Portra 160 and 400: Squeezing out medium format?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by brofkand, May 28, 2012.

  1. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    I have prints in sizes ranging from 4x6 to 11x14 from Portra 160 and 400 (scan-and-inkjet) that are awesome. These are from 35mm exposures on my Nikon F100 or Pentax PZ-1p. I also have prints at sizes up to 16x20 in Acros 100 (35mm, wet and scan-and-inkjet prints). They look beautiful. I'd say they rival prints from 4x5 FP4 in terms of sharpness, tonality, grain, etc.

    My question is; are these new films squeezing out medium format? It used to be we needed 120 to get us above 8x10 prints. Now I can get suitable 16x20's out of 35mm film. Obviously 120 is a larger negative, and thus offers larger size prints, but I have never needed to go larger than 16x20. If I wanted more, I'd probably shoot 4x5.

    This thought came to my mind as I was soliciting ideas as to a good setup for film-based wedding photography; everyone suggested medium format. I questioned why to myself, since I can get good prints from 35mm films.

    The question I suppose is this: is medium format still relevant? When we have 35mm films that can comfortably provide 16x20 prints, why do I need a Hasselblad or Pentax 67 outfit? I think LF still has a very noble purpose; the ability for movements is one that cannot be understated. But I'm unaware of any medium format cameras that provide movements (other than tilt/shift lenses). Why shoot it?

    This is just food for thought; I love my Mamiya m645 as much as I love my LX. I just think it could make an interesting discussion.
     
  2. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Maybe, I mean on twinlenslife.com, they have an article showing Ektar 100 in 35mm outresolving a Canon 5D Mk II. I'm not sure how many of us need more resolution than that. But then, many MF cameras are cheap, and while you need the best processsing, and best scanning to get that out of 35mm, you don't for MF.

    And then there is the "look", a Rolleiflex has such a beautiful and distinctive look which I'm not sure can be had from 35mm.

    So, I agree that modern film means that MF is not needed for really quite large prints, MF of course goes bigger and has a different appearance that many love. And then of course you've got formats like 6x12 or 6x17 which make spectacular panoramas very difficult to get elsewhere.
     
  3. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    I shoot Portra 160 and 400 in 6x7cm, mainly what I shoot atm. 645 is going to be medium format of choice for weddings, don't go 6x7. You will get noticeably better prints from proper scans (not flatbed rubbish) from MF, not merely suitable prints at X size.

    M645 is ideal imho for weddings, reasonable size and lightweight. Load up a few inserts or backs so you can keep shooting, 220 would be good for that.

    Plus you get the 80/1.9 for indoors.

    In any case, personally I'd keep the 645 for some of the more special shots that clients like to get printed larger than others.


    Though if you plan on shooting MF as a bigger portion at a wedding, get the power winder, and go 220 imho, have other backs ready to go. I've used my RB67 as one of the primary cameras at a wedding. Couple shots at ceremony inside church, mostly digital for that, since its a faster workflow cam, though would have used 645/220 for that if I had it.

    RB67 people and group shots afterwards, and reception (with flash).

    Don't go 6x7 lol... size, weight, 10 shots per 120, time to make each shot..
     
  4. RPC

    RPC Member

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    I see you are a 35mm shooter, so have you compared 120 portra to 35mm? I don't do scan and inkjet, but make darkroom prints and I see a noticable difference in tonality and detail between prints from 120 and 35mm, but not as much of a difference between 120 and 4x5. It is as though after you reach a certain size, you don't get that much more back by increasing it. Therefore, personally if I were going to do pro work I would use 120 whenever practical.
     
  5. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    To me no. There's something about the smoothness of medium format compaired to 35. Same with medium format compaired to 4x5. This os also not talking about sharpness or anything else. Just smoothness.
     
  6. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    No practical difference between the two formats at 10x8 in my darkroom. Not sure if that says more about modern films or my lack of a critical eye.
     
  7. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    RPC: I haven't compared 120 Portra to 35mm. I have compared Ektar 100 across 645 and 35mm. I have also compared Acros across 645 and 35mm. Acros was wet printed (11x14, Ilford MG Fiber-based), Ektar was scan and inkjet (scanned on my Epson v500 for 120 or Plustek 7400 for 35mm, and Costco did the printing). I don't have the equipment to wet print color. The results were very good in all examples, but it wasn't a direct test. I didn't have my LX and M645 beside each other, taking turns making exposures.

    I shot different subject matter with each roll. I didn't do the prints with the expectation of comparison, so it isn't a scientific test. I'd love to own a Nikon or Minolta scanner that can do 120, but until then I can't do a real comparison. I think it would make for an interesting test -- make everything as equal as possible, then compare.

    I am simply going by what my 35mm negatives have produced --- very good prints. Maybe not up there to 120 quality, but definitely better than my 6MP Nikon D40 DSLR (and I think it produced some good 13x19's).
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I find that there is a great deal of difference between 35mm and 120 Portra with just a straight enlargement. If the negative is cropped and enlarged, 120 blows away 35mm. Have you ever taken a photograph that you did not plan to crop when you took it, only to discover later that you need to crop it before enlarging?
     
  9. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi, brofkand. I don't think MF can be equalled by 35mm. MF has a larger imaging area and needs longer lenses than those for 35mm for specific purposes; a 'wide' on 35mm is anything below 40mm whereas a 'wide' for MF is normally below 70mm. A 'standard' on 35mm is around 50mm; on MF it's around 70mm - 85mm. So it's easier on 120 at the same f-stop as 35mm to obtain shallow depth of field, so MF images generally look different to those from 35mm.

    Although your 16" x 20" prints from 35mm look good, if you compare them with prints the same size from 120 negs (excluding those shot on 'toy' cameras), because you're enlarging less, you'll see less grain, smoother tones and more detail. Modern films may have brought 35mm to a point that you can obtain huge print sizes, but think of the same film used in 120 cameras.

    MF cameras are generally (but not universally) larger and heavier than 35mm cameras, so are used differently. You don't see many Hassies at football games. Some Hasselblad cameras offer lens movements.

    Don't get me wrong, 35mm is a great and very capable format format, but MF is still a very relevant format. There's a cosmetic reason to shoot MF at weddings too - a Hassie or Penatx 67 on a tripod looks so much more 'professional' to mundanes than a hand-held 35mm SLR or DSLR, which male wedding guests fit with telezooms and sling around their necks like jewellery. The ladies normally use compacts or their telephones!

    Cheers,
    kevs
     
  10. BrendanCarlson

    BrendanCarlson Member

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    +1 what kevs said. The 120 film with have finer grain because you have a larger negative, 35 is very small so as you enlarge the grain more as you enlarge the image.

    At any rate I shoot 35mm for street because I am perfectly fine with the noise being larger, and medium format for fashion/jobs where I want a cleaner look.

    Btw, 35mm cross processed rocks for street where you use color instead of B&W. I just shot a roll of Sensia in chinatown and am about to cross process it. :smile:
     
  11. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    I used the porta films exclusively with my Nikon F5 for years. I develop and print all my color work. After buying and using a Mamiya 6, the Nikon was no longer used. In fact, I sold all my Nikon equipment about 1 year ago. The difference even at 8x10 was huge, to my eye. At print size of 16x20, well you know what I'm going to write. Now that I'm using 4x5, the Mamiya is on the shelf. Anyone looking for a Mamiya 6 :smile: Oh, I'll be contact printing 8x10 Porta 400 soon....I guess my approach to photography has changed as well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2012
  12. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    A wedding shooter isn't going to print their own colour, it's too much to ask for most people to print their own colour, let alone something like for weddings, where even with film, it's a huge volume. Unless it's for ordered large prints etc.




    A well made shot scanned on a plustek 7400 will beat a shot in medium format and any flatbed scanner, sorry. Flatbeds are low-resolving.



    Take your 35mm and scan it on the V500, then compare to the same Plustek scan, this will show you the volume of difference between the scanners, this difference will also apply to medium format on your V500, but the amount of resolution loss is even greater due to the greater area of the film.

    Flatbeds are worse for medium format than 35mm, due to the greater amount of detail you're throwing away.

    I also have the V500. I think some scanner talk is necessary here to put it into perspective about what is being missed out on in the difference of the workflows of his 35mm and 645.

    The 7400 is rated at 3800 dpi which is 75 lp/mm, I rate my V500 at 26 lp/mm.

    On the V500, your 35mm may achieve 936 line pairs over the long edge (36mm) and lose 1764 line pairs by comparison to the 7400 scan.

    645 on the other hand, may achieve 1456 line pairs on the long edge, but lose 2744 line pairs by comparison to what your 35mm can get.

    Though 75 lp/mm / 3800 dpi is pretty good and quite high, 2800 dpi would be more of a safe bet for all formats. Which is a 55 lp/mm.

    Even for 35mm that'll still result in a nice large image, and can give you a very nice quality 10mp (2800 dpi) equivalent, and 30mp likewise for your 645 If you could achieve that in your workflow.

    That would translate to much nicer large prints. Such as 16x20".

    One last evil scanner talk thingy: Plustek is bringing out a dedicated dual 35/120 scanner, it's not simply an opticfilm with 120 capability (which would already would be a huge win on IQ for medium format shooters), they've revealed their goal is to exceed the CoolScan 9000. They say they've already got better dMax, and that release dates will be announced soon. (it's been a long time coming).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2012
  13. AFenvy

    AFenvy Member

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    So I'm primarily a 35mm shooter here. I am quite happy with the results I get with it, but sometimes get the yearning for the smooth tones and lovely depth of field that are possible with medium format. I have heard that the difference between 35mm and 645 is not that much, and I should go to 6x7 to really notice a marked improvement. How true is this statement? Is 6x7 much better than 645?
     
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  15. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    6x7 is better than 645, but 645 is much better than 35mm by a greater margin.

    645 has just about 3x the surface area of 35mm. You will frame differently due to ratio difference, you may even end up framing it closer up for portraits than you would 35mm.

    Focal length difference is approx 1.66x for 645 to 35mm. As opposed to 2x with 6x7.

    It's 1.2x for 645 to 6x7. 6x7 only has 1.5x greater area, the step up from 35mm to 645 is much bigger.


    Shooting with 180mm stopped down to f/5.6 in 6x7 is like using an 85mm at f/2.8 at the same focus distance.

    645 is much ligher and more easily portable, with more frames per roll, it is much more suited to stuff like weddings than 6x7 is.
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The difference is significant, but it is not a magic bullet. This is true in the same way as moving from 400 speed film to 160 speed is significant. And in how better exposure placement and lighting improve quality, and moving from handheld to a monopod, and framing tightly in camera (getting closer or using a longer focal length or having the subject move closer) rather than cropping significantly at the enlarger.

    The biggest differences IMO, are seen though as the print size grows. I find that many compositions work better larger. For example an acquaintence of mine took a gorgeous shot of an arch in Arches N.P. I first saw it on a large monitor online so in the neighborhood of 11x14, a fine landscape at that size, tightly framed, well composed, beautiful colors, blah, blah, blah... Then I got to see it in real life at 30x40ish. The people at the base of the arch (which I didn't even notice at 11x14) became significant/noticeable/sharp and gave the shot scale and connection that was missing smaller. The shot went from "fine" to "truly stellar".

    That particular shot was done on 4x5 Velvia 50. At that print size, that scene printed from 35mm Portra 400 would have had to stretch hard to provide enough detail to make the same impact, personally I doubt it would have worked.
     
  17. CGW

    CGW Member

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    One last evil scanner talk thingy: Plustek is bringing out a dedicated dual 35/120 scanner, it's not simply an opticfilm with 120 capability (which would already would be a huge win on IQ for medium format shooters), they've revealed their goal is to exceed the CoolScan 9000. They say they've already got better dMax, and that release dates will be announced soon. (it's been a long time coming).

    This has been a long time in the works, so long that I'm wondering if it's now vaporware. With film sales/demand still falling, this killer scanner would have to deliver enormous bang for the $ at a very reasonable price. Why did Nikon axe its scanners?

    I'm seeing less-than-awful prints pulled from Epson V700-V750--even 500--scans of 6x6 and 6x7 negs. YMMV, as always.
     
  18. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    Medium format will always trump 35mm, however, we have long since passed the point of sufficiency. I have absolutely no problem with using the latest version of Provia 400 in 35mm as my exclusive film. for shooting weddings. When in the studio where I have total control over my lighting, I use 160NC.

    Oh, and a bunch of B&W film...
     
  19. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    IMHO, pretty much any time you double film area or resolution you'll see a difference. As other alluded to, how obvious the difference depends on final output size. It's been years since I shot film but with Agfapan 25 135 looked as good as anything up to 4x5. However, there was a definite improvement moving to 6x4.5cm at 8x10 and 6x7cm was even better especially moving up to 11x14. Larger than that 4x5 had the definite edge. If I never printed larger than 4x5 I'd never bother with anything larger 135 film. Why bother if the difference is impossible to see? I'm aware that others' opinions of what is acceptable image degradation varies greatly from mine. I don't know... maybe 135 lenses and film have improved over last thirty years such that old Agfapan 25 performance is no longer a valid "meter"?

    I want the "option" of going very large if I want so 6x12cm will be my new minimum film size and 4x5 stitched to 4x8 or 4x10 will be the max.
     
  20. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    To me, i don't have any dedicated film scanner, but i did print 3 frames before when i was taking a workshop with some friends, 2 from MF and 1 from 35mm, to my eyes and my friends' eyes, those prints from MF on A3 outperformed that of 35mm in all aspects, so i will not look at 35mm compared to 35mm, if i will have a capable scanner and i will print a lot in the darkroom with big enlarger up to 4x5 then i may consider 35mm, but even when i compare my 6x6 negs to 6x7 and 6x12 i hate t look at 6x6 negs, size matters even some will keep saying else.
     
  21. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The smaller the sample, the better the scan you need. That fact alone will make a siginificant difference between 35mm and med format, even in the same type film. But heck, I shoot even Ektar
    in 8x10 and optically enlarge it - now THAT's a nice 16X20 print!
     
  22. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    It's not vapor ware, I'll pm you about it as it's beyond responding to workflow issues with film now.
     
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  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Thank you for taking that stuff off-line Athiril.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    6x6 will be better than 645. 6x7 will be slightly better that 6x6. A 6x7 will be bulkier that a Hasselblad or Rollei SLR.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    6x6 and 6x7 for that same number of photographs on 120 or 220 will help Kodak, Ilford and Fuji better than 35mm would. Remember if one starves the suppliers, film will be harder to find.

    Who really loves you? Kodak, Ilford and Fuji!
     
  26. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Unless you crop to 4:3!:wink: