Is digital medium-format photography worth the money, or overrated?
Download medium-format images
If you are curious to see digital medium format photos, download these full-resolution JPEG images for free (Pentax 645z + Fujifilm GFX):
In regards with digital medium-format photography, let us talk real talk:
I. Shooting medium format won’t make you a better photographer
Only way to become a better photographer is to shoot with your heart, soul, emotion, and to improve your compositions. To make your photos more personal.
Shooting medium format (like buying a Lamborghini) won’t bring you happiness. Rather, it is a tool that has more detail (you can zoom in closer to the image, see more pores in the skin of people, the images are sharper), dynamic range (the dark parts and the bright parts of the photos are visible), and there is more depth-of-field (which makes your photographs look more 3d and life-like).
II. Medium format is very expensive
A Pentax 645Z (my favorite medium-format digital camera) is around $7000 USD. A Fujifilm GFX is around $7000 USD. Additional lenses cost at least $2000 USD.
You need to buy a very expensive computer, with more processing speed, more ram, a stronger graphics card, which can cost you $3000 USD+. A high-end MacBook Pro laptop might cost you close to $4000 USD. You can probably build a PC desktop that is very high-end for around $2000+ USD.
You also need more storage space. You might want to buy storage that can cost you around $200-300. And then there is the headache of storing the images online, which can take a long time (Because medium-format file sizes are much larger).
So know that if you’re going to get into digital medium format photography, expect to invest:
- $7000 for camera body, and $2000 for lens
- $3000 for computer
- $500 for storage
So getting your hands dirty in medium format digital photography will probably run you at least $10,000 USD. But consider, this will probably go down in the future.
III. Medium format cons
Medium format digital cameras are very heavy, the buffer times (time it takes for the camera to process a photograph after each image) are generally slower than other cameras, the high-ISO capabilities are worse than APS-C (crop sensors) or even full-frame sensors.
IV. Who should *not* buy a medium-format camera?
If you are not a commercial photographer earning $50,000 USD a commercial shoot, or $20,000 a wedding, you should not buy a digital medium-format camera.
You will not make more money by owning a digital medium format camera.
V. My experiences shooting digital medium-format
I very much like digital medium format photography for color. I like the colors, the tones, the hues, the fidelity of chroma, and how the photos make me feel when I look at them.
However, I hate carrying heavy shit. So to be frank, I would not want a medium-format digital camera.
If I started to shoot commercials for $250,000 USD +, I would buy one for commercial work. But for my hobby photography and personal photography, I prefer a point and shoot Ricoh GR II camera, or a film Leica MP camera.
VI. The future of digital medium-format photography
The future of digital medium-format photography will be very lucrative.
For example, us silly humans think that ‘more megapixels = better photos’. I actually think:
So as medium-format digital prices are going down, more and more people are gonna buy medium-format digital cameras. Computing costs will go down, as well as storage costs. Internet is gonna get faster. So imagine a great new market for digital medium format photography (smart that Fujifilm is investing heavily in this space, as well as Ming Thein x Hasselblad, Pentax, and Leica).
Also, we all know that (for men) photography is a dick-measuring contest. The bigger your camera, the bigger your (ahem) member.
So we will buy digital medium-format as a status symbol. If I own a $10,000 camera, it is like driving a Maserati. Digital medium-format photographers (as well as photographers who use digital Leica cameras) are going to look down on common photographers– photographers using iPhones, Fujifilm cameras, micro 4/3rd cameras (I actually think micro 4/3rds are unfortunately gonna die), and other mirrorless cameras.
To also be frank, most commercial photographers and wedding photographers cannot afford a digital medium format camera. Most of them will just shoot with high-end full-frame DSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon, and Pentax. Only people buying digital medium-format cameras will be rich people, who own at least one Ferrari, one Porsche, and a few Rolex/Panerai watches.
Also as an aside, most professional photographers do not shoot with a digital Leica. Now, Leica is a luxury brand. Only rich photographers (or a few struggling artists, who want to look cool) will buy digital Leicas.
If you are reading this, you probably shouldn’t buy a digital medium format camera. If you are a commercial photographer earning $250,000+ a year — you probably already own a digital medium format camera. Or if you’re really smart, you probably just rent it whenever you need it. Because if you invest $7000 on a digital medium format body, the second you buy it, you will instantly lose $2000 of value (like buying a new car).
If you really want to buy a digital medium format camera, I recommend buying a used Pentax 645Z (I used it to shoot my first fashion shoot, and had a ton of fun). Don’t buy the first-generation Fujifilm GFX camera, as it is a first-generation product which will inevitably have problems (consider the first iPhone 2G, and the first iPad, with lots of issues). Or consider all the issues that the new MacBook Pro users have. Never buy a new first-generation anything.
Or just better yet, make the best damn photos you can on your phone. I genuinely think iPhone is the best camera.
And lastly, memento mori — meaning, remember photography is about life and death.
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