35mm big enough for quality prints?
Hi, got a question about 35mm film format. I currently use a Nikon F3 and assorted Nikkor glass in addition to a Bessa L I just purchased for street photography. What with a prolonged period of bad technique and the current climate of hysteria I'm thinking of chucking street work and moving into more "artistic" ventures, landscapes, architecture etc. My question is, if mounted on a tripod is my gear good enough to make decent prints, to a reasonable size from? I don't particularly want to sell the lot and invest in medium format unless I have to. If 35mm is good enough what B&W film would you reccommend?
Define good enough and big enough. Reality is you're the ony one who can make those choices. Personally I find 35mm limited when compared to MF. But that doesn't mean you can't make good prints with 35mm. Just they'll look like 35mm prints.
You can make a really nice 11X14 and up to 16X20 with most slow B&W films such as Pan F, Delta or Tmax 100. Chosing 35mm vs. M/F or L/F is not just about film size. A view camera or older tech/press camera like a Hoseman has prespecitve control, tilt, lift and swing.
Good Morning, Lol999,
It depends partly on your definition of "reasonable size." My own view is that 35mm gear, used properly and with good processing technique, can produce excellent prints up to 8 x 10 and good prints up to 11 x 14. A lot depends on how tolerant you are of grain. To me, it always seems like work to get high-quality prints, especially 8 x 10 or larger, from 35mm. With 6 x 7 negatives, the image just seems to fall onto the paper with minimal effort; that's even more the case with LF. I guess there's no free lunch: either you have the ease and flexibility of 35mm accompanied by lots of care and effort in the darkroom, or you have the weight, effort, and awkwardness of LF offset by easier darkroom work.
As others have said, it depends what you mean! Black and white is quite different to colour. Shooting colour I wouldn't dream of using less than medium format but the sort of images I print in black and white generally benefit from grain and the slightly soft nature of a bigger enlargement.
I generally don't go beyond 9.5x12 for 35mm but take a look at the work of Eddie Ephraums who, for many years, used a Nikon FM2 and always printed at 16x20. His images look fantastic with pronounced grain. He actually used 35mm because he liked the grainy appearance of his large prints.
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Modern films look pretty good, even when enlarged from 35mm. The difference is even more striking in C-41, due to the lack of grain and amazing technology Kodak and Fuji have built into their colour products.
I get pretty nice 11x14 out of Tri-X 400 in XTOL, but I can also get very nice stuff from Efke in Rodinal. The grain varies a lot between the two, but both will look good in their own way.
What is important when you print from a small negative is to get proper contrast. Too many people end up with flat, ugly stuff when they enlarge a lot. You need to get proper exposure, development, proper paper grade, a good paper developer, know how to dodge and burn, etc.
If your goal is to get the smooth tones of MF or LF, forget about it, it just won't happen. But you can make excellent full-scale prints if you set your heart to it.
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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I print 16x20's from 35mm all the time. Usually full frame 35mm. Most of the film I use is 400 speed shot at 200, processed d76/1:1
Thanks everyone for your replies and guidance it gives me hope for my hobby/obsession! Health issues make it difficult for me to put the miles in for the type of candid street stuff I like to do so with a bit of tailoring of style and this new outlet I can satisfy my need to burn film.
On a side note I don't develop or print my own film, can anyone reccommend a decent lab in the UK for one off prints if I take something nice?
Paul Kozal uses a Nikon F-100 for some of his work.
I just want to say - take a look at the prints made from the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. It's 35mm work, and if you can find a print of his work you will be dumbfounded by the quality of it.
Quality is a word loaded with interpretation. I love grain and have enlarged my Tri-X negatives to 11x14 inch size and I'm very happy with the prints. I have seen stunning prints in 20x24 from 35mm originals (Tri-X in D76). It takes a lot of practice to print that large with good results, but with the right work flow and technique in every step of the creation of the work, you can indeed print large from 35mm in a soul satisfying way.
It's kind of like listening to music via a really good turntable and LPs. It can and will sometimes surpass the sound of the best digital music players, and when you listen you don't pay attention to things like surface noise, you just marvel at the musicality and how alive the music sounds. Same as a Cartier-Bresson print. Trust me, you will not be looking at the grain.
With that said, it's probably easier to make a good print from a medium- or large-format negative. You just have to get along with what you think is good enough.
"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