What Makes Medium Format Look So Unique? If you are an avid photographer or planning on upgrading, you probably heard about mysterious medium format cameras. Certain medium format cameras priced like a new Mercedez offering an incredible amount of megapixels and fancy body designs. Does medium format offer anything else other than a crazy amount of megapixels? Let’s find out!

Medium Format Body Design

Most higher-end medium format cameras are pretty bulky. They look much bigger than standard 35mm DSLR. Reason for that is because the medium format has a much larger sensor than standard APS-C or 35mm Sensor. On top of that, some Medium format cameras offer modular design meaning you can use digital back in conjunction with different bodies. For those who don’t know what digital back is, it’s basically the area where the sensor is located. Very much kind of like RED DIGITAL has it’s body “brain” and additional modular components.

Medium Format Digital Back from Hasselblad

To accommodate all that extra sensor size, medium format cameras have a much larger size comparing to their younger brothers 35mm and APS-C size sensors. Digital Back attaches to the body which contains the controls and lens mount for the entire system making it very versatile and easy to upgrade.

Medium Format Digital Back attached to the body with lens from Hasselblad

Sensor Size & Resolution

Medium Format Cameras are well known for their higher resolution sensors comparing to most DSLR on the market. Most modern Medium Format cameras start at around 50megapixels and go all the way to recently announced 200megapixels Phase One. That is an incredible amount of pixels and data to process for the camera. With that resolution, proper editing computer and equipment is a must-have.

Sensor Size Comparison Left to Right Nikon D7200, Nikon D810, Fuji 50s, Phase One XT

To support that incredible resolution, you may need a proper glass. Some lenses may cost half of the amount of the camera system, so the entire rig is for people who make living photographing and make serious photoshoots on a daily basis. Medium format is not a cheap system to have. Full package with lenses and batteries may run you around $60-80k dollars.

Secret To Medium Format Look

So what’s the actual secret to medium format look? Few things! Here it is!… In the photography world, 35mm aka Full Frame is basically a Sea Level of measurements. We know that 35mm Lens on 35mm aka Full Frame Sensor would give us exactly 35mm look. No crop. So think of it as 1 to 1 system. In the smaller size cameras, like crop sensor, rules are a little bit different. Depending on the exact sensor size etc, 35mm Lens will be equivalent to something like 60mm field of view. So smaller size cameras magnify the focal length of the lens. With medium format, things are completely different. For example, 50mm lens on the medium format would equal to be around 35mm. Basically the opposite effect of the crop sensor. Now, this is one part of the look!

Second! Medium Format System doesn’t distort the field of view like crop sensor and 35mm. Meaning even shooting wide-angle, will not give you funky looking fish eye effect of the subject. The medium format gives us an image that appears closer to what we actually see with our own eyes. So you can shoot a person with a wider angle lens to have more background and still have the talent not distorted as you would in another system. That gives us a more painting-like effect of the image

Finally, almost all modern medium format systems give us a much higher dynamic range of the image on top of 16bit color depth. You get much more information on the image you can manipulate and adjust later in the post. That extra dynamic range is what keeps shadows and highlights in the visible range of the camera sensor. That also mimics the feeling of the actual film photography from back in the days. The look that most of us really like and used to.

There is more to the medium format look, but that’s a physics and sensor-related geek kind of stuff. So let’s just keep it at that for the moment. In the meantime I am preparing to start photoshop courses on my YouTube Channel, if you haven’t already subscribed make sure that you do! Presets and Templates are going to be rolling out very soon! Lots of cool stuff in the works! If you like to see some examples of medium format work, you can check them out on my main page.