leica vs mf 645/67-print comparison

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Dave Wooten, Dec 24, 2004.

  1. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Leica and medium format users-how do you compare the "look" of the end result, the print, from the best of your leica 35 mm optics compared to your medium format optics i.e. Contax, Mamiya, Bronica, Fugi, etc.

    Happy Holidays
    Dave in Vegas
     
  2. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a Mamiya 7, and recently bought a Leica M4P. I love the Mamiya, the prints I've made from the negatives enlarge beautifully. I shoot a lot of portraits of children, and found the medium format a little too slow, and with only ten frames per roll, I had to stop too frequently to change the film. So I figured, I could maybe get similar optics with a 35mm rangefinder, and indeed I do. I am amazed at the negatives I've gotten from the Leica, and they enlarge very well. I think with these two cameras I have the best of both worlds, and can use each for the type of shooting that suits it best. There are examples from both cameras in my gallery, as well as from a Nikon F100, which I find I'm using less and less!
     
  3. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Thanks Suzzanne,

    I looked at your gallery, nice! T.R. and Blinky, are lovely. How do the leica images hold up at 11 x 14, do you dare 16 x 20?

    Again thanks so much for your informed input.

    Dave in Vegas
     
  4. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Although I haven't printed either T.R. or Miss Binky to 11x14, I have printed one other shot with the Leica that held up very well. I haven't printed anything 16x20, but I recently acquired a 16x20 easel from a local lab that closed their darkroom, so I'll be giving that a shot soon. I expect the 6x7, (like my little ghosts in the woods) will look great that big. I'm just not sure that a tight portrait at 16x20 will work, but it'll be interesting to see if I can get those negs that big.
     
  5. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I think the issue here relates less to optics than film size. Any half decent MF camera will produce images that look far smoother and have miles more detail than a print of the same size fom 35mm. My comparisons come from Rollecicord/RZ67/120 back on 5x4 shot negs compared to Canon Eos lenses and my Ricoh GRl (which as you probably know has a lens good enough to be indistinguishable from a very expensive german prime lens at one stop down and is avilable in M mount). This however, is not the point. The 35mm negs enlarged to the same size look grainier, have coarser granularity and far less detail. However, this look is often very appealing and is sometimes preferable to the (at times less atmostpheric and more sterile) creamy reality look of MF.

    The bottom line is that my best 35mm does not come close to approaching my ancient Rolleicord Va in terms of detail and tonality. Nor would I want it to.......Portraits of children in 35mm (esp if lith printed) have a unique quality for example (Cheryl Jacobs might agree) that would disappear with a 6x7 neg and slow film. ANother issue I think often forgotten is the conditions of the shot. A leica 35mm shot at f5.6 and 1/60 hand held is not going to look any sharper than that shot on lesser optics, let alone one on MF. I think they are completely different beasts which cannot really be compared. For those shooting on HP5 and TriX, optical benefits are lost as the films are relatively coarse, though contrast may be superior with the Zeiss/Leica optics. I have all but stopped using sslow films with 35mm, as if I want tonality and detail, I go straight to a bigger format assuming it is practical to use. I use faster films (HP5, Neopan 1600) and sometimes print on a condenser with 35mm to get sharp gritty grain. I would love to own a leica (but not to pay for it), but with HP5 my Eos kit produces great results. I would want a Leica for its size, unobtrusiveness, quietness and mechanical reliabiliy.....but would not be loading it with Acros developed in perceptol!

    Tom

    Tom
     
  6. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    With a medium speed film like FP-4 or Fuji Acros souped in a high acutance developer like FX-39, I can coax 16x20s from my Leica that fool most people into believing that they are from medium format. I rarely print bigger than 8x13, though, and at that size the portability and ease of use of 35mm will trump medium format every time, with very little if any difference in print quality.
     
  7. mikepry

    mikepry Subscriber

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    I've done some 20 X 30 poster prints from an old M5 I use to own and they were surprisingly nice. I used the newer 35mm Aspherical and that thing was deadly.
     
  8. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I went from an M6 to a Mamiya 645 Super and find the prints I'm making from the mamiya are quite 4x5 looking at 8x10 size, and the M6 were close to MF looking at 8x10 size. But when I went shooting with the M6 it was the cam around my neck and a hip bag, and the MF is a full on backpack with a lot of weight.
     
  9. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Yes, and I could see it on the negs with the naked eye when I pulled my first roll from my Contax, compared to my Canon gear (which was already very good).

    Smaller cameras are all about fluidity. Seems to have worked for many people for a long time. Just be aware that it's different from MF and accept both for their strengths.
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi There

    I agree with Suzzane Revey, Mamiya 7 ( Texas Leica ) and Leica negatives are always evident , when I print them.
    I also like the Fuji 6x9 and Contax G2 negatives for sharpness.

    I absolutely hate printing negatives from a zoom lens, reminds me of pin hole or holga work.
     
  11. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Good points! Tom mentions contrast could possibly be superior with Zeiss optics....Doesn't contrast and resolution-go hand in hand?

    of course, using the same film and development etc., larger format takes the day-if image size is proportionate-

    My question is-look at Suzanne's T.R. and Miss Blinky, taken with Leica using 90 mm. The frame is dominated by the facial portrait.

    If she were to take the same portraits with her Mamiya using a "normal" say 80 mm, keeping the image roughly the same size as in the Leica 35 mm shot-croping and enlarging the facial image to 8 x 10 or 11 x 14, and enlarging the full frame of the Leica shot to 8 x 10 or 11 x 14-would the traditionally touted superiority of the Leica optics be evident?

    Thanks
     
  12. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I don't have a Mamiya rangefinder, nor have I done head-to-head comparisons between my Leica M and my Hassy (which essentially becomes a 645 when cropped), but there's a point at which the extra real estate of the larger negative has to trump even the best Leica lenses. That's simply the physics of the film coming into play.

    I frequently make 11x14 prints from my Leica M images, and they almost always hold up well. But, I shoot mostly FP4+ or Provia in the M, except for night shots, so the negatives would be expected to hold up well. I have not, however, tried making 16x20s from the M negs, as I don't really like overly-large prints.

    Given the difference in design and media characteristics, however, I'm not sure it's really productive to make narrowly-based comparisons of this nature. Each camera/format has its own sweet spots, and should be used accordingly, I feel.
     
  13. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Comparing handheld shots done on HP5+ with my Leica M6 to those done with my Pentax 645 with the same film, Pentax wins every time. Comparing my Leica shots to my Mamiya C330 shots with ancient optics, the Mamiya wins every time. I print mostly full frame on 11x14 paper, sometimes cropped. Leica shots easily hold up well at these sizes.

    Everybody makes good lenses these days. I know a lot of people consider Leica lenses to be superior to everything else. They are certainly good. But format size matters more. Personally, I don't consider Leica optics the reason to use my Leica cameras. I consider Leica cameras the reason to use Leica cameras.

    "All lenses are better than most photogaphers who use them."--Lee Shively
     
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  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This question (if I buy a Leica or a Hasselblad, will it be just as good as some larger format?) seems to come up on a number of lists, and it's interesting to consider what motivates it. I suppose that it's dissapointing to discover that one can get "better" results with a TLR (or Crown Graphic) that costs a few hundred dollars than with a Leica (or Hasselblad) that costs thousands, or that if one wants the results of a bigger camera, then one has to lug around a bigger camera.

    But really, I don't think it's necessarily a useful comparison to make. A Leica is probably the best 35mm rangefinder camera, and 35mm rangefinder cameras do certain things very well. They're fast and quiet and have fast sharp lenses and can take 36 exposures on roll, and because of the format they are easy to prefocus and handhold and fit in a pocket or a small bag.

    But there's no particular reason to use a rangefinder camera for landscapes or architecture, and they're really lousy at macro and telephoto work, and wouldn't be a great choice for still lifes. And an SLR or TLR is probably better for studio portraits. That's not to say that one tool can't serve many purposes, but there's always a tradeoff when you use a pipe wrench to hammer a nail. I like having a variety of tools and use them for what they do best, but sometimes I'll accept that tradeoff, like using a view camera for portraits. The view camera is not as dynamic as an SLR or even a rangefinder, but it produces a big retouchable negative with exquisite detail and lets me use classic lenses as they were intended to be used.
     
  16. Emile de Leon

    Emile de Leon Member

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    Depends which M lenses you use and of course the film too. I've found that using Kodak tech pan(soon to be discontinued) with a DR 50mm provides outstanding results with unbelievable resolution. Much better than the present day asph lenses which seem too contrasty on the whole for high resolution B&W. The much touted version 4 35mm f2 is excellent in this regard too. The DR 50mm is similar to the Rolliecord Xenar in look and feel which is another stellar performer at f8, much better than my late Rollieflex Zeiss Planar 3.5 although the 3.5 is better wide open. I dont believe there is a better looking lens for resolution than the 50mm DR summicron in the M line. The now defunct magazine Modern Photography listed the Leica DR 50mm as the highest resolution lens they had ever tested. Emile. www.deleon-ulf.com.
     
  17. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I could dig around and see if I have a tight portrait from the Mamiya, I think I do, to compare prints. But I would agree that the Mamiya negs would probably have a bit more impact at the same size compared to the Leica work. I think the extra real estate on the neg will make the medium format negs much easier to print bigger too, especially up to 16x20. I tend to print images at the size they really want to be. I have a landscape that I would like to try at 16x20, but most of the portraits, even those with the Mamiya, I find are better at smaller sizes.

    I have found that for my work, the rangefinders are great. I'm interested in keeping my back healthy, and not carrying around really heavy gear, and as someone mentioned, they are very fluid to work with. When I first started to shoot with the Mamiya, it just seemed so much easier than my big overcomplicated SLR, and that's why I also wanted the versatilty of a 35mm rangefinder to complement the Mamiya. None of these cameras are cheap (even used, frankly), which is the big bummer, since I'd still like at least one more lens for each. But having a couple of different formats is really the best way to have the tools for as many situations as possible.

    Now if I decide to add large format to my 'tool kit' it'll be the lightest weight field camera I can find!!
     
  18. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Thanks again Suzanne,

    Re: the real estate, I am saying to compare the optic quality difference, eliminate that variable by printing only from a 35 mm size out of the 120 film from whatever camera to compare.

    I agree and concur with all of the above posts. I like the look of 35mm for a lot of work and of course the ease and speed of using. Short of scientific tests ( Emile mentions the tests on the DR 50) what is the mystic? is it really there- the secret formula for the Leica/Contax? Can we actually see it and compare.

    I like to look I get with my old nikon 35 for my street and I am still shooting with 30 year old Pentax bodies and lenses-for other work I use 8 x 10, and I will own a Leica one fine day.
     
  19. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I don't see the point in doing this. Yes, the Leica lens probably compares better when printing the 35mm vs. the cropped 120, but why would you ever want to crop down that much outside of such an experiment? The biggest variable isn't the lens quality between 35mm and 120, but film size--wouldn't a better test be to use the same lens design on both 35mm and 120 and then blow those up?
     
  20. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I positively hate the negs from my pentax 28-70FA and no longer use the camera. I thought sooms were poor until I use even the relatively cheap 28-135 canon IS. Totally different league, esp as I can use the IS to drastically reduce camera shake, this being such a major and often overlooked factor in image sharpness. I would think that the Canon and similar pro series lenses are stunning and the charts bear this out. Zooms today are not the same as zooms even 5 years ago.
     
  21. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Yes and no (in that good contrast gives the appearance of resolution being better and poor contrast will mask good resolution) . Also, we can work on contrast in the darkroom thankfully. AA commented that some of his older lenses had poor contrast, not that you would know looking at some of his later prints which exhibit very high contrast.

    I agree that that off a tripod at f8 with acros at 16x20 a Leica would shame my canon, but handheld at f8 at 1/60 with TriX, the contest would be close. A £100 Rolleicord would make both look positively agricultural. On the subject of the Mamiya 7, the lenses are so sharp that they are up to the challenge of 35mm primes (I beleive the 50mm hit over 115 lpmm at about f5.6 in a test by Perez).

    The other issue here is to get 35mm to look like MF, you have to use films like Acros and be very careful all along the way. Personally, I dont particularly like the look of these modern T grain type films and it seems awfully restrictive to only have a few narrow options to get the creamy results. If I want fine grain and tonality, I would rather grab the 'Cord and any film I choose, with the flexibility of any developer I choose with room for errors. A related point is that the worst 5x4 lens I had was was indistinguishable from the best on anything less than a 16x12 and even then you had to touch the print with your nose! The real estate did all the talking at this size.

    Different beasts!

    Tom
     
  22. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think the mystique goes beyond just the final print. In the end, when you see a print on the wall, it ultimately doesn't matter what camera you used or the optics. (except for maybe those pesky zooms!) I've never been one to get too technical, but I love how the Lieca or the Mamiya feel in my hands, and the way I see and frame images when I use them. I love using my thumb to move the film forward, and I love that they are both reasonably quiet, my subjects may never know when I've pressed the shutter. I also think, when I'm photographing kids, that the Leica is a less intimidating looking camera to them, so they will be more comfortable, and then you are more likely to get 'the shot'.

    Of course, the awesome negatives from both cameras make life in the darkroom a joy!
     
  23. Dr.Kollig

    Dr.Kollig Member

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    As I do not like tripods I noticed that in a MF camera I use 400 speed films and 100 speed in the Leica. If I compare these the gain of the larger negative size is lost to the better quality of the slower film. So the 1970 Hasselblad is retired and a 1957 M3 is mainly used.
    My printing is restricted to 12X16", and this can be achived with 100 speed B&W using developer for sharpness (e.g. Pyrocat HD). 400 speed films seem to require a compromise developer which controlls grain size as well for optimum results.

    Remember the tread about cheap 35 mm viewfinders? Picked up a 40 € Konica S3 added a Leitz lenscap plus black tape over the Konica writing and poor mens Leika CL was born. The 38/1.8 is not too bad.

    Wolfram
     
  24. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I think the point you're making, Suzanne, is getting much closer to the real essence of portraiture - what the image says about the subject, and how the camera and lens may contribute to the style of shooting that enables the photographer to capture that on film. A Leica M portrait with a 75 or 90 will likely be much different than a medium format portrait, and even more so than one shot with 4x5 or 8x10 because of how the subject responds to, or ignores, the camera. The ultimate choice, I think, depends on what you want on film.
     
  25. baronfoxx

    baronfoxx Member

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    but would not be loading it with Acros developed in perceptol!

    Tom

    Tom[/QUOTE]

    Tom, I have a Leica M7 and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 and developed in Dixactol Ultra the prints at 12x16 are great.

    I think we have discussed this elsewear ????
     
  26. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Yes, If I had to 'stretch' a smaller format, that would be the film/dev combo. You should se what it can do in 5x4! If you are lucky enough to have a scene where tilt can be used for DOF and you can shoot at optimum aperture (such as f13 on 90mm Nikkor, where it is about 70-80 Lpmm on film).......unbelievable.

    My belief in 'real estate' has culminated in 10x8. It is so big and cumbersome that I will be going no further in size. Somehow, tho I don't think I will be needing to search for the finest grained combos! If one needs a tripod becasue of slow film, there is no reason not to stick at least a 6x7 Mamiya 7 on it! Cheap as chips compared to Leica kit; you could buy one for the house, one for the office and one for the car:smile: Prices are plummeting at Robert White.....perhaps a Mamiya 8 is on the way (wow, imagine if it was 6x8 too!!!)

    Tom