The History of the Medium Format

“Medium format” as it is defined today—“to categorize the film formats between 35 mm and the larger view camera formats 4 × 5 in. and up—”is frequently considered quite new.

But photography actually started with the medium format. The daguerreotype plates used in the 1840s were 6 1/2 × 8 1/2 in. large. But since silver and copper, the components of these plates, were very expensive, the image often did not cover the full size of the plate, so the plates were split into smaller sections (1/2 to 1/16) such as 2 3/4 × 3 1/4 in., 2 1/8 × 3 1/4 in., or 1 5/8 × 2 1/8 in. Judging from the large number of photographic images that have survived from this time, the 2 3/4 × 3 1/4 in. “medium format” was the most ...

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