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Author Topic: DSLR to MF film - a good move?  (Read 16221 times)
jahern
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« on: January 18, 2007, 06:06:38 AM »
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I'm thinking of moving to medium format film from DSLR for landscape work and wonder if I'm mad even thinking of it.

I took up photography over 2 1/2years ago and used a DSLR from day one, I've never shot film.
My main interest is wildlife so the Canon system I've built up is great for this application. At the moment I have one camera a Canon 20D but looking at getting a second body. In the last few months by interest in landscape and macro has taken off so I was thinking of getting a 5D to go with the 20D, or maybe selling the 20D and going with a 1Ds MKI or 5D along with a 1D MKII.

Then I thought of medium format, it is something that I've become very curious about and there is a desire to try a bit of medium format film photography, I don't know why. I have a feeling that using the Canon digital gear makes me rush the landscape and macro stuff, all blazing away using the histogram to check exposure. I wonder if I was using film would it slow me down, make me concentrate a bit more on composition and expsoure a bit more.

I was looking at a Mamiya AFD 645II, along with a 35mm and 120mm macro lenses. There are plenty of second hand ones around and it has the option of taking a digital back. I could not afford a medium format digital back now, however I have an Epson 4870 scanner so was thinking over using that. From what I've seen and read film medium format and a 5D/1Ds are pretty close (but don't know how my flatbed scanner will compare to a drum scan).
Maybe in a year or two a used digital backs come down to the price of full frame DSLRs.
My only concern about Mamiya is the future of the company is unsure, so I would be worried about repairs etc.

So is looking a film medium format madness, or would using film for a while help improve my photography.

Thanks for replying in advance

John
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2007, 10:30:40 AM »
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I wonder if I was using film would it slow me down, make me concentrate a bit more on composition and expsoure a bit more.

Not likely. You can burn through a roll of film pretty quick if you aren't disciplined. If you shoot sloppy, you're going to get sloppy results no matter what camera you use. you just waste more money with film. Taking the time and care to get the shot right is a self-discipline issue, which comes from the photographer, not the camera. Buy a 5D or 1Ds, and you can improve on what you'd get from medium format film, and you won't have to go through the hassle of learning a defferent photographic meduim, as well as buying a new camera, lenses, scanner, and film and processing.

If you want to learn self-discipline, try going out on a photo trek with only one small memory card (like one of the cheapo 128MB Wal-Mart specials), and shoot RAW. You'll have to choose and expose your shots carefully, and you'll only need to spend about $35. That's way less than a MF system.
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ddolde
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2007, 10:33:26 AM »
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If you really want a quality increase over a DSLR go straight to 4x5 and skip medium format.  High end DSLRs are as good as or nearly as good as medium format now.

It WILL slow you down.  Sure it's a lot more work than digital but worth it at least to me.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2007, 10:38:28 AM »
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Slowing down is as much a matter of self discipline as of the camera format you are using.   You can slow down with a 35mm camera if you approach it like a 4x5. For example by reducing how many frames you can shoot, by composing over minutes instead of seconds, and by using a viewfinder to frame the scene or other external viewing aid, among other strategies.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 10:38:55 AM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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Ray
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2007, 10:40:39 AM »
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It WILL slow you down.  Sure it's a lot more work than digital but worth it at least to me.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=96380\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Can you amplify on that, Doug. Is it worth it to you because you personally appreciate the higher resolution, after lots of effort involving film processing and scanning, or is it worth it because your 4x5 images are selling like hot cakes.

We need to know!  
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ddolde
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2007, 11:53:46 AM »
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Yes  
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nik
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2007, 01:34:45 PM »
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John, the best thing to do is rent a mamiya (and external light meter) or equivalent film camera and take it out for a week and shoot your landscapes, then come back and have a look at the results. I used to own a 30D with L series lenses but sold it as I simply did not like the look of the landscapes it produced once printed. I went back to using my hasselblad gear and rent horseman/Linhof 612 panoramic cameras when needed. My suggestion is not to use the epson scanner for any serious scans as it's simply not a good enough scanner for quality results. I have spoken about this before on this thread;
http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....topic=13396&hl=

Using film will be frustrating and slow, but it certainly DOES force a slowdown in the way you work. You will think more about the shot and more often than not get a better result by doing so. I'd stay away from large format until you've tried 120 rollfilm (try neg and slide) and get decent scans done. Then, if happy with the results but still wondering, try large format. The results are stunning. BTW, how big do you want your final prints to be?

-Nik



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jahern
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2007, 01:36:51 PM »
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Thanks for responding guys, look like many of you feel there is not much of an advantage to going to MF film.

John
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 01:43:45 PM by jahern » Logged
jahern
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« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2007, 01:42:22 PM »
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Hi Nik,

At the moment I am limited to printing A3+ on the home printer, but already I am looking at larger, my boss at worked asked me to do some new pictures for the office and we are looking at A0, A1 prints.

My initial feeling was going film for a while as I taught is would slow me down, help improve the photography, but in a year I could look at a digital back as processing film could get expensive.

With regards an external light meter, are they worth having for landscape photography, or is the histogram still a better way.

There are few members in my photography club who use MF so maybe they might lend me their equipment for a few shoots.

John

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John, the best thing to do is rent a mamiya (and external light meter) or equivalent film camera and take it out for a week and shoot your landscapes, then come back and have a look at the results. I used to own a 30D with L series lenses but sold it as I simply did not like the look of the landscapes it produced once printed. I went back to using my hasselblad gear and rent horseman/Linhof 612 panoramic cameras when needed. My suggestion is not to use the epson scanner for any serious scans as it's simply not a good enough scanner for quality results. I have spoken about this before on this thread;
http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....topic=13396&hl=

Using film will be frustrating and slow, but it certainly DOES force a slowdown in the way you work. You will think more about the shot and more often than not get a better result by doing so. I'd stay away from large format until you've tried 120 rollfilm (try neg and slide) and get decent scans done. Then, if happy with the results but still wondering, try large format. The results are stunning. BTW, how big do you want your final prints to be?

-Nik
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BJL
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2007, 02:51:33 PM »
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I'm thinking of moving to medium format film from DSLR for landscape work and wonder if I'm mad even thinking of it.

My main interest is wildlife ... interest in landscape and macro has taken off ...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=96332\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I will leave it to you and the MF/landscape experts to discuss landscape photography, and I presume you know that for almost anything that moves much (like wildlife), a good DSLR is far better suited than MF.

But about macro work ...

I would highly recommend a DSLR over MF. Note that a 1:1 macro lens in MF only fills the frame with about what you get with the 1:4 near macro minimum focusing distance of some non macro DSLR lenses: a 1:1 DLSR macro gets you much more magnification and detail of small subjects, and this is related to to the higher true resolution, in lines per mm, not pixels.

This true resolution dictates the minimum working distance for getting sufficient detailed image of a given subject with a given focal length and so on. In fact for macro, I would recommend the highest resolution DSLR sensors, meaning the ones with closest pixel spacing like the 400D currently for your Canon gear. ISO speed differences are not very relevant for this situation. For one thing using larger pixels requires longer focal lengths and higher f-stops to get adequate DOF, so higher ISO speeds to get the same shutter speed.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 02:52:07 PM by BJL » Logged
Robin Casady
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2007, 03:44:05 PM »
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As others have said, MF (especially 6x4.5cm) is not going to be enough of an improvement to warrant the hassle of film. I shoot with a 12.4 MP DSLR (Nikon D2x) and find it equal to 645 film I used to shoot. If you want to slow yourself down, and get more detail, 4x5 is the way to go. However, compared to digital, it is a lot of hassle. Perhaps you would enjoy it, perhaps not. IMO, it does lend itself to slow and deliberate shooting, but you can still rush the selection and composition part if you don't develop a discipline.

I have film cameras for 35mm, 645, 6x9cm, and 4x5" but haven't bothered to shoot film since getting the D2x.

The problem for landscape photographers moving up to a Canon DSLR with a 24x36mm (35FF) sensor is that there isn't a good wide angle solution. Image quality in the corners is still a problem. You wouldn't see it with your 20D because of the smaller sensor. If you don't shoot wide, the EOS-1Ds Mark II would be a good choice.

Regarding meters, I've used incident and spot meters for film, but much prefer the histogram for digital.

Regards,
Robin Casady
http://www.robincasady.com/Photo/
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 03:45:14 PM by Robin Casady » Logged
nik
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« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2007, 08:30:28 PM »
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Well then, if your boss at work asked you to do some A0's, I suggest you charge ALL costs of producing the prints to him, in addition to your fee. So, shooting 4x5 would be the way to go, failing that, Use 120 in a linhof or horseman 612.

Regarding light meters, yes they are valuable but you could probably take your 20D and shoot alongside your film gear to get correct exposure.

Remember, film is slower to work with, especially if you've never used it before, creating quite a bit of frustration. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself saying how much film sucks. Trust me, your patience will be rewarded if you try film a couple times.

-Nik


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my boss at worked asked me to do some new pictures for the office and we are looking at A0, A1 prints.

My initial feeling was going film for a while as I taught is would slow me down, help improve the photography, but in a year I could look at a digital back as processing film could get expensive.

With regards an external light meter, are they worth having for landscape photography, or is the histogram still a better way.

There are few members in my photography club who use MF so maybe they might lend me their equipment for a few shoots.

John
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samuel_js
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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2007, 06:58:15 AM »
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Hi all,
For me the main difference is the quality of the final image. Even if the resolution could be equal (with a "normal" scanning) the images from the MF looks much better to me. Tridimensional, sharp, very rich shadows and natural colors. No sensor artifacts or ugly noise. The lenses are the best in the market, sharp and clear images (zeiss, schneider...). Canon lenses are a pain compared really....
I don't think the speed is a problem. Cameras like Hasselblad H series or Rollei are much faster and easy than a traditional Hasselblad V. The only thing that will slow you down is loading film and maybe getting the results. (if you develop and scan the film yourself it is just about an hour after digital".

I use three cameras, Canon 1Ds, Hasselblad H1 and a Rollei 6008, for me the MF is a big step in quality. I just can't think of shooting landscapes or "art quality photo" with  my 1Ds having the others at hand. Of course I take pictures of landscapes with the Canon too, but when I'm doing something with a serious purpose in mind, then the Rollei and Hassel are the first choice. I also like the feeling of knowing that the negatives will be with me forever ( if I don't burn them  ).

Well is just my feeling about MF with film.
 
Br
Samuel
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filip baraka
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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2007, 07:01:16 AM »
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I had same questions for some time
last night i just bought contax 645 kit from another forum member (hi marc) and took the plunge to medium format.
i already have really nice canon system around 1dmkII. my options were;
1. sell 1dmkII buy 1dsmkII,
2. wait for new 1ds
3. go with film medium format and eventually buy DB and leave canon for action
after lot of thought, reading through forums, etc... I decided that my way is going to DB

I had previous film experience so I believe going back for a while will not be that much of an issue
after all i found that after 2 and half years of shooting digital I have around 40.000 shots which is not much by digital standards

HTH
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jahern
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2007, 09:09:35 AM »
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Your post is very interesting, can I ask what your experience is, I'm guessing it would be a lot more than mine.
I was thinking that one advantage of going to MF is you could add a digital back later down the line when they are in my price range, makes the system interesting in terms of future upgrades, as new back technology comes out you can apply it and not have to change the entire body. I just wonder if in a years time what type of digital back you would get for the price of a used 1Ds MKIIs or 1Ds MKIII (if such a thing exists at the time!).

Quote
I had same questions for some time
last night i just bought contax 645 kit from another forum member (hi marc) and took the plunge to medium format.
i already have really nice canon system around 1dmkII. my options were;
1. sell 1dmkII buy 1dsmkII,
2. wait for new 1ds
3. go with film medium format and eventually buy DB and leave canon for action
after lot of thought, reading through forums, etc... I decided that my way is going to DB

I had previous film experience so I believe going back for a while will not be that much of an issue
after all i found that after 2 and half years of shooting digital I have around 40.000 shots which is not much by digital standards

HTH
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marcwilson
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« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2007, 09:24:23 AM »
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I will leave it to you and the MF/landscape experts to discuss landscape photography, and I presume you know that for almost anything that moves much (like wildlife), a good DSLR is far better suited than MF.

But about macro work ...

I would highly recommend a DSLR over MF. Note that a 1:1 macro lens in MF only fills the frame with about what you get with the 1:4 near macro minimum focusing distance of some non macro DSLR lenses: a 1:1 DLSR macro gets you much more magnification and detail of small subjects, and this is related to to the higher true resolution, in lines per mm, not pixels.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=96445\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

for medium format the best option for close up work is not macro lenses necessarily but extension tubes that allow incredible close up detail..also certain macro lenses..such as that for the hasselblad v and contax system are stunning incrdibly sharp lenses.
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BJL
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« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2007, 10:51:37 AM »
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for medium format the best option for close up work is ... extension tubes that allow incredible close up detail
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Extension tubes help, but lead to some clumsy rigs and far more shutter speed restrictions due to the larger images that the lens need to project to get the same detail with the lower resolution of film compared to recent DSLR sensors. I am going on the guideline of films like Provia roughly matching the sharpness of sensors of 10 micron Bayer CFA pixel spacing, and ignoring as mostly irrelevant the extinction resolution on test patterns with 1000:1 or greater contrast ratio.

So to match the detail in a 1:1 macro image from a DSLR with about 5 to 6 micron pixel spacing, film (in any format) needs about 2:1 enlargement, and filling the MF frame requires about 2.8x the enlargement of a mainstream "APS-C" format DSLRs. That leads to the need for lots of extension, and an effective speed reduction of two or three stops because the same light from the subject has to be spread over an area about four to eight times as great.

Some comparisons
- EF-S format with 100mm 1:1 macro, giving 15x22.5mm field size (15x20mm if you crop to the 4:3 shape of 645 medium format) and about 200mm "working distance" from subject to front of lens (about 400mm to focal plane, but this seems less important to me).
- Same detail on film and so 2:1 magnification with the same 200mm working distance requires a focal length of about 130mm with extension of about 260mm beyond infinity focus and about four or more times longer exposures, assuming that film cannot use higher ISO speeds than the DSLR.
- Filling the 645 frame with the same 200mm working distance requires a focal length of about 150mm with extension of about 400mm beyond infinity focus, and about eight or more times longer exposures.

For one thing, that sounds like a lot of extension tubing. To be fair, less extreme macro field sizes like 24x36mm (1:1 in 35mm film format) are less tough on film and medium format.
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Lust4Life
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« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2007, 11:19:41 AM »
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John,

I find your question timely as it is one I had been asking for over a year and finally made a decision and took a direction.
 
Here is the given:
Shot landscapes for the last 40 years.  I have always shot medium format (Hassie 500CM in the ole days) and 4x5.  I recently have been shooting the Hasselblad H1 with the 50-110 zoom lens and Fuji Acros film developed in XTol.  Currently shoot same film/dev in Ebony 45SU 4x5.

For the last couple of years I have been scanning all of my H1 and 4x5 work on my Howtek Hi-Resolve 8,000 drum scanner.  Results from my old negatives in both 2 1/4 and 4x5 are great.  Results from any new film and developer are marginal in my judgment compared to what I could get in the past.

In short, film and scanning is a lot of work but it would be worth it if the results demonstrated it.

Unfortunately, what I found was no matter what film and developer I use in my H1/medium format camera the film was no where near as good as what I was using even 15 years ago.  

Thus, I recently bought a Canon 1DsMkII with a couple of L series lenses to test against the H1 with film.

My conclusion is that the Canon 1DsMkII is as good, and in many ways better the then H1 was with today’s films!  

As a result, I recently sold my H1 and I'm not looking back.

Only way to beat the Canon 1DsMkII with med format is with one of the outrageously expensive digital backs for the H1.

I'm still shooting my 4x5 but I'll admit I'm using the 1DsMkII far more than I expected.  I've even had days where I've hiked all day with the 4x5, returned to work on the film/scanner and wondered why I toted it around all day!  Now, the Canon is not a light camera BUT with two or three 4GB cards I'm taking images that I would not have bother to set up the 4x5 for and finding that some of these WERE WORTH TAKING!  These images would have been missed with the 4x5, especially toward the end of the day when these 60 year old legs are bitching about hiking up and down the trails!


In short, that's what I've learned.
Jack

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« Last Edit: January 19, 2007, 11:20:42 AM by Lust4Life » Logged

Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2007, 01:31:37 AM »
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I use the histogram exclusively for setting exposure; it's faster to take a test shot and look at the histogram than futz around with a meter, because even with a meter, you still need to look at the histogram to make sure you don't blow specular highlights you might need to keep but don't really register with a meter. The other thing to keep in mind is that every digital camera in existence makes the histogram from the camera JPEG conversion, not the actual RAW data. So there's generally an exposure difference between the histogram clip point and clipping in the RAW data. So you need to do a bit of testing to discover the exposure interval between RAW clipping and histogram clipping. I explain this in more detail here.

Regarding wide-angle performance, that can be a weakness, but if you do stitching (shooting multiple frames and combining them into one high-resolution image) you can avoid the issue by overlapping the individual shots enough so that the corners are not used. This technique will also let you assemle an image that has more resolution than 4x5 film.
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jahern
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2007, 03:45:21 AM »
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I set the parameter for the image on my 20D down to zero for each setting, i.e. sharpness, brightness, contrast, saturation to minimum so that the JPEG simulates the RAW as much as possible. It is still not exact but a lot closer than leaving them as default.

Quote
I use the histogram exclusively for setting exposure; it's faster to take a test shot and look at the histogram than futz around with a meter, because even with a meter, you still need to look at the histogram to make sure you don't blow specular highlights you might need to keep but don't really register with a meter. The other thing to keep in mind is that every digital camera in existence makes the histogram from the camera JPEG conversion, not the actual RAW data. So there's generally an exposure difference between the histogram clip point and clipping in the RAW data. So you need to do a bit of testing to discover the exposure interval between RAW clipping and histogram clipping. I explain this in more detail here.

Regarding wide-angle performance, that can be a weakness, but if you do stitching (shooting multiple frames and combining them into one high-resolution image) you can avoid the issue by overlapping the individual shots enough so that the corners are not used. This technique will also let you assemle an image that has more resolution than 4x5 film.
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