It is widely believed, that medium format delivers better image quality. Because, as they say, size matters.

But. According to this article , 1DX pixels are physically larger than pixels in Leica S2 (S2 sensor area is larger, but it also has to accommodate more pixels). I imagine this is also true for Hasselblad and other high resolution medium format cameras. Today, pro-level DSLRs seem to have better noise reduction at high iso, have lenses and are significantly cheaper at that.

Obviously, this is not only about size. And I personally haven't ever seen a side-by-side comparison of any wide format vs a professional canon or nikon.

Can anyone explain to me where the talk about higher quality of digital medium format coming from and, maybe, provide some evidence to back that up?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand your question. You're saying that larger is better, point to a link that say S2 has larger sensor than 1DX, and then you jump to a conclusion that this isn't just about size. I don't follow... \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2014 at 11:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ here a fullframe is shown next to smaller medium frames. luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/… \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2014 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ photo.stackexchange.com/questions/47889/… \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2014 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ we established in the question Michael linked to that the 1DX, a camera designed for journalists, is better in low light than a medium format back designed for studio photographers. This shouldn't be a surprise, delving into sensor size or pixel size wont yield any more insights than this. If you want better quality than a 1DX/D4 in low light you're out of luck. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Feb 19, 2014 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


It really depends on how you define image quality.

Currently medium format digital cameras and backs off higher resolution (up to 80 megapixels) than 35mm cameras (up to 36 megapixels). In good light with equally "good" lenses more megapixels will result in a sharper picture.

Additionally a larger format makes it easier to design sharper lenses (in terms of line pairs resolved per picture height). This is because making the image circle larger for a given absolute resolution (line pairs per millimeter) naturally gives you more line pairs per picture height.

However, medium format cameras/backs generally perform badly at high ISO, this is nothing to do with pixel size but due to the different design goals. Medium format sensors are optimized for landscape/architecture/studio photography in carefully controlled environments.

Any advantage in resolution due to megapixel count or sensor size is quickly lost if the sensor produces too much noise.


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