Medium format refers to the size of your roll of film (or if you’re talking digital, it’s the size of the camera sensor). It really just means that you are shooting on a bigger piece of film than you do with a 35mm camera. The increased size of medium format film means a much larger negative. This will give you finer details and less grain.
Choosing your Right Medium Format Camera
Twin Lens Reflex (TLRS)
TLRs use two objective lens of the same focal length. The photographic objective lens is the one that is used to take the picture. The other lens, called the view lens, is connected to the viewfinder. Most TLRs are fixed focal length, and the more expensive models may incorporate a rudimentary room function. Most TLRs use a leaf shutter system, resulting in high speeds, quiet operation and low shutter vibration. There are also close-up, wide angle and telephoto adapters for TLRs.
Some popular TLRS cameras are: Yashica MAT-124G, Rolleiflex 2.8F, Minolta Autocord and Mamiya C330
Rangefinder cameras are medium format cameras with a range finder. This negates the waistline, viewing that most TLRs carry. They are also much smaller than TLRs, and allow for easier point and shoot photographs. They tend to have limited focusing ranges, and do not have lenses larger than 180mm or 200mm. Rangefinders are quieter and easier to focus in dim light. They are mostly fixed lens models, but higher range models also provide for interchangeability.
Some popular rangefinder cameras are: Fujica G690, Mamiya 6/7, Bronica RF645, Norita 66 and Pentax 67
The SLR is the same as your regular SLR cameras except that they work with a larger film size (120/220). They are the most flexible, possessing the widest range of standard optics, and are excellent for both closeup and telephoto photography, providing precise composition with very wide angles.
Some popular SLR cameras are: Contax 645, Pentax 67, Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and Hasselblad 500C
Choosing your Own Film
Film speed, also known as ISO, is the sensitivity rating of the film. A films speed will determine its sensitivity to light – low ISO number will basically need more light to get the right exposure than a high ISO number, which will need less.
Films classed as a low-speed range from 20 to 200 ISO. You get finer grain with low-speed films. The lower the ISO number, the finer the grain.
High-speed or fast, films range from 400 to 3200 ISO. These films give you a lot more flexibility on overcast days and in low light situations. Also, they are a good choice if you’re shooting fast-moving subjects. You get more noticeable grain with fast films.
Normally, the film roll used for medium format cameras is called 120 film. It is 6 cm wide and different cameras shoot different variations of frame length. There is 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and panoramic 6×17. In each case, the numbers refer to the frame size in cm. Therefore, 6×6 will produce a 6 cm by 6 cm negative.
The amount of images you get per medium format film depends on the specific format you are using. A 6×4.5 camera allows 16 frames per roll, 6×6 provides 12, 6×7 gives 10, and 6×9 allows you 8 shots. With 6×17 you get usually get 3.
Push and Pull Film
Pushing or pulling film is when you rate your film at a different speed from the one written on the box. Then, you compensate for the difference when you develop it. Pushing will mean giving the film a higher rating and pulling a lower rating.
Refer here for more information about push and pull film.
Developing your Own Film
If you're just starting with film photography or are interested in it, processing your own film can seem a bit daunting, but it's really not that hard, especially with black and white film. It seems like a lot to purchase at first, but remember that most of the accessories are cheap and the chemicals will last you a while. The process itself is fairly straightforward and can be rather rewarding, as you get to work with your hands and watch the images appear before your eyes.
Once you're done, you can either proceed to making prints or scan the negatives into your computer.
Things you need to get started:
- Stop Bath
- Wetting Agent
- Developing Tank
- Changing Bag
- Storage Bottles
- Film Opener
Refer to the massive development chart for the
developing time of your film rolls here.