4x5 compared to 8x10 in absolute image quality

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by BetterSense, Aug 27, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I'm wondering what the point is of 8x10, other than the ability to contact print and the ability to view a larger groundglass.

    It seems to me that in even poster-sized enlargements, 4x5 should be good quality, but I personally have no experience with monster enlargements.

    Is actual image quality a valid reason to use 8x10 or is it used mainly to facilitate contact printing and other reasons?
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Sure, print quality is a good reason- contact printing is arguably the very best you can do. One less lensing step in the workflow. Larger negs are also easier to touch up, if you need to. (However, you can make very nice enlarged negs from much smaller formats)

    The extra tonal detail in the neg (or slide) is a good reason too, but frankly I think that advantage is usually overstated, relative to what 5x7 and 4x5 can do. Other issues like lighting and exposure/dev usually play a bigger role than format size alone, IMHO.

    For wider-angle work, 8x10 can be advantageous; for tight crop stuff, oh heck no, go with the smaller format! 600mm really isn't long at all on 8x10! But something like a 150SW, mmm, very nice on 8x10.

    RE: the larger groundglass, I like 8x10 with a reducing back when I am actually shooting to 5x7 or 4x5.... because I can see the image circle on the 8x10 glass and that is useful. Then I switch to the reducing back for final focus and shooting.

    My favourite format, though, is 5x7. I started 4x10 and 5x8 and also like those very much. 8x10 just hasn't suited me as yet, though I am restoring a really light, wooden 8x10 and when that's ready then I may feel more inspired!
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It can be used for absolute image quality, and one could argue that if you contact print, then that's a significant improvement in image quality over even the best enlargements, though some will dispute that of course. Even if one thinks that a 4x5" neg enlarged to 8x10" is as good as an 8x10" contact print, the 8x10" contact print is the standard to meet, not the other way around.

    I use 8x10" and larger formats in part for the purpose of having a good sized neg for contact printing.

    I like the aesthetic of working 1:1, knowing that objects as I see them on the groundglass will be the same size on the print. It's about the same size as a sheet of letter sized paper, so the format feels familiar and intuitive to me (my first LF camera was 8x10"). It's easier to learn LF with an 8x10" camera, in my opinion, because you can see the effects of camera movements more clearly on the larger groundglass.

    An 8x10" camera and contact printing also make it possible to use historic lenses more or less as they were designed to be used. There are many classic portrait lenses that make beautiful contact prints, but the image can fall apart if you try to enlarge it.
     
  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    What kind of issues? I'm a LF noob.

    I'm confused as to why this matters; is it so you can use cheaper lenses and they will be 'wide' enough on the larger format?

    I asked this question after seeing this. Even in digital form this is very impressive, and I understand it came from a 8x10 camera.

    http://www.echonyc.com/~goldfarb/photo/imviaduct.htm
     
  5. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    I've been on the LF side lines for many years and am just now getting back into it. I used a 4x5 when I was younger and I can say with no hesitation that 4x5 does have its limitations. With that in mind and the fact that I prefer wider formats I'm opting for 4x10. However, this is largely due to my inability to carry anything bigger/heavier these days... and financial constraints.
     
  6. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    To me, this sounds a lot like saying, "What is the point in breathing, other than the ability to keep living?"

    I do not enlarge, so for me, the biggest advantage of 8x10 over 4x5 is that with 8x10, I get a bigger print. Another advantage is that I get more exercise with the 8x10.:D

    Vaughn
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think what Keith is pointing to here is not so much that wider is easier as that tighter is harder with a bigger camera, because you've got less DOF and more bellows factor than with a smaller format, but still, you can do it. In the era of the great Hollywood portraits, 8x10" was the standard format, and a lot of still life for advertising has been done with 8x10", because the negs are easier to retouch. The Playboy centerfold used to be shot on 8x10" as well (I have no idea if it still is), and while the size of the enlargement is often assumed to be the reason for this, I suspect that the ability to retouch the larger transparency was more of a factor.

    Here's a mix of 8x10's near and far on my flickr site--

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/tags/8x10/
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The advantages of 10x8 have been stated clearly by others, I intended to contact print when I bought mine but one look at the negatives and I bought a 10x8 enlarger, with no regrets.

    But a 10x8 also has major disadvantages, size, less portability, can't be used hand-held and then the cost of film and processing if working in colour.

    So personally I use both 5x4 & 10x8 the choice being mainly dependent on the location & also degree of portability required, and sometimes the project involved. With good technique the quality from 5x4 is superb and is a big jump from 120, but the extra quality from 10x8 is harder to less obvious.

    Ian
     
  9. DannL

    DannL Member

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    Fidelity. I find it easier to achieve as the negative size increases. I also like the sound of this word. "Fidelity".
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I just got done printing some 11x14" enlargements from 4x5" and 8x10" negatives. Same film type, Fujinon 150mm and Fujinon 300mm lenses. Same subject matter (distant landscape) same aperture size (6 to 7mm).

    Under close scrutiny of the 11x14" prints, the ones from 8x10" negatives are all clearly superior. As you increase the viewing distance, you do reach a point where you cannot tell them apart. So you have to consider how close your viewer is going to be. I always have my nose in the print, so I prefer the 8x10s :smile:
     
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  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Reading David's comments above, I agree that there is something very special about the 1:1 aesthetic, especially for portraiture and still life. 8x10 is the smallest format permitting 1:1 portraiture (well, okay, there is whole plate). 1:1 is a very special capability when it comes to composition and printing. It links the subject to the perception of the photographer and to the perception of the viewer in a unique way.

    Well, my point was that with modern film, precise developing techniques, and modern lenses, the 'large format advantage' as defined in terms of detail and tonality isn't as enormous as it once was. There are many other more important advantages (such as have been enumerated here).

    You can of course do ultrawide on much smaller formats, but the lenses will need far more correction. A relatively simple lens design on an 8x10 can deliver astonishing results over almost any field of view. Generally speaking, I prefer larger formats for wider fields of view, and smaller formats for narrower fields of view.

    This is not unusual with LF- it's fun to go back through some LF negs or slides and find all kinds of details that weren't noticed when the shot was taken. Here and here are examples from a simple $150 1902 wooden 5x7 (albeit with a modern 210 lens and velvia 100); these scans really aren't even pushing the resolution of the slides. Obviously, what I like about these results is the ability to relive the experience of recording them, and to find more in the scene every time I look at it. In that way the scene lives on... so it's a very special kind of photography.
     
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  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This is true, but actually I was talking about the ratio of groundglass image to the print, rather than the magnification on film compared to the size of the subject. Sorry about the confusion.


    I agree with this--a wider lens benefits from a larger format that can render all the information that a wide lens can take in. I first realized this when I was looking over an 8x10" contact print of an image I'd made on a market square in Tampere, Finland, and it seemed like there were at least a dozen little stories going on in that one image--some people having an animated conversation over a beer, a man on a bicycle, a woman crossing the street, a police officer, a group of tourists, etc.--all in motion at the same time.

    Now I'm finding that the swing lens camera also has this ability. The negs are weirdly sharp, because there's no falloff of resolution in the corners as there is with a flat projection. There is more information in a 6x12 Noblex photo than in a 6x12 photo made with a rollfilm back on a view camera using a lens with the same angle of view.
     
  13. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I have not yet tried 10x8 but I do occasionally think about it. I have 5x4 in the form of a speed graphic and a home made camera but I don't have a 5x4 enlarger as people don't seem to be selling tyhem cheap in the UK like they appear to everywhere else.

    Therefore, if I were to go to 10x8 it would be for the ability to contact print to a decent size rather than any absolute quality of print. If (or when) I get a 5x4 enlarger, any ideas of moving to 10x8 may go away!


    Steve.
     
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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    As Steve knows the British 10x8 & 5x4 formats are vastly superior to the American sized 8x10 and 4x5 versions :D

    Ian
     
  16. bill spears

    bill spears Member

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    I've been using 5x4 for a couple of years now (Sinar F with a SA 65mm) and I have to say I haven't as yet printed a neg from it that is significantly better than anything I've done with my RB67 ... at least up to an image size of 16x20. True - your technique with med format has to be immaculate, slow film sharp developer etc. Also, when I consider the limitations with large format in setting up and being able to react quick enough to dramactically changing light, I keep asking myself why bother ? The truth is I just love the discipline and the challenge, I love the image on the groundglass and the physical size of the neg.

    Someday I'd like to go with a bigger camera for contacting printing but would probably skip 10x8 and go to a ULF
     
  17. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I was going to say something similar to that. I also have an RB67 and am more than happy with the quality I get from 6x7 negatives. Therefore, if I could enlarge 5x4 I'm sure I would have no reason to go to 10x8 with regard to quality.

    I do like the eccentric look which this would add though when out in public with it!


    Steve.
     
  18. aluncrockford

    aluncrockford Member

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    The reason 10/8 was ,and still is sometimes used in high end commercial work is because it is better than 5/4 ,the size of the plate is a bit of a clue, The tonal range is wider ,the information is superior and you have to know what you are doing to produce the highest quality product , to try and convince your self that anything less than 10/8 will give you the same quality is simply wishful thinking
     
  19. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I restored an older, then green, Calumet C1 with a huge bellow ext., to me, and the 8x10 negatives are a joy to print. I contacted a couple on Lodima and was blown away. I work faster in medium format and use it for travel but in the back of my mind I always wish I had a larger format. The 5x7 negative fits the bill for ease of use and a larger negative but the 8x10 there is a negative you can get your hands on. I bought a Shen Hao but I don't use it much, I think about it but for me I might as well use the RB67 for what I shoot. I have a 5x7 reducing back for the C1 but when setup why not shoot an 8x10? I have a Seneca 8x10 with the extension and a new bellows but it's not a field camera as such so it doesn't get out of its original case much.

    If I had the money I'd get an Ebony 5x7 or 8x10, it's a toss up which. I have a 5x7 enlarger so that gets a nod, if I converted it to 8x10 I'd save and get an Ebony 8x10 field camera without a doubt.

    When I saw the small prints by Paul Strand, Photographs of the Southwest, I realized that 5x7 wasn't too small for contact prints. When I see Edward Weston photographs I realize that 8x10 is an excellent contact print size. It's a good size for contact prints of all types.

    In my opinion 4x5 is great for learning and some are happy with it as a main format, no problem there, it has a secure place, I found that I prefer a larger film size, 5x7, 8x10, even 11x14 but I see myself with a 5x7 for the most part so to answer the question it's part personal taste, what you judge to be acceptable in the final print, requirements for the shoot, and economics to mention just a few. I think cameras are like a lot of things in life, you need to try them on for size and see for yourself how they fit.

    For absolute image quality, all things being similar, the larger the format the better it is going to be.
     
  20. Muihlinn

    Muihlinn Member

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    Thinking about to compare absolute image quality is a wrong way to judge a format, there are marvels from subminiature to the biggest ULF sheet ever made regardless objective qualities which are technically desirable. Also, it's a fallacy because you'll have to compare it against something else just for reference, which will always favor one side or the other as you change what you consider the standard, despite what has been considered historically.

    If you're trying to rationalize a change to a bigger format, technical matters in those terms are the wrong way either (at least to me) because if proportions does not please you or the intended print size is below the perception of reasonable improvement, in case of enlarging, the dissapointment is guaranteed.

    my 2 cents.
     
  21. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    It's really all about the final product. If you are printing no bigger than 16x20 you will see no noticeable difference in a print enlarged from a 6x6 or 6x7 negative over one enlarged from 8x10 at normal viewing distance. That is taking into account using a quality MF camera and lenses. You will begin to see some differences in grain and sharpness at 20x24 but I doubt a non-photographer would notice even at that size.

    Since most people don't have the ability to enlarge 8x10 it is really about contact printing. I bought my 8x10 to print on AZO and do platinum. After AZO went away and with the increasing cost of sheet film it pretty much stayed on the shelf. Now I shoot MF, or 4x5 if I need movements and have a digital negative made for contact printing, (untill I learn to do it myself). I want to learn the wet plate process so I will keep the 8x10 for shooting tintypes and ambros.

    If your goal is 8x10 prints then of course an 8x10 contact should be superior to anything else, but that depends on the quality of the 8x10 lens. Some would argue that some MF lenses are far sharper than most 8x10 lenses. But if you are shooting anything requiring movements than 8x10 wins hands down (as long as the camera you buy has the movements you need).

    There is something to be said about using a big camera when shooting portraits. It's not the size of the sheet of film, but the physical presence of the camera that adds a certain quality to the sitting.
     
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  22. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I couldn't have said it better.

    A View Camera makes me slow down and LOOK much more carefully before I even set the thing up.

    I can then take a much more considered view of the image on the ground glass before deciding on whether to proceed.

    My ability to miss the wonderful transient light while still setting up the camera remains hugely frustrating

    But I love it and for the moment cannot see myself down sizing

    Martin
     
  23. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    I had a wonderful moment confirming my decision to go to 8x10. In my retirement I have taken many photography courses at the art school at the local college. My instructor when I was using an RZ67 is also the registrar at the local art museum. He has developed what is considered a very good eye. In his course I made 16x20 prints from a Mamiya RZ67. Two or three courses after the one I had taken from him, he was invited to critique a class where I was first shooting 8x10. He remembered my work from the earlier class and asked, what paper I had changed to? “The tonal range in your prints is so much better than before.” He immediately saw the difference, but gave credit to the wrong change, assuming I was using the same camera. I was using Kodak Polymax FBVC in both classes.

    John Powers
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    for me, it really isn't about much more than
    it is fun .... and im not a snob, i can have fun with a 110 camera
    as easily as a 11x14 ... and i can see merits in both
     
  25. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Which quality are you interested in? Photographs have many qualities...Evan Clarke
     
  26. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    I have to disagree with some who say there is no discernable quality difference comparing 4x5 to 8x10 film size with moderate enlargement. It's not difficult to see differences even on 11x14 and the larger you go the more pronounced the quality increase. If I could afford (and carry) a 8x20 I would definitely do so. I like large prints with extreme detail that are as grainless as is possible.