Is Medium Format Video Coming? + External Footage from Phase One XF IQ3

Medium Format Video is slowly becoming a thing, as anyone with an attentive eye walking the floor of Photokina 2016 this past week could tell you. After numerous talks with medium format camera manufacturers at the show, I can certainly see a pattern evolving. We also managed to get some clean footage from the Phase One XF camera with the new IQ3 module.

Phase One XF Camera with IQ3 back

Is Medium Format Video Coming?

Of all the current trends in digital cinematography, one of the most interesting is the shift towards larger sensors. We can also observe this in the photo segment, and as photo and video move closer and closer together, Photokina 2016 proved to be a very important show indeed.

In the case of the Phase One XF camera, it seems almost like a déjà-vu from the time when we started cinema5D, back when the Canon 5D Mark II came out. Back then, Canon and Nikon were clueless that they had created an entirely new tool that caused a revolution and blurred the border between high end cinema and entry level video shooting. A similar transformation of the market seems to be in progress on the medium format front.

medium format video camera Phase One XF

Phase One XF and the IQ3 camera back

Upon showing up with an Atomos Shogun Flame at the Phase One booth at Photokina, everyone seemed quite confused. We wanted to do was capture the HDMI stream from their new medium format camera. Of course, they focus on the kind of high-end photography that their expensive cameras really excel at, so they have little interest in video at all. But they didn’t seem to suspect that, with a few tweaks, this system could become a valuable asset for video shooting photographers and filmmakers alike. Unfortunately, many manufacturers today are often looking at their existing user base and sometimes miss an opportunity like this. I’m certain that in the not too distant future medium format video will be a standard in these cameras, likely in 8K, just like 4K is now a standard in every new mirrorless photo camera that comes out.

Atomos Shogun Flame & Phase One XF with IQ3

Atomos Shogun Flame connected to Phase One XF via HDMI

As you can see in the video we shot, the video capabilities of the Phase One XF with IQ3 back is still taking baby steps. In fact, it looks like the clean HDMI output with manual controls that we were able to record with the Atomos Shogun Flame is more a coincidence than a conscious decision. We really hope Phase One will take this functionality further and add some kind of log gamma output or a reduced contrast mode allowing for capture of the full dynamic range of the output, because the footage surely looks very very nice. The bokeh was soft like butter the way that only a medium format camera can capture, and the quality was very nice, without any noticeable aliasing or noise. Just an external, clean HDMI output in 4K would certainly make a big difference.

Why is large format video a thing?
Read our popular article: Full Frame and Beyond – Large Sensor Digital Cinema

Who Else is Doing Medium Format Video?

As mentioned, there are a few medium format companies that are on the brink of incorporating usable video functionality in their cameras. I believe none of them realise the potential for filmmakers.

Fujifilm GFX 50s

Fujifilm GFX 50S

The Fujifilm GFX 50S presented at Photokina 2016 is a compact medium format camera that introduces a new lens mount and lens family altogether. The Fujifilm GFX 50S has a 51.4-megapixel resolution (8256 x 6192) and is confirmed to shoot video internally. We had a talk with Fujifilm general manager Theo Georghiades, but unfortunately our microphone system died during this video interview. In short, there will be no 4K in this camera, but we’re looking forward to the HD footage this new medium format will produce.

Hasselblad H6D-100c

Hasselblad H6D-100c

This camera was introduced in April of this year and brings with it 4K RAW video. At Photokina 2016, the people from Hasselblad showed us the first 4K footage from this camera and it looked amazing. Like others, they mostly pointed at the photo functionality and see this merely as a bonus for photographers. We hope to review this camera soon.

Hasselblad x1d 50c

Hasselblad X1D-50c

Then there’s the X series. The Hasselblad X1D-50c medium format camera will also capture HD video at 25fps (?) and in an H.264 format.

Leica S (Typ007)

Leica S (Typ 007)

Then there’s the Leica S (Typ 007) of course, which captures 4K DCI at 4:2:2, but does so with a S35 crop of the sensor.

Sinar S30|45 Digital Back

Sinar S30|45 Digital Back

[Update:] As cinema5D reader Josh Evans pointed out, Swiss camera manufacturer Sinar also just released a digital camera back that records 4K video internally. The Sinarback S30|45 has a Leica CMOS-sensor and Leica Maestro II image processor. This camera back is specifically designed to shoot both stills and video.

What’s next?

Clearly the medium format camera manufacturers have some more work to do if they want to make these cameras also fit the needs of filmmakers, but these first steps are a good start and give us something to look forward to. Among filmmakers, large format is starting to make a comeback: Arri took an important step with the Arri ALEXA 65 to establish a larger digital sensor size, just like the Phantom 65, Panavision DXL or RED’s VistaVision 8K camera.

What do you think? Where are we heading with medium format video? Are we likely to see 4K or even 8K video on medium format cameras anytime soon? Would you adopt it? Let the camera manufacturers know. Some are still listening.

cinema5D at Photokina 2016
Tilta Genustech Manfrotto Angelbird Blackmagic Design


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Astral Xilef Reply
Astral Xilef September 26, 2016

of course it might come, at a price of 10k +

Dan Valicek Reply
Dan Valicek September 26, 2016


Eduardo Gonzalez Reply
Eduardo Gonzalez September 26, 2016

Would we have any issues using existing glass we typically use or would we need to also upgrade to medium format glass? If so I don’t know if it will catch on as quickly as full frame did because we were able to utilize glass we already owned. But this is still very cool

Philip Bloom Reply
Philip Bloom September 26, 2016

yes you need medium format glass. larger sensor.

Vineeth Pulipati Reply
Vineeth Pulipati September 26, 2016

i wish

Matias Goinheix Reply
Matias Goinheix September 26, 2016

there’s not much else to do after 4k 422 at great ISO with goodbDR on consumer level gear.

Alvaro García Undurraga Reply
Alvaro García Undurraga September 26, 2016

Yeah but this will have a larger sensor with all that entails

Matias Goinheix Reply
Matias Goinheix September 26, 2016

yeah. i just meant that after so much progress brought to prosumer video. they would have to start offering other innovative options.

Raphael Brügger Reply
Raphael Brügger September 26, 2016

David 🍀🙌🏼😍

 Beebee Lestr Reply
Beebee Lestr September 26, 2016

It is madness that video is still stuck with tiny sensors. S35 is tiny.

This is a leftover from the days when handling large reels of film was cumbersome.

Most professional stills photographers would not use tiny ‘APS’ sensors. The same should apply to video.

Manfred Selwyn Baulig Reply
Manfred Selwyn Baulig September 26, 2016

Does anyone even realize that u need much more light and t4.0 is a horror to hit focus.

 Beebee Lestr Reply
Beebee Lestr September 27, 2016

The optics are the same, whether you’re shooting still photos or video. Stills photographers love large format

There’s a magic and a beauty with shooting in large format, and that same beauty is there in video.

William McGough September 27, 2016

It is interesting to me that the Hasselblad H6D cameras can record “Raw” video at resolutions different than that of their sensors. I wonder how this is accomplished:
1. Is Raw video recorded in a crop of the sensor? (I hope not)
2. Is Raw video recorded at nearly the full sensor area with pixel binning of like-colored photosites? (I.e. a 2×2 or 4×4 square of red photosites is averaged and recorded as 1 red photosite in the Raw file.)

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber September 27, 2016

Hi William, We will find out in our review of that camera. Stay tuned…

William McGough September 27, 2016

Sebastian, thanks for doing the research for us – I look forward to the review!

 Beebee Lestr Reply
Beebee Lestr September 27, 2016

Manufacturers should begin with making EF-mount ‘full-frame’ video cameras (36mm wide sensor).

PiDicus Rex Reply
PiDicus Rex October 3, 2016

EF mount?
Sure, if you want to ignore all the lenses and speedboosters that will work on E-Mount of M4/3 mount.

EF’s FFD is too long to give anywhere near the compatibility options of those mounts.

JOsh Evans Reply
JOsh Evans September 27, 2016

Dont forget Sinar. Oh yeah everyone else has. They just announced a Medium format back that shoots 4k onto an SD card with no HDMI out LOL.!/0

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber September 27, 2016

Thank you Josh, this is a cool info. Article updated…

Steve Oakley Reply
Steve Oakley September 27, 2016

if you thought FF35 DoF was shallow at 2.8, just wait until you try any medium format. As some one who used to shoot 6X6, the lenses are limited, slower. I’ve done enough shooting on 5D’s to say most of the time you are at F4 to hold focus in any reliable way on real productions, not art films or music videos. with 6X6 that would be more like 5.6. its an entirely new game. oh and as for the comment way below about “no pro photographer would shoot S35”, thats APS-C and I think we all know tons of pro’s shooting that format everyday… FF isn’t the end all be all of imaging, nor are larger formats. they are just options and different looks, abilities and *limitations*. its not bigger is better.

 Beebee Lestr Reply
Beebee Lestr September 28, 2016

Steve, granted it can be challenging to keep a moving object like a dog in focus on a ‘full-frame’ sensor.

But in a controlled environment, shooting human talent on a FF sensor can look wonderful. Beautiful out-of-focus circles in the background, even when the camera is close to the subject. Surely there’s a market for such a pro camera.

Two technology developments make full-frame easier: 1: Dual crop sensors, so you can select whether you want Full Frame or S35. 2: Dual Pixel Autofocus, so even a one-person crew can shoot an interview at f1.2 and the system can reliably keep focus even when the talent’s head is moving forward and back.

I think the logical first step is for a pro video camera with a FF width sensor. Larger format still cameras with video capability will still be a niche, but a niche capable of interesting results.

However the incredible popularity of the Arri Alexa 65, with demand absolutely outstripping supply, means the large format look will eventually become more widespread and desirable.

Steve Oakley Reply
Steve Oakley September 28, 2016

sigh….I own a C300 Mk2 and you can NOT count on it to correctly track focus on a talking head. It tends to track moving things better ( like people walking in shot ) than a talking head where it may loose facial recognition, or the subject just moves around enough to loose the focus box. There are things that will throw it off like head turns.

instead, having a little DoF will let the subject move and stay sharp within reason. shooting at T1.2 at even 50mm has so little DoF that moving 1-2 inches will mean the difference between usable and soft. Even when the system is tracking, it may still shift to the bg or not track right so it will not magically keep your subject in focus despite the specs on paper.

with med format, 50mm is a wide angle, 80mm a “normal” and 150 a short telephoto. typically they are 2.8 for an 80mm, 4.0 for 50 and 150mm if you are using adapted still lenses. I”m sure some one will come along with price is no object T2 glass eventually.

Doug Laurent September 28, 2016

“The bokeh was soft like butter the way that only a medium format camera can capture” – to me that’s myth, as there are simply no extremely fast medium format lenses. No medium format camera/lens combination will have a more blown out bokeh than a full frame camera and a Canon 85/1.2 lens for example. Medium format has a lot of advantages especially in their raw photo capabilities. I own a 645z and tested several other cameras from Phase one etc. The Hasselblad H6D-100C is my biggest hope, but the presentation I have seen half a year ago was a disaster. When they have fixed all problems, this camera might not achieve anything special regarding 4K video, but at least will have 4K and is a great 100MP stills camera in one.

 Beebee Lestr Reply
Beebee Lestr September 28, 2016

The Arri Alexa 65 uses rehoused lenses from Hasselblad still cameras.

Yet the Directors of Photography all love it. They can’t get enough of it!


There’s a ‘look’ there that they like and want. When big budget features have a desirable look, everyone then wants it.

Some people were hoping they could get that look with some of these large-format still cameras, mentioned above.

PiDicus Rex Reply
PiDicus Rex October 3, 2016

Like normal, you’ve missed the Pentax option.

The 645z does video, HD only, and like all Pentax bodies it suffers from the brands habit of not giving the video firmware the same support as the stills side.

But, if you don’t have a Cayman Islands bank account capable of absorbing the Hasselblad or Leica brand recognition pricing factor, Pentax is always there to save people.

And, don’t forget, Kipon makes a focal reducer to put MF Lenses on FF & S35 cameras.