Difference between LF and MF ?

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I am new to large format photography and I have been researching cameras and such -- is medium format about the same as large format with just a smaller negative than the 8X10 and other forms of larger formated cameras?

-- Adriane M. Morgan (ladynred79@hotmail.com), July 22, 1998


Medium format cameras use roll-film which is 6cm wide so that the format available on those cameras are (all in cm) 4.5x6, 6x6, 6x7,6x9,6x12,6x17. Therefore they produce image whose size is less than that produced by large format cameras (hence the name). The vast majority of medium format cameras operate a bit like 35mm cameras ("small format") and in particular don't have LF features such as Flexible bellows, Ground glass viewing, Interchangeable mount lenses. However, a few medium format cameras share these features, and are also considered on this web site, since they actually operate like large format cameras. On the other hand, with almost all the large format cameras it is possible to use roll-film holders of various sizes and to therefore produce medium-format images.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), July 22, 1998.

As Tuan mentions in his post there are reviews of different medium format view cameras on the home page of this site. The one that that works most likea full featured view camera (vc) is the Arca-Swiss 6x9. keep in mind too that has you change formats, your lens length to cover the same scene will change too. this has nothing to do with perspective, just math. One way to determine what lenses you might be interested in is to keep this multiplication factor in mind. 35mm=1x, 6x7cm= 2x, 6x9cm= 2.25x, 4x5= 3x, 8x10=6x. This is to say that if a normal lens for a 35mm camera = 50mm, to get the same angle of view on a 6x9cm medium format negative, you'll need a 120mm lens, on a 4x5 negative, a 150mm lens; and on an 8x10 negative a 300mm lens. I think you can extrapolate from there. Some will argue with the exact numbers but this is close enough.

Good luck,

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), July 22, 1998.

Dear Adriane,

Technically (according to the German Industry Norms DIN), anything larger than 35mm (24x36mm) and smaller than 9x12 (90x120mm) is medium format. This also implies that 6x17 is still medium format.

Practically, most people understand medium format as roll film, and large format as sheet film.


-- David Haardt (david@haardt.net), August 15, 2001.

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