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The Top 5 Medium Format Film Cameras Of 2023

In the age of digital photography, medium format film cameras retain their charm, offering excellent image quality and creative adaptability.


Medium format cameras have long been the domain of professional photographers, but in recent years, they have become more accessible and affordable to enthusiasts. In this extensive review, we will explore the top five medium format film cameras of 2023 and discuss their unique features and benefits.


Three medium format film cameras, from left to right: Fujica GL690, Rolleiflex 2.8E3, Kiev 60
A trio of medium format film cameras from the author's collection; from left to right: Fujica GL690, Rolleiflex 2.8E3, Kiev 60

Medium format cameras offer a larger negative size compared to 35mm cameras, resulting in superior image quality, finer detail, and increased dynamic range. Additionally, medium format cameras provide more control over the photographic process, allowing photographers to experiment with different film types, techniques, and creative approaches.

 

More Medium Format Camera Reviews:

 

The Enduring Appeal of Medium Format Film in the Digital Age

Despite the dominance of digital photography, medium format film continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many photographers. The tactile experience of shooting with film, the unique aesthetic characteristics of film grain, and the satisfaction of producing physical negatives are just a few of the reasons why medium format film remains a popular choice for photographers.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in medium format film. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the increasing affordability of medium format film cameras and the growing popularity of analog photography.

Medium format film offers a number of advantages over digital photography, including:

  • Superior image quality: Medium format film negatives are larger than 35mm film negatives, which results in finer detail, increased dynamic range, and a more three-dimensional appearance.

  • Unique aesthetic: Medium format film has a unique aesthetic that is characterized by its film grain and its ability to capture subtle colours and textures.

  • Tactile experience: Shooting with medium format film is a more tactile experience than shooting with digital cameras. This can be appealing to photographers who enjoy the feel of film in their hands and the satisfaction of winding the film and pressing the shutter button.

  • Physical negatives: Medium format film produces physical negatives that can be stored, shared, and printed. This can be a valuable asset for photographers who want to have a physical record of their work.


Image of photographer shooting with medium format film camera

Medium Format Film vs 35mm Film

The key difference between medium format and 35mm film is the size of the negative. Medium format negatives are typically 6x4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, or 6x9cm, while 35mm negatives are 24x36mm. This larger negative size allows for finer detail, increased dynamic range, and a more three-dimensional appearance in medium format images. In addition to the larger negative size, medium format cameras typically have higher-quality lenses and more precise focusing mechanisms than 35mm cameras. This results in sharper images with less distortion.


Image of a generic 35mm film camera
 

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Digital Medium Format: A New Era

Digital medium format cameras have emerged as a viable alternative to film in recent years. These cameras provide the image quality and control of medium format film in a digital format, making them an attractive option for professional and enthusiast photographers alike.


Image of a digital medium format camera

Digital medium format cameras typically have larger sensors than 35mm cameras, which results in finer detail, increased dynamic range, and a more three-dimensional appearance. Additionally, digital medium format cameras offer a variety of features that are not available on film cameras, such as live view, autofocus, and image stabilization. However, digital medium format camera sensors are still smaller than the comparable medium format film formats.

Comparing Medium Format Digital Sensor Sizes to Medium Format Film Negative Sizes

Medium format digital sensors range in size from 44x33mm to 54x45mm. These sensors are typically larger than full-frame 35mm sensors (36x24mm), offering similar image quality benefits to medium format film.


Image of a Fuji GFX100 II with sensor exposed.

Getting Started in Medium Format Film Photography

If you're interested in getting started with medium format film photography, here are a few pointers:

  • Choose a camera that meets your requirements and budget. There is a wide range of medium format film cameras available, from affordable TLRs to high-end SLRs.


Image of a TLR camera
Image of an SLR medium format camera

  • Experiment with various film types. There are many different types of medium format film available, each with its own unique characteristics.

  • Master your exposure. Mastering your exposure settings is crucial.

  • Be patient. Shooting with medium format film is a slower process than shooting with digital cameras. It necessitates more planning and preparation, but the results can be truly rewarding.


The Top 5 Medium Format Film Cameras In 2023

We've selected the top five medium format film cameras of 2023 based on their image quality, features, value, and overall user experience.


1. Hasselblad 500 Series

The Hasselblad 500 Series is a legendary camera system that was in production from 1957 to 2006. It is a medium format camera that uses 120 or 220 film to produce 6x6 cm square images. The 500 Series is famous for its modular design, which lets photographers customize their camera according to their needs and preferences. The camera consists of four main components: the body, the lens, the film back, and the viewfinder. Each component can be easily detached and replaced with another one, allowing for a high degree of versatility and flexibility.


The modular design of the 500 Series enables the photographer to choose from a wide range of compatible lenses, film backs, viewfinders, and accessories that expand its photographic capabilities. The lenses include wide-angle, standard, telephoto, macro, and fisheye options, as well as special lenses for infrared, ultraviolet, and polaroid photography. The film backs allow the photographer to switch between different types of film, such as black and white, colour, or slide film, as well as different formats, such as 6x6, 6x4.5, or 6x3 cm. The viewfinders include waist-level, prism, and sports finders, as well as magnifying hoods and angle finders. The accessories include grips, winders, extension tubes, filters, flash units, and more.


The lenses available for the 500 Series are a distinctive selling point, being made by Carl Zeiss, one of the most respected optical manufacturers in the world. They feature T* coating, which reduces flare and increases contrast and sharpness, and a leaf shutter that can sync with flash at any speed, from 1 second to 1/500 second. They also have an automatic aperture stop-down, which means that you can focus at full aperture and then the lens will automatically close down to the selected aperture when the shutter is released. With various focal lengths, from wide-angle to telephoto, they have a reputation for being exceptionally sharp and rendering beautiful colours and tones.


The lens, along with the film format and the camera body, contributes to the superb image quality of the 500 Series. The camera produces stunning images with rich colours and tonal range, as well as fine detail and shallow depth of field. The images have a distinctive square format that adds to their aesthetic appeal. The images are also suitable for large-scale printing and enlargement, as they retain their sharpness and clarity even at high magnifications.


The Hasselblad 500 Series is a camera that has been used by some of the world’s most renowned photographers, such as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Steve McCurry. It is also the camera that was used by NASA to document the Apollo moon missions, making it the first camera to capture images of the lunar surface. The 500 Series was chosen by NASA for its reliability, durability, and modularity, as well as its image quality. The camera was modified to withstand the extreme conditions of space, such as temperature, pressure, and radiation. The camera was also equipped with special film backs, lenses, and viewfinders that allowed the astronauts to operate it with ease. The camera captured some of the most iconic and historic images of the moon, such as the first footprint, the first flag, and the first Earthrise.


The 500 Series is a camera that combines superb image quality, elegant design, and unparalleled modularity. It is a camera that is suitable for a wide range of photographic genres, from landscape to portrait, from fashion to documentary.


Image of Hasselblad 500 Series medium format camera

2. Mamiya RZ67

The Mamiya RZ67 is a professional medium format SLR system that was in production from 1982 until 2014. It is a modular camera that allows users to interchange lenses, film backs, viewfinders, and accessories. The RZ67 uses 120 or 220 film to produce 6x7 cm, 6x6 cm, or 6x4.5 cm images. The RZ67 has a bellows focusing system that enables precise control over depth of field and perspective. The lenses have mechanical leaf shutters that can sync with flash at any speed, from 1 second to 1/400 second.


The RZ67 system is complemented by a wide range of Mamiya Sekor lenses, each crafted with exceptional optical quality and sharpness. These lenses are renowned for their clarity, colour rendition, and resistance to flare and ghosting, ensuring stunning images even in challenging lighting conditions.


The Mamiya RZ67 is a camera that is designed for both studio and field use. It is durable and reliable, and can withstand harsh conditions. It is also adaptable and versatile, as it can be customized to suit different shooting needs and preferences. The RZ67 can operate in manual or aperture priority mode, but is dependent on battery to work in all but 1/400s shutter. It can also use special film backs for Polaroid or 4x5 sheet film. The film backs are revolving, which means the user can switch between horizontal and vertical orientation without changing the camera position. The viewfinders are also interchangeable, and can be either waist-level or prism type. The prism viewfinder has a built-in exposure meter and shows the image right-side up.


The Mamiya RZ67 is a camera that has been used by many professional photographers, especially in the fields of portrait, fashion, and landscape photography. Some of the renowned photographers who have used the RZ67 include Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Hiroshi Sugimoto. The RZ67 has also been featured in many magazines, books, and exhibitions, showcasing its ability to produce stunning images with a distinctive medium format look.


The RZ67 is a camera that offers high image quality, creative flexibility, and mechanical simplicity. It is a camera that appeals to both experienced and aspiring photographers, who appreciate its modular design, superb lenses, and versatile features. The RZ67 is a camera that has a lasting legacy, as one of the most iconic and influential medium format cameras ever made.


Image of a Mamiya RZ67
Vitaly baranov, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Pentax 67II

The Pentax 67II is a medium format SLR camera that produces 6x7 cm images on 120 or 220 film. It is the second to last model of the Pentax 67 series, which has been in production since 1969. The Pentax 67 series was originally designed as a professional camera that could compete with the Hasselblad and Mamiya systems, but with the familiar handling and operation of a 35mm SLR. The Pentax 67II, introduced in 1998 and discontinued in 2009, is a modern and affordable option for medium format enthusiasts who want to enjoy the advantages of medium format photography, such as high resolution, fine detail, and shallow depth of field.


The Pentax 67II features a large right-hand grip, a thumb-operated film advance lever, a revolving film back, and an interchangeable viewfinder. It also has an aperture priority mode, which allows the camera to automatically set the shutter speed based on the selected aperture and the light meter reading. The camera has a built-in exposure meter, which can be set to spot or center-weighted modes. The camera also has a mirror lock-up function, which reduces camera shake by lifting the mirror before the shutter is released. The camera also has a multiple exposure capability, which enables the photographer to expose the same frame more than once.


The Pentax 67II is compatible with a wide range of lenses and accessories from the Pentax 67 system, which includes over 40 lenses from 35mm to 1000mm in focal length. The lenses are known for their sharpness, contrast, colour rendition, and bokeh. Some of the most popular and acclaimed lenses are the 105mm f/2.4, the 55mm f/4, the 75mm f/2.8 AL, and the 300mm f/4 ED. The lenses are also characterized by their solid construction, multi-coated optics, and smooth focusing mechanisms. The Pentax 67II also accepts a leaf shutter lens, the 90mm f/2.8 LS, which allows flash synchronization up to 1/500s. This is useful for situations where the photographer needs to balance the ambient light and the flash light, such as in outdoor portraits or still life.


The Pentax 67II is a camera that can handle a variety of shooting situations, from studio to landscape, from portrait to documentary. It is a camera that delivers stunning image quality and creative possibilities. For example, the camera can capture portraits with a 3D effect, thanks to the shallow depth of field and the natural perspective of the 6x7 format. The camera can also capture landscapes with a wide dynamic range and a rich tonality, thanks to the large negative size and the high-quality lenses. The camera can also capture action shots with a fast shutter speed and a long telephoto lens, thanks to the reliable and durable mechanical shutter.


The Pentax 67II is a camera that appeals to medium format enthusiasts who want a versatile and reliable camera that can produce stunning images with a 3D effect. However, it is not a camera for everyone. The camera is still a heavy and bulky camera that weighs about 2.5 kg with a standard lens. The camera is also loud and prone to camera shake, due to the large mirror and shutter. The camera also has a limited battery life, as it uses two CR2 batteries that power the meter and the film advance. The camera also has a limited film capacity, as it can only take 10 shots per roll of 120 film or 20 shots per roll of 220 film.


In conclusion, the Pentax 67II is a camera that offers the advantages of medium format photography, such as high resolution, fine detail, and shallow depth of field, in a relatively easy-to-use body. It is a camera that can handle a variety of shooting situations, from studio to landscape, from portrait to documentary, and which delivers stunning image quality and creative possibilities. It is a camera that is suitable for photographers who are looking for a medium format system that is affordable, durable, and simple, and who are willing to accept the trade-offs of weight, size, noise, and film capacity.


Image of Pentax 67II medium format camera
Evgeniy Alexeev, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Rolleiflex 2.8F

The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera that produces 6x6 cm images on 120 film. It is the last and most advanced model of the Rolleiflex series, which has been in production since 1929. While the Rolleiflex was originally designed as a consumer camera that was affordable and easy to use, it was later popular among professional photographers. The Rolleiflex 2.8F, introduced in 1960 and discontinued in 1981, is a classic and iconic option for photographers who seek a high-quality medium format TLR experience.


The Rolleiflex 2.8F features a metal body, a waist-level viewfinder, a focusing knob, and a film winding crank. It also has a built-in light meter, which can be coupled to the aperture and shutter speed settings. The camera has a leaf shutter, which allows flash synchronization at any speed. The camera also has a self-timer, a depth of field scale, and a film reminder dial.


The Rolleiflex 2.8F is compatible with a range of lenses and accessories from the Rolleiflex system, which includes lenses from 55mm to 135mm in focal length. The lenses are known for their sharpness, contrast, colour rendition, and bokeh. The most common and acclaimed lens is the Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8, which delivers superb image quality and performance. The lenses are also characterized by their sturdy construction, multi-coated optics, and smooth aperture blades. The Rolleiflex 2.8F also accepts a close-up lens, the Rolleinar 1, which allows focusing as close as 0.9m.


Some of the advantages of using a Rolleiflex 2.8F are:

  • Image quality: The Rolleiflex 2.8F produces stunning images with high resolution, fine detail, and shallow depth of field. The medium format film captures more light and information than 35mm film, resulting in richer tones, smoother transitions, and lower grain. The Carl Zeiss Planar lens is one of the best lenses ever made, with excellent sharpness, contrast, and colour rendition. The leaf shutter also reduces camera shake and vibration, ensuring sharper images.

  • Handling and operation: The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a joy to use, with a simple and intuitive design. The camera is well-balanced and comfortable to hold, with a large right-hand grip and a thumb-operated film advance lever. The waist-level viewfinder is bright and clear, and allows the photographer to see the image as it will appear on the film. The focusing knob is easy to operate, with a magnifier for precise focusing. The camera also has a coupled meter, which allows the you to determine the correct exposure from the light meter quickly.

  • Style and history: The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a camera that has a long and rich history. It was used by many famous photographers, such as Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneau, Diane Arbus, and Vivian Maier, among others. It has a distinctive and elegant design that makes it stand out from other cameras. The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a camera that inspires creativity and passion, and is a piece of photographic history.

Some of the disadvantages of using a Rolleiflex 2.8F are:

  • Price and availability: The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a rare and sought-after camera, and therefore commands a high price. A good condition Rolleiflex 2.8F can cost between $2,500 and $3,000, and may require a professional service to ensure optimal performance⁷. The camera is also hard to find, as it was discontinued in 1981 and has a limited production. The accessories are also expensive and scarce, and may not be compatible with other models of Rolleiflex.

  • Learning curve and limitations: The Rolleiflex 2.8F is a camera that requires some practice and patience to master. The image on the focus screen is reversed left-to-right, which can be confusing and challenging for beginners. The camera also has a fixed lens, which limits the versatility and flexibility of the camera. The camera also has a slow film advance and a limited film capacity, which can be frustrating for fast-paced or long-duration shooting. The camera also lacks some modern features, such as autofocus and autoexposure.

Image of a Rolleiflex 2.8F
Sputniktilt, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Mamiya 7 II

The Mamiya 7 II is a rangefinder camera that epitomizes elegance, craftsmanship, and exceptional medium format photography. Introduced in 1999, the 7 II is an improved version of the original Mamiya 7, which was released in 1995. Its sleek titanium body, meticulously crafted components, and legendary 6x7cm format set it apart as a true collector’s item and a coveted tool among discerning photographers.


At the heart of the Mamiya 7 II lies its extraordinary lens system. The 7 II accepts six different Mamiya 7 lenses, ranging from 43mm to 210mm, renowned for their exceptional sharpness, colour rendition, and bokeh. These lenses, coupled with the camera’s 6x7cm format, capture images with remarkable detail, rich tones, and a shallow depth of field that beautifully isolates subjects.


The Mamiya 7 II’s design is a harmonious blend of style and functionality. Its titanium body exudes a sense of luxury and refinement, while its compact size and intuitive controls make it a joy to carry and operate. The camera’s rangefinder system, with its bright and clear viewfinder, provides a seamless focusing experience, allowing photographers to effortlessly compose and capture decisive moments.


The Mamiya 7 II’s versatility extends to a wide range of photographic genres. From sweeping landscapes to intimate portraits, from street photography to studio work, the 7 II adapts seamlessly to capture the essence of every subject. The camera also features a multiple exposure function, a self-timer, and an optional panoramic adapter that allows 24x65mm images to be captured on 35mm film.


The Mamiya 7 II embodies the spirit of medium format photography, offering a unique blend of image quality, craftsmanship, and timeless design. It is a camera that inspires creativity, encourages experimentation, and rewards photographers with stunning images that capture the world in all its rich detail and beauty. For those who seek a medium format camera that is both stylish and functional, the Mamiya 7 II remains an unmatched choice.


Image of a Mamiya 7 II
 

Medium format film cameras offer a unique set of advantages over digital cameras, including superior image quality, finer detail, and increased dynamic range. Additionally, medium format cameras provide more control over the photographic process, allowing photographers to experiment with different film types, techniques, and creative approaches.

While digital photography has become increasingly popular, medium format film remains a compelling choice for photographers who seek the highest possible image quality and the satisfaction of producing physical negatives.

 

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May 13

For Pentax 67II you erroneously mentioned revolving Film back, I think that description belongs to Mamiya RZ67 , at least this is what I read and understood about the two cameras, I suppose a bit of oversight and mixing the two. Keep up the good work.

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