There was a day that Medium Format (MF) cameras used to cost as much as a downpayment on the three-bedroom house. And while those days aren’t thoroughly over, things today have changed for the better. Manufacturers like Pentax, Hasselblad, and recently Fujifilm have inspired change. And these days, MF cameras are supremely more accessible, versatile, and flexible than their film counterparts. Instead, today’s options are compact and finally conceivable for handheld work.
Some photographers indeed scold this particular niche though, arguing it’s too expensive and inaccessible. But, MF simply delivers unparalleled detail, quality, and dynamic range. And it remains the pinnacle of photography. And it’s still currently unmatched amongst the 35mm crowd, with the exceptions being the Canon EOS R5, Sony A7R IV, and the A1. Even so, when it comes to ultimate image quality, these cameras continue to remain outperformed, namely in color rendering, bit depth, and S/N. And it’s no question why professionals in our industry naturally gravitate towards this niche.
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Thankfully, MF can significantly expand our creative horizons and unlock our true photographic abilities. And, while pricey, they’re the next logical evolution for many photographers. Unfortunately, though, MF isn’t cheap. And it’s essential to understand each option’s capabilities thoroughly and whether it’s worthwhile. So to aid in that quest and narrow the search, we’ve compiled a list of the best medium format cameras on the present market.
Released in 2020, the S3 is Leica’s fourth-generation medium format camera to continue the revolution first started by the original S2. It features a 64 MP CMOS sensor and the Maestro II image processor. It also has a 3-inch screen, a top-deck LCD, weather sealing, dual card slots, built-in GPS, wireless connectivity, and shoots video at 8-bit 4:2:2 C4K 24p.
With this update, not only does the new model sports a brand new 64 MP sensor, but it also does with better image quality to boot. In this case, it offers 41% more resolution than the Typ 007’s 37.5 MP sensor. Yet, Leica engineers have managed to maintain an incredible 15 stops dynamic range while improving the low light performance and tonal rendering. And it now even boasts two stops of extra latitude in ISO, offering a native ISO range of a whopping 50,000. Together, photographers have enormous latitude for capturing in-camera HDR images through a single exposure. Merely expose for the highlights in the scene, and recover all the remaining details in post. The S3 also houses some much-needed improvements. Namely, it has a refined color filter array, which yields more faithful and true-to-life skin tones and reproduction of red hues, great for commercial applications. And the sensor’s cooling is improved, so now you can shoot 8 minute long exposures without overheating due to its dual-gain design.
Overall, Leica’s S3 represents the pinnacle of engineering from the firm. They’ve made meaningful improvements to the already excellent Type 007’s image quality, making it their best camera to date. So if you want the best the company provides, this is it.
Hasselblad X1D II 50C
Released in 2019, Hasselblad’s X1D II 50C enhances its predecessor with meaningful user improvements. It features a 50MP CMOS sensor and a 3.6-inch touchscreen. It also has weather sealing, built-in GPS, dual card slots, USB charging, wireless connectivity, and shoots 8-bit 4:2:0 2.7K 30p video.
The X1D II obtains its predecessor’s 50MP sensor, capturing 16-bit RAW images with 14-stops of dynamic range. Even so, this configuration remains a proven strength for this lineup. And instead, it brings notable improvements to the overall user experience. Namely, it refines the award-winning design of the first generation with even more seamless functionality and handling. And it does so with a surprisingly compact design as Hasselblad X System lenses feature a built-in shutter unit. As such, it makes MF supremely compact and more portable than some full-frame options. Other improvements include an updated EVF, better startup times, and a refined user interface. Together these updates make the X1D II a noticeably smoother experience.
Overall, as a follow-up to the first-ever mirrorless MF camera, the X1D II 50C continues refining the line. And it brilliantly delivers the life-like and fine image quality the company is renowned for in the industry. Yet, it does so while making a powerful design statement to boot.
Released in 2014, Pentax’s 645Z refined the industry-changing 645D with better functionality and a decidedly lower MSRP. And it dominated the market following its release, standing free of any competition. It features a 51.4MP CMOS sensor and Prime III image processor. It also has a 3.2-inch tilting screen, a status LCD, weather sealing, dual card slots, time-lapse, multi-exposure, and records 1080p 30p or 60i videos.
With this update, Pentax has done away with its predecessor CCD sensor, instead opting for CMOS. But, they’ve also increased the resolution 28% from 40 to 51MP. But, crucially, at its current price, it’s one of the few options in this category that’s genuinely affordable, grossly undercutting the 50MP Sony A1. And since its release, its impact amongst the MF crowd has been surely felt, with several manufacturers following suit with more affordable offerings. Pentax being a long-stand manufacturer in this space also has a fully fleshed lenses collection. Currently, they offer 20+ lenses for the 645 mount, not to mention adapters for older generation lenses. Thus it’s a much more mature system than rivals. The 645Z also includes a helpful tilting screen and dual tripod threads to switch from landscape to portrait easily, both increasing its versatility.
Overall, despite the apparent price, Pentax’s 645Z is an affordable way for photographers to acquire the power of MF. And as the first camera to pioneer this trend and relatively new market, it makes sense why.
Fujifilm GFX 100S
Released in 2021, Fujifilm’s GFX 100S is the latest MF option to hit the market. It features a 102 MP CMOS sensor and X-Processor 4. It also has a 3.2-inch three-way tilting touchscreen, a top status LCD, weather sealing, in-body stabilization, dual card slots, wireless connectivity, and shoots 10-bit 4K 30p.
The GFX 100S obtains a sophisticated 425-point AF system with Face and Eye Detection, making it well suited for portraiture. And this configuration remains a key advantage over most rivals in this segment, mostly lacking this feature. It also obtains the Pixel Shift Multi-Shot Mode, which creates images with 400MP of detail. But, if that’s too much, you can also capture 100MP 16-bit images with exceptional dynamic range and outstanding sharpness. Interestingly though, the GFX 100S can also capture 10-bit log footage as well as 12-bit ProRes RAW. And this combination makes it currently unmatched as a hybrid in this segment, ideally suited for video production.
Overall, Fujifilm’s GFX 100S redefines traditional MF and strategically expands the GFX lineup. And it’s an excellent option for those wanting the most powerful hybrid, that is, until the GFX 50S II arrives.
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Released in 2017, Fujifilm’s GFX 50S refines the X-H1 in many ways. But, it’s a release that revolutionized this segment and altered expectations. It features a 51.4MP CMOS sensor and the X-Processor Pro. It also has a 3.2-inch three-way touchscreen, a top status LCD, weather sealing, dual card slots, multiple exposures, time-lapse, wireless connectivity, and it records 1080p 30p videos.
The GFX 50S is a unique MF option that delivers a compact modular design, closely matching the X-H1 flagship in dimensions. As such, compared to rivals, this system becomes distinctly portable and better suited for handheld work. Yet, it still delivers high-end 14-bit images with a wide 14-stop dynamic range and excellent S/N. And it captures those images using a similar 425-point AF system as the higher-end GFX 100S to boot. However, it houses the unique option, that is a removable EVF. And you can also pair the EVF with the tilt adapter to improve its working angles. Additionally, unlike the GFX 100S, it houses dedicated top-mounted dials to control shutter speed and ISO, giving photographers immediate access to change exposure settings.
Overall, Fujifilm’s GFX 50S becomes the most approachable means for photographers to acquire MF. And it’s currently the most affordable new entry into this space, which is perfect for those wanting to test the waters first hand. Even so, it’s a doubly capable option for landscape or commercial photographers wanting to travel light but maintain insane power all the while.
Last Updated on October 8, 2023 by Photography PX Published June 28, 2021