Rounding up the cheapest medium format cameras may seem like a contradiction in terms, but today’s models are far more affordable than ever before. Some are definitely more expensive compared to the usual crop of mirrorless or DSLR cameras, but these offerings are generally higher resolution and the quality justifies the price.
Medium format cameras also coming two flavors, these being the full-frame versions as used on cameras such as the Hasselblad H-series and smaller sized versions as used on the likes of the Hasselblad X-D. The medium format is also more specialist to the studio environment, which means most of your money is being pumped into the resolution, rather than lots of added bells and whistles. This means that if you want the ultimate in image quality, medium format is the way to go.
As the last disclaimer, remember that medium format cameras are specialist beasts. If image quality is your ultimate goal, then read on.
Compact design and features are the name of the game with the Hasselblad X1D II 50C. Similar in dimensions to our budget winner the Fujifilm GFX 50R, the X1D II 50C has a 50-megapixel sensor, 3.6-inch rear touchscreen, 3.69 million dots viewfinder and a burst speed of 2.7fps.
Carting around a medium format camera in such a small package is a definite advantage, but the contrast-based autofocus isn’t the fastest in the world and you don’t get any video facilities here. On the plus side, Hasselblad lenses are exceptional, producing beautifully vivid and detailed images every time. This is an excellent little package, but still feeling more attuned to studio work.
3. Pentax 645Z
First arriving roughly five years ago, the Pentax 645Z may have age under its belt, but it’s still a fantastic performer. It features a 51-megapixel sensor, 3.2-inch tiltable LCD screen, Prism type viewfinder and a 3fps continuous shooting speed. Video facilities also come in at 1080p at 30fps.
The body design is very reminiscent of a DSLR, which is fully weatherproofed and built to last. The AF system is the same one found in the Pentax K-3, with 27 AF points, 25 of these being cross type, with a range of -3EV. Image quality is amazing, with a wide variety of lenses available, but it is rather heavy, weighing over 1.5kg. Still, it’s a fantastic medium format solution if you have the pennies.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S was a pretty groundbreaking proposition when it was first released. It offers medium format workings with a huge 51.4MP resolution, at full-blown DSLR prices. It’s far cheaper than other medium format cameras of the time, coming with a 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, hybrid viewfinder, a burst speed of 3fps, and video resolution of 1080p.
The body design feels like a mirrorless camera, with a chunky rear backplate, but also with plenty of manual controls and a very usable medium format-like viewfinder. Plus points include it’s very rounded feature set, excellent image quality and excellent value for money. It may not have the ultimate resolution of the GFX 100 or lightweight features of the GFX 50R, but the GFX 50S is possibly one of the best all-rounders.
5. Fujifilm GFX 50R (Budget Winner)
The Fujifilm GFX 50R may seem small for a medium format camera, being more like an old rangefinder, but it still packs a 51.4MP punch. One of the more portable cameras in this list, it doesn’t skimp on quality, with a 3.2-inch touchscreen having 2.36 million dots, an OLED viewfinder, 3fps burst speed, and video quality coming in at 1080p.
The quality and resolution can’t be faulted, coupled with its compact size. It’s possibly the most affordable way to enter the medium format arena.
Choosing the Best Affordable Medium Format Cameras
This list may not contain a whopping amount of affordable medium format cameras currently on the market, but for good reason. As originally stated, they are specialist in use than a regular mirrorless DSLR camera, which means they may not be as fast, as good in low light or have an extended feature set. But they more than make up for things in resolution terms and with a good quality lens, image quality is generally exceptional.
The other main advantage is at base ISO levels, where the cameras above far exceed expectations. Use these cameras in their optimal working zones and you cannot fault the quality.
To give you an idea of the cost effectiveness of the above cameras, a PhaseOne XF IQ4 can you set you back $52,000, while the Hasselblad H6D-400c doesn’t give you much change from $48,000. In comparison, the cameras listed above are a steal.
Another thing to note about medium format cameras is that accompanying lenses are usually more expensive than those found on a traditional DSLR. Some of this is to do with their exceptional quality, but also their specialist nature. Again, if you don’t mind the extra financial outlay, the results are well worth the cost.
For studio photography, any of the above cameras will cut the mustard. If you need a camera solution to fit a variety of situations, then the new models have the most packed in facilities, but still aren’t the greatest for situations such as sports or wildlife photography. However, for the highest resolution levels around, you can’t beat the offerings listed above.