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Reasons for MF in 2021

dougpeterson

Workshop Member
The question in photography is easy: Do I like the photography I am producing? The answer should be yes. If no, then you need to find the solution. That might be technical, that might not. But technical criteria does not give any intrinsic value. Take any photograph from any point in history and the technology does not represent its value.
I'd offer that, at least for commercial shooters "do my clients like the photography I'm producing?" is a factor, and for most everyone "am I enjoying the process of making the photography I'm producing?" is also a factor.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
I'd offer that, at least for commercial shooters "do my clients like the photography I'm producing?" is a factor, and for most everyone "am I enjoying the process of making the photography I'm producing?" is also a factor.
That is why I clarified my comment. There are millions of uses for photography and for many of them enjoyment or satisfaction in the images has nothing to do with it, even with medium-format cameras. Sometime photography is just boring and repetitive yet must meet certain quality thresholds. However, people come to GetPDI because of the enjoyment they derive from photography. Which is why I post my personal pictures, not the ones I took with a one million dollar Leica imaging system. Those images, while interesting from a scientific point of view, are not very interesting beyond that. And to be honest, running a confocal microscope is not much "fun."
 

ErikKaffehr

Well-known member
Why to go Medium Format these days? Is there still any rational behind? What are the intentions we have going that way and spend a lot of money?
Sensor resolution is going up also in full frame (24x36) in the next months to 100MP, the frame rat is up to 30 full frame, Sensitivity goes down to -7, so we are lucky in photography heaven coming from ISO 50 film and we do have a camera always with us ready to start pictures and videos fitting in our pockets the smartphone.
I don't think that 30 FPS is beneficial for MFD users.
So is it the sensor size? Is it the mysterious name "Medium Format " or the acronyms like Hasselblad or Rollei? We are not free of influences. F.e. A Hasselblad X1 is small as a 24x36 camera. Is it the sensor size? I suggest Sony and Canon to have much better processing power and much better software algorithms because they have more money to invest. So isn`t a high end Sony or Canon or.. better (?) than a X1? So Fuji has gone an interesting way with there 50 or 100 series. A lot of modern sensor technology and processing. So it looks like market share gives them the lead.
There are advantages to larger sensor formats. Basically, larger formats can collect more photons, that will improve things like SNR and DR.

It may be argued that it is easier to design an excellent lens for MFD compared to smaller formats. I don't know if that is entirely true. But good lenses for 24x36 mm are usually fast lenses, while MFD lenses are mostly not built for speed.

Most modern MFD cameras use Sony sensors.
So pure resolution and sensor size (the Phase One way) are no garants for success.
So market leaders especially like Sony and Canon are offering this year extremely advanced cameras. Smartphones are near perfect daily companions, so why to carry a lot of kilograms around from a niche system?
So please lets discuss
Please take a look also to the tread "why do cameras look the way they do" republished from luminous landscape
I would think that there are a lot of objective facts talking for the GFX 100. That system is designed around the 33x44 mm sensor.

But, having a digital back has it's benefits, too, at least when used on a technical camera.

In the long run, I would think the question answers it self. MFD cameras will be made as long as there is a demand and buyers willing to pay the price.

The question if there is a need for MFD is more difficult to answer. For that you would need to define the term 'need'.

The image above was shot with two cameras Hasselblad 555/ELD with a Sonnar 100/3.5 CF at f/8 (I think) and Sony A7rII with a Voigtlander 65/2 at f/5.6.

Full size image is here: https://photos.smugmug.com/Tankworthy/i-jPx2cLd/0/8a495bbf/O/HalfAndHalf.jpg

Would I define my needs, that would be:
  • Wide range of focal lengths.
  • Ability to use lens movements (tilt and shift)
  • Enough detail for my print sizes
  • Magnified live view with peaking, for accurate focusing
My, Sony system does that, so my MFD gear is seldom first choice for shooting. But, different users have different needs, perceived or real.

Best regards
Erik
 

Geoff

Active member
Simply put, the look is different.

Its different in several ways:
- composing the image - the lens' qualities, camera operation, and composition all contribute to a shift in what one sees and is looking for in the image.
- capturing the image - the user tends to exert more control over exposure by working slower, and the hardware likely has better D/A converters and color sensitivity in the files
- processed image - larger file sizes allow, permit, or encourage differences in the output over smaller format. Sometimes this is the photographer's voice with more sensitivity to texture, other times it simply allows for more refinement in the output.

Not all of these are in play all the time. More importantly, each of these can largely be achieved by other means. However, all of these together give MF a subtle, but important difference from other configurations. If these don't matter for one's work (and there is plenty of work where these aren't important), or if one doesn't benefit from these, then there is no need to use MF.
 

Jared

Member
Generally speaking, sensor designers make essentially the same sensor in multiple sizes. For example, the Sony IMX411, IMX461, IMX455, and IMX571 are all basically the same sensor, just in 48x60mm, 33x44mm, 24x36mm, and APS-C sizes. Same pixel pitch, same bit depth, similar read noise and full well capacity, etc. As long as the latest/greatest sensors are made in all the various sizes, larger formats will always have an advantage in terms of image quality. Large size medium format > mini medium format > full frame > APS-C > 4/3" > 1". That can't and want change.

It's up to the photographer to find the right system. That means image quality that is sufficient for purpose, lens and accessory availability that meets your needs, camera performance that lets you get the shot you want, and a price that is affordable for you. For any given photographer, any of the above systems might be the "best". If you shoot sports and action, for example, there is no way you should choose a medium format camera. Nothing wrong with the systems, but they aren't remotely as "fast" as full frame or smaller systems. If you are a professional landscape photographer, a 1" sensor isn't going to be the right choice. If you shoot birds or wildlife, there's a good chance APS-C or full frame will offer you the right balance, not because of the format but because of the lenses and field of view you're going to want.

There is no chance--zero--that medium format will lose its advantage in image quality as long as sensor makers keep the technology the same across sizes. However, it is possible that full frame (or APS-C) will become "good enough" in terms of image quality that even demanding landscape and product photographers no longer need or want larger sensors, and it is equally possible that the market for medium format contracts so much that chip manufacturers STOP making the best chips in those sizes. Neither has happened yet, but either could. The Fujifilm medium format system seems to have reasonably strong support, but I suspect Phase and Hasselblad are struggling with their 48x60mm systems. Your crystal ball is as good as mine, I'm sure.
 
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SrMphoto

Active member
Generally speaking, sensor designers make essentially the same sensor in multiple sizes. For example, the Sony IMX411, IMX461, IMX455, and IMX571 are all basically the same sensor, just in 48x60mm, 33x44mm, 24x36mm, and APS-C sizes. Same pixel pitch, same bit depth, similar read noise and full well capacity, etc. As long as the latest/greatest sensors are made in all the various sizes, larger formats will always have an advantage in terms of image quality. Large size medium format > mini medium format > full frame > APS-C > 4/3" > 1". That can't and want change.

It's up to the photographer to find the right system. That means image quality that is sufficient for purpose, lens and accessory availability that meets your needs, camera performance that lets you get the shot you want, and a price that is affordable for you. For any given photographer, any of the above systems might be the "best". If you shoot sports and action, for example, there is no way you should choose a medium format camera. Nothing wrong with the systems, but they aren't remotely as "fast" as full frame or smaller systems. If you are a professional landscape photographer, a 1" sensor isn't going to be the right choice. If you shoot birds or wildlife, there's a good chance APS-C or full frame will offer you the right balance, not because of the format but because of the lenses and field of view you're going to want.

There is no chance--zero--that medium format will lose its advantage in image quality as long as sensor makers keep the technology the same across sizes. However, it is possible that full frame (or APS-C) will become "good enough" in terms of image quality that even demanding landscape and product photographers no longer need or want larger sensors, and it is equally possible that the market for medium format contracts so much that chip manufacturers STOP making the best chips in those sizes. Neither has happened yet, but either could. The Fujifilm medium format system seems to have reasonably strong support, but I suspect Phase and Hasselblad are struggling with their 48x60mm systems. Your crystal ball is as good as mine, I'm sure.
How do you define image quality?
It is measurable that larger sensors have better SNR/DR. However, if you expose an image on the MF camera one-stop below its best ETTR setting, you will have worse SNR than an FF camera at the ETTR setting.
 

Steve Hendrix

Active member
I am really hesitant to add anything to this (and yet, Steve, you are, you fool....).

I've been reading through some of this. The vast majority of photographers shoot 35mm. So whether medium format should matter - which seems to be what the point of this thread is - is almost irrelevant. The majority have spoken. And yet, to some, it still does matter. Do you want to say that medium format is dead? It is far from it. But you'll end up chasing your tail to arrive at why. And nothing I have read so far comes anywhere close to completely explaining the allure of medium format. Arriving at a cohesive, conclusive reason is a fools errand. Believe me, I've tried. I've asked my clients many times - Why? I never get the same answer. I rarely get an answer that could be turned into a reason that might mean something to someone else. There is no consensus. If you try to pin it down to some sort of performance metric or a quality element, you'll likely fail to arrive at why some continue to choose medium format.

Personally, I'll throw one reason in there - to me, 35mm cameras are about as interesting to shoot with as Toyota Cameras are to drive (sorry, Camry owners).


Steve Hendrix/CI
 

Jared

Member
How do you define image quality?
It is measurable that larger sensors have better SNR/DR. However, if you expose an image on the MF camera one-stop below its best ETTR setting, you will have worse SNR than an FF camera at the ETTR setting.
That seems like saying, “Yes, you have a fancy sports car, but if you don’t drive it quickly my sedan can be faster.” Wouldn’t you have to compare like-for-like to have a meaningful comparison? ETTR in both? Or at least use the same exposure in both?
 

SrMphoto

Active member
That seems like saying, “Yes, you have a fancy sports car, but if you don’t drive it quickly my sedan can be faster.” Wouldn’t you have to compare like-for-like to have a meaningful comparison? ETTR in both? Or at least use the same exposure in both?
That is not what I meant to convey. I love shooting with MF cameras. My point was that one measurable advantage of MF can be eliminated if I do not put an effort into the exposure.
 

docholliday

Active member
I am really hesitant to add anything to this (and yet, Steve, you are, you fool....).

I've been reading through some of this. The vast majority of photographers shoot 35mm. So whether medium format should matter - which seems to be what the point of this thread is - is almost irrelevant. The majority have spoken. And yet, to some, it still does matter. Do you want to say that medium format is dead? It is far from it. But you'll end up chasing your tail to arrive at why. And nothing I have read so far comes anywhere close to completely explaining the allure of medium format. Arriving at a cohesive, conclusive reason is a fools errand. Believe me, I've tried. I've asked my clients many times - Why? I never get the same answer. I rarely get an answer that could be turned into a reason that might mean something to someone else. There is no consensus. If you try to pin it down to some sort of performance metric or a quality element, you'll likely fail to arrive at why some continue to choose medium format.

Personally, I'll throw one reason in there - to me, 35mm cameras are about as interesting to shoot with as Toyota Cameras are to drive (sorry, Camry owners).


Steve Hendrix/CI
I definitely agree with that last sentence... though I have a full 1DX system for speed/incliment weather usage, I don't use it often. My biggest issue with many small format systems is that there is too many menus, too much automation (which has screwed up many a shot due to the camera trying to auto-think something for me), and to me, too cumbersome to use. The 1DX handles well and feels good in my hands, but most cameras like most Nikons, the 5-series Canons (even with a grip), and anything mirrorless simply is painful, clunky, or kludgy to me.

Yet, in anything fast paced, the automation does come in nice and provides "more keepers" than it would shooting MF or LF. That automation, while helping in those situations, does make for one hellu'va boring experience when not shooting for work. There's a reason I take my H5X/IQ250 (backup camera) or H6 on vacation. In the film days, I traveled all over with a 203FE and 50FE/110FE combination. Having taken the 1DX on vacation before with a 35/1.4 or 40/2.8 or 24-70/2.8, the resulting images were definitely more spray-n-auto-pray feeling than thought out images off the MF. That made the whole shooting experience feel like time wasted.

Of course, you'd never catch me with the LF gear on vacation...that's just starts to feel like work again. One week long trip with my Wisner 4x5 was enough.
 

rdeloe

Active member
There's definitely a strong emotion/preference component. I have a perfectly good Fuji X-T2, and I know that I can use it to make excellent, publishable work. It does things I can't do with my 50R + VX23D outfit. Logically, I should be using it, but every time I do, in the back of my mind I know what the image I'm thinking about making could be like if I used my 50R, and that spoils it for me. It's not rational, but there you go.
 
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sixby45

Member
I am really hesitant to add anything to this (and yet, Steve, you are, you fool....).

I've been reading through some of this. The vast majority of photographers shoot 35mm. So whether medium format should matter - which seems to be what the point of this thread is - is almost irrelevant. The majority have spoken. And yet, to some, it still does matter. Do you want to say that medium format is dead? It is far from it. But you'll end up chasing your tail to arrive at why. And nothing I have read so far comes anywhere close to completely explaining the allure of medium format. Arriving at a cohesive, conclusive reason is a fools errand. Believe me, I've tried. I've asked my clients many times - Why? I never get the same answer. I rarely get an answer that could be turned into a reason that might mean something to someone else. There is no consensus. If you try to pin it down to some sort of performance metric or a quality element, you'll likely fail to arrive at why some continue to choose medium format.

Personally, I'll throw one reason in there - to me, 35mm cameras are about as interesting to shoot with as Toyota Cameras are to drive (sorry, Camry owners).


Steve Hendrix/CI

Hi Steve, and members of the forum :) I agree - there is something intangible about our medium format rigs. I've shot aps-c through medium format, and film up to 4x5 - however for some reason some cameras are just fun for me to use on an emotional level, and to my eyes I see the tiny differences in the way that sensors and lenses seem to draw. This may all be in my head, but I for one love working with my phase one / H systems for digital capture, and 6x6 for film work. Just my own preference and I've tried all sorts of interesting cameras until settling on the current setups :) At the end of the day I try to get enjoyment out of the systems, and pick the ones that make me go "ooo I should go shoot that and see what it looks like"!

-Rich
 

Abstraction

Active member
As you can see by the answers above, there is no rational reason for going with MF. It all comes down to the intangibles. FF seems to be the most flexible format with great and fast lenses. The cameras can be had for a lot less and so can the lenses unless you're in the Fuji camp. Their lenses seem to be more or less on par cost wise with the very best of FF lenses.

Theoretically, the bigger the sensor, the better. However, given that 33x44 is only 67% bigger, it translates to being 2/3 stops better and that's pretty marginal.

So, in the end, it comes down to making sacrifices in AF, lens and shooting speeds to squeeze an extra 2/3 stop in signal to noise ratio. Each person decides whether that's worth it based on their shooting style, budget and the need for versatility.

Now, if they were to make a 6x7 sensor and sold those cameras for $5k, then it would be a COMPLETELY different conversation.
 

stngoldberg

Well-known member
IMHO, a well crafted photograph is not about 2/3 of an f stop, nor the size of the sensor; it’s about a composition that speaks to the viewer.
i can’t compose as well with my Sony as I can with my technical camera with a medium format back. The ability to shift and swing while my camera is level affords me possibilities that I may later crop, but the additional information is there for an opportunity to create whatever creative thoughts that occur to me.
stanley
 

tcdeveau

Well-known member
IMHO, a well crafted photograph is not about 2/3 of an f stop, nor the size of the sensor; it’s about a composition that speaks to the viewer.
i can’t compose as well with my Sony as I can with my technical camera with a medium format back. The ability to shift and swing while my camera is level affords me possibilities that I may later crop, but the additional information is there for an opportunity to create whatever creative thoughts that occur to me.
stanley
I feel like "content is king" is more applicable now than ever with most everyone out there having a camera in some form on them at all times (smartphone or more). I've come to the conclusion that a lot of my best images are a result of being in the right place at the right time, at least in part, and the best camera (or the one you can rationally justify) is the one you have with you when the moment strikes. Some of my favorite images lately are handheld with the M10 Monochrom I've been carrying around with me, which I prefer for walkaround type stuff over medium format. The larger medium format files can be helpful in post for sure.
 
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Godfrey

Well-known member
Don't know if I have much more to add to this thread. All I know is that, of late, when I go out for a walk I tend to grab my Polaroid because I love the imaging attributes of its 76x76 (or 62x62, or 47x47) mm format ... So, in essence, I just like what a medium format camera produces as image qualities, even in a Polaroid box camera with a fixed focal length and fixed focus lens.

I'll grab my Leica CL more often than my Hasselblad 907x (or 500CM with the CFVII 50c back) simply because it's smaller and easier to carry, but I nearly always get photos I like more with the Hasselblad. Even for full-frame, 6x8 (or 6x9) inch prints. :)

This reminds me I that I need to order more film... LOL!

G
 
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epforever

Member
While I completely agree with the emotional rationales provided here, I'll give a few more concrete / rational reasons that lead me to use my H4x with Credo 60 before my Nikon unless I'm at higher ISOs or want a lighter setup:

- The huge viewfinder image. Makes a world of difference.
- The 4:3 aspect ratio. I far, far prefer it to the 3:2 ratio of 35mm.
- Syncing with strobes at all shutter speeds.
- True Focus. Quite useful.
- Being able to trust the lenses for sharpness and clarity at all apertures.
- Two zooms that are much better than 35mm zooms.
- A 50mm lens (32.5mm equivalent in 35mm terms) that's much better than any 35mm lens I own for the Nikon.
- The ability to use the back on a tech camera.

Also, this might be harder to prove or demonstrate without the years of use I've put into it, but the files truly have better depth, purity of tones, smoothness of transitions, etc. And the colors out of the Credo 60, processed in Capture One, are better than anything else I've used. I find the files to absolutely be a significant level above 35mm.

e
 

Bill Caulfeild-Browne

Well-known member
I suspect a lot of our preferences for format are rooted in our personal photographic history. I got my first camera at age five (over 70 years ago!) and it took 8 shots on 120 film. By age ten I had moved to an Ilford Craftsman, 6 x 6 cms. From there to Rollei TLRs. In my twenties I went to 35 mm but in my forties I returned to MF with Rollei 6008 and Hassies. I just plain love a big piece of film or sensor. I love big viewfinders. I love being able to crop extensively.

Are my pictures markedly better with MF? On average, likely yes. But my very best selling photo is from a Leica M9. At the end of the day I'm likely wedded to MF because it's been with me all my photographic life. I have a Sony mirrorless system and it is versatile and gives great results. But it doesn't give me that slight thrill I get when I pick up my Phase gear knowing that I've got the best digital image quality available - whether I'm worthy of it or not.

Emotional? Sure - but for all our talk about tools, our feelings for gear still matter.

So I think the contributors to this thread are right - there is a mixture of technical reasons for MF, practical reasons for FF and, importantly , familiarity and joy in using the gear that's right for us. And anyway, despite all I've just written, the photographer is still far more important than the gear..
 

Jared

Member
That is not what I meant to convey. I love shooting with MF cameras. My point was that one measurable advantage of MF can be eliminated if I do not put an effort into the exposure.
Yes, I'd say that in most situations solid technique is required from the photographer for the camera to be the limitation in most situations. That's true across formats. Even a 24 megapixel APS-C (most common resolution now, I believe) won't come close to showing off 24 megapixels worth of actual information if the focus isn't spot on, camera motion blur isn't eliminated/minimized, subject motion isn't accounted for, and an f/stop with a reasonable depth of field selected. Even my iPhone won't reach its potential if I'm at all sloppy. And that's all just with regard to technical image quality--completely ignoring composition, timing, quality of light, storytelling, contrast, exposure, texture, etc...

Now that I understand it, I agree with your point.
 
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