Essentials: The Compact Medium Format Film Photographer

Essentials is a 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.

When you think about most medium format cameras out there, it’s often possible for people to consider the fact that they’re all really large. Granted, the newer digital cameras are changing that, but most of the medium format film cameras have always been very large. The exceptions were the rangefinders. Indeed, some of these are very expensive, but others are pretty affordable overall. And if you’re looking to keep your kit compact overall, then know that it’s pretty simple to do.

Fujifilm GSW690 III with 90mm f3.5

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The Fujifilm GSW690 III is a medium format rangefinder camera that has a 6×9 format–which is really, really big. Some of the cameras have a 90mm f3.5 lens that is more or less a 35mm equivalent option. While it’s a big camera overall, it’s much lighter and smaller than some DSLR options out there while providing a larger negative overall.

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This camera has the aperture and shutter speed controls around the lens and doesn’t have a light meter built in. So you’ll need to be a bit more careful. Something I don’t like about the lens is that the hood is attached and when retracted, it covers the camera controls.

Buy Now: eBay

Japan Camera Hunter 120 Film Holder

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The Japan Camera Hunter film cases have always been my favorite. They help you keep your film organized and in a specific spot altogether in your camera bag. A lot of photographers in the analog community use them.

Buy Now: JCH

myLightmeter App

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If you don’t want to take around a dedicated Lightmeter (which if you do, go Sekonic) then there are a lot of great apps that can help you in that situation. The myLightmeter app for iOS works very well. It lets you set all the variables you want and is perfect for pinhole photographers.

Vinta S Series Backpack

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A compact camera deserves an equally compact bag, and so the Vinta S series does a great job in this situation. These bags are pretty, and fairly minimal, but they’re mostly designed for city shooters or those going for a quick trip.

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The inside has a lot of room overall and you’ve got a little bit of space up top for a few other things. Plus there are straps for tripods below.

Overall though, the Vinta bags are very comfortable and have lots of padding that feels great when you wear the bag.

Buy Now: Amazon

Vanguard GH-100 Pistol Grip

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While many photographers like traditional ballheads, I’ve always really preferred pistol grip heads. The reason: when you’re working with heavier cameras, I simply feel they give you more ergonomics and swifter control. This grip lets you make quick adjustments just by gripping the handle. Then it locks back into place when you release.

Buy Now: Amazon

Platypod Pro Max

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Yes, we know lots of you outdoor shooters like tripods. But if you want something a big more versatile, you should take a look at this: the Platypod Pro Max. It’s a versatile surface that can connect to a ballhead and hold your camera. Plus it comes with spiked screws to keep it in place–providing the place you’re shooting from allows you to do a bit of drilling. It’s fantastic for places where tripods aren’t allowed.

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Here’s the whole kit in action. Pretty cool, huh?

Buy Now: Amazon