Medium format and when does it really shine?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by bigdog, Mar 15, 2006.

  1. bigdog

    bigdog Member

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    I have been shooting mostly b & w 35mm and scanning on a Minolta 5400 and printing on a Epson R2400 with decent results. I have always considered buying a Pentax 67 outfit for landscape work but every time I think about spending the money, I back off. I think I will have to buy a new film scanner to work with larger negatives. I can get pretty good results printing up to 12" x 18" depending on subject and film used (trying some EFKE 25 now) yet people talk about the big difference in moving up to medium and larger formats. I don't develop my own film since I barely get time for my hobby. I send my film to a pro lab so the ease of working with larger negatives means nothing to me. I like spending time shooting, printing and working on my images in photoshop. Is there any real difference in image quality for smaller prints sized 8 x 10 comparing 35mm to medium format? I also noticed many people who sell there work here are mostly selling smaller sized prints. Doesn't that make the whole idea of shooting larger formats a waste if your not going to enlarge? What about the costs of mats, paper, frames etc. when your dealing with larger prints? How many people even have the wall space to hang more then a dozen or so larger prints? When is the use of larger formats justified from an image quality point of view? I know 35mm is the most versatile format. Should I even consider other formats if I never go for prints larger then 13" x 19"?
     
  2. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    If you are not developing or enlarging in a wet darkroom its gonna be quite an investment. 20X30cm prints from a 6X6 neg shows a lot more detail and sharpness than one from a 35mm. You have approx 4-4.5 times the area of the frame and looking at negs and slides froma a MF camera is just just.... Awesome. Whether it will be the stuff for you I can't decide but the jump in quality is definitely worth it for me. At this time I have no darkroom but I found I couldn't live without a MF camera after selling my Bronica so when I got a good offer on a Pentax 6X7 I took it. I find the P67 a great camera and the lenses will deliver quality negs/slides.
    The one downside is the number of frames on a 120 film, 10 against the 36 on 35mm.
    Cheers Søren
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2006
  3. kaiyen

    kaiyen Member

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    I think there is a noticeable jump even before you get to really big enlargements, though. There is a certain type of creaminess out of MF that I can't get out of 35mm even at 11x14, which is big but not HUGE.

    Also, I have discovered that what I want is high sharpness but low grain. Using an acutance developer with a slow film only goes so far in 35mm. I can go further with MF - the bigger negative lets me use more acutance but without the same cost in grain. This is noticeable at even 8x10.

    allan
     
  4. david b

    david b Member

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    Go for the Pentax 67. You will love it.

    Also, you do know this is a non-digital environment, right?
     
  5. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    The only way to know for sure is to find one you can use and try it out. When you see the results you will be convert. You don't have to give up the 35 either.
     
  6. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    There is so much about MF that is mind-blowing that it would take a long time to list all of it. To me, holding that first MF negative was enough - I was 11, it came out of a Lubitel, and I was enchanted. Then you can add all the scientific proof that is simply beyond agument: bigger negative, more information - simple as that. That translates to a number of adventages, from grain to tonality to detail - etc. I don't know much about scanning other than I have never seen results from it that I would like when compared to a real photgraphic print, but I would suggest that unless you find a way to capture the additional information from a MF negative, most of the effect will be lost on you. From what I understand, that means using equipment that is prohibitively expensive - not to mention, out of place on this forum.

    Peter.
     
  7. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I recently had some of my medium format negs scanned (at high res) so my brother could print them at home. He's a digital only guy. Nikon D100, high end epson printer, etc. When he looked at the image from the medium format neg in photoshop, he was blown away by the tonality, and his ability to crop. He said, "This neg goes on and on and on. I can crop 50% and the resolution is still better than a raw image from my d100"

    Shoot film. Try and find someone who can print one of your negs on real silver based paper. You'll get hooked. Waaayyy more fun than digital. Trust me on this one, I've used both, and so have many others on this site.

    Is there an apehugger near you? Come on people, instead of pushing bigdog away just because he's digitally printing, offer to print one of his negs and bring him over to the dark side....

    Rick.
     
  8. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I think you will find the extra tonality of medium format makes a clearly visible difference even on quite modest enlargements, and the added resolution is certainly visible at 8 x 10 and gets more so with greater size.

    As a 67II owner, be aware that they are heavy. I think that if I was doing landscape work and needed to carry gear long distances, I might go for a rangefinder rather than an SLR. They are lighter. They don't suffer from mirror shock and with leaf shutters, have a lot less shutter shock, which makes them more useable at low speeds. That said, I have seen plenty of nice landscapes taken by the 67.

    David.
     
  9. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Hi, I'm Dan, and I'm a MFaholic. My old Hassie camera forces me to slow down, work methodically, and since I only have 12 exposures per roll, go for quality rather than blaze away in machine gun mode like it seems I did with 35 mm. As well as being a nonrepentant silverhead, I do have all of the goodies required to make good digital prints: an Epson scanner capable of scanning film at high resolution, Epson R2400 printer, Mac, Photoshop CS. I don't spend that much time with this stuff since I'd rather work in the darkroom. But I would agree with others that negative scans from MF do have more information than 35mm, and the prints are better, though to me the difference is not as great as when making a wet darkroom print from MF vs. 35.

    I agree with the above comment to get someone to print one of your MF negatives traditionally and you will be sold on the medium.
     
  10. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    M/F er

    Hi, Bigdog, I use both 35mm and M/F about twenty years a go I was using a couple of Nikon F bodies and four Nikon prime lenses, and bought a second hand Yashica 124G . I was shocked that a cheap consumer quality camera could produce results that were so superior to my pro quality Nikon cameras After loading the both the Nikon and Yashica with the same film,( Kodak VPS )in 10"x8" prints processed by a local pro lab, in comparison the colours were purer and stronger, and had better tonality, and sharpness ,I couldn't believe my eyes. I later did the same test with Ektachrome slide film, got the same sort of results, and after projecting the 6X6 slides on a friends projector I was speechless. I don't personally shoot anything bigger than M/F but I know
    the bigger the negative the better the photo-technical quality, there's a saying round here that " a good bigu'n is always better than a good little'n "
    this is true.
    I think you will find the reason that a lot of the prints that APUG members sell that you remark are fairly small is because they are contact prints fron L/F negatives.
     
  11. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Even 645 format is better than 35mm. 6x7 is better yet. A modest Epson flatbed scanner with transparency adaptor does a decent job on MF negatives.
     
  12. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Hmm. I think what you're really asking is whether you should go up in format. Not a bad question, deserves to be answered by another question.

    What about the images you capture on 35 mm doesn't satisfy you? Would shooting a larger format produce results that satisfied you better?

    FWIW, I went from 35 mm to 2x3 after I realized that there was no way I could shoot a flower in its environment AND get good enough detail in the flower's image.
     
  13. ron mcelroy

    ron mcelroy Member

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    Think of a picture of a tree. In 35mm a small branch might be rendered with a clump of 3 or 4 grains of silver. With each larger size of film capturing the image the clumps of silver defining the detail gets larger so there is more detail in the rendering. The definition of the shape becomes deeper.

    Always go for the largest negative possible.
     
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  15. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    As you might guess from my avatar, I endorse the idea of using different formats for the things at which each is best. I agree with the previous comments that film area can make a significant difference in both detail and tonality, even with moderate enlargements. Of course, there's nothing like an 8x10 contact print. :wink:

    In your situation, however, I think your decision involves several "practicalities". As you aren't developing your own film, you need to consider whether your lab can even handle 120 film. Many "local" labs no longer do so. Thus, you may be forced to mail your exposed film to a lab in a larger city. If so, the question then becomes which larger format will give you what you want. If you're mailing anyway, you might even consider 4x5. (As noted earlier, moderately-priced flatbed scanners with film adapters that will handle 4x5 or even 8x10 do a nice job for moderate-sized prints.)

    Then, there's the convenience factor. In most cases, you'll want to carry both 35mm and the MF camera. (My Leica and my 8x10 are great pals and go everywhere together.) And, there's also the physics factor. Longer lenses to cover the larger format have correspondingly less DOF. For landscapes, that's less of an issue than for macro work. So, it depends on what you want to shoot with the MF or larger format. If you make the jump to 4x5, you'll also have the benefit of being able to control the focus plane via camera movements.
     
  16. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    1. If you are not using Silverfast to run your scanner, you are losing at least half the data the negatives have due to poor focussing.

    2. If you are stopping your lenses down to f/16, you are losing most of the data you could be getting due to diffraction. F/64 on an 8x10 is like f/8 in 35. DON'T stop down more than necessary, it KILLS the image.

    3. If you aren't using a tripod, you are losing at least half of the data you could be getting.

    4. If you are not locking the mirror up ( a problem on all SLRs, 35 or 120 ) you are losing data

    5. If you are not using chromagenic films, you are running into anti-aliasing issues. You can't image traditional B&W grain, even TriX & Rodinal, on a scanner that costs less than.. well, a whole lot ! Shoot C-41, it scans better, and easier.

    6. Are you scanning TIF files or JPG ? JPG, you throw out all the shadow information. Scan 16 bit TIF files.

    Fix these things and your results will be as good or better than scanning 120 in a scanner that costs less than $ 10,000.

    Comparisons between formats are predicated on 'all things being equal'. They aren't.

    Upgrade your scanner software, tighten up your technique and see what happens. When you are getting all you scan from 35, then you'll have your answer.

    BTW, if you shoot a slow color neg like Kodak Portra NC or Fuji Pro 160, you get a ton of information, and can filter as you feel like to make your B&W images.

    Do these things, and if you are happy, fine. If not, the Pentax is a great way to go.

    don
     
  17. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    Strange Tri-X 120 factoid

    I recently bought a bunch of 28 year old Tri-X 35mm and 120 film and I was surprised to see that on the box of the 120 Tri-X it says 8, 12, or 16 exposures- completely ignoring the 6x7 format of which there are 10 exposures! Even 28 years ago the Pentax 6x7 and the RB-67 were fairly popular cameras. and there may have been a few other brands of 6x7 format cameras I'm not aware of. 6x7 does deservingly enjoy the distinction of being "The Ideal Format". :smile:


    How could Kodak have made this omission on their film box? :confused:
     
  18. Troy Ammons

    Troy Ammons Member

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    Is there any real difference in image quality for smaller prints sized 8 x 10 comparing 35mm to medium format?

    Some minor difference but an average person from a normal distance would never notice it if the 35mm system was sharp.

    Doesn't that make the whole idea of shooting larger formats a waste if your not going to enlarge?

    Probably. IMO over 8x to 10x enlargement is where you start to see the difference and its probably time to use a larger format.

    What about the costs of mats, paper, frames etc. when your dealing with larger prints?

    Expensive. Mounting also.

    When is the use of larger formats justified from an image quality point of view?

    IMO above 10x roughly, depending. That said, if you want golfball size grain, you might want to print large from 35mm fast film. Depends on what you want.

    E100G is the cleanest scanning film I have found. My max enlargements for clean sharp prints are 35mm-8x10, 645-16x20, 670/690-20x24 or maybe 24x30 on a good day or with a Mamiya 7, 4x5-40x50.

    With a 10x enlargement you can scan at 2000dpi and print at 204 dpi on a lightjet for 4lp/mm in print with a slight interpolation up. A 2000 dpi E100G drumscan is super clean.

    I know 35mm is the most versatile format. Should I even consider other formats if I never go for prints larger then 13" x 19"?

    Questionable. I have done some nice prints from 35mm film up to 12x18.

    It really depends on your system and what you are after. If your technique is good and you are using a sharp film with something like a Leica M you might even go bigger with 35mm like up to 16x.

    Its all in the rez. 4lp/mm is a decent print rez and is good for a 20" view distance. If you are using a super high rez B+W film with a Leica in a high contrast situation and capturing 80lp/mm on film and want to print at 4lp/mm, that would equal a 20x enlargement or 18x27 inches.

    Personally I just think everything is so much cleaner going to MF at that point.

    Here is a pretty neat link. Interesting reading anyway.

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/enough-already.shtml
     
  19. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I disagree.

    I rarely print larger than 9.5x12", but even at this size the difference between 35mm and 645 is glaringly obvious - all parameters being as equal as possible: Same film, same developer, same enlarger, same (type) lens (Anaret-S in 50 and 80mm), same paper, same processing...

    I do not deny that prints from 35mm in this size can be great, smooth and wonderful; but there is certainly a step up to 645!
     
  20. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Would you mind expanding on that comment a little bit, please? What does Silverfast have to do with the mechanics of focussing the scanner?

    Thanks,
    --Eddy
     
  21. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    A scanner is like an automobile, it needs a driver.

    There are 3 choices, pretty much, for the software to drive the scanner.

    1. The manufacturer's software, which is always rudimentary, and is usually only good for casual use. It is like getting a free enlarger with your camera. It is OK for websites, and making small prints.

    2. VueScan, an independent bit of software, abvailable for nearly all scanners and Macintosh and PC. It is inexpensive and a trmendous improvement in simplicity, reliability and quality over Nikon, Minolta, whomever's software. It is like that good quality enlarger that works well, and is good enough for all normal purposes.

    3. Silverfast, which is a very high performance bit of software, with a somewhat steep learning curve, but which wrings every bit of performance out of every scanner for which it is made.

    In my experience, Vuescan has a much finer focus than a manufacturer's software. But Silverfast is far better than Vuescan. Silverfast has a preview function that allows me to compare 2 focus settings, within .01 mm. That makes a huge difference.

    I hope this answers your question.

    don
     
  22. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A medium format SLR is great for quick handheld snapshots, candids, over-the-head shots with a waist-level finder, dynamic or informal studio portraits, and all kinds of situations where an 8x10" camera with groundglass viewing can be impractical. Sure you lose some image quality with medium format, but sometimes it's the only way to get the shot. I'd say go for it!
     
  23. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I have a friend that shoots a D100, shoots weddings, portraits etc. We had a conversation not that long ago about the merits of digital vs film in relation to selling, prices from competitors, and most importantly the customers wants, pocket book and their discernable nature towards photography. What we were both agreeable on, was that most customers can't tell the difference between a D photo or a F photo and that they sure as hell can't tell a good photo from a bad one most of the time. As long as they look good, well that is what matters. In fact there are a hell of alot of bad photographers out there turning out work that quite frankly is below par, but they are good salespeople and survive. So, if you want to nitpick a photograph for the best resolution, lack of grain, etc, buy larger. MF format and LF done right will outshine a small format every time. As long as you look at it when you pass by it on the wall. Otherwise it's the content that usually matters. Put another way, don't believe that you always need the bigger and better. Sometimes it just turns out to be a rat race.
     
  24. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    This is a grey area issue: the context for MF vs 35mm is scanning the film.

    The key is scanning, the issue is not about PRINTING MF or 35, it's about SCANNING it.

    Right ???
     
  25. kswatapug

    kswatapug Advertiser

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    FWIW, I work with everything from 35mm to 4x5 and have only one regret; that I didn't buy my Pentax 67 sooner.

    Even before I printed my work door-size, the difference in image quality between a 35mm and 6x7cm image was apparent. I can only say that over time, it is more likely that you will become increasingly critical of your image quality, rather than less critical. Crummy, grainy appearances can be a creative tool, but most of the time, it is a downer. Of all my cameras, the 67 remains my "go-to" tool. Easy to use, great optics, really, the only downsides I saw to the format was the difference in depth-of-field between the 35mm system and the 67, slower optics and no intermediate shutter speeds (a problem solved with the 67II). Otherwise, it is a slam dunk. Speaking of which, mine has taken a bath twice and still is working.
     
  26. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Don't you know nothin'?! Man, check out luminous landscrapes - its there in black and white: 6x7 is crap, we should all move on :D