Five unexpected side effects of MF

Five unexpected side effects of MF

Since I started shooting with a Phase One medium format camera system, I have experienced a series of quite unexpected and interesting side effects. I thought my testimonial might be helpful to other photographers who are considering making the move. Note: you won’t find any of these side effects listed at the end of the XF user’s guide, or on any equipment review of any photography website.

I had been dreaming of medium format for years. Like many others, I have always considered medium format the ultimate system, the holy grail of cameras. Like many others, I thought it was inaccessible, unaffordable, something I could only dream of. Two years ago, I stopped dreaming and made the move. At last! The main reason was that an upgrade of my system was overdue, but at the time I couldn’t see any new 35mm camera on the market worth the investment. Every new generation of DSLR camera comes with better autofocus, better crazy-fast frame rate, better ISO for low light situations, and better video options. That’s all great for photographers who shoot sports, journalism, wildlife, weddings and so on but with the type of photography I do, I don’t need any of those features. I shoot manual focus 90% of the time, I don’t need many frames per second, I work mostly in the studio with strobes, I shoot at ISO 50-200, and to be honest, I have very little interest in video. Instead I’d rather have better image quality, better colour rendering, higher flash sync speed, better lenses and solid tethering features. I do photography for a living, so overall I want to give my clients the best image quality. The answer to that is simple: it’s called medium format.

@ Vincent Lions

Many articles can be found online on medium format vs. 35mm, with all specs written down. They compare sensor size, pixels, technical aspects, interface, design, all possible features, etc., but none of them really talk about how shooting with a medium format camera affects you. You. The photographer! You are way more important than your camera. How a camera makes you feel and how it affects your work and your approach to photography is what matters the most. It’s not all about AF points or megapixels.

With that in mind, I realized I have experienced a series of quite unexpected and very interesting “side effects” since I’ve been shooting with the Phase One XF. When I shared those thoughts with colleague photographers, I was very happy to hear they felt the same as I do.

Medium format photography will most likely raise your standards. This is actually the most important side effect I’ve noticed: I feel that I always have to be more than good. It is unacceptable to create an average image with such a high-end system. The image quality is so outstanding and the tool is so precise and advanced that I feel like lighting, concept and composition should constantly improve to honour the top-of-the-line equipment I am working with. To be fair, the skills I just mentioned are required regardless of the system used. The truth is that investing in a medium format system doesn’t make you a better photographer the next day, just as buying a better car doesn’t make you a better driver. Or adding a pedal to your pedalboard doesn’t make you a better guitar player. Getting better requires work. I’m now harder on myself than I was before. Between you and me, I’m still capable of shooting a bad image every now and then. I just make sure no one ever sees it!

Loss of interest in other platforms may occur.I have to admit I have completely lost interest in shooting 35mm DSLR. I’m not saying DSLRs are bad. I’m certainly not saying anything negative about the work of other photographers who shoot 35mm either because I absolutely love and respect the work of so many of them! Truth to be told, amazing photographs have been taken with pretty much every camera that ever existed. All I’m saying is that 35mm is not the best fit for me anymore. I kept some of my old gear though and still use it on certain occasions when it is more convenient (travelling, fast-moving subjects, very low light, etc.), but when I do use it, I use it with less excitement. I’m still focused and dedicated to capturing a great image, but something is clearly missing.

© Vincent Lions

The photographer may gain self-confidence.I cannot think of a single client who wouldn’t be happy about receiving higher quality work. I feel I now bring so much more to the table both in assignments and my personal projects. If I do my part right, I know the camera won’t let me down. As a matter of fact, it will exceed my expectations. With that in mind, I feel more confident every time I start a project.

The photographer may feel humbler.I know, I just spoke about self-confidence, but self-confidence and humility are not incompatible. Here’s the thing: the XF camera system is so advanced it offers many features that are beyond my needs and that I’m not familiar with yet. I still have some serious learning to do. It’s a good thing I don’t feel too bad about my visual and creative skills because I must say that in all technical aspects, my camera is smarter than I am (and so are the people who designed it)!

Upgrades may be required. This side effect might affect the photographer’s bank account more than the photographer himself. Some of the equipment I previously thought was okay wasn’t actually good enough. I replaced my tripod with a sturdier one with higher load capacity. I invested in a more precise tripod head and purchased a better (and well-calibrated) screen for editing plus additional hard drives to store larger files, etc. So unless you’re already set, if you’re thinking in investing in a medium format system, don’t forget to include some of these side expenses in your budget.

There is another common side effect that I have heard about many times, which I didn’t mention. Some people say that medium format would slow them down, in a good way. They take more time with each photo, they think more, they reconnect with the gear and appreciate things more, they don’t rush as much. The reason I didn’t mention this side effect is that in my case, it doesn’t apply. I was already doing that. Because of the nature of my work, I have to be patient and precise. I sketch my ideas before I go on set, I shoot tethered with the camera on a tripod and I take the time to compose, light, stage and style, regardless of the equipment I use. So, in a way, now that I think about it, I was actually using my 35mm camera like a medium format camera!

@ Vincent Lions


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It is finally happening!

It is finally happening!

It is finally happening. The Medium Format platform and the accompanying Medium Format Magazine are here!

It was only two years ago that digital medium format photography was the privilege of a very few mostly commercial and fashion photographers who could justify spending the equivalent of a new car to purchase a medium format system.

All those years, most of us could only admire, lust and dream. Whether we admit it or not, the appeal of digital medium format was always there. Now, this fantasy is rapidly changing to reality. The spectral hand of innovation and competition has brought us brand-new medium format tools. In fact, we have reached the point when many of us could sell our collection of lenses and cameras and enter this no longer exclusive world of digital medium format photography.

When I made my own entrance to this exciting new world, one thing struck me right away. I felt lost and deluded. Other than a few occasional articles about digital medium format photography, I couldn’t find any place on the internet or elsewhere which would guide me in those crucial first steps. I needed a place to call home, where I could find like-minded individuals for whom the craft of seeing was no longer just a hobby. Furthermore, the availability of materials to navigate these exciting but very different waters were scarce or non-existent.

I soon found that I wasn’t alone in this search for knowledge, inspiration and companionship. Whether we are seasoned pros, advanced amateurs or beginners, learning about the precision and craftsmanship that medium format demands is something that bonds us together.

This union prompted me to create a new home for medium format photographers like you and me. We knew from the start that the only right name for this new home must be Then the idea of the Medium Format Magazine followed, sort of naturally, not out of necessity but rather as the side-effect of my passion for visuals and words.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. As I talked to numerous industry leaders, writers and photographers the idea became clearer: a clean website with high-quality, curated and exclusive content from the best medium photographers in the world.

At a glance, you notice that there is free content on the website grouped in three sections: NEWS, GEAR and VISION. As we progress, you will find something new, informative and inspiring every week.

However, if you decide to go deeper into the world of medium format photography I urge you to join us and become a member. You will find truly unique and exclusive content. At the centre of this membership community is the monthly Medium Format Magazine. This is not just another online magazine. From the start, we wanted to create a premium publication with exclusive content presented in a clean, beautifully designed format without the clutter of ads and sales pitches.

We also offer our members live and immersive webinars by the best medium format photographers in the world. Already, the first webinar is scheduled for October 20th with Ming Thein.

Then there are the education and inspirational publications, written for and accessed exclusively by the members of our platform, centred on digital medium format photography.

This is just the beginning.

My team and I are looking forward to your feedback, thoughts and suggestions. How can we make this new home for medium format photography welcoming, informative, inspiring, interesting and alive? We will be reading all your emails and considering seriously every suggestion. In fact, if you would like to contribute to the magazine or the website please don’t hesitate to contact us. Let’s build this new world of medium format photography together. Thank you for visiting and I hope you will join our community. Please make sure to leave us your email address so we can stay in touch.

Have great light and seeing,

Yours truly,

Olaf, editor-in-chief