Medium format cameras are so incredibly expensive though they’re surely starting to come down in price. For many, they’re considered the pinnacle of making it as a professional photographer. Despite these incredibly high price points, you’d be shocked at what you’re getting. Granted, you’re buying into a system with a much larger sensor and then theoretically better image quality overall. Plus you get to work with better lenses and have the best in support when it comes to shooting tethered. But otherwise, that’s really about it.
This question was spurred based on our previous post about how cameras depreciate in value. And of anything, medium format really shows its cracks in the seams. One day you’re all really amazed by and shocked by a 50MP sensor and the next day Canon or Sony announce something in 35mm full frame small format with the same count and fantastic performance. So suddenly your $40,000 investment seems so small and almost worthless.
Despite this happening with camera bodies though, their lenses still command a value simply because they’re just so incredibly, stupidly well designed. Put those old Mamiya RB67 lenses in front of a digital back and you’ll be floored by just how good the image quality is. Same with the Hasselblad 500 series! Or heck, the Contax 645!
So the bigger question then becomes “Why would you buy into a system like this?” And when you look at it strictly as a numbers game then it makes sense. There is a 100MP Phase One medium format back at the moment but who knows when Sony will make their own 100MP 35mm sensor. If you purchase a medium format back for $40,000 this year and Sony comes out with a 100MP camera sensor in two years, then that means that you’ve had two years to make that investment money back plus any interest you may have accrued. So that comes out to $20,000 a year that you need to have made in revenue in order to have made that money back. For a working professional, that’s pretty darn simple to do.
But then think about it, do you NEED to upgrade after that? If you’ve got a 20MP digital medium format camera back and APS-C sensor cameras have sensors with more megapixels then that, do you NEED to upgrade?
The answer: not necessarily.
If you’re using a camera system and consistently make money with it then what’s the problem? If five years pass and you’re still making money with the $40,000 digital camera back that you bought, then that means that you’ve had to have made a minimum of $8,000 in revenue per year to have justified the purchase.
That’s super simple to do. Sure, some cameras may be shooting with higher megapixels but if you’re still doing the same type of work and the market hasn’t demanded of you that you upgrade, then why bother?
Now let’s bring this down even more to a lower consumer level: the Sony a7 original has a 24MP sensor and the Canon 6D has a 20.1MP sensor. Modern APS-C cameras though shoot with a 24MP sensor most of the time. So does that mean that the 6D is worthless now? Hell no.
What about the Sony a7? Does that mean that it still can’t take great photos? Of course not. Both of those cameras are so incredibly highly capable because these days the technology is so good that it’s almost impossible to make a bad camera. On the other hand, it’s incredibly easy for you or anyone else to just be a terrible photographer that knows just as little about creative vision as your camera does.
So sometimes the best thing to do these days has to do with getting lenses, investing in lights, tutorials and honestly spending your time creating better art through your images along with getting it out there. A lot of that requires interpersonal meetings, emailing, etc.
In the end: who cares?
Feel like I’ve wasted your time? No, I really haven’t. But at least I’ve probably also made you realize that amazing blazing fast rate that technology moves at these days and how little it’s making people actually create better photos overall aside from the sad folks who sit there pixel peeping their existence away. If you’re a reader of this site, you obviously know better. I’m not talking down to you or anyone else, but instead stating a mere simple fact.