Why Digital Medium Format is a Game-Changer for Color Photography

Post-Processing RAW Digital Medium Format Files:

Download dataset of images

Preview of .ZIP file on Dropbox >

Download 1GB .ZIP file of before and after Fujifilm GFX50R (exported RAW and processed JPEG images):

Visual experimentation

I was curious:

Is there really a difference between digital medium format ‘image quality’ and other digital camera sensors?

I believe so.

Download Preset

This is the preset I made to post-process the RAW files of the Fujifilm GFX 50R:

Also you can download all my presets here >

My impressions

Here are some of my thoughts on digital medium format (for post-processing color):

Lightroom processing settings
  1. If your focus is to get the most epic color photographs, digital medium format is king. I think honestly at this point, if you want to produce the most epic color photographs, digital medium format blows everything else out of the water (including 35mm/medium format film). Of course film (Kodak Portra 400, slide film) produces a different more ‘calm’ aesthetic– but for the ultimate in punchy colors and convenience, digital medium format is where it is at.
  2. I really enjoyed shooting with the LCD and EVF (electronic viewfinder) of the Fujifilm GFX 50R. Equally, I enjoy shooting with the optical viewfinder of the Pentax 645Z (both EVF and OVF seem good for digital medium format).
  3. For JPEG, I actually prefer the files that come out of the color film preset for the Pentax 645Z over the JPEG film simulations on the Fujifilm GFX 50R. But if you shoot RAW and post-process your photos in Lightroom and use presets, this doesn’t really matter for you.
  4. What I think makes digital medium format such a game-changer for color photography is this: You don’t blow out highlights. I’ve always believed that the Achilles heel of digital photography was the inability to produce a smooth gradation between the highlights of a photograph. Even when I shot with the original Canon 5D, I was always disappointed the lack of detail in highlights (RAW) on digital photos. This is what initially drew me to shooting color film (I love how you cannot blow out the highlights on color film). But now if you shoot RAW on a digital medium format camera, all the details are intact in the highlights! Aesthetically, this means (to me): you can finally make truly beautiful color photographs on a digital camera.

Of course there are just my personal opinions. Take a look for the before/after for processing the RAW files for yourself (all are shot on RAW on Fujifilm GFX 50R then post-processed with Eric Kim CONTRAST preset).

RAW vs Processed Digital Medium Format Photos

The RAW files are flat, the processed photos are vibrant with color:

Practical thoughts

  1. If color photography is your priority (you want the best colors), I recommend buying a digital medium format camera (both the Fujifilm GFX 50R and the Pentax 645Z as the best ‘bang for the buck’ digital medium format cameras)
  2. Perhaps the future of photography will be the ability for photographers to distinguish themselves with the way they post-process their photos (creating an artistic style via the way they post-process their photos). Perhaps photographers should focus more on making a signature post-processing aesthetic style in order to distinguish themselves. The question: What kind of new photography processing aesthetics have NOT yet been discovered?
  3. At this point (more or less) all photographers have (similar) access to the same tools in photography. Of course $6,000 USD is a lot of money for a digital camera, but still much more affordable than a $30,000 USD car (which most Americans seem to be able to afford). This is exciting to me– it means that photography is becoming more and more democratic. This means, the best way to succeed as a photographer isn’t to show off with having expensive gear, it is actually going to be merit-based (meritocracy in photography). This means today, skill in photography is far more important than the gear you shoot with.
  4. I generally don’t encourage people to buy new equipment and gear (if you want to re-inspire your photography or motivate yourself, better to buy experiences like travel or workshops, or buy books). Truth be told, even if you did buy a digital medium format camera, most likely it would end up collecting dust like every other camera on your shelf.
  5. For myself, digital medium format is interesting (not because it will re-inspire you to make more photos) but because it makes the aesthetic of digital photographs more beautiful. I believe we shouldn’t use the word ‘image quality’ in photography (this doesn’t really mean anything). Instead, we should think aesthetics (whether the image is beautiful, and whether it evokes emotion in your soul).

Digital medium format for black and white photography

Now this is something that is also interesting to me:

How is digital medium format for black and white photography?

I think there is also massive potential here– especially when processing RAW digital medium format photos into black and white.

I got a little more testing here to do, will keep you posted.



Digital Medium Format Photography

Cindy in front of colorful mural. Madison, Wisconsin