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Dueling DSLRs – 35mm vs. Medium Format

Medium Format vs 35 mm DSLR: advantages and compromises? 

Mamiya vs Nikon-D800

Introduction

Hey guy’s! Around the first of the year, I made the switch from 35mm to Medium Format digital and it’s been quite the transition. Before I made the switch, I had a lot of questions about MF systems and getting all the answers proved kind of difficult.

So, this is for all of you who have been wanting a little more information on medium format and have been having a hard time finding it. In this post, we are going to start off with a comparison video which will take a look at a 35mm DSLR and pit it against a Medium Format DSLR.

We’ll break each system down into it’s main parts and then take a close look for a breakdown of the pro’s & con’s of each system.

35mm vs MF Basics – Pro’s & Con’s Breakdown

35mm DSLR Cameras: Pro’s and Con’s

35mm DLSR Pro’s:

  • Accurate AF
  • Many AF Points
  • Useable High ISOs
  • Fast Capture Rate – Up to 10fps
  • Rear Display
  • Good Color**
  • Good built-in Live View**
  • Easy Access to Controls
  • Weatherproofing
  • Not too expensive for body and lenses
  • Decent amount of Tilt-Shift & Macro lens options available
  • Video Capabilities

35mm DLSR Con’s:

  • Image not quite what MF produces (sharpness, color, dynamic range, resolution)
  • Difficult to clean (sensor deep inside body, dark inside)
  • Not very impressive to clients
  • Unimpressive Customer Service when needed

As you can see, you get a whole lot for your money out of a decent 35mm DLSR system. And the list of con’s isn’t very long at all.

Medium Format Cameras: Pro’s and Con’s

Medium Format DLSR Pro’s:

  • Ability to remove BD and use on Tech Camera
  • Top Image Quality (with MFDB)
  • Shallower DoF
  • More Colors & More Accurate Color Information
  • Large Dynamic Range (Up To 14 Stops)
  • Easy to Clean
  • Impressive to Clients
  • High Quality Lenses Available
  • Impressive Customer Service

Medium Format DLSR Con’s:

  • Expensive Digital Backs
  • Expensive Lenses
  • Single Focal Point
  • Poor Auto-Focus
  • Poor High ISO Performance
  • Slow Capture Rate – 1fps
  • Most MFDBs have poor rear LCD screens
  • Most MFDBs have no built-in Live View
  • Poor access to controls/settings
  • Non-Intuitive Custom Settings
  • Limited Selection of Specialty Lenses
  • Poor AF

Image Comparison’s

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s take a little look at some image comparisons to see just exactly how much of an increase in IQ we’ll get when upgrading to this particular medium format system. Of course, results will vary slightly depending on the 35mm DSLR and which digital backs you use.

I wanted to keep the cameras as close in spec as possible for the sake of this test. So, we are using a Nikon D800 with a 50mm f/1.8 G Nikon lens, and we are comparing it to a Leaf Aptus II-10 on a Mamiya 645DF body with an 80mm f/2.8 LS D Mamiya/Schneider lens. The 800mm on the medium format system will give us the equivalent of a 47mm lens on a 35mm system. That’s about as close as I can get them to being the “same”. Each is operating with a “normal” focal length lens.

Sharpness Comparison:

Image of a Nikon D800 & 50mm G lens - Taken with a Mamiya 645DF, Leaf Aptus II-10 & 80mm LS Lens

5 responses on "Dueling DSLRs - 35mm vs. Medium Format"

  1. Yes you are right! My mind is locked to the studio indoor photography and some times i don’t consider that exist other type of photography! Grate post and pro sound! :-)

  2. Very good video and tutorial Joshua, but i have to disagree to some negatives you mention about medium format Dslr, which are correct for general use. I think for studio product photographers this thinks are not necessary, we shooting always tethered in ISO 100 or under, with the camera locked to a tripod or studio stand, with manual focus and flash lights, so:
    Single Focal Point
    Poor Auto-Focus
    Poor High ISO Performance
    Slow Capture Rate – 1fps
    Are not problems. From me the most critical disadvantage is the lack of good “Live view”.
    Again thank you for a grate tutorial!

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