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Pro Photo Rental

Why You Should Rent Medium Format
By Zac Henderson

In photography, finding the right tool for the right job can be tricky. As is the case for any equipment intensive discipline, the marketplace is flush, (dare I say overflowing?) with gear for making still and moving images. Choosing the right one can feel daunting because there are simply so many options. The funny thing is, just about any option will work in most cases. Sony? Nikon? Canon? Fuji? Leica? Panasonic? Nearly any modern camera system is going to more than likely give you what you need to get the job done right. That is, until you require the absolute best in still image quality. That’s when you should be turning your head towards a medium format solution like our Phase One IQ3 100MP kit. What is medium format, you ask? Great question.

“Medium format” is a phrase that comes from the days of shooting film. There was (and still is) small, medium, and large format film available to photographers. The small format refers to “full frame” 35mm film and smaller formats. (Yeah, that big “full frame” sensor in many DSLRs is considered small format).  Medium format refers to film formats larger than 35mm, usually 120 and 220 roll film sized to 6x6, 6x4.5 (645), 6x7, and 6x9 cm. Lastly, large format refers to sheets of film 4x5 inches and larger. 

Phase One

Image Via Phase One

Medium and large format film were the go-to options for the highest image quality possible. 35mm film with a low ISO and fine grain made great prints, but medium and large format film made better (and larger) prints. Medium and large format film had higher resolution with more control over depth of field, and also had a different look to them due to the larger image area. It’s true, 35mm sensors have seen themselves get fatter and fatter, now regularly reaching the 50MP range. 50 megapixels is nothing to sneeze at, no doubt. However, doubling that resolution and combining it with 15 stops of dynamic range, 16 bit color, a true full frame (53.7x40.4mm) medium format sensor, a native software in Capture One Pro, a myriad of built in capture tools, and leaf shutter lenses that can resolve even further than 100mp is a witch’s brew hell bent on creating image quality beyond the ordinary. 

high res

There are a lot of differences between medium format cameras like our IQ3 100MP and 35mm DSLRs, but the biggest comes in the form of image quality. The term image quality sounds simple enough, but there’s more to it than you might think. When you’re able to capture 100 megapixels of information with 16 bit color, keep the image sharp, and then print that image at its native resolution of 30x40” at 300dpi without upsampling, you’re in a new league of image presentation, be it fine art printing or delivering commercial files to a client. There’s just more to work with and push around.

The ability to print large without batting an eye is only one benefit to the spectacular files that these cameras produce. Particularly when dealing with commercial clients, the ability to shoot a subject wide and then crop in to an extremely high degree gives the client more options for reproduction. One image at the time of capture has the potential to be many detail images down the road capable of being reproduced across a multitude of mediums without compromising quality or composition. Also, the movement towards a higher resolution everything in our society cannot be overlooked, particularly for commercial work. If you shoot a job for a client, there’s a possibility that the client will come back to you some years later to re-license the image. Lower resolution images simply have less value than higher resolution images since there’s less you can do with a lower resolution image. Higher resolution images will continue to be relevant for much longer, particularly for licensing. 

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Another benefit to using medium format equipment is less tangible, but very real. Put simply, rolling up to a job with a Phase One system at your side makes you look like you know what you’re doing. These systems exist at the highest level, and they have price tags that reflect that fact. As a result, they are fewer and further between in a world overflowing with gear that looks and behaves more or less the same. Your client’s niece didn’t just get a Phase One kit for Christmas (I mean, probably).  Using a Phase One medium format camera system shows the client you’re taking this job seriously and that you’re wanting to give them the best images you possibly can. They’re called style points, and they help you stand out. 

Capture One Pro is a RAW converter and an industry standard in tethering. Capture One just so happens to be made by Phase One, the manufacturer of medium format camera systems like our IQ3 100MP kit. The RAW converting chops of Capture One are already stellar, but when paired with their own medium format camera system the tethered support and raw conversion quality enter a league of their own. When tethered to a computer running a modern version of Capture One Pro, our IQ3 kit can perform some pretty cool tricks, not least of which are the live view focus meter, control over autofocus via software, and complete camera menu availability via software.

IQ3 1600

IQ3 1600

It's important to recognize what medium format cameras like our IQ3 100MP are, and what they are not. For example, if you have at least some time to shoot then you’re in the green. If, however, you’re looking for high fps to capture fast moving subjects as well as break neck operating and shooting speeds, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Camera systems like this are slow. We’re talking 1.2 frames per second slow. And while you likely won’t be taking one out to photograph a pro sporting event or shoot wildlife, you’ll rest assured knowing the fine art, landscape, architecture, still life, fashion, art reproduction, or portrait images (amongst just about any other genre of photography I’m not thinking of right now), will have the highest resolution and best image quality around. 

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Likewise, if you’re thinking of shooting video as well as stills then you’ll need an additional video camera. Instead of adding ho hum video specs, Phase One has designed their full frame medium format camera systems to be  dedicated still photography juggernauts. You won’t find a video mode on these systems, although their high resolution still capture can certainly be put to use in video content. The XF camera body boasts a built in Intervalometer and time lapse tool into its touchscreen. This means you can shoot full resolution stills over time, process those RAW files through Capture One, then combine them into a full blown 12k time-lapse. That’s right, 12k. Even if your video content is 4k, a 12k time-lapse gives you unbelievable detail that can be zoomed into, panned across, and massaged to the Nth degree.

The world of medium format photography can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like any other camera, these systems follow the same formula as any other: compose, focus, shoot. Light works the same way. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are all that is needed to make an exposure. While there are plenty of advanced tools you can take advantage of like focus stacking, time lapse, the XF’s built-in seismograph, the built-in Profoto Air Remote, flash trim, and more; at its core its just a still camera. It just happens to be one of the best in the world. Rent one and see why. 

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