Is 645 Medium Format Film That Much Better Than 35mm?

Photography Gear

Photographer Kyle McDougall says that one question he gets asked a lot is if shooting in medium format film, such as 645, is really “worth it” compared to 35mm film. In this 11-minute video, he explains why he thinks it is.

While he’s clear that there are no “bad” formats, and all are quite capable. What it really comes down to is the type of work you plan to create and the preferences that you develop over time.

“If the format you’re working with right now suits you and is working for you, don’t feel like you need to upgrade just for the sake of it,” he says.

That said, he believes that 645 is a great step up in many cases from 35mm. Working with a larger negative mean you get finer details, less apparent grain at similar image sizes, and smoother tones. Side by side, 645 versus 35mm are markedly different if you were to view the negatives side by side.

645 film also offers the 4:3 aspect ratio, which many photographers – McDougall included – find to be particularly visually pleasing. Additionally, if you’re moving to medium format from 35mm, it’s not too much narrower than a frame of 35mmm, unlike other medium format film sizes which can be quite a bit narrower.

McDougall also says that in his experience, he finds that of the medium format cameras, the 645 cameras seem to have the most compact and readily available cameras that can be found and the options are also more budget-friendly than other medium format options.

In summary, McDougall believes that for those who are interested in moving to medium format film from 35mm, 645 has the most positives in his opinion. To answer the initial question posed, McDougall basically argues that the answer is yes: for many use cases, especially landscape and posed portrait work, it is better than 35mm for many reasons. Not only is image quality improved thanks to a much larger negative, but the tradeoffs are less severe when compared to other medium format sizes.

Do you agree? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.

For more from Kyle McDougall, you can subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

(via ISO 1200)

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