Best Medium Format Film Cameras – 2020 Reviews

Medium format cameras are coming back, and with the quality, they’re offering, they’re throwing full-frame cameras to the side. In this article, we’re going to brief you about why you need a medium format camera and what your best options on the market are. So let’s get going.

Comparison Chart of the Best Medium Format Film Cameras

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Holga 120N

  • Produces dream-like photos
  • Modeled after original Holga cameras
  • Collection items that are no longer produced
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Lomography Diana F+

  • Equipped with variable shutter
  • Uses an electronic flash
  • Lens is removeable for ease of use
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Lomography Lomo LC-A 120

  • Best for the Money
  • Contrast is fine and high-quality
  • Very portable and lightweight for easy transport
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Yashica Mat 124 G TLR

  • Comes with a leather case included
  • Durable twin-lens reflex camera
  • Small and compact to store away easily
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What is a Medium Format Camera?

A medium format camera is a camera format which uses a 120 film size or a digital imaging sensor imitating that size. It is able to take pictures somewhat smaller than those taken by a large format film size. However, the images it takes are bigger than the pictures produced by full-frame sensors or 135 film. The size for medium format usually varies, depending on the manufacturers. They have large image sensors and are usually bulky due to this reason.

Moreover, medium format cameras produce high-quality images. More often than not, they’re used in advertising, magazine shoots, and in fashion due to the accuracy they show in color reproduction.  

Pros and Cons of Medium Format Film Cameras

Here, we elaborate some of the pros and cons of medium format film cameras, although we do think that the pros outweigh the cons. 

Pros

Wondering why purchase a medium format film camera when a DSLR or mirror camera can provide high-quality images to your liking as well? Here are some reasons:

Image Quality

The main feature that makes a medium format film camera stand out is its large sensor, which accounts for larger megapixels and better image quality. Not only that, but these cameras also offer a shallower depth of field for amazing portrait pictures and a wider field of view, thanks to its lens. 

Versatility

Medium format film cameras have a distinct “signature” look to their images, with shallow depth of field and amazing colors. Also, they are highly versatile to use with portrait or landscape images and also give you the option to switch from film to digital and vice versa. 

Cons

Every rose has its thorn; hence there are certain drawbacks to owning medium format film cameras as well. A primary one is:

Price

A good quality image comes at a price. Medium format film cameras are usually quite expensive and weigh more due to the large sensors. They also have ultra-fast autofocusing features, which is not something all photographers look for. 

Quick Take - Best Medium Format Film Cameras

Before we dive into our review, here are the best medium format film cameras:

  1. Holga 120N
  2. Lomography Diana F+
  3. Lomography Lomo LC-A 120

Review of the Best Medium Format Film Cameras

Now that we’ve given you a basic idea of medium format film cameras and elucidated the pros and cons to owning one, let’s get to our top picks to further assist you in your purchase. 

Best Overall:
Holga 120N

Holga 120N Plastic Camera

PROS

  • Small and lightweight, making it travel-friendly
  • User-friendly and easy to use, especially for beginners  
  • Produces unique images with vignette effects and random light peaks
  • Comes with two film masks for either 12- 6x6 cm images or 16- 6x4.5cm images
  • Plastic lens not only takes crisp, sharp images but can also add softness to the image 

CONS

  • Does not have a built-in flash
  • Expensive for a plastic camera

What Recent Buyers Report

Holga has always been a popular choice amongst users when it comes to buying plastic cameras. They find it easy and fun to use as it produces soft images with vignette effects. It’s versatile and can be used for portraits, landscapes, and any photoshoots with proper lighting set-up.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Holga 120N has a plastic lens, which means users need not pay heed to focus it and therefore making the camera user-friendly. We love that it comes with two film masks for either 12- 6x6 cm images or 16- 6x4.5cm images and is small and lightweight, making it travel-friendly.

Who Will Use This Most

This model has a knack for producing dreamy images with the “lomograph” effect, which is quite different from the sharp images generated by most autofocus cameras. So if you’re into film photography and don’t care much about producing sharp images, this is the camera for you. It’s also light in weight for those out there who travel often.  

Bottom Line

A good photographer with a creative vision for their photographs will surely love the Holga 120N. It is small, light, and easy to use. The soft images it creates attracts its users towards buying it, something exclusive to this plastic camera.

Lomography Diana F+ Medium Format Camera with Flash

PROS

  • Takes radiant, lo-fi images
  • Has variable shutter; daytime and “B”
  • Lens is removable, for super wide-angle pinhole shots 
  • Offers an endless panorama feature for unlimited panorama shots
  • For shake-free long exposures, it offers a standard tripod thread and shutter lock both

CONS

  • Does not take sharp, crisp images 
  • 120 film is difficult to find and sometimes jams up

What Recent Buyers Report

It’s safe to say that buyers absolutely love this model. It is fun and enjoyable to experiment with and produces bright images with a soft effect. Buyers also love the fact that it comes with a hardcover book filled with different images and shots to help inspire them and has interviews related to Diana.

Why it Stands Out to Us

There’s a reason why we’ve ranked this camera so high. The retro-styled electronic flash gives a burst of white light to the subject and creates a radiant, lo-fi image. It also offers a removable lens for super wide-angle pinhole shots, making it perfect for a photography enthusiast.

Who Will Use This Most

To put it simply, this camera is for you if you’re looking for soft, “dreamy” images with high exposure. The camera has a retro, ‘70s feel to it and offers a standard tripod thread and shutter lock for long exposures. Hence, it is a great camera for you if you’re into film photography.

Bottom Line

In all, this is a classic film camera, and the fact that you can get brilliant photographs in your hand almost instantly is amazing. These pictures take you back to the ‘70s with the flash and soft, “lomographic” effect. We believe it’s one of the best on the market out there, so let your inner photographer shine with this purchase!

Best for the Money:
Lomography Lomo LC-A 120

Lomography Lomo LC-A 120 Camera

PROS

  • Has a sliding lens cover
  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • Exposure meter is fairly accurate
  • Fully automatic but you can control the focus and ISO settings
  • Has a modified glass lomo LC-A lens with automatic exposure

CONS

  • Shutter is too loud and loading the film is a little tedious

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers love the image quality and the exposure meter’s accuracy on this camera. They find it quite easy to use, even without a user’s manual and claim it to be one of the top film cameras on the market. Although it is expensive, many consider it to be well worth its price.  

Why it Stands Out to Us

In the world of medium format photography, this model is a great steal. With an accurate exposure meter and great viewfinder, this camera produces exceptional images. Not only that, but it is also light and easy to use, making it a great bargain for anyone. 

Who Will Use This Most

The camera is said to be ideal for street photography since it has a shallow depth of focus and offers exceptional clarity. It is on the pricier side, though, but it is an investment that would get you great images.   

Bottom Line

Overall, the camera has some unbeatable features, including multiple exposures, 0.6m closest focusing distance, cable release & tripod thread, wide-angle glass lens, long exposures with rear curtain flash, and programmatic automatic exposure. This could easily be your new pocket perfect camera, and you’d surely be grateful you made the purchase!

Yashica Mat 124 G TLR Medium Format Vintage Film Camera with 80mm Lens

PROS

  • Promises excellent build quality
  • Can handle both 120 and 220 films, unlike most medium format cameras
  • Aperture and shutter speed settings are displayed on the viewing lens, making it convenient to check at one glance
  • Focusing knob is large and runs smoothly which therefore allows the photographer to control focus with precision
  • Comes with ground glass and a fresnel lens which helps to brighten up the ground glass and distribute the light more evenly

CONS

  • Opening the knob to insert the film is tedious hence time-consuming
  • Some users complained that the frame counter does not work efficiently

What Recent Buyers Report

Users find this camera very enjoyable and fun to use. It is sturdy, yet light in weight and reliable to use. It is very easy to operate, and the lens allows you to produce sharp, high-quality images. Buyers certainly recommend the camera; for the price it comes at, it has a lot to offer.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Even though the camera is made of metal, it is light and easy to travel with. But that’s not it; it allows for both 120 and 220 films to function, a rare occurrence in medium format cameras these days. It generates good quality images with its f/3.5 lens and a wide range of shutter speeds. The camera also comes with a leather case.

Who Will Use This Most

Since the camera is light, it can be quite convenient to travel with. It is also great for beginners since it is easy to operate and is quite inexpensive as compared to other medium format cameras. Overall, it’s a versatile model and can cater to various needs. 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a classic, vintage camera that isn’t too heavy on your pocket, this unit is a great choice. The numerous features and high image quality are enough to convince you to make this purchase, especially for the price it comes at!

Hasselblad 500 C/M Camera Kit

PROS

  • Has excellent optics
  • Can easily be used on a tripod or handheld
  • Sturdy build, unlike other medium format cameras 
  • Ideal for fashion and portrait photography with a great sync time
  • Has a higher megapixel count, especially when compared to other medium format cameras

CONS

  • Light seal has to be replaced frequently

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent users were blown away by the quality of this amazing camera. It’s safe to say that it’s well worth the money with its outstanding image quality and high megapixel count. The tonal range and dynamic range will leave you in awe. Buyers highly recommend this model.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The advanced technology that went into making this model has brought this camera to our top favorites. It has a large sensor and a superior dynamic range with a full-frame. The lens is quite sharp, and the focusing is very precise. All these features make this a great camera.

Who Will Use This Most

This camera is for the photography enthusiast but is particularly ideal for fashion photo shoots and portrait photography due to the sharp color contrasts and shallow depth of field prominent in its images. Since it’s on the heavier side, it is not the best choice for travelers.

Bottom Line

In all, this unit has a sturdy build, unlike other medium format cameras, and can easily be used on a tripod or handheld. The camera is user-friendly and takes excellent images with its high megapixel count. If you’re willing to invest in a good medium format film camera, this is the one to go with.

Medium Format Film vs. Digital - Comparison Overview 

When deciding to buy a camera, you must have come across digital cameras as well, and we understand that this can confuse you into buying the camera of your choice. Therefore, we have decided to compare both cameras so that you can easily make your decision.

Similarities

Let’s first look at how the two kinds are similar to each other.

Image Quality

Both medium format film and digital cameras produce high-quality images, even if there are certain features that differ in both. 

Ease of Travel

The ease of travel of both the kinds usually depends on the photographer and the kind of photography they’re looking for. Both formats are ideal for portrait photography and fashion or advertisement photoshoots, and both can be heavy and bulky, making it difficult to travel with.  

Comparison between film and digital (Source)

Differences

However, they have a wide range of differences, which include:

Lighting Conditions

In low light conditions, digital cameras shoot better images. In medium format cameras, speeds between 100 and 3200 are usually available, whereas digital cameras simulate sensitivities as high as ISO 51200, while professional Nikon systems can shoot as high as ISO 409,600. 

Cost and Storage

Digital cameras generally cost more than medium format cameras, especially since you’ll have to keep upgrading your equipment with time. They also allow for greater storage (with hundreds and thousands of images to store), whereas in film photography, one has to constantly worry about their film running out.  

Features

Contrast and saturation are two other features that contribute to image quality, and they differ in both medium format film and digital. Digital cameras are also able to work better in low light conditions. 

How to Use a Medium Format Film Camera

If you’re a beginner, you might want to go over how to use a medium format film camera, of course. Apart from the camera itself, you will need 120 film. Below is a set of instructions to guide you further. 

  1. The first step is to add the film to the camera. Each medium format film camera has a back lock on the side for inserting the film. Twist it to open.
     
  2. Remove the old film from the top.

  3. Now, take the old spool from the bottom and place it where the old film was.
     
  4. Put your new film where your spool was. Make sure the black side of the film faces inwards. 

  5. Next, tick the tab from the beginning of the film and insert it into the slot of the previous spool.

  6. Once the film is securely within the notch, use the windup lever and wind it until the arrows meet the red dots.  

  7. Close the back lock of the camera. 

  8. Wind the lever till the window says one. You are now ready to shoot. 

  9. Since the film is loaded, you can now adjust the camera settings. There are dials for adjusting the shutter speed of the camera by twisting and the aperture as well. 

  10. You can also activate the timer, depending on the camera you own.

  11. The viewfinder is reversed and has a magnifier for fine-tuning (depending upon the camera you own). 

  12. A focusing knob should allow you to focus your image. 

  13. The shutter button allows you to take a photograph, and you’re now ready to go!

In case you need a visual representation of these steps, we have included a video that’ll help you figure this out better. 

Conclusion 

Although both digital and medium format film cameras offer great image quality, there’s something vintage and classy about using the latter. We hope this article helped you decide the medium format film camera that suits your needs. Each camera on our list is unique and has several features to offer. It all depends on the kind of photography you’re into and how much you’re willing to splurge.

People Also Ask

If you still have any queries buzzing in your mind, fret not. Below we have elaborated a list of commonly asked questions, and we hope the answers satisfy you!  

What is Medium Format Film?

A medium format camera is a camera format that uses a 120 film size, which is able to take pictures somewhat smaller than the large format film size (102x127mm). They have large image sensors and are usually bulky due to this reason. 

Moreover, medium format cameras produce high-quality images. More often than not, they’re used in advertising, magazine shoots, and in fashion due to the accuracy they show in color reproduction. 

Why Are Medium Format Cameras so Expensive?

One reason why a medium format camera is expensive is that it is vintage. They aren’t as easily available or widespread as digital cameras, so that is one reason. Moreover, the 120 film size they need to produce images is a rarity to find these days.

 

Are Medium Format Cameras Worth the Money?

Many photographers swear by medium format cameras, so it is safe to say that they are worth every penny. There are certain features and effects exclusive to medium format cameras that make them stand out, and therefore, these cameras are making a comeback.

Why Shoot Medium Format?

There are several factors that would convince you to shoot in medium format. A large sensor means that medium format cameras can shoot in very shallow depths of field and create dreamy images. These models are particularly popular in fashion and advertising photography due to the high image resolution and sharp color contrasts. 

What Size Film is Medium Format?

Medium format utilizes the 20 film size or a digital imaging sensor that similar to that size.

Is Medium Format Better Than 35mm?

What makes medium format stand out is its large size, i.e., it is about two to six times larger than 35 mm films. Hence, medium format cameras produce images with greater resolution (and therefore less grain or noise). It also has greater control over the depth of field and better tonality, making the images more natural and real. 

Is Medium Format Better Than Full-Frame?

Since medium format cameras have larger sensors, they are able to capture greater detail and have a wider tonal range as compared to full frames. This allows capturing a shallower depth of field. However, besides this reason, it really depends on your choice and preference.

Where Can I Develop Medium Format Film?

There are certain photography stores than can develop films; check for any in your local area, and you can easily mail it as well. You can also do it at home, but that is rather a tedious and time-consuming process.