Essentials: The Medium Format Beginner

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials Medium Format Beginner (6 of 6)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Essentials is a brand new series where we round up specially curated kits for different photographers in different situations. Other items could surely be substituted, but these are what we personally recommend.

Medium Format photography is what many shooters yearn to do. While the digital counterpart is extremely expensive, its film predecessor is probably more affordable than most digital setups overall. An excellent kit can be had fairly cheaply and you’ll be rewarded with images that aren’t totally possible with most digital cameras.

So why make the move to medium format? Besides the obvious benefits of a significantly larger negative area, medium format film blows its 35mm brethren away in terms of not only overall sharpness but also in color depth, tonality, and more. And with the right lighting, it will beat anything that your DSLR might be able to produce.

Ready to take the plunge? Here’s our essential kit for the person ready to step up.

Bronica ETR-S with 75mm f2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials Medium Format Beginner (2 of 6)ISO 1001-80 sec at f - 4.0

Though Bronica isn’t the name that Hasselblad, Mamiya and Contax are, these extremely affordable SLR cameras were made by Tamron–and the lenses to accompany them were just as wonderful. If you want to purchase one, be sure to get a body, double stroke speed grip, AE Prism viewfinder, and a 120 film back along with the 75mm f2.8 lens. On a medium format camera, the 75mm field of view will be more of a normal perspective instead of a longer portrait type of optic.

The system uses lenses with a leaf shutter, and this camera in particular can sync up to 1/500th with your strobes. In fact, its maximum shutter speed is only 1/500th.

But don’t let that be a damper on your creativity–if anything it will push you to create some interesting hacks.

Buy Now: eBay

A Handheld Light Meter

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials Medium Format Beginner (5 of 6)ISO 1001-60 sec at f - 4.0

Though I personally use the Minolta Auto IV light meter, any meter that can measure both ambient and artificial lighting is what you want. Preferably, you’ll also want one with a digital display to make reading and setting exposures simpler. Though the Bronica ETR-S has a built in light meter via the AE-Prism (if you get that) it might not always be the most accurate. So it’s a good idea to double check the metering.

And this will help you to make better creative calculations, such as for long exposures or anything else.

Buy Now: Adorama

Pro Tip: the latest emulsions of Kodak Portra were designed to be scanned. We recommend Portra 400 more than almost anything else out there.

Pro Tip: the latest emulsions of Kodak Portra were designed to be scanned. We recommend Portra 400 more than almost anything else out there.

Light Craft Workshop Fader ND/DigiPro HD Vari-ND Filters

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials Medium Format Beginner (4 of 6)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Light Craft Workshop makes some of the best ND filters that we’ve had the pleasure of testing. The image quality is top notch and they do an excellent job of cutting down light.

So why do you need these puppies? Consider this:

– Your ISO is always locked into a certain setting, be it 400 or 100

– The camera only shoots to a maximum of 1/500th.

– What if you want to shoot wide open in bright sunlight?

The only way to nerf the extra light is to use a vari ND filter. And if you ever decide to get into shooting video, then these filters will come in double handy.

Buy Now: B&H Photo

Pro Tip: Want to kill more ambient lighting but your DSLR will only sync with studio strobes to a certain shutter speed? The answer is a Vari ND filter that will cut down all light (both ambient and artificial) accordingly. Just remember to crank your  studio strobe power back up.

Pro Tip: Want to kill more ambient lighting but your DSLR will only sync with studio strobes to a certain shutter speed? The answer is a Vari ND filter that will cut down all light (both ambient and artificial) accordingly. Just remember to crank your studio strobe power back up.

Japan Camera Hunter Film Cases

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials Medium Format Beginner (3 of 6)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Bellamy Hunt is the Japan Camera Hunter, and he has made some very nifty film cases for a while now. The cases can hold either 35mm or 120 film depending on which ones you get. But this is a heck of a lot cleaner than bringing boxes of film still wrapped up. The cases open up easily if needed and you can mark which ones are for Black and White, Color, or for specific films if you want.

Recently, he came out with black versions, but many users own his white ones.

Buy Now: Japan Camera Hunter

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