 6 x 6 (see Bronica, Mamiya, Rollieflex, Hasselblad ,and many many more) , 6 x 7 (Mamiya and Pentax ) and 6 x9 (models slip my memory). There are certainly more of these.
In the film days we had all sorts of choices with leaps in quality as the negative size grew larger but also each step was less forgiving of technique and more expensive for lenses. It was a rich mans game. Digital has very much levelled the play field as far as costs in photography, still high but nonetheless cheaper and more inclusive.

In a digital age larger sensors than 24mm x 36mm (FX or 35mm) are usually referred to as medium format.