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  1. #1
    fhovie's Avatar
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    Bigger IS Better

    I have had this idea that is best to use the largerst format you can use in any application. Most of this year I have been able to use 4x5 or 8x10 and that sets the standard for sharpness, detail and smoothness of tonality for my prints. Last night I spent some time making 11x14 prints from a few trips I took where I had to settle for 35mm or 645 format. The 35mm was using techpan in TD3 and the 645 was using FP4 in Pyrocat. I also did some portraits in 6x6 with TRI-X in pyrocat.

    You see I have this theory that with techpan, I can get MF performance out of a 35mm. Which in the prints is almost true. Certainly the grain from an 11x14 print from a techpan 35mm neg compares in smoothness with the 645 format prints using FP4 but there is a cost - sharpness - the 35mm techpan will give the smoothness and tonality but not the sharpness of the larger formats. Then the MF prints done from FP4 and Tri-x - same smoothness as the 35mm techpan but with added sharpness. Still no where near what I am used to with the 4x5. I kept looking at the 11x14 prints made from these and thinking how vastly different they are from the 4x5 format 11x14 (or 16x20) enlargements. I am sure that in 8x10 I am golden on both roll film strategies. I made some very nice 16x20 prints from my vacation shots done in 6x6 but the success of those is the glass - my Bronica glass in 645 is nothing like the Zeiss glass of the Rollei when you enlarge the print greatly. All in all, I think I can be satified with 8x10 prints from 35mm techpan. (probably the only reason to do 35mm at all outside of color point and shoot stuff) On the 645, 11x14 prints from FP4 in pyrocat is nice - they would probably look better as 8x10 prints as well though.

    Bottom line - the 4x5 is not so heavy and setup is not so much longer and the satisfaction in the prints is an order of magnitude nicer when the print is on the wall. I think I am still searching for a better mousetrap for smaller roll film cameras though.

  2. #2
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I think you're right. I recently took the plunge with 4x5, and will, as soon as my wallet can allow it, go for even bigger formats. The added sharpness is considerable.
    But, why do you have to print your images so large? I always thought that 35mm and MF was best suited for 5x7 and maybe 8x10 prints. Like you pointed out, a lot of the inherent sharpness is lost due to the vast magnification. Already a 5x7 is quite a large enlargement for 35mm.
    To me outstanding quality can be produced from 35mm and especially MF. But the print size must be kept down, even with ultrafine film like TechPan and APX25.

    My 2 cents,

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #3
    fhovie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huggyviking
    I think you're right. I recently took the plunge with 4x5, and will, as soon as my wallet can allow it, go for even bigger formats. The added sharpness is considerable.
    But, why do you have to print your images so large? I always thought that 35mm and MF was best suited for 5x7 and maybe 8x10 prints. Like you pointed out, a lot of the inherent sharpness is lost due to the vast magnification. Already a 5x7 is quite a large enlargement for 35mm.
    To me outstanding quality can be produced from 35mm and especially MF. But the print size must be kept down, even with ultrafine film like TechPan and APX25.

    My 2 cents,

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN

    That is true! TRI-x in 35mm done in pyrocat makes a stunning 5x7. Print size is an interesting aspect to photographic art. A small print is "intimate" A large print is gradiose! On my walls or in my albums I prefer 8x10, 11x14 or 16x20. I like to get into the image. Most of my landscapes require a large print to open them up so they don't look too busy. There are often many fine details that cannot be appreciated in a 5x7. I love 11x14 portraits or larger where you can see details you would never be able to see otherwise. I am amazed by 8x10 contact prints on AZO or Kalitypes - they have a 3-D quality to them. They are the gold standard of tonality and sharpness.

  4. #4

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    Personally, I prefer big images on small paper... (ie: to me anything larger than 11x14 is too big.. But that's just my opinion)

    I have seen specatular prints, and large ones at that, shot on 35mm by others that just sing... I just can't seem to make one that I like myself. I prefer to use 8x10 paper and keep it smaller if I can.

    I do agree that certain sizes dictate something, but for me the issue is more style of shooting/type of work.

    I find that I work differently in 35mm than I do when I'm shooting LF. Same goes for MF... I respond to my tools and thus the situation differently. At least for me this isn't about maintaining a certain level of grain/lack of grain in my prints...

    Chipping in my 2 cents as well,

    joe

  5. #5
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Hi,

    fhovie said:
    "Most of my landscapes require a large print to open them up so they don't look too busy. There are often many fine details that cannot be appreciated in a 5x7."

    I was given the task of making a portrait of a dog. I thought since animals like to move around a lot, especially this pup, I'd go for something that I can hand hold with success. So I grabbed my 35mm camera and loaded with Efke KB25 and went off for a very long walk with this cool dog and its owner.
    It was incredibly difficult to get this dog still, and only 5 frames on the whole roll turned out OK. I made 5x7 prints by all of them and presented them to the owner. She was very happy with two of them and ordered a larger print of one of them, an 11x14. It was impossible to recreate the sharp, smooth look of the 5x7. I could not do it, for the life of me. Fortunately, the owner was happy with the image anyway, and seemed to understand that 11x14 is large for such a small format, even with such fine grained film.
    I much preferred the 5x7, even though details of the dog was revealed at a larger size that could not be seen on the smaller size.

    With that said, it's probably better with a larger print for landscapes, but then why not use a bigger camera/negative? The landscape isn't going anywhere. The dog just might be, though... and fast.

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  6. #6

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    There's a lot to agree with in all these posts. In the ideal world you should use the largest format possible for the subject and conditions. Sometimes that's 11x14; sometimes it's 35mm. And, yes, I appreciate the difference even between a 4x6 print from a 100 speed 35mm film vs. the same 4x6 print from a 400 speed 35mm negative.

    To me, some of the most impressive photos I've seen are large format pictures of subject that most of us would have used a smaller format for, e.g., people pictures.
    Many of the photos taken with large format have a presence that only a contact print seems to provide.

    This approach is certainly not for all subjects. In fact, and especially on this forum, I think we often ask the question backwards. We ask, "would this picture I took with my 8x10 look nearly as good if I took it with my medium format or 35mm?" (of course it wouldn't!) But I think the question we ought ask ourselves more often is, "Craft aside, (admitting that is a real big aside) why bother taking this picture?" A great picture taken with a 35mm camera is a great picture. (Usually because of emotional content.) 8x10 "craft" prints often have no reason for being other than craft. Would they have any merit if taken with a 35mm camera?

    I think we need to strive to take pictures that would be good irrespective of the format used, otherwise it's more self-therapy than communication.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Duffy
    8x10 "craft" prints often have no reason for being other than craft. Would they have any merit if taken with a 35mm camera?

    I think we need to strive to take pictures that would be good irrespective of the format used, otherwise it's more self-therapy than communication.

    Excellent point.

  8. #8

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    To clarify, I don't think there's anything wrong with self-therapy; it's one of the major reasons I photograph. I love taking pictures and I love working over a print in the darkroom. I find it relaxing in a anxious, obsessive kind of way!

  9. #9
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    No, all negatives with 35mm and MF cannot ever be printed on anything larger than 8x10 paper.

    I am fortunate enough to work at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In memoriam of great photographer Richard Avedon, the Institute decided to hang a copy of his "Dovima with Elephants" from 1979. More of his work will be displayed.
    This print is HUGE, probably 4x5 foot, and my my is that image impressive. Grain is so tight that I suspect it's made with 8x10 equipment, but I could be wrong. It could be some ludicrously finegrained film and 4x5. Either way, this humongous print is very very impressive, it takes my breath away.

    With all else said in this thread, I think Tom Duffy put it best:
    "I think we need to strive to take pictures that would be good irrespective of the format used, otherwise it's more self-therapy than communication."
    I don't mind self therapy, it's the reason many people are into photography. My dad is an excellent photographer, but he has never showed his work to anyone but a few of us family members who bumped into him in his darkroom. He does it for himself, and to him that's important.

    However, drifting off the thread here. I too think all formats are valid, and that the best possible quality should try to be obtianed no matter which format is used. Since Henri Cartier-Bresson passed away, there has been a small exhibit here at the museum with 7 of his best prints, and they are fairly large, between 11x14 and 16x20, it's hard to tell. But they are from 35mm and they are gorgeous!

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  10. #10
    Aggie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huggyviking
    No, all negatives with 35mm and MF cannot ever be printed on anything larger than 8x10 paper.

    I am fortunate enough to work at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In memoriam of great photographer Richard Avedon, the Institute decided to hang a copy of his "Dovima with Elephants" from 1979. More of his work will be displayed.
    This print is HUGE, probably 4x5 foot, and my my is that image impressive. Grain is so tight that I suspect it's made with 8x10 equipment, but I could be wrong. It could be some ludicrously finegrained film and 4x5. Either way, this humongous print is very very impressive, it takes my breath away.

    With all else said in this thread, I think Tom Duffy put it best:
    "I think we need to strive to take pictures that would be good irrespective of the format used, otherwise it's more self-therapy than communication."
    I don't mind self therapy, it's the reason many people are into photography. My dad is an excellent photographer, but he has never showed his work to anyone but a few of us family members who bumped into him in his darkroom. He does it for himself, and to him that's important.

    However, drifting off the thread here. I too think all formats are valid, and that the best possible quality should try to be obtianed no matter which format is used. Since Henri Cartier-Bresson passed away, there has been a small exhibit here at the museum with 7 of his best prints, and they are fairly large, between 11x14 and 16x20, it's hard to tell. But they are from 35mm and they are gorgeous!

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
    I really disagree with this. I have a very good medium format that will make excellent 11x14's that rival even a 4x5 printed at 11x14. The 4x5 has the edge when I go up to 16x20. Many would not know the difference between my 16x20's from the medium format and the 4x5, but I do. To lump all medium format into the same catagory is wrong. Of course you might mean a 645 negative verses a 6x7 which is almost twice the size. Not all medium formats are created equal.
    Non Digital Diva

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