Medium Format Film Cameras

Looking for an affordable Medium Format film camera? There are still plenty of great options – so grab one while you can!

No matter what, you first have to decide which aspect ratio you’d like to shoot in. The most popular ones are:

  • 6 x 4.5 cm aka 645. 15 shots per standard 120 film roll.
  • 6 x 6 cm (Square). 12 shots per roll.
  • 6 x 7 cm aka 67. 10 shots per roll.
  • 6 x 9 cm. 8 shots per roll.
  • 6 x 17 cm. 4 shots per roll.

I believe 645 and 6×6 (square) are the sweet spot for getting into Medium Format. You get plenty of shots per roll, and the cameras tend to be smaller and lighter.

Below are some great value picks for Medium Format film today. I recommend starting with a TLR (so they’re listed first).

Prices are in USD for a mint condition camera on eBay.

TLR (Twin Lens Reflex)

These are older cameras, usually from the 50’s and 60’s. Very cool designs – definitely a conversation starter on the street. The ones recommended below all shoot at 6×6 aspect ratio (12 shots/roll).

  • Minolta Autocord L/RG/I/II/III/CDS ($250 used):
    Great Rokkor 75mm F3.5 lens makes this line of cameras easy to recommend. Underrated. 1 sec to 1/500 sec shutter (and Bulb). 1.1 kg.
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos (Reddit)
  • Yashica D or Yashica 635 ($300 used):
    You’ll encounter two different variants – Yashikor (3 element) and Yashinon (sharper 4 element) 80mm F3.5. Realistically, both are just fine. All manual, 1 sec to 1/500 sec shutter (and Bulb). 1 kg weight.
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos (Reddit)

Note: Many suggest the Yashica-Mat series (e.g. 124G model) because they’re newer. However, they use a crank advance (less reliable than the trusty knob advance on the Yashica D). You can also grab a Yashica C, Yashica A, or Yashicaflex to save some money.

  • Mamiya C series ($300 used – with lens):
    Heavier than the previous two options, but features interchangeable lenses. Look for the C33 or C330 models for top quality and features. Get one with the excellent 80mm F2.8 Blue Dot lens to start. 2 kg weight.
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos (Reddit)

SLR (6 x 4.5 cm / 645)

These cameras look (and function) like a typical 35mm SLR, making it an easy transition into the format.

  • Pentax 645N ($900 total for a complete kit):
    Pro SLR with electronic shutter, P/A/S/M metering, and film advance. Powered by 6x AA batteries. 1.6 kg with lens. 15 sec. – 1/1000 sec. shutter.
    $550 (body w/ 120 film back) + Pentax 645 75mm F2.8 SMC lens ($350).
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos (Reddit)
  • Bronica ETRS or ETRSi ($700 total for a complete kit):
    An affordable modular system SLR with interchangeable film backs. Electronic shutter (metered finder available for certain models). 8 sec. to 1/500 sec. shutter. About 1.3 kg with standard prime lens, finder, and film back. Powered by a single 6-volt PX28A (aka 28A) battery.
    $700 estimated price includes lens, AE-II prism finder, film back, and Speed Grip E (highly recommended).
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos | Buying guide

Some great value Bronica lenses to start with: 75mm F2.8, 150mm F3.5 (portraits), and 50mm F2.8 (wide angle).

SLR (6 x 6 cm)

No Hasselblad? No problem! Here are the best value 6×6 SLR Medium Format cameras out there.

  • Bronica SQ-A / SQ-Ai ($650 with lens and finder):
    Very popular SLRs with interchangeable backs. Powered by a single 6-volt PX28A (aka 28A) battery. Metered viewfinders available. Electronic shutter, 8 sec. to 1/500 sec. 1.5 kg with lens finder. Most should be just fine with the more affordable SQ-A.
    More info: Camera-wiki | Example photos (Reddit)

Additional notes:

  • Repairing and CLA’ing a Medium Format camera can be very expensive (if you want it done properly). Your best bet is to find one that’s already in good working condition – although sellers are not always honest about the condition of the camera. On eBay, look for relevant keywords such as: working, tested, CLA, CLAd, mint, etc.
  • The prices above are not set in stone. Prices for these cameras wildly fluctuate depending on where you are – and what stage of that camera’s online hype cycle we’re in!
  • Take note of the focal lengths – they’re not what you’re used to. Multiply the focal length by 0.6 for the “full frame equivalent.” For example, a 50mm medium format length will have the same field of view as a 30mm on 35mm (“full frame”).

Some great 120 (medium format) films to start with:

  • Fomapan 100 (B&W, dries flat – great for scanning)
  • Ilford HP5+ (B&W, dries flat – great for scanning)
  • Kodak Ektar 100 (Color, best for landscapes – not portraits)
  • ┬áKodak Portra 400 (Color, great for people / general)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *