Grass not greener

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Jim Chinn, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    The posting of threads is messed up. This was not the original post to this thread, it should be about #8 in line and I have no idea who started the thread.



    I have been re-reading a lot of technical books and have come to thee conclusions as Barry Thornton. Deciding on a format depends on the size of enlargements you are going to make. With the best gear, using medium speed film and a high acutuance developer (perceptol, Pyrocat, Dixiactol) the best you can get from 35mm is about 8x10 before you start to lose sharpness and see noticeable grain. Of course that is if you are looking for a high degree of apparent sharpness.

    MF, 6x6 and larger alows you to go up to 16" prints and on up.

    Thornton was only interested in making the sharpest appearing prints possible, so if that is not as important in your work then it would not be applicable.

    Also, from what I understand re-reading Edge of Darkness by Thornton unless you specifically require movements or enlarge over 16x20, you get no advantage from using 4x5 over MF.

    This would also not be applicable to a contact print, as an 8x10 contact whould be sharper then an enlargement from the best MF if good techniuqe and lens was used with the LF.
     
  2. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    I kind of backed into MF, my progression with photography has been a little weird. Started with 4x5, went to 8x10, stopped photographing for a while. Because of lack of funds started again with 35mm and then recently MF.
    I have been totally unsatisfied with 35mm. Grain is bad and it looks like it has been optically tortured.
    I just got done enlarging some MF negatives(8x10) and I am quite impressed. With efke 25/rodinal I do not see any grain even with modest magnification, and the images are easily as sharp and natural looking as 8x10 contact prints. All this with a 100$ rb, 100$ 127c lens, a 30$ 23c and a 30$ rodagon.
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    So what color was the grass?
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Brett Weston produced some enlargements from medium format that rival his contact prints, in my estimation.

    I have come to believe that when it comes to modest enlargements that bigger is not always better.

    I tend to enjoy 11X14 enlargements from 4X5 negs a lot more then 8X10 contact prints. I have both formats and no axe to grind.
     
  5. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Not here to knock any other formats, it's just that MF is at a real 'sweet spot' as far as used equipment prices right now. It is very inexpensive and can get some really great results.

    grass on 35mm -- it was pretty green, but a little dirty and clumpy looking, and there were weird looking pieces of dust in it

    large format - very nice green, but damn my back started aching!
     
  6. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    With B&W, doesn't the "greenness" of the grass depend on filtration? :wink:

    In my view, each format has its strengths and weaknesses. Which format one uses as his/her "primary" format depends (or it should, I think) on that individual's artistic objectives and personal preferences insofar as grain, detail, tonality, etc. Then, there are practical issues like size, weight, and convenience of the gear.

    For me, the 120 gear is now mostly restricted to studio work. In the field, I shoot mostly 4x5 or 8x10. The 35mm rangefinder almost always tags along, however.
     
  7. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I agree with Ralph, all of the formats have there place as long as you learn how to exploit the strong points of the format..

    Dave
     
  8. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Not all of us like to go through the time/mental energy/cost to buy a bunch of equipment and maintain it. I don't think you have to work in all formats to be a good photographer.
     
  9. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    You have it wrong, nobody said you have to use all the formats to be a good photographer, what was said, was you can be a good photographer with any of the formats if you learn how to exploit the strengths in that format..
     
  10. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    If there were a fire in my house and my family were safe, the one picture I would grab was taken with 3200Tmax on a Canonet. Boulders of grain. Without the Canonet (small, quiet, stealthy) and the high speed film (low light, guess focus for quick shot), I would never have made that image.

    That said, the negatives from my new (to me) Bronica are a joy.

    Matt
     
  11. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I'll agree that MF is the sweet spot for ease of use and quality. I'll disagree on prices. I bought a used 4x5 press camera for less then $70. Even came with a lens. Bought a big old heavy monorail for $100. If you stay away from the fashionable stuff LF gear is very cheap.
     
  12. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    The same could be done with MF.. Lets say we are only talking top quality gear that you plan on caring for and using for many years.

     
  13. Daniel Lawton

    Daniel Lawton Member

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    Good point about Thornton's Book. Up to about 16x20 , most human eyeballs can't perceive a difference in quality between an enlarged 6x6 negative and a 4x5 LF negative. In some cases, film flatness (or lack thereof) and diffraction resulting from the necessity of very small apertures, can actually cause visual sharpness of a LF image to fall below one taken on a MF camera. Since I don't go above this print size, I'm under no impression that I'm missing anything in terms of print quality. The thing that does interest me about LF is strictly camera movements and the ability to correct distortion of linear objects. This alone is why I'll probably give it a shot in the future. I've also been keeping my eye out for some MF tilt shift lenses which would be ideal for me.
     
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  15. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    In reading the initial post, I notice that there are a lot of "ifs" in it. "If" you don't need movements, "if" you are using medium speed film, and "if" you are using a high acutance developer...then there is no advantage to using 4x5 over medium format. The problem is that most photographers don't fit all the "ifs."

    I suppose you could rewrite the first parpagraph of your post as follows: If you are not using the best gear, if you are not using medium speed film, if you are not using high acutance developer, if you need movements, or if you print larger than 16x20, then 4x5 still holds an advantage over medium format.

    There are a lot of variables that go into choosing a camera for a particular job. Print size is only one of them. When I travel, I do so with a Mamiya 7. Even with 3 lenses, it fits in a small shoulder pack. I can take it into a museum--I would have to check the 4x5. It is the right choice for my desired result, travel photos. But, I rarely enlarge them past 11x14. I use Tri-x because I prefer the look of that film to the finer grained films. I don't fit the "ifs". I suppose I could take my 35mm range finder on the trip, but I prefer the bigger, medium format neg even though it is less convenient than 35mm. It gives me the option of doing 8x10 of 11x14 prints from my travels which 35mm does not. I rarely enlarge a 35mm neg over 5x7. I weighed the variables based on my photography, my materials.

    I have read Thorton's book. It is one that I reread every few years. But, I also tested his limits using the materials I prefer. For my work, 11x14 is the upper limit of a 6x7 neg. 16x20 is the upper limit for 4x5. Those are my standards, based on my materials, based on my experience. I could change to finer grained film, but I won't because I like the look of the old style emulsion better.

    The point, medium format and large format are different animals. Each has it strong points and weak points. Which you decide on is up to how you weigh the pluses and minuses of each. Print size is only one of those variables. And, if you use materials different from those used by Thorton, you will have to reach your own conclusions as to maximum print size.
     
  16. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I agree with virtually everything Allen writes here, except for the part about 35mm which I don't use much at all.

    I use medium format a lot, especially when I travel since it gives greater portability, access, and can be used hand-held. However, there is no doubt in my mind but that for prints over 11X14" the 6X6 and 6X7 formats can not stand up to 4X5, unless you start throwing in the "ifs". At 6X9 cm on a tripod and maximum print size of 16X20" medium format looks a lot better, but even here I believe 4X5 still wins in a close call.

    If I thought I could get equivalent print quality up to 16X20" size from 6X9 cm as from 4X5" or 5X7" I would sell the view cameras because I shoot all medium format for scanning and can adjust out out most perspective problems in Photoshop. But for my eye it just isn't happening.

    Sandy






     
  17. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    If I didn't read very carefully, I would think that we had a "my dad can beat up your dad" thread vis a vis various formats :smile:
    There is a certain best of both worlds quality to MF (which kind of goes along with the term "medium" in the name) - I know that the first time I saw a MF negative, I was so blown away, I wondered why anyone would shoot 35mm. But then novelty wore off (but not he magic!), and now the formats all peacfully co-exist, each with a strong point to more than justify its existance.
    And then there is the fact that the bigger the format, the more beautiful and enchanting the camera! And I know, its just a tool to many, but to me, a largepart of the enjoyment comes from all that gorgeous, unique looking equipment!

    Peter.
     
  18. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Brett Weston; Agfapan 25; Oriental Paper
     
  19. pauldc

    pauldc Member

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    For me the irony is that most people start by using 35mm and those who are then searching for something extra may move on to a larger format and invest their time and skill in a newer format. In terms of any craft maybe this could be a wrong way round. In other arts and crafts it is unusual to start in a minature format before building skills with the materials. Perhaps in photography this is why, for some, dissatisfaction with 35mm quickly arises.

    In my experience (having tried and enjoyed all the formats from 35mm to 8x10) it is the 35mm format that needs the most care and skill to get the successful print. It is possible to get stunning 35mm prints (not neccessarily evidenced in my own work but in others I have seen!) but great skill is needed to fully maximise the small negative and fight against the limitations such as the proportionally greater enlargement of defects, dust etc. I can more easily produce a good print from a 6x6 negative even with my slightly sloppy technique (for example when I am rushing) than from 35mm. And yet it is 35mm where most beginners and inexperienced people start.

    My other reflection is that I tend to use larger formats more for the improved tonality than for issues such as sharpness and detail. To my eyes certain films in 6x6 glow in a way that their 35mm equivalents struggle to produce.

    Very interesting thread by the way and a nice tone to the discussions.

    Best wishes
     
  20. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    You know - that is a fascinating point! I never thought of it this way, but once you "put it out there", it makes tremendous sense!
    I suppose the popularity of 35mm as a compact, all around picture taking device makes it the first contact many people have with photography, and I suppose they start with whatthey are familiar with. Also, there is the huge flexinility at a comperatively (stress that "comperatively"!) low cost of a 35mm slr.
    But, having said that, I know in my case, personally, I had to re-think a lot of things when I tried to get knowledge beyond the simplest exposure basics. If I had taken a structured approach and started with a larger format, I would have a much better grasp on many concepts because I simply could not skip that step and still make pictures.
    My long-winded way of saying great point!

    Peter.
     
  21. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Exactly! I don't think that if anyone that is happy with their 35mm work is going to care how I feel about it, but personally I am all thumbs and I am not a careful worker. I had tons of trouble getting the 35mm on the reels, and 120 was a piece of cake. Maybe 35mm just doesn't like me.
     
  22. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Nah, you were just meant for bigger, better things! :D
     
  23. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I certainly hope that no one read my message in this thread as "my format is better than yours." I use medium format extensively, and also LF and ULF. I also use point and shoot medium format (Fuji GA645Zi) as well as the plain Jane rangefinder 6X9 Fujis (GW and GSW 690II cameras), and medium format SLR (primarily for close-up work and long telephoto work). They all have their place, though in many instances one of these has a better place than the others, and the plain fact is that sometimes one of these cameras will "beat up" the other in a specific type of shooting situation.

    Same is true of LF and ULF equipment.

    I don't use 35mm except for snapshots because I simply don't find it possible to get the kind of quality I want from this format in prints larger than 5X7. If you can do better, more power to you. But you can bet that if I were doing wildlife or sports photography for a living you would find me with a 35mm camera and a bunch of long lenses.

    Bottom line, choose your equipment based on the type of photography you do, and in accord with the final product.

    Sandy




     
  24. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Dave, since you were so clear and are such an all-round good guy, I'm going to take the terrible risk of disagreeing with you.

    I moved up from 35 mm to 2x3 because there I saw no other way to get a closeup shot of a flower in its natural setting with good detail in the flower (can require ~ 1:1) and enough of the setting in the frame (not much fits 24 x 36 at 1:1). In some situations, 4x5 would be even better but I'm not ready for that yet.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  25. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Dan,

    Disagreeing is fine,,

    As you saw, that particular instance is not one of the strong points of 35mm hence you have to move up to a larger size to give you more image area..

    Dave
     
  26. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    My experience is a bit different than that of most of the others who have posted. When I started out in photography my choice was 4x5, 5x7, or 8x10.
    The only 35mm films were cassettes filled with the ends of movie film and though some fairly good, did not approch 4x5 quality for professional use. Studio photographers used pretty much 8x10 and ocassionally larger for portraits.

    Product photography was done with 8x10 as the standard, with 5x7 and 4x5 dead even at second choice. 5x7 was seldom a first choice for the news photographers, however the sports camera men loved it. They lugged their gear into Yankee Stadium and set up anywhere except on the playing field.
    10 feet from home plate was fine. The majority of pressmen were using 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 or 4x5.

    The 6x6 6x9 was seldom used by the sports photographer due to the lack of interchangable lenses. 75mm to 85mm worked wonders for the guys doing news and daily work, but didn't cut it for sports. 35mm then greatly updated entered the scene with cameras, lenses and a bunch of pretty darn good films to choose from. You know the rest of the story.

    So, I started with LF and went with the flow to 35mm. At one time in my life 95% of the advertising photographs I made were with 35mm. Did it compare to any of the larger formats? No way! 35mm and the quality associated with it was the editors choice. (Quick and Dirty) It did not take too many years for the tide to change back to the larger formats for professional quality reproduction.. I have personally earned my total income directly from using the above mentioned tools for my working lifetime. I have come to believe that there is no one perfect format! They all have their pluses and minuses. A person must make his choice of format then live within it's boundrys.

    I personally can't make such a choice, as I can readily see the advantages of all the formats. I make my selection based totally on how I can best deliver the highest and best quality images to my customer. Pick out what you like and learn to wring out the best possible images from it. Then close your ears to any one disagreeing with your choice. You are the only one who can choose "your" perfect format! So pick one and "damn the torpedos full speed ahead"

    Charlie.........................

    Unfortunitly my Daddy can't beat up your Daddy, though I truly wish he were here to toss one more fly in the Gunnison River.............