Why larger film

Discussion in 'Medium Format & Large Format' started by christopher walrath, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A FILMvDIGITAL THREAD (though it may sound like it)
    Hi, all. Just wanted to put a few new threads here. Tryin to get some LF banter going. Though about this one. I know some of you are thinking why film in the first place? It's outmoded, archaic and just plain creepy (old guys hanging out in rooms with the lights turned out and the fumes). Some of you are wondering, simply, why large film?

    Well, it's all about vision. I have to tell you that there is something for me of being able to look at a negative without a jeweler's loupe and be able to clearly see it. There is a lot of detail in a film negative that is impossible to get in a digital file. I don't care if it is the 40mp back that you put on a Hassy (which is admittedly the only way I would go digital, and then only to resell the back and get more cool stuff for the camera).

    Your 40MP digital image has 40 million pixels which can store image information and, as I readily admit and have seen, produces some striking enlargements, to a point. Not bad for a well focused 35mm negative.

    Now you're thinking 'Yeah, this guy's frickin lost it'. Well, duh! I'm a film photographer. Fixer is my friend.

    But a 35mm negative holds about 40 BILLION crystals of silver halides (silver salts) within the emulsion. That's 40 billion possible pieces of visual information for light to strike and convert to black metallic silver.

    No? Then I'll tell ya. That old Zeiss rangefinder that's been sittin' under your grandmother's teeth for ten years, yeah, that one. It's a forty-gigapixel camera. Without the accidentally erasable memory card. Yeah, 40GP. Got your attention now?

    Medium format, say 6cm x 4.5cm negative? 150GP camera.

    Large format, say, oh, i dunno, 4x5? 550 gigapixels.

    8x10? 2.2 TERRAPIXELS!

    Now I know that at a small size a 40MP image is very good, hell, so is a 6MP. As long as it's not much larger than 8x10. And the film negatives have to be in good focus as well. Film size does not replace a compitent photographer. Cameras don't take pictures. Photographers do. Give a 2-year-old a Toyo 4x5 view camera and Ansel Adams a 2.1 MP powershot and I guarentee that Adams' shot will be better. Film or digital, you have to have a clue as to what you're doing in order to get great images on a regular basis, regardless of equipment.
     
  2. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well said! Thank you.
     
  3. ShakeyBlakey

    ShakeyBlakey TPF Noob!

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    I am or was a digital sceptic, I have a pentax 67 that just gathers dust now, I find I can print an A3+(13"X19") photo from my Canon 1Ds 11MP with great results. Its very true that digital is a long way behind film such as Fuji Velvia 50iso or Ilford panx 50iso, but its not as bad as I first imagined.
    But I NOW like the convienience of digital but I'll keep the medium format for now.
    Best Wishes
    Mark
     
  4. CanAm

    CanAm TPF Noob!

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    Mind you that all those silver halides are condensed, there's film grain, and also that any bonus in clarity will be limited by the printer's resolution capacity!
     
  5. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    By resolution capacity I assume you are referring to someone in a traditional darkroom where your receiving medium is composed of silver halides as well? Or the little gnomes behind the cartridges in an HP.
     
  6. Bobby Ironsights

    Bobby Ironsights TPF Noob!

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    Absolutely,

    When I'm printing in my bathroom, my resolve only goes so far, before I just want to go to bed and cleanup the next day.
     
  7. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Film is better than digital? Digital is better than film?
    These are not arguments that you can win either way because they are different media.
    It's like a painter trying to argue that oils are better than watercolours. The end result of their use is a picture in both cases but they get there in different ways, produce different effects and give the viewer a different experience.
    The same is true of digital and film.
    They both produce pictures but in different ways and so give a different 'feel'. Just like video and motion picture film.
    Each offers certain advantages over the other as well as drawbacks.
    I like the immediacy of digital - I can see what I have got without having to spend a day or two in the darkroom (but then, I'm impatient). And I tend to approach digital as if I am shooting film - which brings me to the one big difference.
    Anyone can shoot digital.
    The camera and PP software do it all for you so that no skill, other than being able to click a few buttons, is needed to produce good results. Just look around the galleries here or on other websites for the evidence.
    But how many of these hot-shot digital photographers could come up with the goods if you gave them a LF camera and a darkroom?
    Few, if any.
    I'm sure they would argue, with some justification, that being able to shoot and process film isn't important in these digital days. But I'm afraid that anyone who calls themselves a photographer yet has never worked with film or who can't produce the same results that way is, in my view, not a real photographer.
    I'm probably an anachronism but I feel that, as any artist worthy of the name can draw equally well with a pencil, chalk or charcoal, so too should a person aspiring to be a photographer be proficient in both digital and film.
     
  8. ksmattfish

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

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    I think the same thing, except I draw the line at daguerreotype. Everything since then has been a dilution of the true craft, and everyone since Nicephore Niepce has been a poseur. ;)

    Here's how complicated they thought film was in 1902

    http://www.brownie-camera.com/posters/pages/014_1902.shtml
     
  9. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You seem to forget that there is also something like lenses.

    on 35mm your lenses will usually not give you a resolution which really makes use of your 40billion crystals. ... you can focus as well as you want, but you will not get it.
     
  10. Imaginara

    Imaginara TPF Noob!

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    well, im a film photographer turned digital and now recently turned back into film :)

    There are a few flaws with your argument which actually is on the films positive side. The megapixel ammount your camera handles is only a small part of the equation. Actually, most of the time it's not even pixels but rather the photosites on the sensor which digitize into a signal stream which is then converted and filtered and modified to create the final pixelized image. I wont go into the technical issues into any detail but will try to sumarize it with that the formula is size of sensor vs. ammount of photosites on the sensor which will affect how much interference and noise you will have in the final image (noise as in distorted signal, not as in "digital grain"). This is the issue with doing smaller and smaller sensors or cramming more and more "megapixels" or photosites into the same sensor-size.

    Film ofcourse is a entirely analog chemical process and not affected by this limitation and that means that film will have a higher resolution so far compared to any digital means. Now ofcourse, you can't really compare scanned negatives/slides to digital originals as you are then comparing the scanners sensor to the digital cameras sensor and not the actual filmstock. A better comparison would be to blow up a negative really large and print it and then compare it to a digital original printed on a high resolution printer.

    Now having said this, the speed of working digital is very very very very appreciated in todays work and thats why i think that less and less people continue with film. The clients (at least mine) most wants to get feedback right away, shooting tethered to a computer so a creative director or the stylist/designer can se directly how the shot looks. And ofcourse, when using high-end digital backs you do get a very good image, and it's definately debatable if it's not good enough (note that im not saying better than film because i dont think it is).

    So does this mean film is dead? Absolutely not. And i dont see it being dead for a long time since there are quite a few issues with digital still. Digital always require batteries, which film doesnt really (yay RB-67 :) which makes it easier to use in extreme situations & remote locations. Digital is expensive which film really isnt today. Would you take a used $1000 RB-67/645 (or hasselblad equiv ;9 medium format filmcamera into India or Africa? Would you bring your $25000 Phase one digital back with you? And apart from that, whenever you are not required to give instant feedback to a client, film is just so much more rewarding to work with.

    All of this ofcourse is my personal opinions and may change when proven wrong ;) But for now i'm shooting both digitally and film and enjoy both quite a lot.
     
  11. reg

    reg TPF Noob!

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    A silver crystal =/= a pixel.

    Therefore, 35mm is not 40 gigapixel and you can't do nearly as much as you could with a 40 gigapixel digital photo(if/when one ever exists).
     
  12. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Chris, you have your numbers and science backwards. 40 billion crystals doesn't mean anything. It's the space between crystals that is largely responsible for tones. The distance and shape of that space is what matters, be it flat/cubic, t-grained, epitaxial, etc.

    The native resolution of a good, moderate speed film is around 3000dpi. That can go up towards the 5000dpi neighborhood with very slow films, particularly chromes, ortho films, etc.

    Do the math by inches, you'll find that a clean 4x5 works out much more closely to 500MP than GP.
     

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