Discovering the World of Medium Format Film Cameras Complete Guide

Explore the world of photography in cinematic clarity like never before. Unlock the creative potential of medium format film cameras with this complete guide.

From gaining knowledge on how to load and unload film, to picking the right camera for your style, you can become a master photographer in no time.


So, you’ve been looking for a way to up your photography game? You’ve probably noticed the vast array of different camera formats available and know the basics between DSLR, point & shoot, mirrorless cameras and even phones. What you may not have considered is a medium format film camera.

A medium format film camera captures images at a much higher resolution than most other cameras on the market and for many, provides an entirely different perspective on photography.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything from the history of medium-format film cameras, to how to choose one that fits your needs, the best films and chemistry to use in them and tips on loading and developing photographs. By the end of this guide you will be equipped with all the knowledge you need to start exploring and shooting with your very own medium format film camera!

Explanation of medium format film cameras

A medium format film camera is a type of camera that uses photographic film in the medium format size of 6 cm × 6 cm (2.5 in × 2.5 in), referred to as either “medium-format” or “rollfilm” photography. A typical medium-format camera produces photographs that are larger and have a higher resolution than smaller 35 mm cameras, with an expansive field of view when used with wide angle lenses and better low light performance when compared to digital cameras.

The quality of the image from a medium-format film camera is generally higher than that of a smaller camera, due to its larger image area, faster lens speed, finer grain size and depth of field. As well, many features such as mirror lockup and interchangeable viewfinders make these cameras more user friendly and easier to work with. Medium format cameras are popular among professionals such as portrait photographers, wedding photographers and fashion photographers who need high-resolution images at reasonable prices.

Medium format photography is also growing in popularity among amateurs as digital imaging technology improves each year. Digital sensors in smartphones now feature resolutions comparable to some professional quality digital SLR cameras, allowing everyone from tech hobbyists to professional photographers alike the opportunity to explore both creative avenues without having the budget for expensive DSLRs or medium format lenses and accessories.

Importance of using medium format film cameras

Using a medium format camera can have many advantages over other types of cameras and formats. For example, their larger sensors tend to produce much finer detail than their smaller counterparts. This allows for capturing more accurate details in the images and adds to the overall film look.

These cameras also tend to contain thousands of micro-lenses per frame and provide a more nuanced focus than found in regular 35mm cameras; again, this gives images more depth and realism.

On top of being able to achieve higher detail levels, medium format film cameras also provide superior exposure latitude due to the size of the negatives and greater dynamic range, leading to finer gradations between tones.

Finally, it is often much easier to get extra creative effects such as pinhole photography or tilt/shift with medium format film cameras than with most digital or other types of camera systems.

All of these attributes combine together to create richer photos with more personality and character compared to those that come from digital sources.

Overview of the guide

This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of medium format cameras as well as provide guidance on selecting the best camera for your specific photography needs. Before diving into the details, it is important to understand the basics and key features of medium format film cameras.

Medium Format Cameras are cameras that use a medium-sized roll film with various dimensions. They offer greater flexibility in terms of aspect ratio, focal length, and have higher resolution than other types of film cameras. This makes them an ideal choice for professional photographers and amateurs alike.

The guide will begin by giving an overview of how different aspects of photography will influence your decision when selecting a camera. Next, it will discuss some general guidelines about shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings for shooting in various settings. In addition, common features to look out for when selecting a camera will be discussed too before moving on to specific recommendations in different use cases like capturing landscapes or indoor studio lighting sessions respectively. Finally, selection tips as well as useful resources and recommended cameras will also be highlighted at the end of this guide.

What are Medium Format Film Cameras

Medium format film cameras are like large format cameras but smaller in size, making them lighter and more portable. They’re used to produce mid-range photographs with higher quality than a regular ‘point and shoot’ camera. These larger image sensors capture more of the finer details in your shots, because they capture a greater amount of light than their smaller point-and-shoot counterparts. They typically have lenses ranging from 50mm to 300mm in focal length, however some cameras feature an interchangeable lens system giving you even more options when it comes to your photography.

The film used with these cameras is larger than 35mm — usually either 120 or 220 roll film — with each frame being significantly larger at 2¼ x 2¾ or 2¾ x 3½ inches respectively. The use of roll film allows images to be captured as negatives so that prints can be created at a later stage using darkroom equipment or professional digital printing facilities.

Each type of medium format camera has its own advantages and disadvantages, for instance TLR (twin lens reflex) bodies provide an easy view through the lens system making them ideal secondhand beginner purchase alternatives to high end SLRs (single lens reflex). Similarly, folding bellows cameras allow for great depth of field control due to their ability to focus from infinity down to as close as 4-5 cm which makes them popular among photographers looking for wider angle photographs with extremely precise focusing capabilities.

Explanation of medium format film cameras

When you hear the term ‘medium format film cameras’ there is a lot to take in. It refers to a particular way of taking photographs by using medium format film cartridges and medium format cameras that are intended to use these cartridges. These cameras have been around since the 1930s and have been used by professional photographers, enthusiasts, and beginners alike.

Medium format film cameras come in all shapes and sizes, from simple plastic models to higher-end precision instruments. They can be categorized into three categories: SLR (single lens reflex) models that allow the photographer to see through the viewfinder while they snap a picture; rangefinder models that require manually focusing on a subject; or TLR (twin lens reflex) that uses two lenses at different heights to focus images.

Regardless of their complexity, most medium format film cameras share two common features: the ability to capture much more detail than 35mm camera films due to their larger image size; and their rigid construction which is suited for precision workflows and higher quality output than seen with 35mm films. This makes medium format cameras ideal for capturing landscapes in great detail, as well as portraiture shots with depth of field effects. There are also many novelty uses available such as recording music videos or shooting vintage scenes in classic black-and-white style.

The 3 Best Medium Format Film Cameras · Urth MagazineThe 3 Best Medium Format Film Cameras · Urth Magazine

Types of medium format film cameras

Along with the various camera systems available for medium format film cameras, there are quite a few different types of cameras to choose from including point and shoot, rangefinder, single lens reflex (SLR), twin lens reflex (TLR), viewfinder, folding, and box cameras. In this section we’ll be covering each type of medium format camera in detail to help you determine which is the best choice for your photography needs.

Point and Shoot: These simple, beginner-friendly medium-format cameras have been around since the 1950s. Most come with a 50mm prime lens and basic settings like shutter speed and aperture control. Point-and-shoots give you the ability to quickly snap candid shots while still delivering quality results.

Rangefinder: Rangefinders have been around since the 1930s to compliment SLRs which relied on mirrorless designs that used an external viewfinder rather than an internal mirror system. They’re typically smaller than other medium format cameras but offer similar features such as automatic exposure control or manual settings for shutter speed and aperture control.

Single Lens Reflex (SLR): SLRs are probably one of the most popular types of medium format film cameras due to their popularity in 35mm photography from its introduction in the 1960s until it slowly faded away over time near the 21st century. SLRs feature an internal pentaprism that helps photographers accurately frame their photos before taking them which was revolutionary compared to previous designs relying on simple viewfinders alone. Manual shutter speed and aperture controls are usually included with these models too alongside other features like built-in exposure compensation or light metering depending on model type.

Twin Lens Reflex (TLR): TLRs are similar to rangefinders but feature two separate lenses; one at eye level while another behind it aimed towards your intended subject matter below you at slightly more awkward angles making them ideal for any situation where you might have trouble framing precisely what you want without relying on a second angle of vision behind you/beside you from another set lens as well as attempting cumbersome hip/shoulder shots without experiencing most negatives associated with those shooting styles such as misframing or difficulty controlling where your interchanged lens modules go when swapping between them quickly enough before potentially missing your shot opportunity all together if done incorrectly causing users frustration when trying out those methods before attempting some trial & error within TLR camera systems after researching plenty beforehand then possibly nailing down & taming their usage within their own photography workflows competently & confidently in a very short amount of time after mastering various techniques involving these types related specifically & exclusively to outfitting yourself fully armed with having prior knowledge available in hand like I’ve previously mentioned prior plus more!

Viewfinder: This style uses optics rather than an actual viewfinder so you’re looking through some kind of glass when framing your shot depending on if your model allows direct focusing through whatever kind can be found utilised within this style here.

Benefits of using medium format film cameras

Medium format film cameras offer numerous advantages over smaller formats such as 35mm. Because the medium format film size is about 4 times larger than 35mm, it provides a larger ‘negative’ to capture all the details – resulting in far superior quality images compared to those obtained with the smaller format. This detail-rich image resolution is especially beneficial for portraits, commercial photography and product shots, where critical details are essential.

Additionally, many medium format cameras have extremely precise optics and can use light efficiently while capturing maximum image detail – they tend to be extremely sharp and therefore require much less post-processing work when compared with 35mm images. This makes them ideal for studio and commercial uses where accuracy is key. They also support a variety of lenses that can be used according to your needs and preferences allowing you greater flexibility when shooting.

Lastly, because medium format cameras offer such precise accuracy in composition and control, there’s no better choice for scanning film for enlargements and printing high-quality posters or fine art prints.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Medium Format Film Camera

When choosing a medium format film camera, there are several factors to consider. What type of photography do you intend to use it for? There are primarily two types of medium format cameras: those with interchangeable lenses and those without. You may want to start by considering if you need a camera that offers interchangeable lenses, or if the lenses included with your chosen camera will be sufficient for your needs. For example, some cameras come with wide-angle or telephoto lenses which can be beneficial when taking landscape photographs or when you need to get close-up shots. Additionally, some models offer non-standard features such as tilt/shift and infrared filters which can give you more interesting photos in certain situations.

Also consider the size and weight of the medium format film camera. Many models are larger and heavier than smaller 35mm cameras due to their larger negative size (6×6 cm rather than 36x24mm). If portability is important to you, this must factor into your decision making process. Furthermore, when securing film in place, some models require more time and effort than others as they often include additional parts that make loading and winding difficult if not done properly. Finally, compare different medium format film cameras available on the market before making a purchase. Not all models provide the same features – review specs from each manufacturer carefully in order to determine what best fits your requirements in terms of style, quality and price points available.

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Film type and size

When purchasing film for your medium format camera, it is important to first consider the film type you wish to use and its size. With medium format cameras, you have many more options than the standard 35mm cameras in terms of both film types and sizes, so it is important to make the best decision for your photography style and desired results.

When looking at the different types of films available, there are two main categories: color negative films and color reversal films. Color negative films develop an image as any other negative does. Once developed, it can then be printed onto photographic paper just as a 35mm negative can. Color reversal films develop an image directly onto a slideable medium that can be viewed under a microscope or projectorun like a negative that has to first be printed before being seen on paper.

In addition to choosing the source of light captured by the camera – black and white or color – photographers must choose the size of the roll they will use with their camera likewise known as “film format”. The most common formats are 120 (also referred to as 120/220), 127, 65/122, 100/620 and 35mm; although 135 and 110 exist too. Film formats refer to length per roll in centimeters when using 120/220/127 film stocks; length is measured by edge perforation when using 65/122 or 100 film stocks; and total width in mm when deciding between 135 and 110 cassettes for outdoor-exposed images on consumer level cameras.

Careful consideration should be given to selecting an appropriate film type with regards to both desired results and also availability in your area and preferred equipment used for developing said negatives into prints. Additionally, many photographers like to experiment with multiple rolls of differentiable types and different sizes in order to move beyond expected results or better capture their chosen light source simultaneously within one roll of photos.

Camera body and lens

The camera body houses all of the essential components that make up a film camera and serves as the foundation for the entire system. It is constructed of metal, with such parts as the viewfinder, light meter, shutter release button, film advance mechanisms and exposure settings.

Many medium-format cameras also feature interchangeable lenses which allow you to customize your photographic style based on the type of lens you choose. By selecting different lens types you can expand your creativity by achieving various negative sizes and capabilities. Generally it can be classified into three: wide-angle, normal or standard and telephoto lenses. Each type of lens offers a different range of focal length, depth-of-field control, perspective distortion and maximum aperture which can be adjusted according to your personal preferences.


This guide has introduced you to the world of medium format film cameras and the unique benefits that come from using them. While digital can offer a range of extraordinary advantages, medium format film cameras have their own distinct appeal that makes them a great choice for many different types of photography.

The main benefits of shooting in medium format are the higher resolution, greater dynamic range and fine grain images they produce. In addition, medium format cameras offer more control when making exposures because they use interchangeable lenses and shutter systems. Finally, their larger film size and greater depth of field makes it easier to capture multiple elements in a single frame.

Shooting with a medium format film camera is ultimately an individual experience that every photographer will enjoy in their own way. There’s no substitute for getting out there and trying one out to see how it works for you!

Recap of the importance of using medium format film cameras

Using medium format film cameras to capture photographs can help bring truly magical images to life. Not only does the larger frame produce high-resolution images that are extremely detailed, but the full impact of a photograph shot on medium format will not be truly appreciated until a print is made and viewed in reality.

Thanks to their larger frames, medium format cameras also offer excellent depth-of-field precision. Although shutter speed, ISO, focus and other settings are still taken into account with this type of camera, their full potential will require considerable skill and knowledge to be harnessed.

When used correctly and effectively, medium format film cameras continue to offer photographers a creative advantage that digital cameras simply cannot replicate. With no digital noise or distortion due to over processing, photographers can work with higher resolutions while preserving deeper tones and better colours than ever before. The ability to produce stunningly sharp images accurately is what sets medium format photography apart from other forms of presentation creation – be it digital or analogue formats – and it’s why many photographers consider it an invaluable tool for capturing professional photographs that stand out from the rest.

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Final thoughts and recommendations

This guide has taken a brief look at the various aspects of medium format film photography, from cameras and lenses to the various film formats available. It should be remembered that medium format film allows for more control over depth of field, as well as sharper and more detailed results due to its larger sensor size. As such, these cameras are a great choice for those looking to take more creative shots with more control over composition and focus.

For those starting out with medium format photography, there are plenty of options available in terms of both cameras and lenses. It’s important to do some research beforehand so you can find the best camera and lenses that meet your budget and needs. Additionally, it’s important to test different films to find which one yields the most pleasing results for you. It’s also recommended to use or build a camera system that can accommodate different formats, as this will open up greater creative possibilities down the line when you have a solid understanding of traditional medium format photography.

Overall, we hope that this guide has allowed you to get an overview of what medium format photography can offer aspiring film photographers and has given you some food for thought about which type of equipment is right for you. Ultimately though it comes down to personal preference — so get out there and start experimenting!

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