Medium format film cameras: a complete history

Hasselblad medium format film camera
(Image credit: Australian Camera)

When I last wrote about at the options for shooting with medium format film cameras back in 2016, there was a bit of a question mark over the continued availability of rollfilm. It certainly tempered any enthusiasm for spending a reasonable amount of money on, say, a classic Hasselblad. While the choice of rollfilm stocks is certainly a lot smaller than it was when medium  format was the choice of manyprofessional photographers, the old favourites are still available in B&W, colour negative and colour transparency. And there' seemingly enough interest to keep this going. For anybody contemplating getting into (or getting back into) film photography, 35mm looks like the obvious choice as there is a huge selection of cameras to choose from, either second hand if you want an SLR or a rangefinder type, or new if you want something a bit quirky. But medium format adds a bit more to the experience with the handling of rollfilm and the camera operations, particularly with boxform cameras. There is also quite a variety of cameras from SLRs to fixed-lens rangefinder types, and not all are fully manual, mechanical machines as, latterly, automation did find its way into the medium format camera world. However, don’t expect the point-and-shoot convenience of a digital camera.

Most medium format film cameras will make you work – some harder than others – but that’s part of the attraction. So is the size. Even the non-reflex designs are still pretty chunky, but something like the Mamiya RB67 is a beast – big, heavy and very noisy.

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Paul Burrows

Paul has been writing about cameras, photography and photographers for 40 years. He joined Australian Camera as an editorial assistant in 1982, subsequently becoming the magazine’s technical editor, and has been editor since 1998. He is also the editor of sister publication ProPhoto, a position he has held since 1989. In 2011, Paul was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute Of Australian Photography (AIPP) in recognition of his long-term contribution to the Australian photo industry. Outside of his magazine work, he is the editor of the Contemporary Photographers: Australia series of monographs which document the lives of Australia’s most important photographers.