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The Myth of Medium Format


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The Myth of Medium Format

17 May 2021 10:13PM   Views : 538 Unique : 389

Medium format gives better quality than 35mm format. This was always presented to me as a given, but then again the lenses on medium format cameras are designed rather differently to those contrasty, ultra-sharp lenses on 35mm format ones. You may have guessed by now that I am talking about film cameras, but we'll get to digital before the blog is out. I had a Rolleiflex 3.5F with Planar lens, a Rolleiflex GX with f/2.8 Rollei HFT lens Helmut Newton Special Edition, a Mamiya 6, a Mamiya 645 and a Pentax 645N and to be honest the best of these was the rangefinder Mamiya 6. Of course they were all far less versatile or convenient than my humble Pentax MX and ME Super, which also produced beautifully sharp images.

But what made me look twice was when I shot a macro picture on the Fujifilm S602 Pro digital camera, with its 3MP sensor that pretended to be a 6MP one (via tricks with the CCD design) and realised that the resulting image was actually sharper than the medium format cameras. What was different was the utter crispness of edges, even if ultimately the amount of detail may have been lower. It's the same effect as when those post-Korean war documentary photographers found they prefered the lower resolution but more contrasty Nikon lenses to the less contrasty even if more detailed German ones on the Leica and others.

On our screens it may make little difference as these medium format film images have been processed via digital so we can see them here, but it can remind us of the days when medium format cameras were (maybe) better or maybe not. Moving forwards, medium format digital is something else again!

Mamiya 6, 75mm, Biddulph Grange

Mamiya 6, 75mm

Pentax 645N, 75mm

Mamiya 6, 75mm, Leuven Town Hall

Mamiya 6, 75mm

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