What are your quality expectations?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by RattyMouse, May 23, 2013.

  1. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Just curious, what are your quality expectations shooting 35mm film? Do you print? If yes, how large? Do you compare your 35mm output to a digital camera and expect a certain level of quality?

    I just bought a 35mm film camera and want to make sure I do not judge it too harshly so want to hear from others and their expectations.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    I'm shooting only three 35mm cameras. One is a Leica IIIc made in 1942 using 40s vintage lenses, another is an Ansco Memo made in 1929, and the final one is a Kodak Brownie No. 00 made c.1918. My expectations are the images will look very period correct for these cameras.


    Kent in SD
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    My expectation is, being able to make clean and clear 8x10 prints. Otherwise, I see no point in carrying one and shooting with it. I can do that with a decent point&shoot.

    If it is an SLR, I expect more. I've made very VERY decent 11x14s and quite acceptable 16x20s. With an SLR, I'd expect flawless 8x10 and decent 11x14.

    Please note, decent and flawless are quite subjective and they are subject to MY interpretations. No, I don't compare with digital results. Measurement and impression of "quality" is quite different.
     
  4. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Thank you for your reply. That's very helpful.
     
  5. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Very interesting. I guess I should expect an '80s look since I have a Nikon FM2. :D
     
  6. fastw

    fastw Member

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    In my earlier thread I pointed to Steve MC Curry offering 40x60'' prints from 35mm slides. There you go.
     
  7. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Quality expectations: I use Nikkor lenses, and for the most part only good/great ones. The lens is a major contributor to quality, along with handling technique. I expect to make a sharp, essentially grain free 12x16 inch print from T-grain ISO 100 films like Acros or TMax 100, and sharp prints with minor grain from TMax 400 or FP4+. With HP5+ and TriX the grain will be visible, but it is usually pleasing and not obtrusive. Grain aversion is highly personal, so one should test that for oneself before forming an opinion. Anything from 8x10 and lower, I simply don't worry about it. I must qualify something here: My expectations are based on prints. I cannot get the same quality, perceived or real, from a scan of the same negative. It is just as if the grain becomes more mushy, or the "edge" gets taken off an image during scanning. That is of course also due to my desktop scanning equipment, but that is the reality I have to live with.

    While a direct comparison like tkamiya has pointed out is not always easy, I think most photographers in the print selling business sooner or later make that comparison and settle on one or the other. Of course, it is usually the larger formats that are being considered. My own view is to enjoy film media for their uniqueness and for the opportunity to do darkroom printing, which has its own character and possibilities. As an image-making process, analogue photography is different for not involving computers. That is something I personally like a great deal. So while one can compare the cold hard print from each alternative, at the end of the day, other factors like the process are also important to some of us, and quality is by far not the only one.

    35 mm gives one a few possibilities that are difficult to achieve with larger formats. The longer focal lengths and relatively narrow perspectives available create obvious possibilities for nature and sport photography, amongst others. The high magnification ratio makes it possible to use grain to achieve certain effects. This can be enhanced by film choice and developing methods and chemistry. The Pickford's books "Miracle Rivers" and "Forever Africa" are a marvelous example of this. For sheer ease of use, and wide range of lenses and system accessories available, 35 mm systems are indispensable for many photographers. I adore my MF cameras, and use them at every opportunity I can. But I always have a 35 mm film body packed with a few lenses when going somewhere. Photographing kids and family, knowing an 8x10 print is as large as I want to go, the 35 mm is perfect. The cross-over compatibility with my digital system is also a major advantage.
     
  8. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Thanks Dorff. Very helpful.
     
  9. Too old to care

    Too old to care Subscriber

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    I often shoot 35mm because I like the look of the grain, and I wet print my photos up to 11x14. My film of choice is Plus X, now gone, but I have a couple bricks on ice. When it is gone I will switch to something else. I have used Tri X too, but like the smaller grain. My developer of choice is D76, with Rodinal following closely behind when I want more grain. I have tried scanning my negatives but I never get that "wet" print look. I like 35mm because the photos looks like they were taken with a film camera, not like one would get with a DSLR. My cameras of choice are my Leica M6 and Rollei 35.
     
  10. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    Notwithstanding aesthetics and purely on technical merit, results will be influenced by film, lens, technique and subject matter. Clearly one of the most easily distinguishable characteristics is latitude where most all C41 and B&W have latitude to spare. When it comes to actual detail resolved, 35mm film has the info but many are challenged in extracting it.
     
  11. gzinsel

    gzinsel Member

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    well its like this, 35mm to me is like a sketch book to a painter. Not the final say on the issue,rather a time to ruminate on the subject matter quickly and cheaply. By using Different angles, lenses, perspective, film speed, developer, composition, filters, etc. . . I can come up with a strategy for what I want and How I am going to execute. Then when I have a clear "Idea" ( composition, time of day, weather condition, perspective, film choice, D.O.F). issues are ALL CLEAR!! I will shoot 4x5 or 120.for the "keeper" I will visit and revisit concept/ subject matter until I get what, or just give up on it... . . . .
    that being said, I do not "shoot" street photography. that is kinda hard to reproduce, Don't ya think"??? however if it is landscape cityscape, still life. . . . . then the question is "what is your COMMITTMENT to "image"???? what DO YOU want out of it. What are YOUR RULES!!!! WHAT is Your Vision!!! The print defines those. IT states it CLEARLY!!! AS far as prints go: working prints from 35mm are 4 11/16 inches x 7 1/8" inches (5x) enlargement, take a 8x10 paper, cut in half. so 5x8 make your print. during these work prints. I am solely looking at the idea; content, comp. lighting etc. . . . In the words of "W" stra-T- ger-ry!!! technically speaking I low expectations for 35mm, but it is quick, cheap, and plentiful, easy to carry, I can think, without "Thinking" if you know what I mean, or do ya???
     
  12. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Ah, a variation of the film vs. digital debate. It reminds me of the CD vs. vinyl debate in the music world.

    If you've shot only digital, you shouldn't expect digital results. There is no grainless image. Like life, film has its flaws. The light meter might not "read" the scene correctly. You might miss focus. Dust spots on the negative.

    I would recommend that you don't spend endless hours comparing film results to digital. They are different mediums like charcoal sketches and oil paintings.

    By the way, replace the foam seals on your camera, if they haven't already been replaced. Otherwise, you'll learn about the flaw of Japanese cameras - the use of light-blocking foam, which turns to goo after a couple of decades and allow light to seep in and fog your film. Don't let that get into the shutter mechanism -- that would be bad news for the shutter.
     
  13. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I use 35mm in 95% of time. Print up to 30x45cm. When I want grainless results (rarely) I use ISO 20-100, but most of the time I use iso 400 films and I like the grain. Actually grain is the last thing in my concern - most important is composition, meaning... when I make something that I like - I never think: "ohh if only I had used medium format or lower iso so that grain is not there". Actually often I use Lith print to get grain bigger (Moersch Easy Lith + Fomabrom is the key example: http://darkosaric.deviantart.com/art/Lith-10-130219602 ).
    :smile:
     
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  15. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    A while back, a friend of mine wanted framed 11"x14" prints of two of my images that complemented each other. I had shot one with my digital, and the other on 35mm film. I had a lab print the digital photo, and I wet printed the film photo in the darkroom. An untrained eye would not have been able to tell the difference.
     
  16. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Probably a good lab ... when I did not printed manually all my B&W photos from lab had some green offset, and not even one lab was able to give me true deep blacks in the print.
    About framed prints: I can agree, but holding in hand double weight fiber based print is not comparable with anything :smile:.
     
  17. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Sorry, darkosaric. There really is something magical about a real silver gelatin print. The point I was attempting to make is that prints made from 35mm in the darkroom can be just as detailed and sharp as lab prints from digital images.
     
  18. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    No worries :smile:.
     
  19. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    As one who uses 35mm, 6x9 and 4x5... I can tell you what I expect of 35mm comparatively.

    While 6x9 and 4x5 offer more film area, and result in less grain and more sharp detail, a fine grain film in 35mm can compare. I find subjectively the 35mm shows me the same amount of detail - but the edges are not as sharply defined as when I use larger formats.

    You can say I unfairly compare traditional grain film 35mm to tabular grain 4x5, that is two changes at once. Yes I made two changes in my step up from 35mm.

    Slides (or color) 35mm I expect freedom from flare, and I paint an impression of the scene before me. A Macro lens is important to me because after taking in the wide scene, I focus on studying details that make up parts of the scene - as an exploration of the environment. With 4x5, one shot takes all and I leave the scene (because I have limited amount of film, each scene gets one, two or if I lose myself and forget my limitation 4-6 shots).

    35mm allows me to shoot a series that gives an impression of the scene with rich detail, while 4x5 gives similar impression in one shot. Not sure that one exceeds the other, because the amount of detail is infinite with both systems because you can just get closer.

    With 35mm I expect clear, clean, scratch-free frames. With larger formats, in vintage cameras I get some flare, specks of dust, occasional but light scratches. Other photographers can get pristine negatives from medium and large formats. I tend to get pristine 35mm and lightly flawed negatives from larger formats.
     
  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Basically if the print "works".

    Every time I think I've figured out a standard for myself, I have found a way to break the rule and get a print that works or see somebody else who has.
     
  21. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    As much as I love printing MF and 4x5, there's a whole magical look to 35mm. I now shoot mostly 400 speed because anything smaller than 16x20 has a lovely texture to it that you don't see with larger film formats and not at all in the digital world (noise isn't so pretty). Some 35mm 100 shots can definitely go larger, but often times what I photograph with 35mm isn't worth going that large. It's not a format to go chasing Ansel with, but like anything, play up it's strengths and you'll forget it's weaknesses.
     
  22. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    35mm enlarged to 11x14 is a 10X enlargment. That's pretty ridiculous. I have done a few Kodachromes that way in the darkroom, but I made a
    4x5 interpositive first. The idea of making big prints from an original the size of a postage stamp is hopeless if you have expectations of decent
    detail. I personally use 35mm for a completely different range of usage than big cameras, namely handheld shooting and small poetic prints.
    Yeah, you can blow up anything as big as you wish - the Marlboro Man was a bad snapshot to begin with, yet has been enlarged twenty feet
    across tens of thousands of times (and probably killed more people than any other photo in history, if you want to talk about historically
    significant images). So it just depends on your expectations.
     
  23. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Great discussion folks. I'm eating this all up. Thanks.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have several 35mm 24"x36" C-41 prints, from my negatives, that are hanging in my living room.
     
  25. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    Use a good film and you will be pleased with the results, so long as you also have good processing - but you know that. I recently acquired a Bronica GS-1, and in some ways my 35mm cannot compare even in 4x6 prints. However, I have learned part of this is due to the quality of the lenses and perhaps the fact that I use any old film in my 35mm. Also, I found I use the 35mm differently - always using small aperture and trying to make everything sharp (basically documenting a scene). If you use your 35mm like your medium format, and you have good lenses, most differences will only be seen when you enlarge a lot.

    Comparing digital to film can be a problem, as they are different animals with different strengths and different aesthetics. I believe digital is more similar to positive film than print film. It may be more useful to decide what you like best in each format, just as many film users like different films for different purposes.

    With film, you may notice grain - I usually don't (unless it is a decent-sized enlargement). However, I do notice the "ccd noise" of digital, where most digital users to do not.
    We tend to not notice what we are used to. This will probably be apparent when you compare your 35mm to digital and to medium format - just don't let it stop you.
     
  26. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Well, my first roll of film came back from the lab, and the scans definitely meet my quality expectations. That is when I hit focus. I'm rust with manual focus so several shots look pretty bad, but I expect that to get better.

    So I am relieved that my new FM2 is not as big a drop in quality as I had feared. Right now the only lens I have for it is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS lens. I hope to add a few more in the very near future.