Large format, small print?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Arcturus, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. Arcturus

    Arcturus Member

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    Does anyone else notice a difference between LF printed to 8x10, vs MF or 35mm? Sometimes I think I'm wasting my time printing 4x5 negs to 8x10 but I think they look better. I mean, 35mm enlarged to 8x10 will give very high quality results, even with a 400 speed film like HP5+ or Tri-X, but the LF 8x10's seem to have a bit of "magic" to them. I think I notice a difference when comparing it to MF enlargements also. I'm not sure if I'm imagining it because of all the effort it takes to shoot and process LF though. Does anyone else notice a difference at 8x10 between the formats or am I crazy?
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I print 4x5 to 8x10 all the time, the results are grainless and stunning. The only thing better would be 8x10 contact print. I also contact print 4x5, and enlarge to 5x7 and 11x14. I don't print anthing larger.
     
  3. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    you aren't imagining anything -- a large format negative contains more information that your brain appreciates even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye -- enlarged small or medium format negatives have the same image, and maybe you don't see the grain, but your brain is filling in gaps left by smaller negatives when they are enlarged, while a large format negative has a lot few gaps and more information.
     
  4. Arcturus

    Arcturus Member

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    This must be it. I spent some time examining prints under a loupe trying to figure out why I always like the LF 8x10's better, but there were very few quantifiable differences at that size. MF is grainless, and 35mm is pretty close to grainless at this size, but there is something in the tones of the 4x5's that just gives them a wow factor. I'd always just kept the LF gear in reserve for times when I needed a large print, but I think I'll be using it for more subjects now.
     
  5. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    I can easily see the difference between a 35mm negative enlarged to 8x10 and a MF or LF. At least, that's true if the 35mm is typical - shot hand held, with fairly fast film. Use a fine grain film like TMX or Delta 100 or Acros, lock the mirror up, and shoot off a tripod, IOW treat it like LF and the difference is a lot less but still there.

    I'm much less certain of the difference between my medium format negs enlarged to 8x10 and my 4x5 negs. 11x14 starts to show up more, especially from 400 film, but the difference is still not stark. 16x20 really shows the advantage of 4x5, though medium format negatives printed 16x20 look excellent. 35mm...eh, depends on the subject as well as film, how it was shot etc. but it's a very rare 35mm negative that I'm personally happy with at that size.
     
  6. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    This is one of those Godzilla versus Bambi questions. Splatt, squisssh! Size matters.
     
  7. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    LF versus 35mm, I agree. LF versus MF, it's not always so clear. Good MF lenses are often better than at least some of the lenses we tend to use on LF. Film is rarely as flat in a 4x5 holder as in a MF camera with a pressure plate. And an 8x10 from a 6x7 negative is only a 3.4x enlargement (by name size, not actual frame size which I don't feel like looking up - close enough) versus 2x from 4x5. The difference there, in my experience, is far from stark or obvious. Go up to 16x20 and it's a different story.
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I'm in agreement the difference is noticeable between 35mm and 5x4, much less so between 120 and 5x4.

    Ian
     
  9. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Maybe a tad irrational.

    What is this "LF" you speak so casually of? An 8x10 negative contact will certainly look better, in some ways – however appreciated, than a 4x5, 5x7 or 6x7 enlarged to an 8x10 print. That's why people love contacts (along with a possible requirement to print without an enlarger). But better by all criteria? By who's judgement? Yes detailed, one hopes, but of what import. An enlarged 35mm of aesthetic composition and/or historical significance leaves otherwise lovely "LF" prints as no more than testaments to the pretentions of unfocused shooters. The right tool can certainly make a difference in a fine print in the hands and mind of a focused photographer

    8x10 prints are normally, with the exception of contacts, simply too small to make rational judgements about the fineness of a print with regard to format, particularly in the hands of a skilled printer and talented photographer. It is for this reason that I do not make fine art prints smaller than 11x14, in any format. My reasons to use "LF" are based on process first, subject and composition second, followed by enlarge-ability. You may be seeing, because you are close to your process, what others will simply never notice.

    Here is an example of a scene shot on 35mm film, revisited many years later with "LF", same hour and season. The 35mm was ultra contrasty, printable to 16x20 only on warm tone papers, and eventually retired in favor of the fully tonal fine art print "LF" version – printed up to 30x40. Both scans are from 8x10 proof prints (cold tone).


    Trail, Tuolumne Grove (35mm)
    [​IMG]

    Trail, Tuolumne Grove (5x7)
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Nathan Potter

    Nathan Potter Member

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    Indeed 4X5 printed to 8X10 can be about as stunning as a contact print if the original negative was critically sharp. I think the resolution of the negative really drives the visual impact. The quality of the taking lens and the enlarging lens is most important.

    I think understanding this is fairly simple. If you are really fussy about your 4X5 negative you'll pick a hyperfocal distance based on a COC of say 20 or 30 µm for example. If you are successful in recording this level of detail on film then a 2X enlargement of a 4X5 will yield a 40 to 60 µm COC on paper - easily beyond the resolution of the eye with a view distance of a foot or so. For 35 mm originals at the same COC enlarged to 8X one has a COC on paper of 160 to 240 µm which will show a bit of fuzziness at a foot viewing distance.

    OTOH a very high quality 35 mm lens might be able to achieve a 10 µm COC (at least over a flat field) which at an 8X enlargement would yield an 80 µm COC on print and be about critically sharp at a foot viewing distance.

    It's just a matter of how sharp the negative is and the degree of enlargement. Actually one needs to apply a Nyquist limit to the enlarger lens such that the resolution on paper is degraded more than my figures above by Rt = 1/Rl + 1/Re. And in addition some papers are inherently low resolution due to different surface textures. Well, there are numerous variables here.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    There will always be the matter of opinion too. Sure you can measure 8x10 contact prints to smoke 35mm enlargements to the same print size.

    Your eye may or may not appreciate the difference too. It's a matter of what you like. I'm in the camp of appreciating how the 35mm enlargement looks compared to the contact print, mainly because I dislike the baby skin smooth (lack of) texture in the print. I fully understand why others like the contact print better, and would hope for the same respect in return. It isn't right or wrong.

    A question I find very important in this context is: "How much does it matter?"
    After you look at what your needs are to express what you want to express, and how much your film format and resulting prints contribute to that, you will know whether you need to be shooting 8x10, or if you think enlargements from 35mm or 120 negatives will suffice.

    My own reasoning is that enlargements up to 20x24 (or crops that correspond to the same level of magnification) look more than good enough from 35mm and 120 originals. I really never feel that a 4x5 negative of the same subject, with the same depth of field and view, would improve the photograph somehow. The grain would be smaller, tonal breaks from one gray tone to another would be less abrupt, and so on. But I find that it doesn't matter to me, and that sometimes I even prefer the grittier look.

    At 8x10 print size I notice a pretty clear difference between a contact print and an enlargement. From 4x5 it might be more difficult. But from 120 and 35mm it's definitely evident. Which is better is subjective.
     
  12. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon, Arcturus,

    Obviously, there's a lot of subjectivity involved here. For example, I'm not a fan of grain, so that no doubt plays into my opinion.

    After around forty-five years of printing experience, I have my own rough standards. Everything following assumes the use of high-quality camera lenses, a tripod when appropriate, competent, consistent film processing, high-quality enlarger lenses, and the use of modern ASA 100 T-grain film (T-Max 100 being my personal preference):

    35mm--up to 5 x 7 for superb quality, 8 x 10 for excellent quality, 11 x 14 for very good quality
    4.6 X 6--up to 8 x 10 for superb quality, 11 x 14 for excellent quality, 16 x 20 for very good quality
    6 x 7--up to 11 x 14 for superb quality, 16 x 20 for excellent quality
    4 x 5--up to 16 x 20 (and probably beyond) for superb quality

    Going well beyond 16 x 20 with 4 x 5 negatives would be no problem, except that I rarely have need for anything larger, and the processing gets awkward. Even T-Max 400 negatives should look terrific at 16 x 20 or larger.

    Konical
     
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Konical, I turned that upside down when I made a small book of reduced images from 5x4 negatives printed about 3½" wide. I'd done a similar sized book before from 35mm negatives and even at this small size you can tell the difference in the format's quality, same film and developer for both.

    I agree mostly with your comments except I'd say 6x4.6 & 6x6 are closer to superb quality at 12x16 (11x14 is a US size).

    Ian
     
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  15. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Back several years ago I spent some time comparing lenses for the different formats (35mm, MF, LF) and found that the lens performance (as measured by MTF (Modulation Transfer Function)) fell off considerably as the format size increased. What this means is that you can't directly equate image sharpness to film size - you have to look at the film size and lens quality as a team.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i can tell the difference between enlargements and contact prints
    but i don't really see the difference being so great that i would stop enlarging
    35mm film ... grain, and tonal change don't bother me at all, neither does "tonality" ...

    whether you enlarge, or reduce, or contact, the main thing you need to make sure you do is ...

    enjoy yourself

    too many folks get caught up in all sorts of "stuff" and forget to have fun ...


    john
     
  17. MDR

    MDR Member

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    They look better yes and no, some subjects are better suited for 8x10 contact prints and some for 11x14 enlargements from a 35mm neg. There is no best or better it depends on the type of photography one does or on the aesthetics/look one wants. As Pro_pixel and other have said lenses for 35mm usually outperform their MF and LF equivalents but the drawback is the second lens a 2 x enlargement is not a lot and even a 4 element lens should be able to give great results but the more than 5 times enlargement one needs to get the same size from a 35mm neg requires a much better enlarger lens and even the best one degrades the image to a certain extent resulting in a huge loss of resolution. For the same size LF wipes the floor with 35mm in terms of resolution, for the same enlargement factor the 35mm will most likely beat LF. There are some exception use a Vacuum Filmpack coupled with a industrial high resolution lens that outperforms 35mm lenses (some can be used on LF cameras) and all the advantages the 35mm system might have had are gone.
     
  18. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Depends on the film selection. Sure, 4x5 is going to look noticeably better than anything from 35mm, but it's entirely possible to get a better image from 6x7 using a fine film than from 4x5 with a not-so-fine film.

    For example and IMHO, 6x7 Acros looks better (in terms of detail, resolution, sharpness, etc) than 4x5 Fomapan 100, even in larger print sizes where you might expect the smaller negative to start suffering.

    And none of it matters a damn in the face of content.
     
  19. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening,

    Ian--Your comments about the reduced-size prints are interesting. On the few occasions I've done that with 4 x 5 or 6 x 7 negatives, it's been an awkward process getting the small size and being able to maintain focus; I seem to recall having to put something under the easel to make things work out. I guess a longer enlarger lens would help.

    Konical
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hey konical!

    good evening to you too :smile:
    if you have an omega D enlarger,
    they make an "aux. focusing bellows" which is
    basically a lens cone that is a L-O-N-G bellows used for making "jewel prints and reductions"
    it also comes in handy to allow you not to need to buy any lens cones &c seeing omegas
    always need those pesky cones and rails !

    best
    john
     
  21. Arcturus

    Arcturus Member

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    I don't think it's something that can be measured in resolution or lens selection, especially at 8x10. Under a loupe I couldn't find much meaningful difference between 6x6 or 4x5 when printed on 8x10. You're not really making the most of eithers enlargement potential. But the print from 4x5 seems to have a greater sense of realism to it, and an 8x10 contact print even more so. But not being able to quantify with numbers why I think small prints of LF negatives look better and more realistic I wonder if I'm just imagining it and I'm wasting my time and developer on 4x5/8x10 sheets when I intend to only print on 8x10 for that particular shot. Portraits for example; nobody wants a 20x25 print of their face, but LF portraits are striking in a way that I don't think medium format is. Or is it?
     
  22. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    Reduction printing from my medium format negatives would probably be workable by using my 135mm enlarger lens. I use one of my medium format lenses (75 or 105mm) to make prints smaller than 8x10 from my 35mm negatives as the smallest I can get with my D2 and 50mm lens is almost an 8x10. But I have no way to reduction print my 4x5s - my longest enlarger lens is 135mm and that just won't do it for focus. I suppose I could raise the easel up off the baseboard on something but so far I've never wanted to do that.
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I'm working with my teenage artist son as he creates a pen and ink drawing with extremely fine cross-hatching. Nobody would argue charcoal is less an art. So, as a group, we should be able to quickly and effortlessly switch between discussing images which show amazing detail and other images where the amazing qualities are in other aspects such as the ideas and compositions.

    My son's pen and ink drawing is going to have the kind of quality I go for when I use 4x5 inch film and enlarge to 11x14 inch print, lots of detail to captivate the eye, and flaws which capture the imagination.

    I can see that any contact print is microscopically better than any enlargement. Because I want 11x14 inch prints, I'd shoot an 11x14 inch camera if I felt strongly that this microscopic beauty was the ultimate to be achieved... And yes, I feel it is AN ultimate. But I decided to compromise and I shoot the tiny 4x5 and smaller formats as the mood strikes me, and I enlarge to make my "inferior to contact print" prints. I'm willing to compromise JUST this much. More power to the person who shoots larger and contact prints, I'll appreciate what you've done when I go to see your shows.

    In general a 6x9cm negative the size that starts to make breathtaking contact prints. So there would be nothing wrong with a 4x5 inch contact print to my eyes.

    Arcturus, You could use 8x10 inch film for portraiture if you want. One good reason is that a large negative can be more easily retouched.
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    That mirrors what I used to read in books when I was starting in photography, although from a different angle they weren't advocating fine grain developers for LF films and it was less important (in their terms) with MF. It wasn't all books but a high proportion (school library).

    But although the lens is important choice of film & developer is just as critical. Kodak themselves put their 3 main B&W developers into perspective in various publications, HC110 is worst over all, D76 a bit better but Xtol is way ahead on all fronts in terms of film speed, finer grain and, sharpness and from my POV tonality. I think they are right as well.

    I've seen a lens range (brand) pass all the tests for MTF etc as good as their main competitors only to be totally scrapped because of poor Multi Coating and horrific flare. So I take these kind of test results cautiously.

    If you go back over 65+ years to the start of the era of modern coated Lenses then there were many quite pedestrian LF lenses from numerous manufacturers Kodak included. But there were also some superb lens, the 203mm (8") f7.7 Ektar is one example. It's so subjective I used various convertible Schneider Symmmars and with excellent results but their MTF tests wouldn't get that close to the Symmas-S lenses and equivalent
    I think there was a "historic perception" that we didn't need lenses of as high a quality for LF as was needed for 35mm or 120, but I've always believed we should have the best a available.

    Then we also take for granted the superb quality of modern films forgetting the step changes that took place with each new generation, not so obvious with Kodak nomenclature (after all Tri-X & Plus-X etc first made before WWII) but those of us who use Ilford films remember HP3, HP4, HP5 and now HP5+ for example and there were noticeable improvements between the first 3.

    My point is as photographers we are depenent on a number of afctors in achieving high quality and ultimately it's the weakest link in the chain that can let us down.

    Ian
     
  25. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning,

    Ian, Roger--I use a Beseler MCR-X instead of an Omega. Even at current giveaway prices, it would probably be silly to get another enlarger to fill a once or twice per decade need. If I knew I needed a tiny print, I'd just use 35mm and get quality which would be virtually undetectable compared to results from a larger negative.

    Interesting discussion on this topic from all who contributed.

    Konical
     
  26. dorff

    dorff Member

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    I don't shoot LF, although I own a 4x5 or two. So I can't really comment on contact prints. However, when comparing enlargements from 35 mm (Nikon in my case) vs 6x7 (Pentax), and 6x4.5 (Mamiya) in between, the one thing I think is clearly different is the effect of accutance, which is related to developer, dilution and agitation. The accutance "margin" for 35 mm is enlarged more, which gives it the appearance of an image that was sharpened in Photoshop with a larger radius. Depending on the lighting and subject, this can be a good or bad thing. For me it partly explains why the tonality in larger negatives is handled more gracefully in a print. I agree that the taking lens and enlarging lens are both important factors, but I think they tend to outresolve the accutance effect, so the effect will mostly be visible despite using good rather than exceptional lenses. With that said, I am not afraid to print 35 mm negatives to 12x16, and if I could print larger, I probably would. With that being true for 35 mm, all the more so for every step up to 6x4.5 and 6x7 and beyond. In any event, I couldn't afford anything but 35 mm until about four or five years ago. One of the joys of larger prints is that one doesn't have to stand with your nose to them in order to take in what they have to offer. With wall space at a premium, one can display them slightly out of reach and they can still be appreciated. To turn it around a bit, one should be excited about what is possible from 35 mm, to the effect that it is absolutely worth using for a very wide range of purposes.

    It is just as important to be able to afford your equipment, get it to where your subject is, to have it respond in the way you need to capture the image, and to be geared to process afterwards. That is my main reason for not shooting LF, but I can see why others would want to. However, I believe that few LF shooters extract the inherent differences between LF and MF in a way that matters, yet there is no lack of pretentiousness. One can easily apply the same logic to MF vs 35 mm (or digital sensor sizes!). If you just happen to love owning and shooting large cameras, my comment is not aimed at you, but rather at the crowd who endlessly obsess over the most minor of perceivable differences, and who look down at lesser formats disdainfully, while creating nothing with the larger format to really set them apart. One finds this mentality in so many other walks of life as well: fishing tackle, running shoes, golf clubs, cars, make-up, knives and guns, musical instruments - the list goes on and on. I walk into our local fishing-tackle retailer, and see guys buying fishing rods and reels costing well over a thousand dollars, and they probably don't ever catch a single fish with them. There are people armed to the hilt, with nothing to shoot (thank goodness). Then I wonder why we need gear and stuff to define our identity. Creative content will almost always triumph over absolute image quality, as long as the image quality gets above a certain bar. How high that bar is depends a lot on subject and context, which is why there is a place for larger formats in the first place. And nothing should discourage us from having fun, of course.