Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
More detail could be a nice theoretical bonus but 4x5 isn't a huge improvement over 6x7 in that department and it's swamped by differences in film technology. For example, 6x7 Acros is about 35c/frame, 4x5 Fomapan (Arista) is 70c/frame and 4x5 TMX/Acros is $1.80/frame. Going to LF approximately doubles the film cost for no increase in resolution, or you can increase $$ by 6x for about one extra stop of detail. Similar price ratio (4x) for shooting E6 and about 7x if you want to shoot C41, still for just that one extra stop of detail.
I'm not sure if it makes sense to talk about "stop[s] of detail", because the way we view images is so nonlinear. As far as information in the frame goes, the difference isn't enormous---a factor of 3 between 6x7 and 4x5, given equal film resolution---but clearly a lot of people find the visual impact of that modest difference to be disproportionate, perhaps because it crosses some critical perceptual threshold for them.

In any case, I think "detail per frame" is more important than "detail per unit area" in practice (I think that's what you're comparing above; Acros apparently costs twice as much per unit area in 4x5 as in MF, right?). One of the points of shooting large format is precisely to enlarge less, i.e., to put more film area in the image; of course that costs more per frame, and of course it doesn't make the underlying resolution of the film any higher, but it does deliver more film resolution to the viewer.

In short: It's not that you double your cost (per unit area) to keep the same resolution, it's that you sextuple your cost to triple your resolution. Diminishing returns to be sure, but somewhat offset if, like many of us, you get a higher fraction of keepers in LF.

I'm also a recovering technophile so I enjoy the challenge of using (and getting the most out of) complex toys and while that's a bad reason to choose a particular artistic approach/technology, I'm pretty sure it applies to a lot of LF users. It probably doesn't matter though as long as the technology isn't actively holding you back - I make a point of using more-appropriate toys when taking more-spontaneous photos like candid portraits in poor light, or travelling around the world.
Yeah, I'd agree with all that, except that I'm not sure technophilia is necessarily something to "recover" from. Complicated toys are fun; they're not the only thing in the world, to be sure, but they're fun. And I think some of us actually like the challenge of using nominally inappropriate toys, just out of cussedness. I know I do.

-NT