How does the 35mm SLR perform with landscapes?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by joule, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. joule

    joule TPF Noob!

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    I have for now, just the written word of those with experience to go by. So I welcome all input:

    From the writers in old magazine articles and postings on other sites, I gather that the combination of 35mm SLR and colour negative film is not recommended for shooting landscapes. The advice suggests the format is too small and that Medium format (or above, I believe) is required. As proof, they point to photos and the credits associated with them as published in major magazines.

    The question is, does this mean that 35mm film is a poor choice for landscapes as a whole, or is it relative to printing and to the largest size that would be of acceptable quality?
    Or is it a matter of the working photographers’ choice as compared to those who shoot at leisure for the art form itself?

    Do 35mm specialists shoot landscapes in this format at all?

    Further, can a DSLR produce good results in landscapes while the specs indicate that the image capturing component is smaller than a frame of 35mm film?

    I’m concluding that it must be the skill of the photographer but I am not sure.
    I’ve always thought that the incredible landscapes in the magazines were done with 35mm. So much for assumptions!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    35mm film is certainly capable of capturing good landscape shots....heck, even a cell phone camera can do that. The question is what do you want to do with the image.

    35mm film is probably good enough for most magazine applications, but if you wanted to print a large 'fine art' print...then the higher quality of medium or large format film will certainly make a difference. It's simple physics, the larger the film you have to work with, the larger you can make the print...before the degradation of detail becomes unacceptable. Now of course, 'unacceptable' is a subjective term...what's good to you might not be good to me or vice versa. Viewing distance should be considered as well. A billboard doesn't need a lot of detail because it's viewed from a long way away. A print hanging on a wall, might be viewed much closer.

    As for digital, the same principle still holds true (for the most part)...bigger recording medium is better. This is why the highest quality digital SLR cameras (in the 35mm format) have 'full frame' sensors that are the same size as 35mm film. Even bigger sensors are found in digital medium format cameras.
    However, even the 'crop sensor' DLSR cameras (which is most of them) can produce enough quality for very good large prints.
    There are other factors of course. The quality of the film used, the quality of the lens used and certainly the skill of the photographer. Digital introduces many other factors as well. Every new generation of digital cameras is better than the last, and while more mega pixels doesn't necessarily equate to better quality, it does make it easier to make large prints.

    So I wouldn't say that 35mm film or even a 'crop sensor' DSRL is a bad choice for a landscape photographer...but it depends on the final goal or requirements of the images.
     
  3. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    :thumbup:
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I think there are multiple reasons for the popularity of medium and large format film for landscape photography. As has been mentioned bigger film tends to make nicer big prints, and big prints is where most of the money is in landscape photography. Traditional landscape photographs are often rich with fine detail, so fine grain is preferred. The more a neg has to be enlarged the bigger the grain gets. An 8"x10" print from ISO 400 4x5 is almost grainless; grain in the same size print from 35mm will be much more noticeable.

    Another reason is that 35mm cameras are mostly SLRs and point-n-shoots, while there are a variety of medium and large format camera designs. Some of these have features that landscape photographers find useful such as view camera movements and composing on a ground glass. There are a bunch of really cool medium format panoramic cameras.

    But the fact is that exciting, compelling, visually interesting subject matter is what's really important. Most folks won't complain about a little grain if you catch fantastic light. On the other hand I've seen plenty of technically perfect, yet mostly uninteresting photos from large format. Just off the top of my head Galen Rowell and Dean Brown were famous landscape photographers who worked mostly with 35mm. They wanted the freedom of movement compact gear allowed. Brett Weston shot 8x10 film, and he claimed he never went more than 500' from his car. :) Film quality has only been improving. The 35mm film you can use today will look almost as clean as the medium format of Dean Brown's day.

    You are also under no obligation to remain within the box of traditional landscape photography. Who says it has to be lots of DOF, fine grain/details, etc...? Do what turns you on, and don't worry about the rest of us sheep. ;)

    I think DSLRs rock for landscape photography. I get much bigger, cleaner, sharper enlargements from my Canon 20D than I ever did from 35mm, and soon after acquiring a 5D I put much of my medium format film gear up for auction. I fully expect to see 4x5 film image quality in an affordable, hand holdable DSLR in the next decade. The processing options are amazing. I find the ability to merge and stitch exposures to work great for my landscape photography. I didn't like graduated ND filters, because they never really fit the horizon in my world, but with digital I just shoot one exposure for the sky, and one for the foreground, and merge them (or one raw file processed multiple times). HDR for more dynamic range. Stitching for huge resolution. More than ever I'm able to achieve my vision in print.
     
  5. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :thumbup:

    Well said.

    It depends on the print size you are going for. 35mm film is not bad for landscape. You should use fine grain film though, this usually helps a lot.

    I myself shoot landscape with 35mm for ages, film (slide film, Fuji Velvia), and now also digital. Of course both cannot compete with large format, but you can achieve magazine print quality.
     

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