10 Fun, Affordable Medium Format Cameras To Try

Discover the best medium format cameras for superior image quality, from iconic 120 film to cutting-edge digital.

10 Fun, Affordable Medium Format Cameras To Try

Medium Format Is the Best Format

Medium format cameras attract photographers for several reasons: they produce high-quality images, have a unique look and feel, and provide a tactile interaction with the equipment. These cameras contain larger sensors, yielding higher resolution and dynamic range than typical SLR or 35mm full-frame cameras. As a professional with extensive experience and a passion for analog photography, I prefer the larger sensor size of these cameras for both my film and digital work. The distinctive texture, enchanting bokeh effect, and general visual appeal they provide are challenging to duplicate with other camera systems, adding to their allure and overall value.

However, it's crucial to address the elephant in the room — medium format cameras generally come with a hefty price tag, spanning both digital and analog models. Their superior shooting capabilities inevitably mean a higher cost. And with the growing popularity of film photography and the steady increase in camera values, you're likely to encounter inflated prices in today's market. Yet, I’m here to back up the worthwhile investment. I believe that with thorough research and a keen eye, you can confidently make an informed purchasing decision for one of these remarkable cameras. Although the cameras listed below aren’t necessarily “cheap” or “affordable” in the traditional sense, I aim to highlight that it's still possible to find well-refurbished cameras online, free from excessive markups. Bear in mind popular medium format cameras, both digital and film, weren’t constantly as pricey as they may seem now — it simply requires patience and persistence to snag a good deal. As with anything, the market fluctuates.

Whether you’re a veteran in the field or a photography enthusiast dipping your toes into the medium format world, these cameras offer a rewarding and fulfilling journey. In the list that follows, I’ve curated a selection of the top 10 medium format cameras — encompassing both film and digital bodies — that guarantee not just extraordinary images but an immense sense of joy and satisfaction. From bestsellers to hidden gems, let’s explore the options.

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By @beacasso on the RB67.

By @beacasso on the RB67.

1. Pentax 645

Classic Medium Format Powerhouse

The Pentax 645 stands out as a popular choice, and many of my friends who are either analog photography hobbyists or professionals have owned this camera at some point in their careers. This model has been pivotal in democratizing medium-format photography, providing an accessible pathway for everyday photographers to delve into large-format imaging.

It has effectively replaced the Yashicamat 124G, which used to be the go-to budget-friendly option for film photographers back in the day. Nowadays, the Pentax 645 models have become incredibly affordable and a more popular choice to sport in the camera bag.

The Pentax 645 has a built-in motor drive, offering both automatic and manual exposure modes, complemented by a comprehensive range of high-quality yet affordably priced lenses. In terms of power, you can insert six AA batteries into the Pentax 645’s handle. This will keep you shooting happily for over a hundred rolls of film, all while staying within a budget.

Pricing: Most high-quality used bodies on Etsy or eBay can be found for around $250-$500. A great entry point for those who want to step into this world, but you need to find a good lens to go with it.

Photographer fabio_corsatto on Lomography.

2. Mamiya RB67

The Classic Studio Workhorse

The Mamiya RB67 is an iconic medium format camera celebrated for its superior image quality, adaptable design, and sturdy construction. It holds a special place in the hearts of studio photographers and film photography enthusiasts. Mamiya has established a reputation for creating durable cameras that stand the test of time, solidifying their prominence in the photography world across generations.

While the RB67 is notably bulkier than the more compact options on this list, it is an excellent transition for those looking to step up from traditional 35mm film photography.

This camera is indeed a timeless masterpiece. Navigating its features and capabilities might present a challenge initially, but the investment in learning pays off significantly in terms of image excellence and personal fulfillment. Features such as the rotating back, bellows focusing system, and the ability to interchange lenses and film backs contribute to its versatility, making the Mamiya RB67 an indispensable tool for film photography.

Pricing: Vintage models can be found for around $500-$1,000, depending on condition and accessories. The RZ67 is more expensive due to its electronic counterparts, but that only makes it more prone to breakage! For this reason, I recommend going full-time manual with the RB67.

3. Fujifilm GFX 50S II

Fan-Favorite Medium Format Digital Camera

The Fujifilm GFX 50S II introduces a modern twist to the classic rangefinder design, featuring an impressive 51.4MP sensor in a body that is both compact and lightweight. This model represents Fujifilm’s attempt to blend high-quality camera technology with affordability. In a market where most digital medium format cameras are priced higher than a car's down payment, the 50S II is an accessible entry-level option for a broad audience. It proudly carries the iconic Fujifilm branding and is equipped with intelligent, cutting-edge features. Users appreciate its user-friendly controls and outstanding image quality, making it a popular choice among medium format enthusiasts. Personally, I’ve embraced this camera wholeheartedly, even going as far as switching from my long-standing Canon setup, and I haven't regretted the decision for a second.

Pricing: Body only starts at around $4,500. Although a fairly significant investment, it’s well worth the price for the image quality and build. The film “look”, but in a digital body for lifelong images. You just can’t beat it.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo by Gajan Balan.

4. Rolleiflex 2.8F TLR

The Heirloom

I would be remiss if I failed to include the incredible and historically significant Rolleiflex TLR 120 medium-format camera in this list. This camera has been a crowd favorite for several decades, establishing itself as a go-to choice for distinguished photographers since the early 1920s.

I have personally used my Rolleiflex as my primary 120 camera for more than a year, following the unfortunate incident where my cherished Mamiya 645 was damaged in an Arizona monsoon a few summers ago. The Rolleiflex is entirely mechanical, ensuring its longevity without the need for batteries, and it delivers exceptional image quality that I can’t help but enthusiastically praise. It operates efficiently with minimal features, making it a reliable manual workhorse for all my photography projects. Additionally, it serves as a stunning heirloom piece on my shelf, adding a touch of heritage and elegance to my collection.

Pricing: Prices widely vary, but expect to pay around ~$1K for a mint condition model. The good thing is that a lens is already built-in and included!

Selfie! I love the classic TLR mirror self-portrait.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

5. Mint Camera InstantFlex TL70 2.0

Instant Nostalgia

The InstantFlex TL70 2.0 stands out as a twin-lens reflex camera that utilizes instant film, ingeniously merging the immediate pleasure of instant photography with the artistic potential of 120 medium format. This camera is so much fun to use, as it offers the instant satisfaction of seeing your photos, just like a Polaroid, along with the unique visual characteristics of medium format photography.

Inspired by the classic twin-lens camera design, the TL70 is a marvel of engineering, striking a perfect balance between elegance and practical functionality. It is intuitively designed, making it accessible and enjoyable for photographers at any skill level. The twin-lens setup, integrated flash, and the capacity for manual adjustments in aperture and focus render it an adaptable tool for those seeking a more granular and modular photographic experience.

Pricing: You can pick up this camera for around $400.

6. Mamiya 7

The Travel Photographer’s Dream

The Mamiya 7 stands out in the medium format rangefinder category, uniquely marrying portability with unparalleled image quality. It’s celebrated for producing outstanding results while remaining compact and light, making it ideal for travel and street photography. Praised by many popular YouTubers and analog photography enthusiasts, this camera has an unbelievably stellar performance. Additionally, it's noticeably less cumbersome than other large format options offered by Mamiya, rendering it a superb choice for serious artists searching for a portable camera to accompany them on their weekend adventures.

Pricing: Starting at around $2,600 for body only, it’s a premium option for serious photographers.

Artist: Mat Hay | Location: Scotland | Links: Website | Instagram

7. Holga 120 Pan

The $100 Plastic Fantastic

The Holga 120 Pan provides a distinct approach to medium format photography with its ability to capture panoramic, wide-angle images on 120 film. While it may not feel overly professional in your hands or produce exceptionally stunning results, it introduces an enjoyable and stylistic dimension to your photography toolkit.

This camera is a great, budget-friendly choice for photographers keen on experimenting and infusing fun into their creative process. The Holga 120 Pan’s panoramic capabilities, its unique low-fidelity aesthetic, and straightforward operation make it an appealing option for various projects.

Pricing: This camera is a steal at around $100, making it accessible to photographers of all levels.

Photographer yago56 from Lomography.

Photographer oleman from Lomography.

Photographer oleman from Lomography.

8. Mamiya 645 Series

Versatile and Accessible

I can't help but continuously praise the Mamiya 645 series, as it is a personal favorite of mine. This range of cameras successfully brings medium format photography within the grasp of many, offering a fusion of high image quality and versatility. These cameras are exceptional for those new to medium-format photography, providing a variety of models to cater to diverse preferences and budgets. With features like interchangeable lenses, built-in metering, and a range of models available, the Mamiya 645 series stands out as a flexible option. It genuinely provides all that you could need in a camera. Plus, they're lightweight compared to the others mentioned on this list.

That said, I recommend steering clear of the electronic models. This advice comes from personal experience and the misfortune of having several film cameras broken down due to outdated technology. The more manually operated models in the series promise a long-lasting image-taking experience due to their durable build. However, they might be a bit more challenging to find on platforms like eBay.

Pricing: Body-only options start at around $500 and are in excellent condition, offering incredible value for money.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

Photo By @natalieallenco.

9. Hasselblad 500CM

The Iconic Medium Format

The Hasselblad 500CM stands out as one of the most renowned medium-format cameras in history, celebrated for its unparalleled build quality, customizable modular design, and outstanding image quality. Owning this camera means possessing a significant piece of photographic heritage. It provides a shooting experience and image quality that remains impressive today. The Hasselblad brand is well-regarded in the photography community, and the 500CM model offers a more budget-friendly option than their latest digital offerings, making it an attractive choice for many.

Pricing: Prices vary widely, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on condition and included accessories.

10. Mamiya C330

The 120 Camera with a Twist

The Mamiya C330 stands out in the world of twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras due to its unique ability to accommodate interchangeable lenses – a feature seldom found in cameras of this type. A TLR camera is characterized by its two objective lenses of identical focal length. One lens is the "taking lens" used for capturing the photograph, while the other is part of the viewfinder system, typically used for waist-level viewing. Adapting to this style of photography may take some time, but it offers a historic and elegant method of recording your cherished moments, further enhanced by the prestigious Mamiya brand.

Pricing: Prices vary, but you can expect to pay around $300-$600 in good condition.

Photography by Sean Tucker.

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