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  1. #1
    Snapshot's Avatar
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    Resolution Limits of 35mm Photography

    Hi All,

    I have a general question/comment regarding the practical resolution limit of 35mm pictures. It is my impression that it is usually the lens that is the limiting factor for maximum sharpness in 35mm image capture. A good lens can resolve about 80 lp/mm or more while many other standard lenses struggle to attain 50 lp/mm. Other individuals have commented that the film is typically the limiting factor and I would agree that some films are not capable of resolving much above 40 lp/mm but many can resolve over 100 lp/mm. Furthermore, other argue that the aperture ratio limits what can be resolved, with apertures of f/22 limiting resolution to about 70 lp/mm due to diffraction.

    I must admit I'm quite skeptical of individuals claiming their DSLR superior to film because their 10MP camera is supposedly capable of resolving 200 lp/mm. Doubtful, especially when their lens can barely resolve more than 50 lp/mm. So, I guess my question is what in your opinion is the prime limiter of image resolution for 35mm? My perspective is that the lens limits 35mm photographic resolution. You can adjust your aperture and you can use film with good resolving capabilities but you are basically stuck with what your lens can resolve.
    Last edited by Snapshot; 03-05-2007 at 05:36 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    "The secret to life is to keep your mind full and your bowels empty. Unfortunately, the converse is true for most people."

  2. #2

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    How many times do you shoot at f/22? I sure don't do it often.

    Also, f/22 means that focal length divided by 22. It would be more useful to measure the actual size of diaphragm opening in this case.

  3. #3

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    I'm resolved to whatever resolution I can get regardless of the medium.

    But one thing I can say, I rarely even shoot at f/22 with 35mm. A lens is far sharper in the middle of the f/stop scale.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  4. #4
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    If you're that concerned about it, I'd worry about a solid tripod and a remote release with MLU (if appropriate) before I worried about the lens. Obviously a soft lens is a soft lens, but hand-holding a squillion-line lens at 1/30 on an SLR will still be soft.

    If you really, really cared about resolution, you wouldn't be shooting 135 in the first place, you'd be shooting wet plates on a monster tripod with crazily expensive lenses. If sharpness and resolution were all that mattered in photography, we could all go out and buy the sharpest lens available, put it on a vibration-dampened tripod, shoot one wet plate of a resolution chart, and call it a day, secure in the knowledge that we'd made the best photograph ever. Since they're not, why not just go with whatever gives you the results you're happy with?

    If you're not happy with the resolution you're getting with 135, go to medium format, change the way you shoot, or don't enlarge as much.

    There is no universal "better". Technical mumbo-jumbo aside, maybe DSLRs *are* better for some people to accomplish what they want to accomplish. I'd let them do their thing and worry about what *you* want to accomplish.

  5. #5
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snapshot View Post
    So, I guess my question is what in your opinion is the prime limiter of image resolution for 35mm?
    The sharpness of the photographer's mind.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  6. #6
    kunihiko's Avatar
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    >>what in your opinion is the prime limiter of image resolution for 35mm?

    Camera shake.
    kunihiko kario

  7. #7

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    Good 35mm lenses can out resolve anything you might want. But you won't be shooting at F/22. F/4,F/5.6 or maybe F/8.

    Can you get this all to the film? No.

    Biggest problem with 35mm is the enlargement factor. You aren't going to record more lp/mm with a bigger camera. But you'll enlarge less. Inches matter just like in racing.

    You could try and turn a 35mm camera into a tripod camera. That will help you get all you can out of the lenses etc. But why? If you're tied to a tripod it's not much harder to mount a slightly bigger 645 or a much bigger 6x7 camera to the tripod. Then inches matter again.

    Use 35mm for what it's good at. Speed.

  8. #8
    Snapshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
    The sharpness of the photographer's mind.
    Then I guess its fuzzy pictures for me.
    "The secret to life is to keep your mind full and your bowels empty. Unfortunately, the converse is true for most people."

  9. #9

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    why even be concerned, does any of this matter if you are producing work that you value

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Heath View Post
    why even be concerned, does any of this matter if you are producing work that you value
    I concur.

    Seems to me you're seeking a justification for using film that isn't required.

    Whether film can out res digi at 35mm (m/l since not all DSLRs are true 35mm) is less important than what you like to do.

    In the pro fields - the "workflow" of a DSLR is superior enough to overcome any disadvantages against a similar film image. Look at your daily newspaper - none of the photos "res" high enough to matter. If I were a pro PJ - I'd have to shoot digi - it gets the image into the paper faster - and that's all that matters.

    Shoot what you enjoy, whatever it is....

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