Medium format camera

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Medium format two-lens camera

In medium format cameras is photographic cameras with a larger recording format than in the small-format photography . As a result, the focal lengths of normal lenses are greater than for 35 mm camera systems. In other words, which is focal length extension factor (engl. Crop Factor) compared with the small image size is smaller than 1. The edge length of the smallest analog medium format is 6 cm × 4.5 cm (label 645 ). The smallest digital medium format is the Fujifilm GFX system with an image sensor measuring 4.38 cm × 3.29 cm.

Films and formats

120 roll film, empty and full spool
Comparison of the recording formats of the APS, small format and medium format (see main article recording format )

All roll film formats are rounded dimensions, the exact values ​​see under roll film .

Type 120 and 220

The film most widely used in medium format cameras is the 120 type roll film, professional cameras also record the 220 type, which is twice as long, so that medium format film usually means these two types. The most common format is 6 cm × 6 cm (i.e. square), but 6 cm × 7 cm and 6 cm × 4.5 cm are also widespread, the latter allowing smaller and lighter camera designs ( 645 cameras ). The image format 6 cm × 8 cm is used by the Fuji GX680 and the two rangefinder cameras Fuji GW680III and GSW680III; for the Mamiya RB67 Pro SD there were 6 × 8 backs.

The 6 cm × 9 cm format is less common in professional use, but was standard for box and folding cameras . Today this format is mainly used for roll film backs on view cameras . Panoramic cameras such as the Linhof Technorama play a special role , which, depending on the model, allows recordings up to 6 cm × 17 cm.

Type 127

The smaller roll film of the type 127 in the case of the 4 cm × 6.5 cm format also belongs to the medium format, although it was still viewed as a 35mm format when it was released. In most cases, however, this film was exposed with 35mm formats. Cameras for this have practically no longer been built since the early 1970s.

Instant film

The medium format also includes most instant films, which are used both in the backs of professional cameras for checking the lighting in advance, as well as in special instant cameras .

Digital technology

Due to the high prices for medium-format sensors, digital technology is mainly used in the professional sector. In addition to cameras, digital backs are also offered. They accommodate the modular system of many manufacturers and can also be connected to view cameras (with various adapters) . Manufacturers of digital medium format cameras are currently (as of September 2012) such as DHW Photo Technology , Fujifilm , Hasselblad , Mamiya , Sinar , Phase One , Leica and Pentax .

Digital backs are also offered by third-party manufacturers. Nowadays ( as of March 2006) mainly medium format sensors of the size 36 mm × 48 mm are manufactured. Most manufacturers sell back parts with different numbers of pixels ("resolution"), with the same geometric sensor size, in order to meet different requirements. So there are z. B. Models with 22, 33, 39 or 80 megapixels (as of November 2011). The pixel size varies, mostly between 7 and 9 μm. Manufacturers of the sensors built into the back parts (as of April 2012) are z. B. Phase One , Dalsa and Kodak .

The advantages of digital photography are above all the possibility of immediate control of the result and thus faster work, as well as lower running costs, since nothing more needs to be developed or digitized.

Camera types

Viewfinder cameras

Box camera
Foldable walking floor camera

There are hardly any more professional cameras than rangefinder cameras, especially in medium format.

The older box camera was always a viewfinder and medium format camera for the various roll film formats. These rather simple cameras were sold in very large numbers until around 1960 and then almost completely replaced by 35mm film . In addition to the classic box shape, there were variants of the box with very fashionably designed plastic housings. The boundaries between the one-eyed box camera and the two-eyed viewfinder or reflex camera are fluid.

A mostly simple camera with a regular housing shape was the last design of the box for many manufacturers.

For the professional as well as for the amateur sector there were numerous bellows cameras with lenses and shutters of various quality levels. With different back parts, interchangeable lenses, flashes and other system components, the press cameras certainly represented an upper limit early on. The first instant cameras were also designed as bellows cameras, which had a positive effect on size and weight. A current representative of the medium format rangefinder camera is the GF670 ( 6 ×  6/6 × 7) manufactured by Fuji , which is sold outside of Japan as Voigtländer Bessa III.

Single-lens reflex cameras

Single-lens reflex camera with fisheye lens and light shaft finder
Medium format single lens reflex camera with a 300 mm lens

Among the professional cameras, the single -lens reflex cameras are by far the most common, which mostly consist of a mirror box, a detachable film magazine and the lens. In 1948, Hasselblad introduced the first 6 × 6 medium format camera in a modular design (Hasselblad 1600F). This camera allowed the exchange of lenses, viewfinders and film magazines. The shape familiar from the 35mm camera with a built-in penta prism viewfinder is also available in medium format. The foldable Polaroid single-lens reflex camera was of great importance for instant cameras.

The degree of automation is much lower than what you are used to from conventional 35mm cameras. There are a few models with autofocus , such as the Rolleiflex 6008AF , but usually manual focusing is required. The film is also often transported manually. However, this is also perceived as less annoying, since the main area of ​​application is beyond action photography. The interchangeable magazines allow the type of film to be changed quickly (color / black and white film, color reversal / color negative film, etc.). In addition, there are 50 magazines that are loaded with perforated 70 mm film. The interchangeable lenses are available for many medium format camera model series in the range from about 35 mm to 1000 mm. In addition - as with 35mm photography - extensive system accessories are offered: exchangeable focusing screens, motor drives, bellows adjustment devices, intermediate rings, IR, remote and radio triggers as well as system-compliant flash units.

Two-lens reflex cameras

Two-lens reflex camera

The two-lens reflex camera ("Twin Lens Reflex", TLR) is now of little importance, but it was once the typical design for a medium-format reflex camera. The model “Rolleiflex” from the manufacturer Rollei from 1929 is ancestor . There have been and are numerous replicas of it. In the case of two-lens cameras, the lens is usually permanently installed. DHW Photo Technology in Braunschweig , the successor company of Franke & Heidecke , manufactured the legendary two-eyed 6 × 6 in three versions until 2015. At photokina 2012, a new edition of the two-lens 6 × 6 medium format camera was presented as the Rolleiflex FX-N.

Special cameras

Panoramic cameras, for example the Noblex or the Seitz Roundshot, should be mentioned as special cameras . Similarly, there are professional cameras in medium format (eg. As of Linhof , Arca-Swiss , Rollei , Fuji ), the changing magazines for image sizes 4.5 cm x 6 cm to 6 cm x 9 cm use.


height and weight

Medium format cameras usually differ considerably in weight from 35mm cameras: if a 35mm system can be put together for an extremely universal application with just five to six kilograms, then ten to twelve kilograms should be budgeted for with a 6 cm × 6 cm camera. This means that medium format photographers are much more dependent on a vehicle for transport. There is also such a difference in the case of a camera with a built-in normal lens . The box cameras were not heavy thanks to their simple sheet metal construction, but they were quite large, which accelerated their replacement.


Components of a system camera in medium format

Professional medium format cameras are naturally considerably more expensive than comparable 35 mm cameras. On the one hand, this is due to the small numbers, but above all to the technical effort. The lenses in particular have to be kept more complex so that they also illuminate the larger image circle with good quality. A normal roll film costs as much as a 35mm film, but allows fewer recordings. In the case of slide projection, expensive glass frames cannot be avoided, since otherwise no acceptable flatness is possible. After all, digital backs for medium format cameras are so expensive that amateurs can only rarely buy them. The digitization of photography thus relegates medium formats to the area of ​​professional photography, where they are also coming under pressure from ever higher resolution 35mm cameras.

Depth of field

Since the lenses of medium format cameras have a longer focal length than those of the 35mm cameras (a normal lens for 6 cm × 6 cm is, for example, 85 mm), they offer a smaller depth of field . This has the great advantage that objects can be cut out very easily, i.e. can be distinguished from them by a blurred background. However, if a larger focus area is required, large aperture values ​​(i.e. a small aperture opening) and, as a result, long exposure times are required.


A so-called sports seeker
Folding camera with viewfinder and coupled range finder

The SLR cameras are usually operated with a light shaft viewfinder, even if it can be exchanged for a prism viewfinder on some models. Due to the large picture format, the picture can be judged excellently, this is an essential difference to the small picture when taking pictures. The light shaft finder usually has a grid. It shows the picture the wrong way round, which takes getting used to, but in the opinion of many professionals it allows a better assessment - and thus composition - of the motif for reasons of brain physiology and perception psychology .

Even with a prism viewfinder, the image from a medium format camera is very large and therefore easy to look at.

In addition, there are viewfinder constructions of different quality and design that were common then and now, depending on the camera construction and the time of origin. The spectrum ranges from a simple frame finder made of wire, sheet metal or plastic to the box's diamond finder to the optical attachable viewfinder of a special camera.

picture quality

Size comparison: roll film 120 on the left, 35mm film on the right. In contrast to 35mm film, roll film is imperforate .

It is true that medium format lenses cannot offer the same resolution as 35 mm lenses, i.e. they can depict as many lines per millimeter, which is why the approximately four times larger 6 cm × 6 cm format does not also offer four times higher resolution; a considerable increase in quality is nevertheless possible. However, this requires some effort. That means: With a medium format camera you do not automatically get better quality. Using a tripod cannot be avoided in most cases. On the one hand, the stopping down, which is often necessary for the benefit of depth of field, leads to exposure times that can no longer be managed hands-free, but the shallow depth of field can also be used creatively (e.g. for portraits, keyword bokeh ). On the other hand, the large mirror of the single-lens reflex cameras sometimes leads to vibrations that z. B. make a 130  s by hand almost impossible (depending on the camera model and the release technology). This is where the decisive advantage of two-eyed cameras lies - the release process is barely noticeable because there is no mirror movement, only the shutter is released. Since the lenses are mostly less bright than in the 35mm range, it makes sense to compensate for this with a highly sensitive film (again, depending on the system, the usual aperture f2.8-f4, also f2 possible, but at a higher price). The coarser grain size of photosensitive films reduces the factor that can be enlarged without the viewer noticing the grain. Often, however, film grain can also be used as a creative pictorial medium.

For a long time, photo editors preferred medium format slides, which was not only due to the quality, but also to the comfortable viewing of the images on the light table. In addition, it was possible to work more carelessly during reproduction because of the lower magnification required.

Areas of application

Nowadays, medium format cameras are predominantly used by professional photographers, because they focus more on image quality than on the "successful snapshot". It remains the most popular format for commercial productions and advertising photography. The speed or the distance to the subject play a rather subordinate role here. The larger and brighter viewfinder image offers advantages in terms of image composition and the modular system from many manufacturers allows flexible use. Medium-format cameras are also popular in the arts and crafts (“fine art”) and among committed amateurs due to the fall in used prices.

Due to their larger design, medium format cameras cannot be used quite as spontaneously as their 35mm counterparts. In the field of action, sports or animal photography, they are therefore used less often, because with distant subjects they quickly reach system-related limits. Medium format telephoto lenses are heavy and expensive, and extreme focal lengths are not available at all. Most manufacturers end the range with 300 mm telephoto lenses, which corresponds to approximately five times magnification at 6 cm × 6 cm.

See also


  • Adrian Bircher: Medium Format Photo School. Photography, Gilching 1991, ISBN 3-933131-08-1 .
  • Andreas Feininger: The high school of photography. Heyne, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-453-41219-2 .
  • Andreas Feininger: Andreas Feininger's great photo apprenticeship. Econ, Düsseldorf 1979, Heyne, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-453-17975-7 .
  • Ernst A. Weber: Photo internship. Birkhäuser, Basel 2003, ISBN 3-7643-6689-3 .

Web links

Commons : Medium Format Cameras  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Linhof Präzisions-Systemtechnik GmbH: Linhof accessories 9 × 12 cm / 4 × 5 inch cameras. Archived from the original on April 7, 2015 ; Retrieved July 8, 2016 . Komamura Corp .: Horseman universal accessories: Roll Film Holders. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012 ; Retrieved July 8, 2016 .
  2. DHW Photo Technology website for the Rolleiflex 6008AF
  3. ^ Announcement of DHW Photo Technology innovations for Photokina 2012