Does Velvia really hold more detail than other transperency film?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Jedidiah Smith, May 28, 2008.

  1. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    I have asked a similar question before on Photo.net about a year ago, but was never quite satisfied with the answer. Maybe some of the "old timers" on this board can help me on this one. I shoot strictly landscape/nature shots with 35mm SLR.

    From what I can read on the data sheets, Fuji Velvia has the highest lp/mm resolution (160) out of any of the slide films. Compare that to 140 for Provia and less for Astia. I can't seem to get a lp/mm out of Kodak's data sheet - anyone able to help me there? I like Kodak E100GX and E100VS.

    My question is, does this "increase" in lp/mm resolution come solely from the higher contrast that velvia has? For example, is it like a USM in photoshop, or that sort of thing, where it looks sharper, but isn't necessarily sharper, or is it really something different in the film that captures more detail?

    I hope my question makes sense...you can see where I'm going with this...could you simply shoot a less contrasty film such as Provia or E100GX and then post-process the scan to get the same "sharpness" out of them?
    Thanks for any information my way.
    Sincerely,
    Jed Smith
     
  2. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    When I want the highest possible color resolution and highest fine detail resolution in my color transparencies (and/or color negatives), I use a format larger than 35mm:

    Thus:
    4" X 5"
    8" X 10"
    6cm X 4.5cm
    6cm X 6 cm
    6cm X 7cm
    6cm X 9 cm
    6cm X 12 cm

    ETC.

    Post Processing a smaller format film does not get the job done!
     
  3. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Restricted Access

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    g'day Jed

    "Does Velvia really hold more detail than other transperency film?"

    does it matter?

    does it, or whatever materials you use, do what you want/need?

    how do your results look to you?

    what answer do you want?

    why have you considered this for more than a year?

    Tom, so what?

    "Thus:
    4" X 5"
    8" X 10"
    6cm X 4.5cm
    6cm X 6 cm
    6cm X 7cm
    6cm X 9 cm
    6cm X 12 cm
    "

    huh, so pick one

    wouldn't 11x14 be "better"?

    no wait, 20x24 would be "better"

    oh hang on, if you could make a ginormous camera like the size of a house, that would be "better", wouldn't it?

    Ray
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Jed, this is a reasonable question. The answer depends on how you define detail.

    I'd define it in terms of signal-to-noise ratio, which includes both lp/mm resolution and also tonal range, versus noise sources such as grain, fog etc.

    Thus I'd say that amount of detail you actually capture depends on a host of issues such as the range in the scene, the film's response curve, and the particulars of your exposure. And then there is the issue of how much detail you can actually get out of the film when you project or print or scan....

    As you know, when we use velvia in a contrasty scene, then we are sacrificing either shadow or highlight detail, or both. But if the contrast of the scene matches the range of the slide and the exposure is optimal, then, yes indeed, velvia can capture levels of detail unrivaled by almost any other colour film- way more detail than you will ever work into a print.
     
  5. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    The film is different in that it is able to hold finer detail assuming you do everything perfectly when you make the image. That detail is resolvable under 1000:1 lighting conditions and if each line pair is one black and one white.

    To extract 160 lp/mm from your scan, your scanner would need to be able to scan at a native resolution of 8128 dpi (160*2*25.4) and the scan lines would need to line up exactly with the lines on the chrome (assuming they were lines). Your scanner is unlikely to be able to scan at that resolution unless its a highend drum scanner such as an ICG. If your scanner is anything else, then you will likely loose at least half of that resolution in the scan and if its a flatbed or cheap film scanner, then you won't get more than 25% of that film resolution in the scan.
    Will sharpening it put back? Are you serious? No it won't. It will reduce it even further. You are making the mistake of thinking sharpness equates to resolution. It doesn't. Resolution (lp/mm) is about resolving detail. Sharpness is about edge contrast. Two completely different things. Adjusting edge contrast digitally does so at the expense of edge resolution. Sharpening is a destructive process in that sense.
    However, because the scan process loses so much resolution through various factors including inaccuracies in the step motor, the spacing between each scan receptor etc etc, it results in a soft image. At least on screen it is because your screen is such low resolution. Print it at high enough pixels per inch and that sharpness will come back. But the resolution won't.
    But if you don't print at high pixels per inch, then sharpening digitally will put the sharpness back. But not the resolution.

    In short, unless you are doing very high end drum scanning, you lose the resolution your film is capable of. There is nothing you can do about that.

    Could you actually see that fine detail if you could retain it? Your eyes can detect upto 8 lp/mm if you have 20/20 vision and alternating lines are black and white and the lighting contrast is very high, maybe 1000:1 or greater. In normal lighting, then maybe 5 lp/mm max.

    So you can do the math to work out that if you need 5 lp/mm in the print, then what pixels per inch do you need to print at to obtain that and what image pixel dimensions do you need for the print size to give that and what scan resolution do you need given your film format to obtain that and whether your scanner is actually capable of giving that and whether the scanner manufacturers claimed figures are true or not.

    The consensus as I have seen it, is that 20x16 is the biggest you can go from a 4x5 neg/chrome scan on an epson flatbed before you start to see a loss of resolution in the print because the scanner is simply not upto it. That's from a 4x5. For 35mm neg/chrome you can forget it unless high resolution is not an issue for you. Fact is that it's really not an issue for most people who, since they have never seen a truly high resolution print, would never notice anyway.

    Good luck
     
  6. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Tom and Ray, I see what both of you mean, yes there is that argument here as well. I have tried MF, wasn't really my idea of fun shooting, and I can't believe LF would be either; but yes, at some point I may just have to go LF to be satisfied. :smile:

    However, let's say just for the 35mm size - I am looking to get the highest (theoretical here) detail capture with my Minolta SLR.
    The reason I am even asking this question is, I love the look of Velvia 50 and Velvia 100 on a light box with a Loupe, or projected through my Leica projector.
    However, and this is a big one - I scan my slides to get prints made on Fuji Crystal Archive. It is hard work to get the true look of Velvia on a light box out of a scan of Velvia. I have to really play with the settings, etc, to get it to look that way - the density of Velvia is really hard to capture with a film scanner - no, I do not have access to a drum scanner, and can't afford to use one regularly. I'm using a KM Scan Elite 5400, though, which is a very good "consumer" film scanner.

    So...I would be willing to shoot a less contrasty film such as Provia or E100GX to make scanning (and therefore prints) easier, but ONLY if it will not penalize me in the detail captured department. If the actual slide will not capture as much detail as Velvia, then I'm ok with the harder time scanning if I will really end up with more detail.
    Hope I'm making sense here...
    Thanks,
    Jed
     
  7. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Obviously, "better" Depends on your objective, Ray.

    But if your objective is a Big, Sharp Image, A Big, Sharp Transparency or Negative is a good place to start.
     
  8. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Keith, and especially Rob - THANK YOU! That was exactly what I was looking for...
    ...so even at 5400dpi with the Minolta film scanner, I am still throwing away a ton of the resolution. Well, that's about the best film scanner for any price less than an Imacon or drum scanner. I've had the Nikon scanners, and while they are about equal, they don't do a better job. The 5400II I had was marginally better for ICE use, but not as good for scanning B&W film...so it's a toss up there. I will have to do the calculation you suggest at 5lp/mm and see where this puts me as far as format size and print size.

    Bottom line I'm getting from this is, if I like the look of Velvia, that's what I need to shoot - and just work my tail off in the scanning process to get the best results I can. There's no way to simulate the look w/ a different, easier to scan film.

    Rob, you seem very well versed in this - can I ask you what film and format you shoot then, knowing all this? Not that it really matters, I suppose one man's trash is another man's treasure and all that, but maybe it will give me something to mull over...
    I certainly appreciate your time,
    Jed
     
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Jed I honestly don't think anything short of a drum scanner can do 35mm velvia justice. You'd probably get a lot more bang for your buck out of astia just because of scannability.

    I am a bit surprised that you didn't find satisfaction in MF; did you try any 645s? There are many in various configurations....
     
  10. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    I don't do colour, at least not quite yet. I'm purely black white film to silver gelatin. But I'm thinking about doing 4x5 provia for scanning. I work in IT so pixels don't phase me. The maths is really simple common sense but you have to understand the major limitations of ccd scanners. Basically they are crap at resolving detail and no amount of software processing can put back lost resolution. It may be able to interpolate it but that's based on assumptions and so is fundamentally altering the image.
    The question is whether that really matters since a photo is always a representation and not literal regardless of whether it was taken on film or digitally.

    And if you do the math and work backwards, you can work out how much lp/mm you need in the film and I think you will find that neg film will give you that and it will give you much greater available subject brightness range to play with and that your scanner will easily be able to cope with the dmax of a neg film resulting in a better quality scan with less noise, albeit in the highlights where it could show more :wink:
     
  11. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Restricted Access

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    so Jed, you like the "look" of Velvia but lose it in the printing, maybe you should print a different way, or use a different film

    have you considered whether your style of photography actually needs this supposed high level of sharpness, contrast, etc?

    what is your subject, what are you trying to achieve?

    Ray
     
  12. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    Velvia Detail

    How much resolution and detail you need from a film depends on what you want to do with the final image. Even with the most sophisticated post processing you will not be able to reproduce the full range of a properly exposed slide in a print. When projection printing was used for color work you could see the grain pattern in the print. Your maximum resolution depended on the weakest link in the chain going from the camera and taking lens and ending up with the enlarging lens and proper alignment of the enlarger. Control of contrast and to some extent of color was more limited with projection printing but if everything was working properly you could get a lot out of a good negative or slide. Once scanning came into the picture any hope of reproducing the original grain pattern of the film was lost. To match optimal projection printing for an enlargement you need very high resolution scanning. Many people scan slides or negatives for the ease of looking at them on a monitor but still examine them with a magnifier before sending them out for printing. If you use The Slideprinter [Denver Digital Imaging] you have the choice of many different levels of scanning. You don't need all of these levels for a 4X6 or even for an 8X10 in most cases but for larger prints very high quality scanning is available.

    Two weekends ago I was in Newport, RI and stayed at the Marriott. In the loby there was a photo on display (with a price tag) which was about 25X70". According to the information supplied it was shot on Velvia with an X-PAN. It was a panoramic type shot of a beach so there was a lot of water and sky but it looked pretty good. I prefer the Ektachrome films but ideally you would match the format to the size print you need. Where detail and resolution are concerned, an 11X14 or 16X20 shot on 35mm Velvia 50 will not look nearly as good as the same size prints shot on 100 speed Ektachrome in the 6X7 format. This assumes that you have good enough technique with both formats and that scanning is of good quality for both formats. I think Velvia 50 holds a little more detail than EVS but not much more. Much of the emphasis on making very large prints from small format cameras is the challenge involved. It's like catching a 100 pound fish on 8 pound test line. I'm not denying that there is a challenge. I just don't know whether it's necessary.
     
  13. tim elder

    tim elder Member

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    Leaving aside pixels and resolution for a moment, translating the look and the feel of viewing a transparency on a light table into a print has been a difficult challenge throughout the history of color photography - so don't think you're doing something wrong, or that you're not working at it hard enough.

    I would try having the same slide printed as an Ilfochrome and as a drum-scanned, digital print. I personally love how beautiful a good Ilfochrome can look. While it's understandable that you can't afford to have a ton of images drum-scanned and printed, or have a ton of Ilfochromes made, perhaps if you try the best ways to do it and find your preference, at least you will find that satisfaction that you are looking for. Use your scanner for proofs, or work prints. And if you really want to go crazy, try to find the last handful of dye transfer printers in the world and have them have at it!

    Tim
     
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  15. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Thanks for the discussion - I am enjoying this, learning in the process.
    First off to Keith (and everyone else) I purchased a Bronica 6x6 MF rig a while back, and it just wasn't my cup of tea, so I sold it on Ebay. Not really sure why, but I just couldn't get used to the backwards view in the WL finder (I didn't have a prism finder), and just plain didn't like it, I guess. My opinion of 6x4.5 might be different...should I track that direction? What I love about 35mm is that it is fun (this is a hobby after all), relatively light to pack, and I do enjoy hiking and walking around with my camera. Can't seem to do this so much with the bigger formats, but maybe I have not tried the right gear.

    Does my subject matter need the highest resolution? I would say yes, in the sense that any landscape shot will look better the more detail is in it. I can't believe some people look at a print of a nature scene taken with a 6mp or even a 10mp DSLR and clam it is better than or equal to even 35mm Velvia. The detail is just not there; I have done the tests myself. So, that's been my quest lately - the last year or so - to get the most detailed prints I could out of 35mm film. It's been fun. I'm thinking I may be reaching the limit, though.

    Lastly, we are moving in August, and I have had to dismantle my darkroom, so I am stuck with some form of digital printing for now. I don't believe I will be able to find a place that will let me have a darkroom up soon, so I'm thinking my days in that form of printing are over at least for a while.
    So...the Minolta 5400 seems to be about the best dedicated film scanner I can have in my price range. An Imacon is honestly not much better, and way over priced. Drum scanning is indeed an option, but only for a very select few of my shots, I am sure.
    What's interesting is that Rob pointed out I should get better scans of negatives - unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. I have two 20x30" prints hanging in my office that were printed from E100GX and Velvia 35mm slides - perfect technique, etc - everything just came together and those two prints look amazingly good at that size. One was scanned in with the 5400 and one was don the traditional interneg way by a top notch lab here in town (i.e. $$)
    ...but I have never had a print of a negative look so good as the prints from my slides, not even at smaller sizes like 12x18 which I have done quite often from my slides.

    Thanks for all the information so far, and keep throwing tips at me...I'm listening and learning.
    Jed
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Let me suggest taking a long hard look at the MF rangefinders, e.g. the fixed lens Fujis and the Mamiya 6/6MF/7/7ii. As hiking cams it is very, very hard to beat these.... in any format.

    Indeed MF SLRs can be rather bulky; with possible exception of the pentaxes and a few others, they just don't feel as mobile as a 35mm. But having said that, there is a tremendous variety of MF gear out there, and it is all quite affordable now, so... enjoy trying a lot of different kit.

    I do not mean to imply that 35mm isn't right for you- perhaps it is, and it can be optimal for many things. But if scanning at home is a big part of your workflow, then jumping even to 645 will immediately yield a lot of benefits. Of all the things to scan, in any format, 35mm velvia is the hardest...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2008
  17. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    well one last tip.

    5 lp/mm is 10 lines per mm * 25.4 = 254. It is no coincidence that some of the highend laser printers print at this resolution, some dursts for example.
    However, that leaves little room for error and it is claimed, although I have no personal eveidence, that when printing to an inkjet, using a mutiple of the print head nozzle count gives some print advantage. I don't know whether that is in terms of speed for the rasterising process or for actual print quality improvement. For epsons that is a mutiple of 180 or 360. So using 360ppi, you would actually be aiming at 7lp/mm.

    And if you can afford a quality dedicated RIP, then you will see a marked improvement in print quality once you get your head around the software.

    http://www.colorbytesoftware.com/
    http://www.ergosoftus.com/products/
    http://www.colorburstrip.com/
    http://www.bowhaus.com/services/IJCOPMmain.php4

    but I digress, this is going way off topic...
     
  18. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Rob - did I do my math right? I came out with a min. of 105.8 lp/mm for a 20x30 print from 35mm film. That would be utilizing the entire frame, of course.

    Keith, I will certainly look into MF again, then. Perhaps my first judgement based on the old Bronica was not a good one! :smile:

    Jed
     
  19. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    yes that's correct assuming a target 5 lp/mm and scanning at 5400. Actually slightly under 5400 but I would scan at scanner native resolution so that scanner firmware doesn't do any interpolation.

    Remember that document print resolution should be 254 ppi but note my previous post which suggests that 7 lp/mm or rather 360 ppi may be optimal for an epson printer. What it should be for other makes I don't know. If you are using epson, then you can try both 254 and 360 and see if there is a difference. It would be very subtle.
     
  20. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    And as you see, your theoretical resolution limit is only 66% of the films resolution and that's before you lose more through scanner lens quality, step motor limitations, ccd limitations, scanner lens alignment, scanner focus etc.
     
  21. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Jed, I made some of my favorite 24" X 30" type R color prints from 645 Velvia transparencies shot with my Fujica GS 645 Professional (Rangefinder Folder) with the 75mm f3.4 EBC Fujinon S lens.

    Recently, using my Fuji GW690 III (Rangefinder camera with 90mm f3.5 EBC Fujinon lens), I shot a 6cm X 9cm Joshua Tree NP landscape on Fuji 160S color neg film. A and I Labs of Los Angeles scanned the neg, printed it (24" X 36") and mounted it for me.

    Beautiful!
     
  22. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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  23. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Jed, you may find this article of great use. It discusses many aspects of what film grain really is, different film types resolutions and the influence of camera lens quality on that (your weakest link may actually not be your scanner, but your lens), and basic scanner design:

    http://aic.stanford.edu/sg/emg/library/pdf/vitale/2007-04-vitale-filmgrain_resolution.pdf

    It is an article by Tim Vitale and available from the website of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).
     
  24. bwakel

    bwakel Member

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    I'm glad that Marco brought up the issue of lens resolution. Talk of 160 lp/mm from Velvia or any other film is surely an irrelevance. My best lenses (Leica for 35mm and Mamiya 7 for MF) will probably only give 60 or so lp/mm resolution at best and probably much less in the real world when shooting landscapes. Why? Well, most of the time I'll need a lot of depth which means f/11 on the Leica and f/22 on the Mamiya. This immediately reduces resolution. Then I'm outside. Even if my tripod's well planted even a slight breeze will have some effect on the camera and the act of activating the shutter even when using a cable release will also cause some minute movement. If I'm using filters - ND grads are pretty much a necessity with Velvia - then I'm degrading the resolution even further. Let's say we end up with 40 lp/mm in the centre of the lens and probably less at the edge. To get to your 5 lp/mm print size you're looking at an 8x enlargement which feels about right. 8x36mm = 288mm or an 11x7.6 inch print.

    Maybe I have unrealistically high standards but I've never seen a 35mm image enlarged beyond about 9.5x12 that I've been happy with (that goes for Ilfochromes and high-res scans). I use a Gitzo carbon tripod and Arca ball head and the finest 35mm cameras and lenses with Velvia, Provia and E100GX but compared with my MF and LF images enlarged as far as 20x24 the 35mm images always look soft and lack tonality by 16x12. 35mm makes nice 8x10s and reasonable 9.5x12s but that's about the limit for me if I'm really, really worrying about detail and technicalities as they've been discussed in this thread.

    It's a personal thing but if you're happy with 20x30 enlargements from your 35mm landscape shots (however well those enlargements were made) then it would suggest to me that you're not actually that bothered about detail and are much more interested in the emotional impact of the image. Now this is something that's really worth getting enthusiastic about - some of my favourite shots are handheld shots on 35mm black and white that I've enlarged to 16x12 and printed as liths. Not much detail, strange tonality, but the images grab me and hold me every time I look at them.
     
  25. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    I have three Bronica SQ-A cameras. The funny thing is that the plain prism finders (no meter) sell for much less than a waist level finder in good condition. I have two prism finders and one waist level. With the prism and the Speed Grip an SQ series camera balances nicely and is not difficult to use. I use the SQ-A cameras mostly with the waist level finder. The laterally reversed image doesn't really bother me. I got used to this with TLR cameras a long time ago. By removing the prism and the Speed Grip I have a camera which is lighter and easier to carry around. I also have Bronica ETR and GS-1 cameras. The ETR/S/Si is not that much smaller or lighter than the SQ series cameras. You will find that an ETRS or ETRSi with a meter prism will allow yo to work more quickly. A Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645 or Contax 645 can also allow you to work more quickly but I don't think they will give you better image quality than a 6X6 SLR camera. With Kodackrome 25 and Ektar 25 films gone there just aren't as many people trying to make huge prints f landscapes with 35mm equipment.
     
  26. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    That is a good point because I had read the OP as line pairs per millimeter and not lines per millimeter. Having checked the datasheet, it does indeed say lines per millimeter so that makes a big difference. i.e. only 80 line pairs per milimeter at 1000:1 contrast.

    so to get all that from a slide using a scanner, then you only need a scanner capable of 4064 dpi scan resolution.

    So I think Jed will need to recalculate.

    160 lines per millimeter is at 1000:1 which si a brightness range of 10 stops
    80 lines per millimeter is at 1.6:1 which is only half a stop range.