We all certainly love the best quality in our stills and videos. This means larger, if not the largest, size of sensor available out there. This explains why medium format cameras are being coveted by a lot of photographers. Such a size of the sensor means a huge deal in the pixels, noise, dynamic range, details, and light performance of the camera.
However, you see, this size of the sensor doesn’t come cheap from the very start. The price tag of the cheap medium format camera almost equates to an expensive full-frame camera. There are even those that come five times the price of a regular professional mirrorless or DSLR camera. One example is the Leica S3 which almost costs a whopping US$20,000 just for the body itself. Though we didn’t include this in our list, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your attention… especially if you have the means to afford such luxury. If you have too much money to burn, there are even those units from Hasselblad and other brands that can hit US$30,000 and above just for the body only.
The thing is, we tried to make the entirety of this comprehensive review as practical as possible. By considering both the cost and the quality of the cameras themselves, we picked the ones that we believe would give you the best bang for your buck. This is why we came up with such a list topped by Fujifilm GFX 100S, the successor of GFX 100. Though the updates that it received are not that groundbreaking, its price tag that is $4000 cheaper than its predecessor helped it to attract a large crowd in the market. Also, in terms of basic specs, it won’t disappoint. It offers a 102 MP BSI-CMOS medium format sensor and an improved IBIS which some luxurious models don’t even have.
To give your more information about it, we underscored below how well it can benefit you in the field of medium format photography. We also include four more leading medium format cameras on the market. Together with the aid of Evangeline Summers, SolidSmack’s Photography Editor, we tested and compared their performances and features. This allowed us to give you a comprehensive verdict about each product, as well as their best highlights.
1. Fujifilm GFX 100S
4K at 30fps
Producing a powerful camera often entails cutbacks in some areas. For instance, in order to give you a big sensor, older cameras had to come in bulky body sizes. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Fujifilm GFX 100S.
“It is a medium format mirrorless camera that comes with a 102 MP BSI-CMOS medium format sensor measuring 43.8 x 32.9 mm,” said Summers. “Nonetheless, despite having the same big sensor of GFX 100, Fujifilm decided to fashion it with a relatively compact body compared to other medium format cameras on the market. It also inherited a lot of things from GFX 100 such as the max shutter speed, sync speed, and more.”
Further, despite this aggressive move of the brand to cramp everything in a small shell, its in-body image stabilization stays untouched. As a matter of fact, it is even improved since it now comes with 6 stops of correction while GFX 100 has 5.5 stops.
It also comes with the same 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen. This lets you shoot 4K videos at 30fps with ease since the screen can be adjusted. Truly helpful for awkward angles of shots. This gives you one capable medium format camera perfect for detailed photography projects. Fujifilm even added a new Film Simulation mode which is the Nostalgic Neg. With this new feature, you won’t just have 100 MP images that you can crop without losing too many details; you’ll also enjoy its new ability to play with the saturation and highlights of stills.
Moreover, the AF system of GFX 100S is relatively good. It isn’t as great as the EOS R5 but if you would just focus it on a single subject, the autofocus isn’t a headache. In relation to that, it isn’t one of those sports and wildlife cameras. Instead, it can excel more on still life, portraits, and landscapes which are the common realms of medium format cameras.
2. Hasselblad X1D II 50C
The Hasselblad brand is known for its fancy cameras -- and fancy prices. Yet, just with a single glance at the beauty of X1D II 50C, you know you are getting a quality camera with promising features hidden inside its glamorous body.
“With the looks of its basic features, it’s as if getting just that same old Hasselblad X1D 50C which is a good thing,” Summers said. “It means still getting that portable medium format sensor in a compact body which used to be a myth in the past. Yet, it will also surprise you with major updates which can further justify its worth.”
According to Summers, it starts with the now improved 2.36m dots 3” LCD screen and 3.69m dots OLED EVF. Both are now physically larger in size and also boast higher resolutions compared to the unit’s predecessor. Also, you would be pleased how Hasselblad improved the EVF’s performance and this is where the true changes get noticeable: less blackout time and shutter lag. Even better, it now shows the menu as you peek at it.
Also, it is a huge move for Hasselblad to directly add a GPS inside X1D II 50C’s body. This makes things more direct and instant for users, given that this feature can only be accessed in X1D 50C using the GLONASS module.
And as if these upgrades are not enough, Hasselblad provided updates for its firmware which give you more improvements. This includes the addition of a white balance eyedropper, focus bracketing, and more!
On the other hand, while it still possesses that same sensor from Hasselblad X1D 50C, it can’t be denied that Hasselblad is one of the best cameras in terms of image quality.
“The color rendition is truly natural and the dynamic range would give you almost an infinite amount of detail to revive. The stills always come crisp and the RAW files won’t disappoint. Truly majestic. That said, you can really prove the ability of a medium format to capture details regardless of its resolution,” Summers ended.
3. Fujifilm GFX 50R
Full HD 1080p at 30p
If you want the most affordable medium format camera on the market and get more functions than what Hasselblad can offer, Fujifilm has something for you: The GFX 50R.
According to Summers, GFX 50R’s sensor isn’t the full-sized medium format sensor you would expect it to be which explains why it costs lower than others. It is at least 60% larger than a full-frame sensor but it is huge enough to cater to 51.4 million pixels.
“With this, you can still expect high-res shots with millions and millions of pixels that are ready for large printouts. Even in low-light conditions, the GFX 50R retains details pretty well. As for the RAW files, you can expect copious information that you can pull up and revive. All the time, it won’t fail to deliver sharp images.”
On the other hand, it has a burst rate of 3fps and a 13-shot compressed RAW buffer capacity. It might be a total flop if you would compare it to other cameras aimed at the sports or wildlife category; however, GFX 50R is a medium format camera with a high-resolution capacity.
“Medium format units are not specifically built for speed; they are built for resolution and quality. With this, experiencing this much frame rate and the buffer is just a spec of a sacrifice compared to the quality of stills you could capture. After all, it can still offer you an unlimited JPEG shooting experience,” Summers added.
Its body doesn’t offer any stabilization feature; however, unlike the Hasselblad 907X, it can be remedied with a lens with an optical stabilizer. The 3.2” tilting touchscreen LCD is bright and very effective for touch-focus function. It employs contrast AF technology which is, apparently, not the best. Yet, the AF points are well distributed across the frame which gives you reliable precision.
4. Hasselblad 907X 50C
2.7K at 30p
According to Summers, the 907X 50C is practically made to give us an “affordable” Hasselblad medium-format camera. Well, of course, this entry from Hasselblad is still way more expensive compared to the regular 35 mm full-frame or APS-C cameras. Yet, in this category, it is actually a generous offer from the brand.
“It is a modular camera that comes with two parts: the main (yet thin) 907X camera body and the CFV II 50C back,” said Summers. “This gives you the ‘907X 50C’ which basically makes up the camera itself, with the lens not still included. The good thing about it is that this unit promises vast possibilities in the future by pairing the modules with other Hasselblad cameras, especially the brand’s 500 V-series.”
If you are a huge fan of a viewfinder, however, do not expect one in this unit. It comes with a 32-inch 2.36m dots tilting touchscreen LCD which, thankfully, allows touch-focus function. The AF isn’t at a breakneck speed in terms of the response, but it is effective. Also, the 117 contrast AF points are well-spread all throughout the screen so the selection of the focus point won’t be a problem.
On the other hand, though Hasselblad 907X 50C lacks stabilization features (and so as the Hasselblad lenses), it compensates in other sections. It is rich in dynamic range and will give you abundant details that even when you need to perform some digital adjustments, you can still get quality outcomes.
5. Fujifilm GFX 100
4K at 30fps
It is true that the GFX 100S is a head-turner. Imagine having the specs you need all packed in a small body. This means a big deal for photographers who want to travel light at all times; nonetheless, is such size enough to provide all the things you need?
When it comes to other aspects, GFX 100 and GFX 100S share a lot of things. This includes the sensor-shift image stabilization, 2.360k dots LCD screen, tilting LCD screen, 102 MP resolution, ISO, AF system, and more.
Yet, far from GFX 100S, GFX 100 comes with a relatively bigger body. The former comes with total body dimensions of 150 x 104 x 87 mm while the former boasts a 156 x 164 x 103 mm external body size. That said, it is undeniable how huge their difference is when it comes to size. However, according to Summers, there are other distinct differences between the two that can improve your experience.
“The GFX 100 is designed to strive and last outdoors. For instance, it has a better life that can last up to 800 shots compared to the 460-shot capacity of 100S. Also, you get one of the best viewfinders existing. It tilts and has a higher resolution of 5760k dots. When you have to take that shot at an awkward angle and can’t rely on your LCD due to the bright sunlight, this is a lifesaver,” she said.
Those are the things you’ll miss in the newer GFX 100S model but keep in mind that in terms of the stills, you would have almost the same quality. But if you don’t mind spending extra thousands of dollars just to keep the handy features of GFX 100, it is certainly a good choice.
Best Medium Format Cameras - Buyer's Guide
Medium format cameras are well known due to their ability to provide high-definition images but it doesn’t mean that you have to compromise in terms of other sections. That said, check for the features that you think would bring you great help and comfort. For instance, a viewfinder which the Hasselblad 907X 50C doesn’t offer. It offers an optional 907X optical viewfinder but of course, it means additional cost for you. If you can’t live without a viewfinder, you might want to look for models that have one.
Further, medium format cameras are known as bulky types of units. So if you want to opt for models with smaller bodies, expect some tradeoffs. The Fujifilm GFX 100S is a good example of this. Though it is truly smaller than its predecessor, the GFX 100, it has shorter battery life. That being said, if you don’t mind the consequences related to the sizes and designs of the camera you prefer, the mentioned models would still be great choices to consider.
If you have been using full-frame, Micro Four Thirds, or APS-C for a long time and are planning to shift to medium format, you know the big differences in their prices. And it is no joke. The price tag of the most expensive full-frame camera you have can probably just equate to the cheapest medium format unit on the market. Nonetheless, expensive cams don’t always mean the best. This is why we considered this in our search. After all, the real bottom line is to find the camera that offers you ALL the features you need not at the most affordable way, but at the most reasonable price.
It is true that the higher the megapixels, the better. Yet, megapixels are not the only factor that will determine the quality of your shots. The sensor matters as well since brands offer them in different sizes. Keep in mind that the size of the sensor will affect the quality of pixels, noise, dynamic range, and low-light performance.
A camera with image stabilization can give you better results most of the time. There are medium format models that don’t offer them such as the Fujifilm GFX 50R; nonetheless, it can be solved with the right lens with a stabilization feature. That said, a unit with an integrated IBIS will save you more. However, it doesn’t mean that a medium format camera that doesn’t have one is less preferable; especially if you are someone who often uses tripods.
Best Medium Format Cameras - FAQs
Since the medium format sensor is bigger, it can do better than a full-frame sensor. This will give you better noise handling, dynamic range, low-light performance, and pixel quality.
Besides offering more megapixels, medium format cameras have big lenses which can assure you the best quality of stills. With such a large lens, you can experience the effect of both wide and long lenses. This will deliver not just rich details but will also allow shallow depth of field, background compression, and a wider field of view.
Sports photography needs a fast camera with an excellent AF system, burst mode, and buffer capacity. However, a standard medium format camera usually lacks all of them. This is due to the fact that medium format cameras are made to excel in image details, not in speed.