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Dueling DSLRs –

35mm vs. Medium Format

Medium Format vs 35 mm DSLR: advantages and compromises?

Dueling DSLRs – 35mm vs. Medium Format

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 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
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:

Dueling DSLRs – 35mm vs. Medium Format



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