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  1. #1

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    Advantages of MF over 35mm

    I was wondering at what level of enlargement you think you can see the advantage of medium format over 35mm? I ask because I set myself this little task and compared 35mm and 6x7 like for like and was rather surprised by the result. To put it into context, I mainly shoot Nikon 35mm, usually prime lenses and usually on a tripod, but when I have the time I like to take out my Mamiya RB67. I shoot Ilford HP5 and FP4, Velvia and Portra on both formats. I process and print my own monochrome, but send out the colour work to a good lab. I tend to enlarge mostly to 10"x8" with occasional images up to 12"x16". I know quality is not the prime consideration sometimes, there are so many other things that make a photo great but I was using this as an exercise to judge when to take a 35mm outfit out with me vs the heavier medium format. Really I was using it as a justification to myself and to my familiy why I was lugging around the RB67.

  2. #2
    jp498's Avatar
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    I shoot mostly iso400 film, and good iso400 film at that. I'm not into crunchy 1970's grain/grit aesthetic so I use films like tmax400 and acros100. 6x6 MF is so much smoother and cleaner than 35mm. I also do a lot of LF, so I like smooth tones. If you don't enlarge past 8x10, perhaps 35mm is fine. I like slightly larger than that sometimes. If you're shooting live activities the 35mm versatility and speed might be good. If you're taking the time to use a tripod, etc. then MF is going to be a big step up in quality.

  3. #3

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    Well I did a partially blind comparison in that I got a bunch of prints and compared side by side and sorted them into piles of either 'really nice and sharp' vs 'fine but not as good as the others' then went back to the negatives and saw which were from 35mm and which from 6x7. I was surprised to find that there was a difference even in 5"x7" prints. I thought I might start to see differences at about 10"x8" so I was a little surprised to see it in even these smaller prints. Obviously the RB67 is suited to some types of photography and the 35mm to others but it was interesting to see the difference in prints that small. The difference for me was in the tonality, hard to define really, but there was a smoothness to the prints from medium format. For me, that's the justification for taking out the RB67 when I can.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by xtolsniffer View Post
    Well I did a partially blind comparison in that I got a bunch of prints and compared side by side and sorted them into piles of either 'really nice and sharp' vs 'fine but not as good as the others' then went back to the negatives and saw which were from 35mm and which from 6x7. I was surprised to find that there was a difference even in 5"x7" prints. I thought I might start to see differences at about 10"x8" so I was a little surprised to see it in even these smaller prints. Obviously the RB67 is suited to some types of photography and the 35mm to others but it was interesting to see the difference in prints that small. The difference for me was in the tonality, hard to define really, but there was a smoothness to the prints from medium format. For me, that's the justification for taking out the RB67 when I can.
    You should see the tones you get from an 8x10 negative, contact printed.

  5. #5
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    Here's the question, xtolsniffer: You enlarge up to 12x16. Do YOU see a difference in your prints?

    If you don't see a difference at the size you like, then I'd say you have your answer. However, I know there can be many reasons for hauling around the RB67 (I have a Pro-S and it's my main shooter!).

    Shoot what's most fun to you. That's what matters. That should be justification enough!

  6. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Advantages of MF over 35mm

    I think this is a controversial subject, because it's in the eye of the beholder what is good.
    With 35mm everything becomes more critical, because it's magnified more, so the it's absolutely critical that everything is perfectly aligned, that your negatives are optimal, and extra care must be taken at printing time, etc.
    35mm has a few things going for it, like lens resolution. Some films today are so good that medium format lenses start to run out of resolution before the film does, which isn't necessarily true with 35mm lenses. So sharpness should never be an issue.
    But we can never get away from the fact that 35mm will not offer tone shifts that are as smooth as those from a larger neg. if you like really smooth tonality you need the larger negative.

    Personally I have series of pictures that contain prints from 35mm and 120 both, and I'm perfectly happy showing them side by side. Only you can answer what sort of quality you like in your prints. For me, I actually prefer what I get from 35mm up to 16x20" (I can't print larger in my darkroom) for the most part, but the quality is so good from both that camera choice becomes a choice of what the lens does and how the camera makes me work, rather than worrying about print quality. You ought to be using the camera, the tool, that fits the description of what you wish to achieve. Then use your best technique to get what you want, and that is down to taste and individual work flow.
    "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

  7. #7
    Aron's Avatar
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    Printing from a larger negative is always a luxurious experience. In my opinion, if one is after really fine tonality, then it's got to be a no more than 3-4x enlargement, even if an 8-10x enlargement will barely show any grain from a Pan F+/Acros/TMX/etc. negative. I often enlarge my 35 mm negatives considerably, but even at 8x10" a full frame 6x6 image will print with considerably more delicacy, than 35 mm.

    Whenever I can think a little before grabbing the shot, I reach for my TLR.

    For me the real question is not MF or 35 mm, but LF or MF.

    Shooting Delta 3200 in old medium format cameras with lenses that need to be stopped down well is great fun, BTW.

  8. #8

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    I have 10x8" prints on my wall from both MF and 35mm, very little difference to my eye at normal viewing distance.

  9. #9
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    This will depend on the film and developer used, but I think with 9,5x12" you will see a clear difference at first glance even with films like Delta 100. Maybe already at 8x10" if you use Hp5+ or Delta 3200.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slixtiesix View Post
    This will depend on the film and developer used, but I think with 9,5x12" you will see a clear difference at first glance even with films like Delta 100. Maybe already at 8x10" if you use Hp5+ or Delta 3200.
    With good negatives from both formats and good printing technique, the difference is very apparent at 8x10 inches. Films like Techpan and Panatomic-X were the best for smooth tones.

    The difference in quality between 35mm and 6x7/6x9 is very pronounced, more so than the difference between MF and 4x5.

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