Search for ultimate sharpness- any tips?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by mobtown_4x5, Apr 10, 2004.

  1. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    I am working on a cityscape scene taken from a high elevation. The images are sharp but as I feel they could be sharper, and to get the effect I'm looking for, I need total absolute WOW THATS FRIGGIN SHARP sharpness.

    I don't want to take a loupe to the print and say"hey look, they was a woman on that balcony 3 miles away".

    I want to take a microscope to the print and say "hey look, that woman on that balcony 8 miles away looks just like my Aunt Rita, shame about that pimple though".

    I have a new Nikkor 150mm W, the enlarging lens is an older Companon.

    Assuming (maybe a wrong assumption to make) that the glass is not the problem, and I don't have a gross enlarger alignment errors...

    what aspects of the system would you start tweaking first? I guess what I'm asking is, in your opinion, is there a single factor that contributes more to degrading image detail in these type of images? Or is it a matter of checking and re-checking everything?

    Matt
     
  2. gma

    gma Member

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    In my opinion:
    1. Use a tripod that will eliminate vibration.

    2. Test your camera lens and enlarging lens to determine the optimum f stop for each. There might well be considerable difference in resolution between f/4.5 and f/32.

    3. Use the film and developer combination that gives the sharpest image and finest grain.

    End result can be no better than the weakest link.

    gma
     
  3. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    If you are shooting B&W try a red filter to reduce UV haze to a minimum and gain contrast. I've shot IR film for distances and the total lack of any UV haze makes it appear unnaturally sharp even though it was a bit grainy.
     
  4. Annemarieke

    Annemarieke Member

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    The sharpest film I know is Kodak Technical Pan, developed in Rodinal.

    Not sure that exists in the size you need.

    Good luck.
    Anne Marieke
     
  5. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree with all of the above and would only emphasize the uv/ haze reduction and to utilize the hyper focal distance for the 'best' aperture (opposed to focusing on infinity).
    Assuming you have done all this...
    Another approach would be to shoot in the morning after a rain. The rain will take a lot of crap out of the air, evenings see less pollution (non- driving holiday mornings especially) and the morning light will increase contrast .
     
  6. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    There have been many good suggestions given. I will share what I consider today to arrive at the best sharpness in my images:

    Tech pan is good film but I do not like the tonal scale of this film.

    The things that I have found to impact on sharpness are these. Expose your film with a lens aperture of F32 and below. (preferably F11-F22). Develop the film (strongly recommend Efke PL100) using minimal agitation with Pyrocat. Enlarge the prints by using a well designed condensor enlarger and I would recommend a the S model of Componon lens on the enlarger.

    There are additionally the matters of papers used. I prefer JandC Polywarmtone or Oriental graded papers. While these do not affect sharpness they are the final link in the chain that someone else mentioned. The proper paper gives a "presence" to the print.
     
  7. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    On the colour side of things... c41 film, by its nature, will appear sharper if slightly overexposed. The sharpest appearing ra4 paper is Fujiflex or duraflex. In 120 film I think reala is one of the finest, highest resolving films. In 4x5, all the 160's (nps,npl or vc/nc including 100T) appear to be about the same. I prefer (a taste thing), the kodak films over the Fuji's. Mostly because of better shadow detail and reciprocity traits.
     
  8. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I also like Efke 100. Recently purchased Gigabit 4X5 ISO 25 which is supposed to give the resolution you want; but haven't tested it yet - the instructions are in German & haven't yet found an English version.
    As far as understanding all the factors for a high resolution image, highly recommend Image Clarity by John Williams.
     
  9. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Wow- thanks for all the great ideas!

    Using a filter and shooting in the morning after a rain makes a lotta sense and honestly had not occured to me (the rain part that is, I have been using an Orange "G" filter to darken the sky).

    I have been using Tmax and Rodinal 1:50 on this project, but I'm open to ideas, is the "Tech Pan" available in 4x5 sheets?

    Also, I confess I do not understand "hyperfocal", how does one achieve this? (My procedure has been to use camera movements to get as much of the image as possible in focus wide open,(emphasis on the nearer elements) then stop down and pray.)

    Matt
     
  10. Annemarieke

    Annemarieke Member

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    Sorry, I made a mistake, I meant Technical Pan in Technidol. Great stuff!

    I know you can also develop Tech Pan in Rodinal, but I don't have a 'recipe' handy.

    Anne Marieke
     
  11. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Others here will be able to explain Hyperfocal distance better than I, but here goes...

    It is when the depth of field for a lens at a certain aperture is more or less from near to infinity.


    When you focus on something such as a sign across a street a certain percentage of the foreground and back ground will also have acceptable sharpness. As you stop down those percentages will increase. At some point everything near to infinity will have the same degree of sharpness. Unfortunately, as you stop down the light begins diffract and the image begins to lose overall sharpness. This is why it is recommended to not stop down beyond f32.

    As an example when I use my Mamiya 50mm at f/8 and focus about 15-20 feet out everything from about 5 feet to (maybe) 60 to 80 feet is in focus. The area behind the point of focus is always larger than the area infront. If i stopdown to f/11 I get just about everything from a couple feet to infinity in "focus." This would be the hyperfocal distance for that lens at that aperture.

    There is a great little windows application that can figure depth of field for any lens length, aperture and film size. I used to have it installed, but can't find, nor do I remember its name. Maybe someone out there knows and will post the url.


    Meanwhile, If you are using swings and tilts to change the focal plane you can get more in focus (assuming it is in the plane of focus) with a larger aperture (smaller f number). This allows you to avoid the problems of stopping down too much. THe problem with this a approach is two fold. 1. if you have to adjust the rear standard it will distort the subject. 2. If and when something falls out of the plane of focus it falls out fast and can look very strange. The other problem with this type of focusing is it often requires a lens with a big image circle. There is a strange, unpronounceable name for this type of focusing -- which I have never tried to remember.

    I hope this helps.
     
  12. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Program was probably fCalc at http://www.tangentsoft.net/

    The focusing technique for view cameras is Scheimpflug. Harold Merklinger in Focusing the View Camera elaborates & expands on the technique.
     
  13. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    A "free-for-the-asking" DOF calculator can be found on Paul Van Warlees site:

    http://www.vanwalree.com/index.html

    Go to the optics pages and read down to where he offers a DOF calculator.
     
  14. cesarb

    cesarb Subscriber

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    Only two more suggestions:
    1- make a shot wide open and check if you're really dead on focus;
    2- try to get a copy of "Image clarity - high resolution photography" - by John B. Willians, and you'll find answers to whatever you could imagine to ask.
    Good luck!
     
  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I often shoot cityscapes from a high elevation and tilts usually don't help, because you are typically dealing with perpendicular surfaces like tall buildings and the ground. Occasionally I've used a little front swing for that kind of shot, if there are two or three prominent buildings in the foreground in a line at an oblique angle to the horizon or if there is a receeding shoreline. Try setting up the camera square, using only front or rear rise/fall for framing and stopping for adequate DOF. Try at f:16, 22, and 32 and see what's sharpest.

    A heavier tripod and head will often make a real difference. You might consider sandbags on the front standard to dampen and prevent transmission of vibrations from the shutter if you really want to maximize sharpness. Be sure your cable release is slack.

    If you are on a rooftop or balcony, be sure to shield the camera from the wind.

    As the others have said, for objects in the distance, there really is no substitute for a clear day.

    Tech Pan in Technidol isn't a bad idea and is available in 4x5". It has some extended red sensitivity, so it responds well to red and orange filtration to cut through haze.

    Use a compendium shade to restrict the image cirlcle to the minimum necessary to reduce both lens flare and bellows flare and maximize contrast.
     
  16. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    In my opinion, you got excellent advice earlier in this thread from Donald Miller. Start with a rock solid, well damped tripod and a small lens aperture.

    I have maintained a love/hate relationship with Tech Pan for many years (26 or 27). I have been testing it again, recently. It is a special purpose film. It is very unforgiving in pictorial applications.

    If you use Tech Pan for a nightscape, consider gas hypersensitization (an old astronomical photography trick) and D-19 developer to deal with the long exposures.

    If you are contemplating color film, gas hypersensitized negative color film would likely be a good way to go.

    I second Don Miller's recommendation of Efke 100 film developed in Pyrocat-HD with minimal agitation. Biting Sharp! However, you will still need to deal with reciprocity failure.
     
  17. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    if you shoot at night or early morning just prior to sunrise (sorry have I beat that horse bloodless yet?) use tungstun balanced film. T film will handle the reciprocity failure better, manage the soduim vapor lights and give the sky a nice shade of blue.
     
  18. MichaelBriggs

    MichaelBriggs Member

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    Your description of your desired results may be purely colorful exaggeration, or perhaps indicate that you have unrealistic expectations. 4x5 film and lensses only have so much resolution....

    If you want the most resolution and sharpness possible of a distant cityscape, the first thing I would do, as already suggested, is take the photo on in sunshine after a hard rain. City air tends to be dusty and polluted, and the rain will increase transparency. The sunshine will cast shadows which will reveal details and increase the perception of sharpness. In general, higher contrast will increase the perception of sharpness.

    As already suggested, some filtration will help with haze penetration. You might try several filters -- sometimes red is too much.

    Tech-pan has very high resolution but can be tricky to get good pictorial results with. You might want to try TMax-100.

    Near-optimum f-stop, camera stability and acccurate focusing matter. Is the plane of sharpest focus where you intended it to be? Check whether objects off the intended plane are sharper than objects on the plane.

    Focusing on the hyperfocal distance might in fact be reduce the sharpness of the main subject. The concepts of depth-of-field and hyperfocal distance are based on the concept of acceptable deviations from perfect focus -- circles of confusion instead of perfect points. If you want the maximum resolution possible, your acceptable deviation from perfect sharpness might be much smaller than what is typically accepted. If so, focusing on half of the hyperfocal distance might leave infinity unacceptably blurry to you. My suggestion is to focus on the most important part of the subject and stop down to approx f16 to f22.

    If you don't get as much depth-of-field as you want, you will either have to try tilts and swings (probably won't help much for this subject), or recompose, or decide to accept the lesser depth-of-field or stop down more and accept small amounts of diffraction smearing.

    There are some similar aspects to the enlarging step: near optimum aperture from the lens, sufficiently flat film, aligned enlarger, etc. Knowing whether you have acheived the potential of the system is easier for this stage, because you can compare the prints to the film as viewed with a loupe. If the film has detail that isn't in the print, then the enlarging step needs attention.
     
  19. PBrooks

    PBrooks Member

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    Tech pan, gigabit, there is only so far you can go in 4x5 before moving up in format. Eight miles is a long way. I just thought of an artist that has performed this kinda sharpness - Clifford Ross - http://www.cliffordross.com but I don't think this information is on his website though. I went to his Blindspot lecture last month and he demonstrated this kind of sharpness, it seems he took off a year to design his own ULF and went to schneider with an optical engineer and hand selected lenses for this camera. Hope this helps!
     
  20. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Even with a ULF, diffraction limited optics and super film, you still need to "get lucky." Atmospheric effects can do you in.
     
  21. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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  22. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Sharp!

    A rock solid tripod (my Bogen 3051 and 3047 head weighs 17 pounds) is a must. Try to use the shortest lens practical for a given situation, longer lenses are more susceptible to shake.

    I've found Efke 25 to be very sharp. I can't see using a film which resolves more than the paper you are printing on is able to see. The high resolution films are only able to do so much, it is the entire system, from film to print, which makes a sharp picture.
     
  23. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    Yes, Tech Pan is available in 4x5 & 8x10 sheets. As for different developers than Technidol, try looking at the Massive Development Chart for times for other developers. I've used D76 1:1 with 4x5 Technidol and I liked my results.
     
  24. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I'm with noseoil on this one. My preference is Efke 25 semi-stand developed in Pyrocat-HD.

    I should add that I have maintained a love-hate relationship with MF and LF Techpan since the 1970's (when it was a Kodak SO film). My favorite developers with Techpan are Bill Anneman's Perfection Micrograin and Diafine (with a 100:1 diluted one shot A bath).

    Having said that, I will repeat what I said earlier, atmospherics (and/or vibration) can easily blow the whole high resolution landscape thing.