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Author Topic: Landscapes - A True "Fine Print"  (Read 8373 times)
John Chayka
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« on: June 23, 2008, 10:47:37 AM »
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This is a philosophical issue - but it's my opinion, from a Landscape Photographer's perspective only - that in order to produce a "Fine Landscape Print", the print must be able to hold up to 16x20 scrutiny
16x20 bares all and any imperfections.  With the awesome advances in the Digital Photo world - we're seeing people able to take thousands of pictures, lots with the snappy cameras, and getting a few that look very good on the internet

For years and years I worked only with 4x5 B&W. Out of thousands of images taken - I have a portfolio of maybe 50 B&W prints - all the rest have been destroyed due to imperfections.

Now with a host of 12-14Megapixel DLSRs - I have maybe 100 color images, after some Lightroom and Photoshop work, look OK - but haven't yet tried 16x20 -(I know - don't write about it until you try it)
 
Of course not all photographs should be 16x20 - but for me a photo has to pass the 16x20 test before I bother to print it, whether it ends up 8x10, 11x14 or Hasselbald square. And I know E Weston produced mostly 8x10 contact prints.

For "straight" landscape work, Frames per second, ability to push a photo to higher ASA, etc. are just not important

For Large Format B&W it was such as easy process, Schneider 210, Basic Monorail camera, Zone system,  HC110, Dodging and burning and maybe some development variations such as Selectol Soft instead of Dektol, then maybe Selenium toning

There's a question in all this. Can anyone recommend "foolproof" 7-10 step process that will produce a truly Fine Color Print - and what equipment is truly needed?

A. Adams beautifully outlined this in his short books - esp The Negative and The Print.  Adams’ process will work - as long as film and chemicals last - forever. I'd love to see the true handful of Masters of Landscapes reveal their own secrets !!!
 
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Wally
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2008, 11:00:03 AM »
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This is a philosophical issue - but it's my opinion, from a Landscape Photographer's perspective only - that in order to produce a "Fine Landscape Print", the print must be able to hold up to 16x20 scrutiny.......A. Adams beautifully outlined this in his short books - esp The Negative and The Print.  Adams’ process will work - as long as film and chemicals last - forever. I'd love to see the true handful of Masters of Landscapes reveal their own secrets !!!
 
www.chaykaphotography.com
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St. Adams made lots of 8x10 prints, from what I have seen over the years at some very famous museums and galleries I would guess that 8x10 was a favorite size for him.

I would certainly classify an 8x10 of "Clearing Winter Storm", or "Moonrise Hernandez" as a Fine Landscape Print.

I think a lot of photographers print big today because they can, this is even more true with large format inkjets, yet there is something to be said with an 8x10 in a nice 11x14 mat in a nice simple frame.
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2008, 12:27:16 PM »
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Can anyone recommend "foolproof" 7-10 step process that will produce a truly Fine Color Print - and what equipment is truly needed?
The From Camera To Print video tutorial on this site seem to be well regarded for this purpose.

Assuming good camera technique and a sharp lens I think you'll find you need a minimum of 240 ppi (original, not up-sampled). That's 18 mp for a 16x20 and 22 mp for a 16x24. 240 ppi will get you tolerable high frequency detail, so your 16x20s would be passable, not contact print good. IOW: in my experience 240 ppi from the camera is your maximum enlargement size before the high frequency detail starts to break down, while the sweet spot is somewhere north of 320 ppi.
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John Chayka
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2008, 06:02:05 PM »
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The From Camera To Print video tutorial on this site seem to be well regarded for this purpose.

Assuming good camera technique and a sharp lens I think you'll find you need a minimum of 240 ppi (original, not up-sampled). That's 18 mp for a 16x20 and 22 mp for a 16x24. 240 ppi will get you tolerable high frequency detail, so your 16x20s would be passable, not contact print good. IOW: in my experience 240 ppi from the camera is your maximum enlargement size before the high frequency detail starts to break down, while the sweet spot is somewhere north of 320 ppi.
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Thanks Wally and Dale. Dale -  your technical expertise just brings us in a full circle back to the old days of film. 35mm just didn't cut it no matter how sharp the lens or how good the developing.  Now it sounds like anything south of 18 megapixels is the same as 35 mm film, and 21-31 mgpixel would allow room to play with the image.  

And again, of course I'm not saying 16 x 20 is a must for a all Landscape Photos. I'm just saying if you have the perfect image & it truly tells the story of what you want it to say - but can't print it large because of camera limitations,  that's a problem for Landscape Photographers

Ironic you can get a 4x5 camera, lens & everything else - for less than $ 500 - and do what an $ 8,000 DLSR will do - but do it better

I thought I had a good camera and good glass- but am totally disappointed with the lack of detail in trees, flowers, etc

Thanks for the responses
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2008, 06:26:05 PM »
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Ironic you can get a 4x5 camera, lens & everything else - for less than $ 500 - and do what an $ 8,000 DLSR will do - but do it better

I thought I had a good camera and good glass- but am totally disappointed with the lack of detail in trees, flowers, etc

Thanks for the responses
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True enough, you can still produce prints with exquisite detail from a 4x5 negative or transparency. In part that's because a view camera mandates slow and careful work, with constant attention to detail given that every click of the shutter costs about $5 in film and processing.

But it's really remarkable how much fine detail a good D-SLR will render when you apply the same devotion to technique. That is, using a solid tripod, good glass, careful focusing, low ISO, mirror lock-up, adequate depth of field, waiting for a lull in the wind...

My personal experience to date is that some of my best single frame captures from the original Eos-1Ds can withstand enlargement to 20x30" without any apologies for their quality. Some of my best frames from a 1Ds III can go to 24x36" with similar quality. If I feel like I'm running out of resolution, I'll take multiple frames and stitch them together. Detail in leaves/trees/flowers holds up pretty darned well in the very best images. But my sloppier every-day work...eh...not so much. As always, skill and craftsmanship is a huge part of the equation.

The ability to make a really excellent inkjet print this afternoon from a frame I exposed this morning is intoxicating, and keeps me coming back for more.

As an aside, I think part of the problem is an artifact of the virtues and flaws of inkjet printers. That is, a fine pigment inkjet printer with a "real" resolution of 360 to 300 dpi on the page produces a gorgeous 16x20" or larger print; this shows off the capability of this medium to its best advantage, and it will look better than virtually any kind of color darkroom print. But compare an 8x10" inkjet print with an 8x10" darkroom contact print, and the situation is reversed. The fine image structure and tonal smoothness of an 8x10 darkroom contact print will beat the inkjet print almost every time. At this size the inkjet's dot structure (even if it's just below the threshhold of perception) interferes with the image.

Just my two cents.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2008, 06:35:47 PM by Geoff Wittig » Logged
lbalbinot
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2008, 10:23:59 PM »
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Yes, Geoff said it all. I don't think you need to limit your print size to the capture DPI and that there's room for some enlargement. Some things to consider:

1) Larger prints will most likely be viewed at a certain distance so a good interpolation algorithm/sharpening will do fine and the naked eye won't see the artifacts

2) If you use matte fine-art paper there's another grain to add, depending on the paper

3) If you use anti-glare glass on your frames you'll have, even if very little, some texture added to your picture

Of course, you need a sharp image to begin with, so a good lens, a good tripod, etc, all come into account.

I can go up to 20x30" with a 10 Mpixel Nikon D200 and get really good results.

Regards,
Luis
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Luis F Balbinot
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2008, 05:15:31 AM »
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I agree with all of the above posts. I have a new Canon 1Ds MkIII and several "L" lenses. The images are incredible and print very well up to 16x20, however, since the advent of Apple TV, I find that I get to share a lot more of my images on my 52" plasma TV. When friends and family visit, I have Apple TV running the "screen saver" on my Plasma TV with my latest fine art and vacation photos. It's awesome.

I read an article a few days ago that photography Dewitt Jones has discovered Apple TV as a new way to share his work. Google Dewitt and Apple TV to find the article. I've been doing this for about a year now.

Highly recommended for anyone, like me, who has too many great images but much to little wall space in their home to display them all.

Cheers.
Bud James
« Last Edit: June 24, 2008, 05:17:13 AM by budjames » Logged

Bud James
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2008, 07:31:22 AM »
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Geoff and Luis: the 1Ds is 11 mp and the D200 is 10 mp, so you're talking native 130-140 ppi for a 20x30" print. To me, this is magical. If you were talking about head shots or shallow DOF work, I wouldn't be surprised, but landscapes... Yet we're all talking the same language here; we've all seen Ansel 16x20s and Weston 8x10s (just to use familiar reference points).

Right now I'm working with a spiffy new Pentax K20D at 14.6 megapixels. I think I know how to use a tripod, MLU, etc., and the lens I'm using sure seems as sharp as anything I've used before. But I don't feel comfortable enlarging any image past maybe 220 or 230 ppi, and few past 260, to be honest. So obviously there's something I'm missing here (and I hope it's at the post-processing end, not the camera end, otherwise I've got a lot of work that will never be better than it is... ;)

But getting back to John's question, what occurs to me is for someone to post an 8x10 crop from a high frequency landscape image file that holds up at 20x30, so the rest of us could print the crop. Even better would be two versions of the same crop: one before and one after PP. I'm thinking JPEG at Photoshop level 10 or 11.

Luis wrote:
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so a good interpolation algorithm/sharpening will do fine and the naked eye won't see the artifacts
Michael R. has written on this site and I've read elsewhere that one may as well use native pixels down to 180 ppi and this matches my own experience. Going lower than that I'm sure you're right about the interpolation algorithm being a critical factor.

Luis wrote:
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If you use matte fine-art paper there's another grain to add, depending on the paper
Agreed: matte paper is a whole other ball game. I'd love to go that route for all my images, but can't spare the Dmax and gamut in too many cases. I've been assuming John is thinking in terms of photo paper prints based on his colour work.

Geoff wrote:
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The ability to make a really excellent inkjet print this afternoon from a frame I exposed this morning is intoxicating, and keeps me coming back for more.
Amen to that!

Geoff wrote:
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But compare an 8x10" inkjet print with an 8x10" darkroom contact print, and the situation is reversed.
Have you used a recent generation printer like the 3800? It seems to me my 3800 brings things a notch or two closer to contact print quality when, for example, I print one of my Pentax shots at native 400 ppi to get a 7x10. That said, a close friend of mine does 4x5 colour scanned to 2500 ppi for a 1000x12000 pixel image file. His prints on an Epson 7600 at 13x16 (760 ppi) are truly special and have that wrong-end-of-telescope clarity that I think of when I think contact print quality.
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lbalbinot
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« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2008, 12:50:47 PM »
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Dale,

yes, I agree that if you print on a glossy paper and look close you'll se imperfections. But again, when I print 20x30 from an original 10 Mpixel file I always use matte paper and anti-glare glass on the frame. And I do the upscale/downscale to the printer DPI before sending it to the printer (I never let the printer driver do it). This approach gives me control over the print sharpening. People that look at these photographs from 2 feet away won't notice any artifacts. The downscale done by our brains make the picture sharper again, just like when you see one of those huge outdoors on the road. Try looking closer and you'll see the huge CMYK dots.

Look at some larger prints Ansel Adams did: can't you see the film grain and other artifacts? It's not the same, but you get my point.

Best regards,
Luis
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Luis F Balbinot
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« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2008, 03:45:57 PM »
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Interesting thread.

My own preference is to not print lower than 300 ppi.
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peteh
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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2008, 06:12:05 PM »
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Interesting thread.

My own preference is to not print lower than 300 ppi.
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I have a 24x24 inch print with a 16 megapixel Canon 1DS mark 2 and a HP Z3100ps GP that was all done in CS3 with hardly any adjustments other than Crop Resize and Sharpen and I can count fleas on the "Subjects" fur.2 Deer, Doe and Fawn.Maybe a little saturation increase also.This was done hand held with a 100-400 Canon L series lens. I don't have great vision and can see things on the animals I can't believe.Things I missed on HP 17in. laptopscreen.The monitor and print were calibrated HP APS. I lost track of what point I was trying to get to.
I wear reading glasses and after 7-10 feet I wear "distance glasses"
Even without eighter pair of glasses ,I'm amazed at what I can see on the deer.
Remember, just CS3 were used, and 24x 24 inches.And I remember 240 PPI on the printer.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2008, 08:32:45 PM »
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I guess we all have different workflows and some photographers like Alain Briot charge about 1000 US$ to provide details on their actual workflow...

This being said, my personnal view is that images with high frequency of details (like leaves) do need at least 300 DPI whatever the print size.

This is one of the differences between landscape fine art prints costing 500 US$ and mere posters. The level of detail has to be compelling IMHO. Colors and tones are of course another area where mass printing on a press cannot get close to high quality inkjet on archival paper.

The bottom line is that the only viable solutions for prints 20 inch wide is MFDB of stitching IMHO. The 1ds3 is probably close though.

This is not to say that other disciplines cannot do with a lot less detail. I have seen amazing images printed large that probably contain 4MP worth of information at most.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2008, 07:39:26 PM »
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This being said, my personnal view is that images with high frequency of details (like leaves) do need at least 300 DPI whatever the print size.

This is one of the differences between landscape fine art prints costing 500 US$ and mere posters. The level of detail has to be compelling IMHO. Colors and tones are of course another area where mass printing on a press cannot get close to high quality inkjet on archival paper.

The bottom line is that the only viable solutions for prints 20 inch wide is MFDB of stitching IMHO. The 1ds3 is probably close though.

This is not to say that other disciplines cannot do with a lot less detail. I have seen amazing images printed large that probably contain 4MP worth of information at most.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A previous poster repeated the common observation that larger prints are meant to be seen from a distance, so less demanding detail/sharpness criteria are okay. I don't agree at all. Whenever I visit a gallery I find myself with my nose right up against the glass looking for the fine textural detail that really makes a landscape print sing, even if it's 24x36". Check out Ansel Adams' Antelope House Ruin (from portfolio VI) if you ever have a chance to see his original print. The tangible sense of weight and texture in the rock wall behind the ruin is just mind-blowing. That's what I want in my photos.

Digital capture has a significant advantage over film on one respect. Its tonal smoothness and micro-scale image structure are much cleaner than film grain, so it can take a lot more sharpening and enlargement than film. This is why "35 mm" format D-SLR's produce files that match or beat medium format film capture.

At least in my experience, some files from the Eos-1Ds, even the original 11 mp version, can withstand amazing amounts of enlargement while still maintaining  believable detail in 'high frequency' areas like leaves or distant trees. Same goes for the mk III version, to an even larger print size. Yet other frames shot with the same attention and care show fine detail that dissolves into artifactual mush. I haven't figured it out yet. If in doubt I'll shoot multiple frames and stitch them to make sure I'm not running into the resolution wall when I try to print later, especially if I think I'm capturing something really worthwhile.
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2008, 07:55:20 AM »
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Bernard wrote:
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This is one of the differences between landscape fine art prints costing 500 US$ and mere posters.
High ppi is certainly the high road to quality. I was at a flea market last year; there were several booths selling the usual hodge podge of sure-seller framed repros. One picture that grabbed the eye once you noticed it was a cheap repro of a typical sunrise mountain pano photograph about 12x24". The colours were nothing special but the registration of the printing was actually good enough so the ultra-high ppi detail had that wrong-end-of-telescope clarity that made me wonder for a moment if a Bernard Languillier had actually made it as far as Canada. ;)

Geoff wrote:
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A previous poster repeated the common observation that larger prints are meant to be seen from a distance, so less demanding detail/sharpness criteria are okay. I don't agree at all. Whenever I visit a gallery I find myself with my nose right up against the glass
... and we'd kick you out of the landscape photographer's guild if you didn't. ;) The local large art gallery had a retrospective of about 100 Ansels a few years back and of course my nose was to the glass too. I didn't see contact print quality in the large prints but the detail was never pushed to the point that it looked sloppy, either. In contrast, the same gallery had a large exhibit of Byrtynsky 4x5s enlarged to 4x5' and for these you definitely had to stand back at least several feet if you didn't want to be disappointed. Here the artist is making a sort of tacit contract with the viewer: "for my part I'm going to create an immersive visual experience for you by filling up a good chunk of wall space with this image; your part of the bargain is to stand back far enough to give the illusion of you-were-there reality a chance to kick in". If you did go in closer, at least the image degraded gracefully with over-enlarged film softness, not the haloing of over-USMing. This approach makes sense to me, given the cinematic nature of the subject matter, but it does leave the artist open to criticism from anyone not willing to play the game.

At present I have no particular need to over-enlarge, but I do have images that are hyperactive enough to be cramped when confined inside too small a print, so I can't simply print every pic at native 360 ppi or higher. And if I want a largish print above the mantle, so to speak, I become concerned with how big I can print it before it fails the Ansel test.

Bernard wrote:
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This is not to say that other disciplines cannot do with a lot less detail. I have seen amazing images printed large that probably contain 4MP worth of information at most.
And even in landscape photography there are plenty of images and approaches for which this is true. Art, like life, is all about that graceful gesture under fire.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2008, 10:33:34 AM »
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Geoff wrote:

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A previous poster repeated the common observation that larger prints are meant to be seen from a distance, so less demanding detail/sharpness criteria are okay. I don't agree at all. Whenever I visit a gallery I find myself with my nose right up against the glass

... and we'd kick you out of the landscape photographer's guild if you didn't.

Someone here on this forum commented a few years ago that you can always tell the other photographers because they're the ones with their noses right up against the glass.  Non-photographers (which is most of the customers) generally don't do that.

I seem to be an exception.  I'm more interested in the subject than in the image quality.  (I'm the same way with TVs; my spouse occasionally wants to get a bigger TV, and I reply something along the lines of, "So we can have better picture quality for the TV programs we never watch because everything on TV is wretched these days???"...and he gives up.)

Lisa
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« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2008, 11:28:01 AM »
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Someone here on this forum commented a few years ago that you can always tell the other photographers because they're the ones with their noses right up against the glass.  Non-photographers (which is most of the customers) generally don't do that.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=203806\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
My experience has been that even with non-photographers, if they can step up and takea  closer look, they will (at least if the image interests them at all). I notice this all the time when people look at the work I have hung in my office.

I don't think you need 300ppi of non-interpolated image data with today's inkjets though. With good glass and shooting technique and careful processing, 200ppi can look very good even up close.
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« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2008, 02:25:44 PM »
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A previous poster repeated the common observation that larger prints are meant to be seen from a distance, so less demanding detail/sharpness criteria are okay. I don't agree at all.
Exactly. If you've ever watched people in galleries or art shows, virtually everybody presses their face right up to the print. I do as well. There's something wonderful about seeing all that fine detail in big prints. So resolving fine details in big prints absolutely matters. I know some people say you can print huge with 8 to 12 MP cameras, and that they get fantastic results, but I just don't buy it. The difference is always pretty obvious when you compare the low rez print side by side against a print from a hi rez camera.
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