UP­GRADE TO MEDIUM FOR­MAT

The key con­sid­er­a­tions to keep in mind

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Many se­ri­ous pho­tog­ra­phers as­pire to own a medium-for­mat sys­tem. His­tor­i­cally, medium-for­mat film was used for its su­pe­rior tonal range, de­tail and clar­ity (es­pe­cially when pro­duc­ing big­ger prints) and was of­ten the pref­er­ence of pro wed­ding, com­mer­cial and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers. In the dig­i­tal age, the for­mat is used for much the same rea­sons, al­though the tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions for up­grad­ing are more com­plex. The larger sen­sor area al­lows for a greater num­ber of pho­to­sites, but with­out mak­ing them pro­hib­i­tively small, thereby in­creas­ing low-light per­for­mance and tonal gra­da­tion. How­ever, with this in­creased qual­ity comes a sig­nif­i­cant jump in file size. It is not un­com­mon for RAW files from 100MP dig­i­tal backs to mea­sure in the hun­dreds of megabytes.

Field of view and depth of field are also im­por­tant as­pects. The large sen­sor yields a unique view and min­imises depth, which is de­sir­able for por­traits, but may cre­ate dif­fi­cul­ties for sit­u­a­tions where front-to­back sharp­ness is es­sen­tial. Medium-for­mat

1 MAG­NI­FI­CA­TION The larger sen­sor area pro­duces a greater field of view than a 35mm. The ex­act mul­ti­pli­ca­tion fac­tor de­pends on the model, but the ef­fec­tive fo­cal length is wider than the on-lens in­di­ca­tion. sys­tems them­selves can be con­fus­ing, since the func­tion­al­ity is quite dif­fer­ent from a full-frame DSLR. While the lat­ter con­sists of a cam­era body and lens, with op­tional satel­lite ac­ces­sories, man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Has­sel­blad and Phase One have sys­tems that must be tai­lored to the pho­tog­ra­pher’s re­quire­ments, with es­sen­tial sep­a­rate com­po­nents. Dis­cover the six key con­sid­er­a­tions of medium-for­mat be­low.

2 SHOOT­ING CON­TROLS Users of­ten have to al­ter pa­ram­e­ters us­ing con­trols on the back and body. Menus are com­monly ac­cessed via the back’s LCD, al­though viewfinder choice may re­quire setup us­ing the in-cam­era menu.

3 LENS CHOICE The im­age cir­cle of medium for­mat lenses has to be larger, mak­ing them big­ger and heav­ier. The size of the glass el­e­ments can limit cir­cu­lar fil­ter use, but some mod­els fea­ture in-lens leaf shut­ters.

Em­brace the ad­van­tages pro­vided by a larger sen­sor, and un­der­stand the chal­lenges

4 DIG­I­TAL BACKS Man­u­fac­tur­ers some­times pro­duce mul­ti­ple back ver­sions. Not ev­ery back is com­pat­i­ble with ev­ery cam­era, so make sure all fea­tures will be avail­able with your cho­sen back-body com­bi­na­tion.

5 MOD­U­LAR SYS­TEMS The cam­era, back and viewfinder mod­ules are of­ten sep­a­rate and can be swapped de­pend­ing on shoot re­quire­ments – waist or eye-level viewfind­ers for ex­am­ple.

6 SIZE AND WEIGHT Al­most ev­ery as­pect of a medium-for­mat sys­tem is larger than a stan­dard DSLR. Users of­ten shoot with their cam­era on a tri­pod and teth­ered to a lap­top ex­clu­sively, for greater com­fort.

Be­lowTHE PRO­FES­SIONAL’S CHOICEA medium-for­mat sys­tem rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment, but for pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phersre­quir­ing high-qual­ity large re­pro­duc­tions, the com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of­ten out­weigh the costs

AboveMIR­ROR­LESS AL­TER­NA­TIVE An ef­fec­tive com­pro­mise be­tween the sen­sor ad­van­tages and sys­tem man­age­abil­ity may be mir­ror­less medi­um­for­mat op­tions from Has­sel­blad and Fu­ji­film, which havein­creased porta­bil­ity and ease of han­dling

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