Medium Format Cameras Gear Guide

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A proficiency test is required to check out this camera. Schedule a proficiency at the front desk of Media Loan or by calling 360-867-6253. Read this operating guide and complete the written portion of the Medium Format Cameras Proficiency Test prior to your scheduled proficiency. (You must already be proficient in the 35mm manual Camera before obtaining this proficiency.) Bring your answer sheet with you to the test, which should take approximately 30 - 45 minutes. <br /


Introduction to Medium Format

Medium Format vs. 35mm

This is an instructional guide to the medium format film cameras available at Media Loan. It will cover a brief introduction to medium format photography and then go through the operating steps for each of our models.

When talking about film photography, there are three main types of film, or formats: 35mm, medium format, and large format. With medium and large format, the frame size is much larger than 35mm film and yields significantly more detail and the ability to be printed at very large seizes. In essence, it is a question of quality. The size and shape of the actual frame is variable depending on the camera (whether your picture is a square, rectangle, skinny rectangle, etc.) The size of the frame is often indicated in the name of the camera, like the Pentax 6x7 whose frame dimensions are 6cm by 7cm. With 35mm photography, the size of the frame is always 35mm across regardless of the camera.

Medium format film comes wrapped around a plastic spool with light-safe black paper layered around the film itself. There is no metal canister like with 35mm film. Additionally, when there are no more exposures left on the roll, medium format film is not rewound back on to the spool but is transferred to another spool on the other side of the camera.

There are two types of medium format film, 120 and 220. The film is exactly the same except that 220 film contains twice the amount of exposures as 120. However, most medium format cameras can shoot only one or the other. The Pentax 6x7 has the ability to shoot both but the camera needs to be adjusted to the right setting prior to loading the film. 120 film is the most common and allows for 10-12 exposures depending on the camera’s aspect ratio.

Tools Required

In order to shoot on a medium format camera, you will need some accessories. Some are optional while others are not. The essentials include an empty film spool that your exposed film will be transferred on to (there should already be one in the camera from the previous user. If there isn’t ask a Media Loan staff member to give you one) and a light meter as most of our medium format cameras do not have built in meters.

Other accessories include tripods, cable releases, and flashes. If using a flash, remember to also pick up a flash sync cable. Refer to Media Loan’s operating guide for light meters to find out how to use what might be called your medium format camera’s best friend.


These cameras are old, expensive, and used by many students so please give them the respect they deserve. Before handling a camera, be aware of what can potentially damage it and what improper usage looks like.

Some general rules for these cameras are:

·      Do not expose them to water or moisture, they are not weather proof.

·      Do not leave in excessive heat, like in a car.

·      Do not leave in excessive cold, like the freezer.

·      Do not try to force any mechanism on the camera. You’re probably doing it wrong if it feels like a lot of force.

·      Do not remove the prism viewfinder. This will get dust inside the camera.


·      As with all Media Loan equipment, you are 100% financially responsibly for any damage and repairs done to the camera.

2 1/4 Cameras

Loading Film

Place camera neck strap over your head. Hold camera body, bottom-side up with the back facing toward you, with a firm grip on both sides of camera. If you are using the Seagull or Kalimar, push safety lever in and turn locking disk till arrow points to “O”. If you are using the Mamiya, turn the dial with the red dot on the back of the camera so that it points up, then slide it in the direction of the arrow. Open the back cover. Move the empty spool to the top spool chamber. Put unexposed film in the lower chamber, pulling film towards empty spool. Make sure film paper is white side up. Fit tapered end into slot on empty spool. This will help hold the film. Rotate the film-winding knob until the arrow on the film leader is aligned with the dot on the frame. (The dots on the Seagull and Kalimar are hard to see, they are located nearest to the far corners of opening.) Close the camera back and turn locking disk till arrow points to “C”. (The Seagull and Kalimar knob will click when the back is fully shut.) Wind film until crank stops and “1” appears in the film exposure counter. Rotate the film advance crank in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise) one half turn until it stops (this step is unnecessary with the Mamiya). This will cock the shutter so that the camera is ready for taking the picture. Be aware that, while Photo Services at Evergreen will process 220 film, many places may not. Make sure the camera is stored uncocked. Always load the film in shade or subdued light!

Unloading Film

After twelve frames are exposed, continue to turn the winding crank until there’s no more tension on the advance crank. At this point, the protective paper of the film should be rolled up to the take-up spool. When unloading the film, keep the spool rolled and hold the film tightly to prevent light exposure. Lick or peel the tab and wrap it firmly around the exposed film. Close the camera back.

Viewing & Focusing

Lift the back of the lid to open the viewfinder. The magnifier will spring up by pushing the viewfinder cover in or by pushing the lever in the viewfinder to the side. Use the focusing knob on the left (right on the Yashica or, if it is the Mamiya, on both sides near the bottom front) of the camera body to focus. Look through the magnifier and rotate the focusing knob until the two split-images come into one or the main subject image on the focusing screen becomes sharp. Take special consideration when focusing the Mamiya: unlike the other 2 1/4 cameras, the C33 has a bellows which is fragile and prone to cracking. The sports finder is the little square window on the back of the viewfinder. It’s used to help you align the lens with a fast-moving subject. Unfortunately, you will not be able to focus the camera while you use this feature. To close the viewfinder press the sides and fold the lid down.

Taking the Picture

Hold the camera at waist level. After cocking the shutter, don’t change the shutter speed! Press the shutter release button to take a picture. Wind the crank for the next exposure. Make sure the frame number in the window lines up. (With the Yashica, you must manually cock the shutter each time you wish to make an exposure.)

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed controls the duration of the exposure. The following table will help you determine the proper shutter speed:

Camera may be Hand Held Use a Tripod or Brace Average Pictures Action Pictures Time Exposure Slow Speeds 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 ‘B’ 1 sec 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30


The Lens Aperture controls the amount of light that will pass through the lens onto the light sensitive film. The following examples will help you determine the appropriate setting.

Using a Flash

To synchronize the flash with the Yashica switch the Synchro Selector MX Switch to “X”. You will need to check out a Vivitar flash and a flash sync cable. Because the Vivitar flash was not designed to be used with the Yashica, it will not properly mount on the hot shoe. Therefore, you’ll need to hold it while taking your picture. The Seagull and the Kalimar should not require a sync cable as they can mount onto the hot shoe. Caution: Avoid moving the self-timer while the flash sync is set at “M”. It may cause damage to the self-timer.

Setting the ASA

The ASA rating indicates the film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ASA number, the less light required for proper exposure. Most of Media Loan’s Medium Format cameras do not have a built-in light meter. The Yashica has a reminder dial to help you remember the ASA rating, but this dial serves no other purpose. Therefore, when checking out a camera, it is recommended that you also check out a light meter. Handout for the light meter is also available from Media Loan.

Pentax 6X7

The Pentax 6x7 is perhaps the easiest to use of all of our medium format cameras as it most resembles the shape and operation of a 35mm camera. It is a single lens reflex camera meaning that what you see through the viewfinder is the actual image that will appear on the film. This camera can shoot both 120 and 220 film. You will not be able to release the shutter until there is film loaded    

Before Loading Film

Firstly, be sure that the wooden handle grip is screwed on tight. All of the camera’s weight rests on this handle. Then you need to set the film type you are working with, either 120 or 220. There are two places that need to be adjusted for this. If you’re holding the camera like you would to shoot, the first is on the right side of the camera. There is a dial that lets your choose between the two. You will need a quarter or strong finger nails to move it. The second adjustment is don’t on the inside of the camera. Open the camera by pulling down on the silver release on the bottom left side of the camera. Notice the black speckled pressure plate on the door. Following the directions of the arrows there, gently push the pressure plate down and to the side that corresponds to your film type.

Loading Film

It is best to do this while sitting. First, open the back of the camera if it is not already open from the previous step. On the bottom of the camera are two silver dials that hold the film spools in place. Turn these counter-clockwise and pull them up until the stay put.

Make sure your empty spool is on the right side. If there is no spool in the camera, ask a Media Loan of Photoland staff to give you one. (It is common medium format etiquette to leave your old spool in the camera when you’re done using it.)

Like with 35mm film, medium format film needs to be loaded in a “up and over” style and not “down and under.”


After you’ve aligned the cross in the top of the film spool with the notch in the camera, close the silver dials on the bottom of the camera. Now pull the film across to the right side of the camera and thread the film just as you would with 35mm film. Use the crank lever to advance the film and stop when the arrows on the film paper line up with the arrow on the inside of the camera.

Close the back of the camera and advance the film until “0” is line up with the red dot in the frame counter. 

Exposing and Focusing

The shutter speed is set but the dial on the top left side of the camera. The current setting is indicated by whatever number is next to the small red LED just to the right of the dial. Since there is no built in light meter on this camera, there is no need to set the ISO for whatever film you are using.

If using a flash, you must use a shutter speed on this camera of 1/30th of slower.

If you wish to do a timed exposure longer than one second and you don’t want to keep you finger on the shutter as with the “Bulb” setting, rotate the shutter speed dial to anywhere between the red “X” and “1000.” Now, releasing the shutter will keep it open until you rotate the shutter speed dial back to “X”.

The aperture ring is located on the lens. This is the ring closest to the body of the camera and ranges from f/2.4 to f/22. The aperture ring will be your primary tool for exposing. Also located on the lens is an aperture preview mechanism. This allows you get see your depth of field before actually exposing to take a picture. You can lock this switch in auto mode so that you will always be previewing your aperture. To do this, slide the switch to auto and push down. To release it back to manual, push on the other side of the switch.

To focus simply look through the viewfinder and adjust the focus ring until the split viewfinder is even and the image looks crisp.

Unloading Film

Once all of the frames are exposed, you’ll want to unload your film. When you’re ready to do this, wind the crank a few more times until there is no more tension in the crank lever. By now the protective light-safe paper should be covering the film and totally wrapped around the spool. Unfasten the silver dial like when loading film, keep a firm grip on the film, lick or peel off the sticky tape and make sure it is securely attached to the spool. Close everything back up.

Using a Flash

To use a flash with the Pentax 6x7, first attach the flash to the hot shoe mount on the handle. This camera has options for both X-type sync cables and FP-type sync cables. Use only the X-type as plugging an X cable into an FP housing can cause damage. Again, this camera can only use a flash when the shutter speed is set to 1/30th of a second or slower.

Bronica ETRS, ETRSI, & SQ-B

There are three different models of the Bronica available at Media Loan: SB-Q, ETRS, and ETRSi. They are very similar except for a few minor things like button placement and the viewfinders and accessories that come with each camera. 

The ETRS and ETRSi have prism viewfinders and are in a 6x6 (square) format.

The SB-Q has a wast-level view finder and is in a 4.5x6 (rectangle) format.

The Bronica begins to feel like a departure from the 35mm cameras. It is essentially a cube with a lens attached. One notices a very different feel when shooting with a Bronica than with the Pentax 6x7. Since a lot of the controls are not in conventional places, it may take some time to get acquainted with this camera. All of the Bronica cameras use 120 film.

Loading Film

To open the camera, pinch the buttons with arrows on them that lie just under the viewfinder. It is spring loaded and may fall out so be prepared. The outer shell will fold down and then the film cartridge can be removed.

Now that you're holding the film cartidge, notice there are two doors

Waist-level Viewfinder

Exposing and Focusing

Film Advance and Taking a Picture

Multiple Exposure

Mirror Lockup