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  1. #1
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Lower & upper limits of acceptable image quality

    Watching "Bunny" Hanson pull a Disc camera from his shirt pocket... And recalling my own fascination with the Pocket Instamatic when it was first released (I craved the Model 60 but bought the Model 20 and studied the manual cover to cover so I knew to change shutter speed with a matchstick when shooting in the rain)...

    Got me to thinking about the lower limits of acceptable image quality. And the upper limits. And what beginners should shoot. And what standards you might wish you had upheld from the get-go.

    I wasn't concerned with image quality when I first started out. I was satisfied with the 110 Pocket Instamatic for a few years. I shot smaller cameras (mom had a "Hit" camera) and larger (she also had a Ricohflex). I didn't even respect the negatives. In the darkroom I'd cut the 6x6 negative with scissors to fit the American Science Club kit of the month enlarger.

    I got hooked on 35mm when dad got the Spotmatic II and for dozens of years I didn't see a need to shoot 120 or 4x5 (though I dabbled in these). 35mm did all I wanted and it was professionally accepted.

    Something flipped a few years after I got married. My wife showed me her parents wedding album and asked me to make copies for the family. Sure I knew how to do this... Just as when I was 14, I got the 35mm, macro, copystand, clip bulbs and Panatomic-X and made terrific copies of the prints. I made the prints on Galerie and the family all have them now... But I could immediately see a generation loss of quality, and it got my goat.

    Approaching my 50th birthday (few years ago now...) asked if I could have any camera in the world... I knew digital was overtaking 35mm, but wasn't there yet (my opinion), so the last camera I'd ever need, had to be 4x5. (Left out the fact that my career gave me access to tools to work with 300mb files, but I was only able to make 30mb fuzzy files from my 35mm slides - the only way to get better digital files was scanning backs... and a local photographer already was making his reputation on that path).

    So to be different and better, I picked 4x5. I decided all the shots I take from now on, that might be done as well on a Pocket Instamatic, I'm going to do on 4x5 whether it needs it or not. If I nail a shot, then I really have something. If I get just a snapshot, that's fine.

    I'd found out, that the converse really isn't a good place to be... Nailing a shot with a Minox... Not really going to be up on the wall... Maybe I'll post an example.

  2. #2
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    West Fork Work Crew

    Pocket Instamatic 20, Verichrome Pan

    L-R, Rob Griffith, Rick Wright, Gene Griffith, Bill Burk, Dean Bender, Pat Bender

    Section of the Pacific Crest Trail, Angeles Forest. We wrapped the rocks in gabeons and I can still remember how sore my wrists were from twisting the wire ties with a hook hundreds of times.

  3. #3
    EASmithV's Avatar
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    Sounds like someone needs a Graflex.
    www.EASmithV.com

    "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."— Dorothea Lange
    http://www.flickr.com/easmithv/
    RIP Kodachrome

  4. #4
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Interesting thoughts Bill.

    For me the threshold is more about content than, to put it simplistically, resolution and perfect sharpness.

    For the shot you present, the formality & setup would have lent itself nicely to a 4x5 negative. That said, the shot works for me as is, simply because of the content and fuzzy presentation.

    The best way I think I can put this is that memory isn't always sharp and the fuzziness places a marker in your life's timeline. The photo "fits" the story.

    I think this is one example of why I lean "Pictorialist" rather than f/64.

    Even with new work where I want sharp subject matter, I don't want the context that the subject matter sits in overly defined. Life isn't that well defined and I want to let the viewer fill in the blanks from their history.

    Too much clarity makes me ask myself technical questions (Where? What film? ...) instead of connecting emotionally.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  5. #5
    Diapositivo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    I decided all the shots I take from now on, that might be done as well on a Pocket Instamatic, I'm going to do on 4x5 whether it needs it or not. If I nail a shot, then I really have something. If I get just a snapshot, that's fine.

    I'd found out, that the converse really isn't a good place to be... Nailing a shot with a Minox... Not really going to be up on the wall... Maybe I'll post an example.
    4x5 will not allow you to take pictures with the same speed, simplicity and "readiness" (which, as we know, "is all") allowed by a Pocket Instamatic. Size is the result of a balance between technical quality and readiness.

    My tought:
    The minimum quality is the one below which one wouldn't gain any operative gain (in "readiness") for the pictures he's going to take.
    The maximum quality is the one above which one wouldn't gain any visible quality gain for the final use he's going to make of the picture.

    The quality of a Microfilm Minox was not low for the intended purpose so "Cicero"*, the Turk spy, was right in using it.
    On the other hand taking pictures for news with a LF camera pays a price in "readiness" and does not give any advantage in marketability.

    In the stock photography milieu there is, it seems by reading some forum, a tendency to favour APS-C or Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless cameras to gain "readiness". The little amount of quality one has to let on the table is a little price to pay as in stock photography good enough is good enough (more than that is very rarely leading to a sale, subject prevails by a large margin over technical quality).

    * Elias Bazna, or Elyesa Bazna, or Iliaz Bazna in Albanian as he was an Albanian of Kosovo.
    Last edited by Diapositivo; 09-15-2012 at 09:16 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Real name of Cicero
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

  6. #6
    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    Quality and size of negative are simply a choice of the photographer but intrinsically they are meaningless. I have stopped worrying about such trivia a long time ago. I shoot 35mm, medium format, and now a Leica Monochrom as well. I worry about content and finding moments, light, things worth photographing, not whether a 4x5 or 8x10 negative would give me an edge in any respect. It doesn't. Viewers don't care, buyers don't care. Mostly, I don't. We can all use any of the tools we chose to use, but at the end of the day, it is the print of an interesting image that matters, regardless of the medium used. As an example, I just paid $3,000 for these prints, taken by Vivian in 1955 with her Contax and Tri-X, on the 3rd avenue El train and during the dismantling. Could not have been taken with a 4x5, 8x10 (fleeting moments, not posed shots), it would not make a difference, and no one really cares. http://www.thelionheartgallery.com/A...694&NewID=3488, http://www.thelionheartgallery.com/A...694&NewID=3495

  7. #7
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Good thoughts Fabrizio.

    I have a buddy that used to shoot stock car racing on 4x5, don't remember what camera but it used a system something like grafmatic holders and was self cocking. As I remember, he said he could shoot off all six sheets in a 10-second pit stop.

    Weegee and others did a fair amount of news reporting on 4x5 too.

    My point is simply that photographic opportunities are typically made, not taken.

    The old adage of f/8 and be there comes to mind. This fits with your thought on stock photography, content rules.

    I'm not advocating a pure 4x5 approach, the operative gain you speak of is real.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  8. #8
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    ansel adams, a fanatic about sharpnessnailed it when he said :there is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  9. #9

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    nice story and great photograph bill
    i think there are different tools for different situations ..
    and there are situations regarding display and presentation as well.
    a lot of photographs made on smaller format cameras look great when not enlarged
    extremely large ( and some look great enlarged to 16x20, but viewing distance is "back a few feet" )
    and a lot of photographs made with a 4x5 or larger camera .. well they are technically nice to look at
    but don't have the magic moment effect that can be had with a smaller camera.
    a lot of photography that 99% of what people do is to capture a memory they don't want to forget ..
    a place, the way the sun hit the hills behind their house, a tornado, friends, family, workmates &c ( sorry to sound cheezy but "kodak moments" )
    and to me at least, any level of image quality is acceptable. ...
    in a photo album small is nice, and if the same 110 image is enlarged to 20x24 ... it probably has a beautiful impressionistic feel to it

    john
    Last edited by jnanian; 09-15-2012 at 08:55 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: its a story not a store !

  10. #10
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EASmithV View Post
    Sounds like someone needs a Graflex.
    Exactly! I passed on one at a garage sale, which I regret...

    But I did go back later and buy the guy's 6-foot stainless steel darkroom sink.

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