Welcome to Medium Format Photography
The main draw to medium format is that, because of its increased film size (two to four times bigger than 35 mm), it offers much higher image resolution. This allows for relatively big enlargements and smooth gradation without the grain or blur that would characterize similarly enlarged images produced from smaller film formats. Film size does get even bigger with large format cameras which use 4x5, 8x10 and bigger, but these cameras are usually very large and bulky also these days it is hard to find places to process the film.
Medium format film can also be shot of various aspect ratios, depending on what camera/back used. most common aspect ratios are 6x6 (square), 6x4.5 (rectangular) then you also have 6x7, 6x9 and panoramic 6x17. Like 35mm SLR most medium format cameras have interchangeable lens on top of that some also have interchangeable backs and finders.
Compare to 35mm, the main draw backs are the price and accessibility (you could get a F5+50 f1.4 for same price as medium camera body). Also 35mm can be develop at all most every camera shop with a mini-lab where medium format film would need to sent to a professional lab.
Most films avaiable on 35mm are avaiable of 120 film. (220 film is same as 120 just 220 is twice as long meaning twice as many frames per roll)
There are two types of medium format cameras TLR and SLR.
-TLR (twin lens reflex). Has two lens, one to view though and one to take the photo. Some have interchangeable finders and lens. Popular TLR cameras are mamiya c330 and rolleiflex.
-SLR (single lens reflex). Has one lens that views and takes the photo. They use same way to take photo as does a 35mm SLR camera.
Choosing between SLR or TLR needs it own guide but just in short TLR are fun to used but for more serious photography and SLR would be the only option.
Below is a picture of a hasselblad SLR medium format camera. As you can seen the lens, prism and back are all interchangable.
Like 35mm SLR cameras there are many different brands out there a few popular medium format cameras are hasselblad, bronica, mamiya, yashica, rolleiflex, pentax.
The brands I have used/owned myself are hasselblad, bronica, mamiya. Below I have some short reviews of a few selected cameras from these three brands.
The 500C/M is from the famous hasselblad company, it is popular with people getting back into medium format photography these days as 20 years ago the gear was worth $1000,s know you can get a starter kit second hand for a very little. It uses 6x6 so you get that classic square frame hasselblad is know for. The 500C/M has leaf shutter system some it can flash sync at any speed.
The ETRS is a little smaller then the hasselblad mainly because it uses 6x4.5, meaning the frames are little smaller. For a some starting in medium format photography this would be a great choice. The ETRS was my first medium camera and i still have it, i have a body, 3 lens, two finders and two backs and its cost me around same price a hasselblad body,lens,finder and back would. The ETRS is a great camera for landscapes as it uses the same rectangular frame as 35mm. Same as the hasselblad the ETRS has leaf shutter system.
The SQ-Ai is pretty much a bronica version of the hasselblad 500C/M so if you still want the square frame but havnt got the money the 500C/M asks the SQ-Ai is your best option.
Mamiya 645m, 645J, 645super, 645pro
The mamiyas use 6x4.5 frame size same as the ETRS, they do not have leaf shutter system so flash sync is only about 1/60. Mamiya has a very wide range of lens that are priced very well. My personal option on the mamiya 645 system is go bronica if you want 645 and if you really want mamiya got for the rb/rz models which are 6x7 frame size cameras. Mamiya also have auto focus series of 645 cameras called AF-D.
Price Range - (Body,std lens, finder, back)
Hasselblad 500 series $600-$1500AU
Bronica ERTS series $300-$600AU
Bronica SQ-Ai series $400-$600AU
Mamiya 645 series $300-$600AU
Mamiya AF series $800-$3000AU
Mamiya RB/RZ series $300-$1000AU
About prices are prices of second-hand cameras that are available in Australia and US. (You will most likely save $$$ if you buy from the states.)
ENJOY MEDIUM FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY
images are from google.com, info is from photo.net, camerapedia and my own personal options.