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  1. #1
    Arcturus's Avatar
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    Large format, small print?

    Does anyone else notice a difference between LF printed to 8x10, vs MF or 35mm? Sometimes I think I'm wasting my time printing 4x5 negs to 8x10 but I think they look better. I mean, 35mm enlarged to 8x10 will give very high quality results, even with a 400 speed film like HP5+ or Tri-X, but the LF 8x10's seem to have a bit of "magic" to them. I think I notice a difference when comparing it to MF enlargements also. I'm not sure if I'm imagining it because of all the effort it takes to shoot and process LF though. Does anyone else notice a difference at 8x10 between the formats or am I crazy?

  2. #2
    Rick A's Avatar
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    I print 4x5 to 8x10 all the time, the results are grainless and stunning. The only thing better would be 8x10 contact print. I also contact print 4x5, and enlarge to 5x7 and 11x14. I don't print anthing larger.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum

  3. #3

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    you aren't imagining anything -- a large format negative contains more information that your brain appreciates even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye -- enlarged small or medium format negatives have the same image, and maybe you don't see the grain, but your brain is filling in gaps left by smaller negatives when they are enlarged, while a large format negative has a lot few gaps and more information.

  4. #4
    Arcturus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by summicron1 View Post
    you aren't imagining anything -- a large format negative contains more information that your brain appreciates even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye -- enlarged small or medium format negatives have the same image, and maybe you don't see the grain, but your brain is filling in gaps left by smaller negatives when they are enlarged, while a large format negative has a lot few gaps and more information.
    This must be it. I spent some time examining prints under a loupe trying to figure out why I always like the LF 8x10's better, but there were very few quantifiable differences at that size. MF is grainless, and 35mm is pretty close to grainless at this size, but there is something in the tones of the 4x5's that just gives them a wow factor. I'd always just kept the LF gear in reserve for times when I needed a large print, but I think I'll be using it for more subjects now.

  5. #5
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    I can easily see the difference between a 35mm negative enlarged to 8x10 and a MF or LF. At least, that's true if the 35mm is typical - shot hand held, with fairly fast film. Use a fine grain film like TMX or Delta 100 or Acros, lock the mirror up, and shoot off a tripod, IOW treat it like LF and the difference is a lot less but still there.

    I'm much less certain of the difference between my medium format negs enlarged to 8x10 and my 4x5 negs. 11x14 starts to show up more, especially from 400 film, but the difference is still not stark. 16x20 really shows the advantage of 4x5, though medium format negatives printed 16x20 look excellent. 35mm...eh, depends on the subject as well as film, how it was shot etc. but it's a very rare 35mm negative that I'm personally happy with at that size.

  6. #6

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    This is one of those Godzilla versus Bambi questions. Splatt, squisssh! Size matters.

  7. #7
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DREW WILEY View Post
    This is one of those Godzilla versus Bambi questions. Splatt, squisssh! Size matters.
    LF versus 35mm, I agree. LF versus MF, it's not always so clear. Good MF lenses are often better than at least some of the lenses we tend to use on LF. Film is rarely as flat in a 4x5 holder as in a MF camera with a pressure plate. And an 8x10 from a 6x7 negative is only a 3.4x enlargement (by name size, not actual frame size which I don't feel like looking up - close enough) versus 2x from 4x5. The difference there, in my experience, is far from stark or obvious. Go up to 16x20 and it's a different story.

  8. #8
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    I'm in agreement the difference is noticeable between 35mm and 5x4, much less so between 120 and 5x4.

    Ian

  9. #9
    ROL
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcturus View Post
    ...or am I crazy?
    Maybe a tad irrational.

    What is this "LF" you speak so casually of? An 8x10 negative contact will certainly look better, in some ways – however appreciated, than a 4x5, 5x7 or 6x7 enlarged to an 8x10 print. That's why people love contacts (along with a possible requirement to print without an enlarger). But better by all criteria? By who's judgement? Yes detailed, one hopes, but of what import. An enlarged 35mm of aesthetic composition and/or historical significance leaves otherwise lovely "LF" prints as no more than testaments to the pretentions of unfocused shooters. The right tool can certainly make a difference in a fine print in the hands and mind of a focused photographer

    8x10 prints are normally, with the exception of contacts, simply too small to make rational judgements about the fineness of a print with regard to format, particularly in the hands of a skilled printer and talented photographer. It is for this reason that I do not make fine art prints smaller than 11x14, in any format. My reasons to use "LF" are based on process first, subject and composition second, followed by enlarge-ability. You may be seeing, because you are close to your process, what others will simply never notice.

    Here is an example of a scene shot on 35mm film, revisited many years later with "LF", same hour and season. The 35mm was ultra contrasty, printable to 16x20 only on warm tone papers, and eventually retired in favor of the fully tonal fine art print "LF" version – printed up to 30x40. Both scans are from 8x10 proof prints (cold tone).


    Trail, Tuolumne Grove (35mm)


    Trail, Tuolumne Grove (5x7)

  10. #10

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    Indeed 4X5 printed to 8X10 can be about as stunning as a contact print if the original negative was critically sharp. I think the resolution of the negative really drives the visual impact. The quality of the taking lens and the enlarging lens is most important.

    I think understanding this is fairly simple. If you are really fussy about your 4X5 negative you'll pick a hyperfocal distance based on a COC of say 20 or 30 Ám for example. If you are successful in recording this level of detail on film then a 2X enlargement of a 4X5 will yield a 40 to 60 Ám COC on paper - easily beyond the resolution of the eye with a view distance of a foot or so. For 35 mm originals at the same COC enlarged to 8X one has a COC on paper of 160 to 240 Ám which will show a bit of fuzziness at a foot viewing distance.

    OTOH a very high quality 35 mm lens might be able to achieve a 10 Ám COC (at least over a flat field) which at an 8X enlargement would yield an 80 Ám COC on print and be about critically sharp at a foot viewing distance.

    It's just a matter of how sharp the negative is and the degree of enlargement. Actually one needs to apply a Nyquist limit to the enlarger lens such that the resolution on paper is degraded more than my figures above by Rt = 1/Rl + 1/Re. And in addition some papers are inherently low resolution due to different surface textures. Well, there are numerous variables here.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.

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