Prime lens quality and 12" x 16" enlargements.

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by chorleyjeff, Aug 5, 2006.

  1. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    Using a prime lens on 35mm and taking all the care normally associated with MF eg use tripod etc, would most people be able to differentiate an enlargement to 12" x 16" from say Delta 100 on 35mm and 4.5cm x 6cm negatives? And would a 35mm Delta 100 negative produce as good a result as MF on Delta 400? I assume that an expert could see a difference but would a viewer in a gallery be able to differentiate when the prints were mounted behind glass?
    If anyone has practical experience around this question your advice would be appreciated because I am in a dilema whether to invest in primes for my 35mm or expand my MF kit.
    PS at the moment I have a 75mm Bronica PE lens and I would get Minolta primes.
    Thanks

    Jeff
     
  2. CraigK

    CraigK Member

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    All things being equal, in my experience, real estate always wins.
     
  3. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    As far as your enlargement size goes, according to Barry Thornton in Edge of Darkness 11" wide (with 35mm) is the limit for getting the best possible print when you are using your best technique for printing. So 12x16 would exceed his parameters.

    I Only bring Thornton up because he is considered by many as the guru of super sharp prints.

    With MF 6x6 (good lens and best technique) you can go 17" wide. So you would be fine with your 12x16 prints.

    So looking at it this way, (and if you accept Thornton's ideas on printing) the film used is irrelevant. You would be better off adding to your MF kit to produce the best prints in the size you want.

    I suppose the 100 speed film compared to 400 might buy you additional sharpness, as well as using a developer such as Dixactol. I used to think that with the right combination of developer and film you could get MF results up to 11x14 on 35mm film, but it just is not going to happen. Especially when the same film/developer combination you use to get optimal results in 35mm will be that much better in MF with the same size or larger print.
     
  4. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Jeff,

    If you are printing by hand I would have to agree with Jim. I am a color transparency shooter and have not shot B&W for a long time, but I would put stock in Jim's suggestion. I print my transparencies digitally on a Chromira or a LightJet printer. If you add digital printing to the mix however, it may become a little less obvious. If you print both forms digitally the difference will probably remain about the same as long as the lenses in both formats can resolve about the same. If however you print digitally from 35mm and by hand for 6x4.5 however the difference may not be seen or as noticeable.

    However using the same film for both formats, grain will be much more evident from the 35mm. If however, you shoot 100 film for 35mm and 400 for 6x4.5 the difference will not be as evident.

    Digitally printing off of the machines that I mentioned in color I am able to get very sharp images (when carefully focused and exposed, when using an excellent lens, and lighting contrast) and my 35mm Leica SLR was on a tripod to 20" x 30". These prints are almost as sharp as my images digitally printed as 16" x 24". However, depth of field are less and grain is more the larger you print.

    Rich
     
  5. donbga

    donbga Member

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    You can get excellent 16x20 prints from 400 Delta negatives enlarged from a 35 mm negative. They won't look the same as a 16x20 made from medium format neg. of the same film but they will look very nice.

    It all depends on what you expect.
     
  6. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    Thanks
    I am OK about grain but would detail and tone be lost in 35mm compared with 4.5 x 6 even using a high quality prime lens for 35mm?
    In other words would the image break up using the smaller negative.
    Cheers
    Jeff
     
  7. donbga

    donbga Member

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    There is very little grain in a 16x20 enlargement made from a 35 mm neg with 400 Delta. Detail and tone are fine. Films like 100 Delta, FP4, and even Tri-X or Fuji Neopan 1600 enlarge very nicely. I would suggest you make some enlargements yourself and decide if you like the results. That's what counts.
     
  8. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    1. Size matters.

    2. If in doubt, refer to point #1.


    Even a cheap 6X6 (Yashica A) shot at its optimum aperature will blow the doors off ANY 35mm.

    Rick.
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I guess one main factor is the type of photography you do. If it requires you to handhold shooting movement and action, then the extra bulk of MF may become a hindrance on your style. In that case 35mm is your best option and tailor all your processing to achieve the best possible prints within its limitations.

    If on the other hand your subjects are mostly stationary or more formal style portraits, then you need to take advantage of the increase in negative size that MF provides and work off a tripod with mirror lockup if you have it.
     
  10. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    There would be major differences between the print, but as was said before, that doesn't mean that one is better than the other. Each will give their own look. The only way to really know is to do a test yourself, with the materials that you'd use. You can probably rent or borrow a medium format camera to compare. Depending on where you live, I bet there's an APUG member nearby who'd help out.

    I've spent the last 10 years mainly shooting 4x5. Recently, I've revisted some of my early 35mm HIE negatives. This stuff is really grainy, but this look suits a number of the images.

    If I could have only one camera, though, I keep a medium format rangefinder. You can always add grain with a texture screen, or whatever, but getting a finer grain and more detail in a negative is next to impossible.
     
  11. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Size DOES matter...but it's what you do with it that counts:smile::smile:I remember when I first started shooting MF- with HP5+, the results simply swept away everything I'd done with 35mm no matter what film I'd used, especially in terms of tonality.And RF cameras like the Mamiya 7/Bronica RF compare very favourably with 35mm in terms of bulk/weight.
     
  12. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    When it comes to negatives, size matters, as mentioned before. However, a whole bunch of other things matter too. The smaller your negative the more you have to be on top of all the other parameters to maximize the potential of the print. All things being equal, the larger neg is gonna win every time, and not just grain, but in almost any measure you can devise, except cost and equipment convenience. That being said, I really don't spend that much more on 8x10 than I did with 35 and MF, because I make far fewer exposures. I have had an exponential increase in keepers as well.

    Somebody said that most people use something like 20% of the capability of 35mm. If I'm in that group, I sure as hell would rather use 20% of 8x10 :D
     
  13. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Yup, the 645 neg will be appreciably sharper, more detailed and have a smoother tonality at 16x12 using the same speed in both. This will be evident even under glass. Yes there are ways of producing 35mm negs with little to no grain but the prints tend to look like muck with no glow etc. If you want low grain and negs that also print nicely I tried Delta 100 with Aculux 100 (no longer available but I am sure there are alternatives such as perceptol 1+1, ID11 straight) and grain is tough to find. Still, the resultant images are less pleasing than bigger negs with a sharper working dev, developed fully. That Delta +Aculux 2 was good tho.... Some people seem to advocate 'the thinnest neg possible' theory. This is utter cr@p because the prints look awful and lack any glow whatsoever. Printing (exposure) is also a pig. When you start going into Kodak Tech Pan.....sure no grain AND no character AT ALL.

    As for 400 in 645 and 100 in 35mm, I would put my money on the 645 neg personally in terms of 'looking nicer' when printed. But why is this an issue when you can have 100 in the 645 too? 645 DOF issues are not that great unless you are intending to shoot in very low light and need to handhold and would miss you favourite fast 35mm prime. this is where 35mm cannot be replaced in any case.

    Personally for 35mm I forget about grain as grainless images is not what it is about. I am happy shooting TriX and APX100/FP4/Delta 100 whatever and will print the images as big as I want. They may have grain, but if the image works it works. Sebastiao Salgado work showed me how true this was, esp when viewed at the right distance. Sure we all tend to walk in and then the image loses it, but with street and reportage this hardly seems to matter.

    FWIW I have found the new TriX to be wonderful in 120 souped in most devs. Gives that wonderful classic look and the grain is fine to boot. I would love to try it in Perceptol for fine grain. TriX in 120 is my std walk around film now for 645 and I would rather be shooting this than 35mm of any speed.
     
  14. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    Yes. Which you prefer is up to you, but the answer to the basic question is yes.

    David.
     
  15. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    About 10 or so years ago I attended a photographic weekend put on by the Victorian Amateur Photographic Society (VAPS). This is a group of around 50 or so state based clubs.

    A pair of photographers who pondered exactly what you ask, put one of the best attended lectures on.

    They used a Bronica 645 with the standard 75mm lens and a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens.

    Their aim was to see if a 12x16” print from either was a straightforward winner, or was there a grey area?

    They used tripods, had the cameras almost side by side and aligned the image in each viewfinder to match as reasonably as possible each other and pressed the shutter within 1 second of each other. I cannot remember whether they used colour neg or transparency film, but the outcome was a 12x16” colour print.

    The films were printed on the same enlarger and same batch of paper; prints were developed in a rotary system. In short, they used a seat of the pants test that was real world and carefully managed to ensure that neither format was either penalised or advantaged over the other.

    Going on the different formats one could assume that the advanced amateur using the entry level camera of the day, which was the Bronica 645 with a 75mm lens and one back would have a clear cut advantage over the 35mm camera, all things being equal.

    Well I have to tell you it was virtually impossible to pick which came from which camera. These prints were scrutinised by around 100-125 photographers. Some of them scientifically trained as photographers and quite knowledgeable in colour printing in their own darkrooms. I consider myself to be quite a good colour printer; I couldn’t pick them at all!

    Each pair of prints were matted and hung alongside each other. The pictures ran the gamut of what anyone could or would take. From close focused stuff with minute detail, to landscape and sweeping panoramic stuff. Each attendee of the lecture/talk/demonstration was given a paper with the pairs of pictures numbered, we were all instructed after their presentation to carefully and as closely as we liked, to view the pairs and note which print originated from each camera. At the end they then proceeded to tell us pair by pair, which was which. Well it became obvious that by and large nearly everyone couldn’t tell the difference. There was one exception though; one fella picked everyone, except one pair. It turned out that he was a professional colour printer printing day in and day out and was currently in the groove.

    How did he do it, when virtually all others failed?

    He explained that it was relatively easy, depth of field! Basically one has to remember that the two lenses were set to the same stop. One of the lenses was 50mm and the other a 75mm. The wider angled 35mm lens had marginally more image in critical focus, than the longer medium format one. I have never forgotten that little insight of what I believe is a major difference to various formats in photography.

    The consensus was, if you were extremely careful, used similar quality lenses then the differences with 12x16” prints, was barely, or not detectable.

    Last year I seriously considered purchasing a Bronica SQB, which is 6x6. It had the standard lens, one back and WLF. Firstly I ran some film through to get a feel for the shutter and aperture settings, that settled, I then went and tested the unit with the outcome being 12x16” prints.

    I use 12x16” prints because as an amateur I concluded years ago that the best value for money darkroom formats were 12x16” & 8x10” paper, especially in colour negative paper as I have a 12” wide colour paper processor.

    Anyway back to my tests. I used the SQB with the standard lenes and my Nikon F3 with a micro Nikkor 55 2.8, which is the closest to standard I have. I applied the same strategy as outlined above, however I used both B&W and colour negative films. The B&W was FP4+ and the colour was a Fuji 160, (cannot remember which one but they were identical).

    What I did find interesting was that the FP4+ 120 negs looked brilliant, compared to the 35mm version on the light box, but that brilliance didn’t transform to a major difference in the final outcome, which was prints. I did have one difference; I only have a 50mm and 105mm enlarging lenses. Both Schneider and both Componon S lenses.

    Well the bottom line was that I declined from purchasing the SQB as I felt the format didn’t give me an appreciable difference over my 35mm system at the size of prints I have as a final outcome.

    In the future I may be really tempted to move to 4x5” but I really think, apart from fun antique type of cameras, I’ll leave medium format alone. For instance, yesterday I used my mothers Kodak Box Brownie flash II from the fifties, it gives quite funky 6x9 negs. I also have the flash for this camera along with flash bulbs and original Kodacolor-X CX620 film as well as a set of paper covered AA batteries by Eveready. I developed the negs today and will print at least 3 frames, fun this photography, eh?

    Mick.
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Hey, Mick, that's cheating! Actual properly designed experiments are NO SUBSTITUTE for blind prejudice and 'what everyone knows'.

    I have to admit that my views on better quality refer essentially to black and white, and there, I really do think I see a difference -- but paradoxically, I might see less difference at 12x16 than at whole-plate, where I genuinely believe that I can make 3x enlargements which are indistinguishable from contacts, but readily distinguishable from from 6x enlargements off 35mm.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  17. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I was refering also to mono. I do very little colour at all in any format. Certainly format differences do show up in mono more than colour, quite a bit more in fact.

    Whilst I might not have done too many identical side by sides, I have printed quite a lot of negs from the various formats. I have never felt that the side by sides have been that neccessary when the differences have been quite readily aparrent (in mono). Whilst I am shooting (or will be) my new 5x7 in mono (and 5x4 quickloads for colour) I will not bother with 5x7 trannies at all as I am confident that this really will be splitting hairs over 5x4 at almost any size of print. In fact my 6x9 back will prob get a fair bit of use with colour when I need a longer focal length effect unless as monster print is required requiring 5x4 for best effect.

    If comparing formats I reckon HP5 or Tri X next in both formats will reveal a bigger difference, just as 100 would printed bigger...esp in mono.

    BTW the difference between 10x8 and 5x4 on a 20x16 leaps out at you and this is a far smaller degree of enlargement, albeit with a bigger increase in film area.

    It is the grain and tonal transitions in mono that are the give away (rather than outright resolution). The smaller formats 'break up' and lose that creaminess well before the bigger ones, even if the bigger formats have litte more resolution. I find that this tonlity and lack of grain related break up are what gives us 'photo-reality' where images look like the scene rather than a grainy representation of it. This is far less of an issue with colour.

    As an Example:

    My image 'demise of the harvest capella' as much as I love it (and hate printing this underdeveloped neg - screwed up the dilution) prints well up to 20x16 but starts to break up at 20x24 once you close with the image. Not terribly, just enough to take the edge off it for me. I want to print it at 36" or so but never will be able to satisfactorily. If I had been shooting 10x8 this would be no problem...even 5x7 would have allowed it to have gone to 28" which is a LOT biger to the eye than 20" when hung on the wall as a centre piece.

    Film choice can close the gap a lot. Acros 100 6x9cm has similar grain to FP4 plus 5x4 at a given print size, but different to the eye (both appearance of grain and the tones). The prints have a different look but you would never pick a format change seeing a 18-19" print from the two side by side. Shoot FP4 plus in both and you might (in mono) see the difference without looking too hard,

    Tom.
     
  18. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    Yes I agree but I only have a zoom 35mm lens. A 28-135 F4 to 4.5 Minolta which I assume will not resolve information as well as a good prime lens.
    Cheers
    Jeff
     
  19. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    Thanks for taking the trouble to provide such a comprehensive reply.
    Serious food for thought.
    Cheers
    Jeff
     
  20. raizans

    raizans Member

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    has anybody extended these tests to faster films and handholding the camera?
     
  21. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Not a problem, Jeff

    Mick.