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?
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.
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.
The sharpest film I know is Kodak Technical Pan, developed in Rodinal.
Not sure that exists in the size you need.
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 .
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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.
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.
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.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
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.)
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.