Why Do Photographers Shoot Medium Format?

by Bret Hoy4 Comments

Let’s get this all out of the way to begin with: This video, posted by Karl Taylor, was made as a Hasselblad Infomercial, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

While there are a few moments in which Taylor goes beyond simple information distribution and plugs Hasselblad, the video is full of useful information regarding medium format. He describes the ways in which medium format digital photography go beyond the quality of 35mm sized sensors and how the modular system works in ways that conventional DSLR’s can’t.

I personally haven’t shot Medium Format, so I won’t talk as if I have, but based on the information presented by Karl, I feel as if I can go so far as to say many of us would benefit from the extra resolution and bits. In fact, it’s even more than just that. The medium format sensor is able to capture a few extra stops of dynamic range. This comes into great use when you’re working with more moody or dark exposures and can even help quite a bit if you’re wanting to maintain detail in your highlights.

Medium Format cameras, whether they’re Hasselblad, Pentax, Phase One etc. are consistently more expensive than 35mm systems by quite a decent margin. Naturally, this will leave a lot of 35mm shooters feeling as if their Full-Frame DSLR’s aren’t up to snuff. This is definitely not the case at all. Every camera has a different use, and for a person to invest the large amount of cash it takes to be a medium format shooter, you need to know it’ll be worth every penny. The reality is that for most of us, it just isn’t.

For those of you out there that can afford to shoot medium format, I envy you.

Why Medium Format Cameras? Hasselblad Infomercial

Via Youtube Description:

In this video Karl Taylor explains the reasons Medium Format cameras are a necessary part of many professional photographers work flow. Karl also bust a few myths along the way and clearly demonstrates their capabilities. This video was commissioned by Hasselblad to explain the differences between medium format and smaller format cameras and why they are the preferred choice for many of the world's top professional photographers.

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(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. Mr Taylor needs to review his math.
    The improvement in sensitivity between a 5.3µ pixel and a 4.14µ pixel isn’t 28%, but 64%.
    I’m curious about the claim that (properly designed, presumably) medium-format lenses are inherently superior in optical quality to miniature-format. My understanding has been that the opposite is true, with the greater print magnification required by smaller formats negating most of their lenses’ optical advantage.
    My understanding is that diffraction degradation is solely aperture-related, and has nothing to do with the format.
    “With medium-format cameras, there are no flash-sync speed limitations.” <ahem> He means “with lenses having leaf shutters”. He is also overlooking flashes that can sync at very high focal-plane speeds (albeit with a significant loss of effective output).
    To call the Hasselblad “a precision business tool” verges on a snide dismissal of everyone else’s products.
    I’m not denying that the larger the format, the better the image. But I’m not sure Hasselblad is stating its case correctly.

  2. Just a brief note.  Phase One Medium format digital backs are detachable.  You can mount the back on a Technical or View camera such as an Alpa.  This give you the ability to shift and tilt with a mounted RODENSTOCK / ALPA HR ALPAGON 4.0/32 MM lens  which is undisputedly one of the best optic in the world  currently being manufactured. 

    Here is a link of some of the world’s top photographers who do just that.


  3. I grew up shooting on both medium format and 35mm film at that time there was a big difference. Since the digital age took over that advantages has far slipped away. With a camera like the Sony A7rii there is very little reason or advantage to even bother with Medium format. Full frame is already more Shallow in DoF then you need with a fast lens. 42MP on the A7rii is already to much resolution for 99% of mediums you would print or distribute. Dynamic range is a moot point as Raw processing in Lightroom or HDR I photography can already pull all the DR you would need.

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