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Top 5 Medium Format Cameras: A Professional’s Choice

Rating: 5.00 based on 1 Rating
Igor Letilovic
  By Igor Letilovic
Top 5 Medium Format Cameras: A Professional’s Choice www.sleeklens.com

Well, it’s finally time to tap into a more niche market and create a list of five of the best medium format cameras you can buy right now. Since we’re talking about some of the most expensive cameras on the planet, we’ve paid slightly more attention to the price of the cameras that we’ve chosen than we usually do, so can pick one that’s within your price range more easily. Interestingly enough, the products on this list follow the rule: the more expensive the camera, the better, which isn’t always the case when it comes to photography. And yes, we are saying photography, because today’s medium format cameras still don’t have what it takes to be as good for recording videos as they are for taking stills, so we will mostly focus on their photographic prowess. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t at least one camera on this list that can also double as a video camera, so make sure to read until the end. Without further ado, let’s kick off this list by looking at the most affordable of all digital medium format cameras, the Pentax 645D. Still, you’ll be surprised how capable it still is despite being the least expensive.

Pentax 645DGo to Amazon
If money is your only concern when deciding which medium format camera to pick, then there’s really only one choice that makes sense, the Pentax 645D.
Overall rating:
71
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Price:
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Pros
  • Great image quality
  • Decent dynamic range and noise performance
  • Excellent camera body with lots of manual controls
  • Weather sealing
  • Decent AF system
  • Great battery life
  • Respectable screen and viewfinder combo
  • The cheapest medium format digital camera by far
Cons
  • No video recording and thus no microphone or headphone jacks
  • No Wi-Fi
  • No image stabilization
  • No built-in flash unit
  • Slow burst rate
  • No GPS
  • No touchscreen
  • Limited ISO range
  • No dual card slots
Click to read the full Review
Despite being released way back at the end of 2010, it’s still a very relevant camera even for today’s standards (assuming a medium format camera is just what you need). As you would probably guess, its main selling point (aside from the very competitive pricing) is its 40 megapixel medium format sensor. While its dynamic range and noise performance are pretty decent, the sheer resolving power and color accuracy are the things that will differentiate it from the other cameras with smaller sensors. There’s no denying the fact that the photos that come out of the 645D are sharp and quite detailed. Now, on to some other things you’re getting with this camera. It has a very rugged and weighty weather sealed body with the amount of physical controls that should satisfy the needs of the majority of professionals and enthusiast photographers. It also features a fixed 3 inch TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 921,000 dots and an optical pentaprism viewfinder with a large magnification of 0.85x and a pretty respectable accuracy of 98%. You can shoot at ISO values of up to 1600 and at a fastest shutter speed of 1/4000. This means that the 645D is at its best when being used on a tripod or for studio work where you have total control of your lighting and high ISO values aren’t necessary and you can keep them as low as you need. What also implies that it’s best when being used in those situations is the included 11-point phase detect AF system. It will be sufficiently fast and accurate for shooting still subjects or portraits, but the 645D is far from being a sports camera, which we never expected it to be. The rather slow and limited framerate of 1.1 fps also points out to the same conclusion.

To reduce the overall cost of the camera, Pentax also had to make some notable sacrifices. There’s no built-in flash unit (although you can connect an external one via the hotshoe), no Wi-Fi, no dual card slots and most importantly, no video recording. While the lack of video recording may sound like a big turn off in context of a modern digital camera, it does make sense from a medium format standpoint. Even the newest medium format cameras still don’t come close to some full frame or even 4/3 cameras in terms of video capabilities and the technology still isn’t advanced enough to make use of their large sensors to bring the video quality to the next level. So, it’s not strange for Pentax to decide to leave out such functionality all together and focus all their attention on the quality of stills the camera can produce. Now, the last positive thing of having such a huge camera like the 645D has to be the battery life. With an endurance of around 800 shots per charge you won’t be switching your battery out very soon, that’s for sure.
Pentax 645ZGo to Amazon
After the release of the 645D, Pentax decided that their next medium format camera will be the one that will compete even more with the likes of Hasselblad in terms of features and image quality, but still at a very compelling price point. Thus, in the first half of 2014, the 645Z came to be.
Overall rating:
70
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Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Respectable battery life
  • Decent AF system and burst rate speed
  • Great build quality
  • Lots of physical controls
  • Dual card slots
  • USB 3.0 support, a microphone jack
  • Weather sealing
  • Respectable screen and viewfinder combo
Cons
  • No built-in flash unit
  • No Wi-Fi
  • No built-in GPS
  • Movie mode still not good enough for professional use
  • No headphone jack
  • No touchscreen
Click to read the full Review
It’s an evolution of its predecessor in more than one ways and makes for a more we’ll rounded and feature complete camera. The first thing that received a noticeable upgrade is the image sensor. It has a lot higher resolution of 51 megapixels and far better dynamic range and noise performance, making it a lot more usable when shooting outdoors or in challenging lighting conditions. There’s also the added support for TIFF files which should yield better results in editing than the traditional JPEGs. The camera body is as impressive as it was and also comes with a lot of manual controls and slightly better weather sealing.

The optical viewfinder retains the same 98% accuracy and the TFT screen on the back has received a bump in size and resolution. It now has a diagonal of 3.2 inches and a resolution of 1,037,000 dots and can also be articulated. The built-in flash is still missing (which isn’t very surprising to see on a professional camera), the fastest shutter speed available is still 1/4000 sec, but the ISO range is vastly improved over the 645D. You can now shoot at ISO values as high as 204800, which is much more useful than the maximum ISO of 1600 found on the previous model. The 645Z also brings some much-needed features such as the USB 3.0 port, dual SD card slots and a microphone jack to complement the rather mediocre integrated stereo microphones. Sadly, there’s still no built-in Wi-Fi, which is something we’de like to see on a camera at this price point.

Luckily, you can gain some basic functionality buy using an Eye-Fi card. As for GPS, it’s also not integrated into the body, but you can connect the optional O-GPS1 module to the camera and gain most of the necessary functionality that way. Performance on a whole has also been improved thanks to the new 27-point phase detect AF system, PRIME III processor and also a burst rate of 3 fps. The 645Z still doesn’t have what it takes to be an alternative for a sports or action camera, but it’s still noticeably faster than its predecessor and will enable you to be a lot more flexible when shooting out and about. The new burst rate is also noticeably more useable than the 1.1 fps one on the 645D and will allow you to capture some moderately fast-moving subjects.

One thing that did took a hit because of the more demanding sensor and all of the other technology built into the camera is the battery life. It’s now rated at 650 shots, instead of the 800 on its predecessor. Luckily, it’s still a very respectable endurance for a medium format camera, so we find no real reason to complain about it. Aside from the new sensor and the improvements to the camera body and the general performance, one of the main differences between the 645D and 645Z is that the newer model now comes with a full-fledged movie move. You can now record 1080p videos at 30 fps or 60 fps interlaced, which isn’t nothing to write home about, but still an improvement over not having a movie mode at all. All in all, when compared to the previous model, the 645Z is a lot more expensive camera, but at the same time much improved one, which somewhat justifies the large difference in price and will surely be enough for a lot of users to decide to get the newer model instead.
Fujifilm GFX 50SGo to Amazon
Up next, we have a new kid on the block when it comes to medium format cameras, Fujifilm with their GFX 50S. It was just a matter of time before a big player like Fujifilm decided to try and take a piece of the cake called the medium format camera market and there’s certainly a lot of it left for grabs.
Overall rating:
77
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Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Decent AF system and burst rate speed
  • Great build quality
  • Lots of physical controls and room to customize their functionality
  • Dual card slots
  • USB 3.0 support
  • microphone and headphone jacks
  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp and flexible touchscreen
  • Excellent EVF
  • Wi-Fi
Cons
  • No built-in flash unit
  • No GPS
  • Underwhelming battery life
  • Movie mode still not good enough for professional use
Click to read the full Review
Instead of making an SLR camera, they’ve continued their tradition and made a mirrorless one instead, which certainly brings a couple of interesting features with it. But, first things first, let’s begin this quick look with the image sensor. Just like the Pentax 645Z, the GFX 50S also sports a 51 megapixel sensor that is just as capable in terms of sharpness, dynamic range, color reproduction and noise performance. It also has a very wide ISO range of 100-102400 and can either shoot at a shutter speed of 1/4000 sec or 1/16000 when the electronic shutter is being used. It also comes with quite a capable 117-point contrast detect AF system that will yield good focusing performance when there’s enough light in your scene and will only slow down when the light levels fall. It works great for general applications, but it’s not ideal for shooting anything that moves at a fast pace. The same can be said about the 3 fps burst rate, it simply works ok and that’s it. Now, the body of the GFX 50S may be one of its most interesting aspects.

Because this is a mirrorless system we’re talking about, Fuji have managed make it noticeably lighter than most of the medium format cameras out there. It weighs only 740 grams, which still doesn’t make it nearly as portable as other mirrorless camera, but still considerably less cumbersome to carry around. What’s also great is that the build quality hasn’t suffered in any way as the entire camera is made out of magnesium alloy and there’s also weather sealing on board. The GFX 50S also offers a lot in terms of physical controls and their customization. You can change the function of up to 10 different buttons, which is simply astonishing. The camera itself is also easy to use thanks to a well-executed user interface and menu systems. The included articulated 3.2 inch OLED high-resolution 2,360,000 dot touchscreen also rounds up the entire positive experience. The same can be said for those who prefer shooting through the viewfinder. It’s even more impressive than the screen itself. With a resolution of 3,690,000 dots, a magnification of 0.85x and 100% accuracy, it’s one of the best EVFs we’ve seen on any camera to this date.

The rest of the features you’ll find on the camera body are the dual SD card slots (with support for very fast UHS-II standard), the USB 3.0 and micro-HDMI ports, Wi-Fi, a pair of stereo microphones and also both the microphone and headphone jacks. While the last two will be very appealing to anyone considering using the GFX 50S for professional video work, unfortunately these aren’t enough to counter the two of the major issues; the lack of 4K and 60 fps recording and the rather unimpressive quality for a camera of this caliber. You only get 1080p 30 fps recording, which isn’t particularly impressive for a camera with such a high price tag and the footage doesn’t look as good as one recorded with the most full frame cameras, which rules out the GFX 50S as the first medium format camera that could have been a very good choice for recording video. The last thing that could have received more improvement is the battery life. The endurance of around 400 is average at best and we’ve expected more out of such a big camera, as there was surely more than enough room for a larger battery pack. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the Fujifilm GFX 50S is one of the best products that can be found in a world of medium format cameras and has plenty to offer to find its place in your hands.
Hasselblad X1D-50cGo to Amazon
Now, the most familiar medium format camera manufacturer known to the general public has to be Hasselblad, which still hold the largest part of that market due to their long tradition and reputation for making high quality cameras. Only in last few years they’ve begun to face some serious competition from the likes of Pentax and recently Fujifilm and that surely had to be one of the main reason why the Hasselblad X1D-50c came to be in the first place.
Overall rating:
74
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Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Decent AF system and burst rate speed
  • State of the art body with a very intuitive control scheme and user interface
  • Dual card slots
  • USB 3.0 support, microphone and headphone jacks
  • Weather sealing
  • Decently sharp touchscreen
  • Great EVF
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
Cons
  • No built-in flash unit
  • Underwhelming battery life
  • Movie mode still not good enough for professional use
  • Premium price
Click to read the full Review
It’s the smallest and lightest medium format mirrorless camera to this date, but also a very capable one. It’s rocking a 51 megapixel sensor, which is a perfect middle-ground in terms of how far the medium format sensors go in terms of their resolution and it certainly has enough going for it to showcase the image quality you can expect to get with such a sensor. The sensor is also backed by a decent contrast detect AF system, which isn’t the best around in terms of performance, but pretty decent for the use case scenarios for this type of camera. The same can be said about the burst rate of 2.3 fps; it’s ok, but far from being impressive or ground breaking. The shutter speed range of 60 min to 1/2000 won’t allow you to capture fast moving subject very easily, but will give you a lot of flexibility when shooting in low light conditions. The available ISO range of 100 to 25600 is also good enough for any type of photography. The X1D also offers both the Hasselblad’s proprietary 3FR RAW format and TIFF format as well, meaning that you’ll get a lot of room when editing your images on your computer. As is the case with many medium format cameras out there, the X1D also isn’t a video recording powerhouse, despite having both the microphone and headphone jacks. While the quality of recorded videos is decent, having no 4K recording or support for higher framerates than 30 fps does limit your options significantly. What will also limit your shooting habits (unless you are carrying around a spare battery) is the battery life. The reduction in size and weight over a traditional medium format SLR camera brought a sacrifice in terms of the size of the included battery pack, meaning that you’ll only be able to get around 200 shots out of the Hasselblad before having to swap out the battery or charge the existing one.

Now, onto one of the biggest reasons to why you should consider investing your money into getting the X1D; the camera body and everything that goes with it. It’s build so well, that we would go so far to calling it a piece of art. It’s entirely made out of aluminum, which makes it feel durable, but extremely light for a camera with such a big sensor. The design of the camera body is very iconic and distinctive, but at the same time ergonomic and oriented to making the X1D very easy to hold and to handle. It also has a very well-organized control scheme that should satisfy the needs of any type of user, be it an amateur or a professional. Add to a clean and intuitive user interface that was built from ground up to be perfectly usable with both the physical controls and via touch input and you really get a package that’s a pleasure to use. The touchscreen itself is 3 inches in size and also sports a decent resolution of 920,000 dots and above it lies a            2,360,000 dot electronic viewfinder that is 100% accurate. What’s also great about the body of the X1D is that it also features Wi-Fi, dual SD card slots, mini-HDMI port and the USB 3.0 compatible port for fast data transfers and in addition to that, it comes with a new lens mount that brings lighter and more compact lenses thanks to the mirrorless design, but also allows you to use any of the existing ones designed for other Hasselblad medium format cameras just with the use of an adapter. As the icing on the cake, the X1D also has a weather sealed body and a built-in GPS unit.
Hasselblad H6D-100cGo to Amazon
Now, this wouldn’t be the list of the best medium format cameras without including one that’s true goes overboard in terms of its features and of course, its price. We’re talking about the Hasselblad H6D-100c. If you’ve ever wondered what this company is all about and why so many photographers swear by its name, then this is the camera is probably one of the best ways to showcase the Hasselblad’s ability to create a truly unique product.
Overall rating:
68
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Portability:
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50
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Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Uniquely shaped camera body with a very intuitive control scheme and user interface
  • Dual card slots
  • USB 3.0 support, microphone and headphone jacks
  • Weather sealing
  • Decently sharp touchscreen
  • Great optical viewfinder
  • Wi-Fi
  • 4K recording
  • Decent battery life
Cons
  • No built-in flash unit
  • No GPS
  • The AF system and the 1.5 fps burst rate are only good for still subjects
  • An eyewatering price point
Click to read the full Review
The first thing about the H6D-100c that immediately pops out among the rest (aside from the design of the camera body and the very exotic price point) has to be its sensor. It has an unbelievably high resolution of 100 megapixels that is even bigger in size than the traditional medium format sensors and also has the ability to capture up to 15 stops of dynamic range, which is simply astonishing. Even with such a huge resolution, it still has decent low light capabilities and can shoot up to ISO sensitivity of 12800, so you won’t need to hesitate to push the sensitivity to a higher value when it’s necessary. While the H6D-100c is certainly not aimed at sports or action photographers, it doesn’t offer the fastest shutter speed or burst rate around, but 1/2000 sec and 1.5 fps will be more than enough for anyone looking into buying this type of camera. Those are also the reasons why Hasselblad decided to include a no-frills AF system with only one focus point which they call a True Focus system. They’ve basically wanted to make sure that the camera focuses 100% percent of the time and that additional points that usually surround the central one aren’t necessary on a camera like this that will only be used for shooting still subjects. The other thing you will immediately notice about this camera the moment you lay your eyes on it has to be its huge and somewhat intimidating body. It weighs over 2 kilograms, which really makes it a behemoth of a camera. While it’s also quite comfortable to use due to its ergonomic shape, it’s not a device you will be able to lug around with you all day and not feel any fatigue (unless you have some serious muscle mass). What’s surely great about the camera body is that it’s built like a tank and also has weather sealing (it can also withstand temperatures from -10 to 45 degrees). You’ll also find useful features like the mini-HDMI port, microphone and headphone jacks, USB 3.0 compatible port and also both the mechanical and electronic shutters. Battery life is also pretty good when you take into account the amount of processing power needed to make such a demanding camera run fast enough. You’ll be able to take around 550 shots before needing to reach out for a backup battery or an external charger.

The HD6-100c also doesn’t come out short when it comes to its screen and the viewfinder. It comes with an optical viewfinder that can tilted upwards to a maximum of 90 degrees and has an image magnification of up to 3.1x and 3 inch TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 920,000 dots. The rest of the body is also filled with all kinds of dials and buttons and it will simply take a separate article to pinpoint each one of them. Trust us, if you’re an enthusiast user that appreciates having as much control as possible at your fingertips, then this camera will be a dream come true for you. We also like the user interface on the HD6-100c. It sports a very minimalistic design and all the elements of the interface are deliberately oversized so you can view your current settings in a blink of an eye or easily adjust them via the touchscreen (if that’s your preferred input method). Lastly, there is one more thing that sets this camera apart from the rest of the that also sports a medium format sensor and that’s its video recording capabilities. Aside from having both the microphone and headphone jacks, the headline of the show is the 4K video recording, which also takes a readout from the entire area of the sensor. This means that the HD6-100c is actually capable of recording some nice quality footage and reap the benefits of its huge image sensor, something that can’t be said for most of the medium format cameras out there. This certainly makes this camera a game changer and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for those who were fantasizing about having a medium format camera that records great videos. You’ll certainly be paying a lot for getting such a unique experience, but that’s how things go for those that want to leave the mainstream box and set their sights on more special offerings.

FAQs

I’m very interested in getting a medium format camera, but most of them are way out of my price range. Is there one that could be considered somewhat affordable when compared to other cameras on the market? It doesn’t need to have all the most advanced features; my priority is the image sensor.

Well, there’s certainly no better choice for you than the Pentax 645D. Price-wise, it’s miles apart from the rest of the medium format cameras and is right in the line with something like an enthusiast full frame camera. It doesn’t come with many fancy features or even video recording, but it does have a decently capable 40-megapixel sensor beating at its heart. You will surely be able to leverage the amount of detail you would expect to get out of the medium format sensor with this camera. Luckily, you’re getting more good features with this camera aside from its sensor; great build quality, good screen, good optical viewfinder, decent AF system, weather sealing and excellent battery life. It’s not the technologically most advanced medium format camera, but it is one of the best deals around if you’re looking for one. You’ll certainly be getting a shooting experience you would expect to get with a medium format camera, but only at a fraction of the cost.

Which one of the cameras on your list could be considered the best buy product? I need a capable medium format camera that covers most of the basic features well, while at the same time not being too expensive. Can you recommend me such a camera?

We would go with the Pentax 645Z, one of the most venerable medium format cameras out there. It’s a huge upgrade over its predecessor, bringing a very capable 51-megapixel sensor with significant improvements for noise performance and dynamic range, faster shutter speeds, great ISO range, dual card slots, USB 3.0 support and more. All of those additions did increase the price point significantly, but the 645Z still remains a very good deal because of how feature complete it is and how much useful technology it brings to the table. If you’re looking for a medium format SLR that will take your photography to a seriously high level, then you should look no further than the Pentax 645Z.

I really like the concept behind the medium format cameras, but most of them are too bulky for my needs. I need something as portable as possible, but without losing anything important in terms of features and image quality. Is there a camera on your list that fits that description?

That has to be the Fujifilm GFX 50S. Depending on how you look at a camera, it could be considered the most impressive mirrorless medium format camera out there, especially for its price. It brings all the functionality you would ever need like the 51-megapixel sensor, wide ISO range, 117-point AF system, dual card slots, Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, an articulating touchscreen, excellent EVF and so on. It almost seems like a camera that has no real flaws and it’s damn close to being one. It may not offer the best battery life or video recording capabilities out there, but considering what you do get and at which price point, there’s really not much reason to complain. Fuji has really proven themselves once again by releasing a first-generation product that is already very competitive on the medium format camera market.

Is there such a thing as a premium mirrorless camera with medium format sensor? I want a camera that I can easily carry around with me, but I also want it to have the extremely good build quality and handling. Price is no issue for me, I just want a well-made product that will stand the test of time.

Your first choice should definitely be the Hasselblad X1D-50c. No matter how you look at it, it’s a unique piece of gear. Be it its main features such as the 51-megapixel sensor, decent AF system, Wi-Fi, dual card slots, USB 3.0, microphone and headphone jacks or its beautifully crafted and nicely designed body, the X1D-50c will surely bring you a great shooting experience. It’s obvious that Hasselblad decided to make no compromises when creating this camera and that they wanted to include the as much high-quality feature as they could to make it one of the best medium format cameras around. If you have the opportunity and the financial means and you really need something portable that contains the power of a medium format sensor, then you shouldn’t hesitate even a bit in deciding to buy this camera. It’s simply a masterpiece.

I’m looking for an ultimate medium format camera, one excels at everything you would expect from such a device. I want excellent image quality, a well-thought out camera body with lots of manual control and also a great movie mode. I’m well aware of how much a camera of such quality would cost, but I’m prepared to make such an investment for one that will truly stun me with its features. What’s your recommendation?

We’ve searched far and wide for such a product and after considering all of the possibilities, our first pick would be the Hasselblad H6D-100c. If you’re only of the few lucky people that can afford a camera like this, then be rest assured, you’re really getting something rather special. If the powerful and large 100-megapixel sensor alone isn’t enough of a reason to take a serious look at this camera, then the rest of its features certainly are. Its body almost looks like something that falls of a spaceship; it’s big, bold, heavy and at the same time quite comfortable to hold, even during long shooting sessions. It also comes with a great viewfinder and touchscreen combination, as well as the microphone and headphone jacks. Then there’s weather sealing, USB 3.0 support, dual card slots, unique AF system and a very decent battery life. Most importantly, the H6D-100c is a very capable video recording camera, which is something that can’t be said for most of the medium format cameras. It brings 4K resolution to the table, together with all the necessary features to make it one of the best cameras of its type for that kind of work.

Rating: 5.00 based on 1 Rating
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Igor Letilovic

Igor Letilovic

An amateur photographer, songwriter, musician, computer and technology geek and an occasional comedian, I'm a little bit of everything. I always aim to pursue things I'm passonate about and try to look on the positive side of things whenever I can. My mission is to wrap my articles in that aura of positive energy and keep a healthy balance between being serious about my work and spicing things up with a little fun now and than. After all, life's a game and there's always a different way to play it.

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