If you’re looking to pursue photography equally a career, y’all’ve likely looked into the commercially-practiced side of the medium, only to find that high-end, rarely-affordable cameras have achieved dominion — and rightfully so. For years, the globe of medium-format photography has served every bit a mainstay for print, advertizement, and artistic expression, with the appearance of pocket-size, course-fitting file sizes, photographic camera bodies, and development arriving but inside the concluding 20 years.
While many of the industry’s gimmicky medium- and big-format systems are a bit “out of reach” for aspiring creators, that doesn’t mean that getting your hands on a reliable platform has to be difficult. In fact, it’due south relatively like shooting fish in a barrel — if, and only if, you’re willing to make some concessions. The truth is, retro and vintage cameras are a fantastic style to dip your toes into the globe of medium-format, thanks to their affordable price, interesting aesthetic, and illustrious history. This makes it like shooting fish in a barrel to round up a handful of the past’due south most prolific variants, which nosotros’ve done beneath. If y’all can look by the cornball body, film-focused back, and archaic systems, you’ll observe something of pure beauty. And for your efforts, you’ll be rewarded, whether that be through noesis, understanding, or a newfound appreciation for the photographic medium.
What Is A Medium-Format Camera?
Complex For Complication’s Sake
In the past, analog-based medium-format cameras were a dime a dozen. Nearly all of them utilized an manufacture-favorite 120 film size and called upon a 43.8×32.9mm to 53.7×twoscore.2mm format that was dwarfed past the mutual large-format at the fourth dimension, an extensive 102x127mm. While the size and structures of these camera’southward varied, they stood caput and shoulders above the 36x24mm variants introduced at a after date (under the monicker of the full-frame camera). Today, APS-C and full-frame formats tin can be institute in almost every consumer camera, adopting either a one.6x ingather (for APS-C) or the same 35mm integrity found in the 36x24mm of old.
Only why does size matter? In layman’due south terms, medium-format brings with it a slew of advantages over its APS-C or total-frame counterparts, including unparalleled accuracy when information technology comes to color reproduction, exceptional paradigm quality, and iconic lineage. If you think of a medium-format camera’due south performance in terms of a mod DSLR or mirrorless camera, y’all tin can surmise that a bigger sensor would mean more “megapixels” — in turn, these larger variants resolve more detail and colour than their 35mm counterparts. For commercial, fashion, and architectural work, this ways that photographers will have access to roughly 70% larger photos than those taken on a contemporary full-frame camera, making them highly sought after for magazine and editorial shooting. Tack on the fact that 6×6 and 6×seven orientations are considered to be the industry standard for print and editorial work, and you’ll understand why medium-format is a natural, less invasive solution to resizing and cropping. At present that yous have a foundational knowledge of the medium-format photographic camera, let’south dive into our picks.
Retro & Vintage
The Most Obtainable Icons
Zeiss Super Ikonta B 532/16
Zeiss is a legendary name within the earth of high-stop optics, and since the visitor’s formulation virtually one-half a century before Leica, it’due south safe to say that their cameras and lenses are among the best. The Super Ikonta B 532/16, which was produced from 1937 until 1955, is ane such example. Even after all these years, the Super Ikonta is considered one of the most capable medium format cameras to accept ever been devised, and thanks to the introduction of more advanced camera platforms, its price is inconsequential. This folding variant produces 11 6×vi images and uses 120-type curl film — a departure from the traditional 12 of the era — to remedy problems that its predecessor had with frame overlapping, and was frequently paired with a Tessar ii.8/80 mm lens to cater toward amateur photographers who had an interest in larger formats, and didn’t want to buy into Zeiss’ less-favored Contax 35mm platform.
If you’re an avid connoisseur of retro and vintage photographic camera bodies, Minolta’south proper noun should be immediately recognizable. In the early days of medium-format photography, the company released a handful of variants to compete with brands like Rolleicord and, most notably, Rolleiflex. During the 30s, 40s, and 50s, the Japanese twin-lens-reflex market place grew considerably, leaving fiddling room for underwhelming products that couldn’t stand the test of time. To compete, the Autocord was created as an affordable variant that was priced well below that of its counterparts. But, that doesn’t mean that its functioning was any less attractive to prospective photographers. Each variant introduced a creepo film advance with automatic shutter cocking and frame counting and was paired with an industry-revered Tessar-blazon four-chemical element Rokkor f/three.5 lens to create stunning photos in either a 12 or 24 exposure count. As with most cameras in the era, 120-type roll picture was the baseline, and today, the Autocord is still regarded every bit one of the all-time retro medium-format cameras around.
On the surface, Mamiya’s reputation every bit a medium-format company is unparalleled. Consequently, platforms similar the RB 67 are ritually sought-subsequently past retro camera aficionados, collectors, and aspiring shooters, even though information technology made its debut all the way back in 1970. The camera’s latest iteration, the Pro SD, is a single-lens reflex model that’due south been lauded as the “workhorse of the pros,” thanks to advents in the photographic infinite that came well later the medium’due south Golden Era in the 1930s and 40s. Modernized (for the period) implementations like a revolving dorsum, multi-format adaptability, and bellows focusing made the Mamiya RB 67 a strong photographic camera for professional use, and its iconic, fully-mechanical standing has fabricated information technology a go-to platform for every shade of medium-format shooter since. Regardless, the camera still utilizes 120- or 220-blazon roll film backs and calls upon either 10, or 20 exposure increments to supplement its 6 × 7 formats.
Rolleicord has fostered a reputation equally one of the industry’s longest-running camera manufacturers, and from the time the initial model (aptly named “Rolleicord) was introduced in 1933 until product was inevitably ceased in 1977, its durable models were seen every bit an manufacture mainstay. The Rolleicord V, which was produced from 1954 until 1957, is maybe its most legendary TLR, calling upon 120-blazon roll film to capture 12 six×6 exposures. At its front, a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 3.5 75mm lens lends its forcefulness to the 5 — a platform that introduced piecemeal iterations of a Deckel Synchro-Compur MXV/CR00 shutter, self-timer, and M flash-synchronisation.
The latter half of the 1950s were dominated by Yashica-Mat, a company that produced affordable, intuitive vi×6 cameras for the masses. These simplistic knob accelerate and creepo advance TLR models brought a 75mm 3.five Lumaxar to the forefront, a series of lenses that have a shrouded by equally either Japanese or German language variants that were made to mimic the Tessar-type stylings of the era. As such, it utilizes the aforementioned 120 roll film every bit its counterparts and produces 12 stunning 6×6 frames per roll. Although the company’s other offerings, the LM, EM, and 124 /124G improved upon the shortcomings of the original, the Yashica-Mat remains one of the most iconic, and sought-after medium format cameras from the generation.
Bronica’s SQ series was created to bring a mod flair to the medium format mural, and for the near role, it succeeded in its role. Making its debut in 1980, the leafage shutter-based silhouette called upon an updated, Seiko-manufactured electronic shutter and an interchangeable back system assuasive for employ with either 120, or 220 (12/24) film backs. A pairing of an ISO speed punch and metered finders set the half dozen×6 apart from its brethren, evolving into the updated SQ-A, which was released in 1982 with a newly-developed mirror lockup/viewfinder organization that supported machine exposure. Simply, with modernistic photographic camera systems similar the digital single-lens reflex coming into play during the late 1980s, and early 1990s, it wasn’t long earlier the demand for complex medium-format cameras reduced drastically. In 2003, Bronica airtight its doors with the release of the SQ-Ai; and today, the original SQ-A is still sought after by many professional and amateur photographers who are looking to delve into the medium-format world.
Mamiya is making its 2nd appearance on this list with the 645AFD — an upgrade to the visitor’s lauded 4.five×6 645AF, and compatible with modernistic digital backs at the plough of the century. In 2001, the AFD fabricated its debut, accenting the company’s first auto-focus camera model with a versatile digital back that could be swapped to, and from film mid-roll, bridging the gap between the industry’s more than cut-edge models, and its film-focused progenitors. At its front, a newly-developed bayonet lens mount was introduced to piece of work aslope modern autofocus lens suites, changing the game for medium-format photographers who had spent the majority of their lives working on manually-focused models. As is the example with the vast portion of its medium-format brethren, the 645AF and AFD utilized either a 120 or 220 movie roll, with a rotating pressure plate that could be adjusted to permit the differing thicknesses.
Maybe the about famous name in the medium-format industry belongs to Hasselblad, a Swedish camera manufacturer founded in 1941. Though the company has received endless praise for its precision optics, sharp imagery, and dependable photographic camera bodies, the 500C/1000 is remembered as i of the most legendary platforms in the history of the medium, thank you to its innovative backstory. After creating both the 1600F and 1000F some years prior, the 500C/M was proposed equally a replacement photographic camera to remedy irreconcilable problems with the company’s shutter system. As such, information technology was built, quite literally, from the ground upwards, introducing a newly-developed Compur shutter that mimicked the tried-and-true system popularized past Zeiss. The resulting 6×6 series was imbued with an interchangeable focusing screen and an improved automatic back that could have on a 12-shot 120 picture roll, and boasted 1 of the industry’s fastest wink synchronization systems at all shutter speeds, making it a become-to platform for professional studio photography.
Modern & Magnificent
The Contemporary Standard
Hasselblad X1D II 50C
Looking toward the time to come, Hasselblad developed the X1D 2 50C, a sleek, stunning camera body that embodies the heart and soul of today’s medium-format systems. Aside from its award-winning design, this portable photo device has been upgraded with a slew of modern upgrades, including a 3.six-inch touch-screen display, a crisp electronic viewfinder, and a live review interface that offers a substantial improvement over platforms of old. To keep the revered Hasselblad name intact, a stunning 50-megapixel sensor has been implemented aslope the company’south bespoke color solution, which retains a recognizable expect unlike than whatsoever other organisation on the market. And with 16-scrap RAW images at its beck and call, information technology’s go a surefire sign of status and professionalism within the photographic realm, finding utilize within a number of high-profile studios since its debut.
Fujifilm GFX 100
Fujifilm’s presence inside the world of photography is never understated, and as one of the almost fourth dimension-tested brands in the industry, its expertise is undecayed and true. Recently, the outfit revealed its GFX 100, an ultra-attractive medium-format monster that calls upon a 100-megapixel CMOS sensor to do its behest. To call this camera a medium-format model might exist an injustice, simply the proof is in the pudding; a modernistic-day Ten-Processor 4, 4K video capabilities, 10-flake color depth, and full-sensor stage-detection provide a well-rounded (albeit, overzealous) alternative to whatsoever professional person shooter who’s looking to take his workflow to the next level. Atmospheric condition resistance and lightweight capability bated, the GFX 100’s $ten,000 price tag might be a chip steep for the aspiring medium-format photographer who’s hoping to get his feet wet. Then, for now, information technology’south best that we admire from afar.
PhaseOne XF IQ4
There are few modern medium-format platforms worth their salt, merely the PhaseOne XF IQ4 takes the block in nearly every category. This 150-megapixel behemoth is the industry standard for medium and large-format work, providing unparalleled resolution, incomprehensible detail, and dynamic RAW images that tin can exist pushed and pulled for mesmerizing results. There’s not much else to say about the king of cameras, and with a price tag of $50,000+, you’d be lucky to prove to one in your lifetime.
On The Precepice
Leica’south iconic proper noun carries hard-hitting weight within the industry, and when it’southward non creating some of the nearly minimalistic, monumental photographic camera platforms around, it’s innovating upon the medium’s cutting-edge systems. A recent announcement from the visitor has slated the upcoming S3 — a comprehensive, tailor-made platform that promises to change the landscape of photography as a whole — for release erstwhile in 2022, calling upon a robust 64-megapixel Leica ProFormat sensor, medium-format Cine 4K video, and outstanding adjustability to create something truly special.
Learn More: Leica
The 8 Best Monochrome Cameras For Black & White Photography
Now that you’ve become a scrap more than aware of the vintage photographic camera space, caput over to our guide on the best monochrome cameras for black & white photography to peruse some of history’s virtually iconic capture devices.
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