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Author Topic: 35mm Optical Enlargement Limits  (Read 6158 times)
Farkled
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« on: January 15, 2009, 12:23:11 PM »
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It's kind of an idle question, but it seems to me that when I was 1st starting with SLR photography (1980) that the pundits were opining that 8 x 10 was pretty much the limit for a 35mm enlargement.  Do I remember correctly?
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2009, 12:31:32 PM »
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Quote from: Farkled
It's kind of an idle question, but it seems to me that when I was 1st starting with SLR photography (1980) that the pundits were opining that 8 x 10 was pretty much the limit for a 35mm enlargement.  Do I remember correctly?
I'd say that was common lore in those days, but with careful work (and subject matter that hides the grain) it was certainly possible to make impressive 11x14 prints. 16x20s always looked grainy to me.  My Pentax was so much easier to lug around than my 4x5-plus-tripod, that my general laziness led me to do a lot of 35mm work that "should" have been done with the larger camera, but often my photographer friends weren't able to tell which camera I had used, at least with 8x10 prints.
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joergen geerds
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2009, 09:55:39 AM »
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I had a project in the 90s where we did a 16x24in enlargement of a 35mm frame... it was very much pushing the limit of film, and I wouldn't do that size again with 35mm, but it didn't look too bad (Leica R7, a 19mm elmarit, iso 50 film, studio flashes and tripod were used for that).
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2009, 10:19:48 AM »
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Quote from: Farkled
It's kind of an idle question, but it seems to me that when I was 1st starting with SLR photography (1980) that the pundits were opining that 8 x 10 was pretty much the limit for a 35mm enlargement.  Do I remember correctly?

It's lagely a matter of how high your standards are; you can get very good sharpness and acceptable detail from 35 mm film originals up to perhaps 11x14 or so, but even on very fine grained film the grain starts becoming really objectionable as you go bigger. Roger Hicks has an excellent discussion of the whole issue of film format versus enlargement size in his book Quality in Photography. (The book is otherwise hopelessly out of date, as he opined that digital would not match film quality "any time soon"!) He quite correctly points out that you can already see significant declines in tonal smoothness from 35 mm film at anything above 8x10 prints, especially when compared to 4x5 or 8x10 sheet film.

On the other hand, I saw an exhibition of very large prints by Jim Brandenburg from 35 mm originals, and even at 24x36" print sizes they looked great. The subject matter and graphical quality were so striking that the grain was not bothersome. My own experience is similar. I've made a few 24x36" prints from scanned 35 mm Velvia or Provia slides. The grain is very obvious, but if the image doesn't depend on fine tonal discrimination and fine detail this can still look okay. But place it side by side with a similar sized print made from 8x10" film and it'll look awful by comparison. And we've all gotten spoiled by the smooth grainless tonality of digital capture.
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Petrjay
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2009, 01:45:53 PM »
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Yeah, what Geoff said. Back in the 70's, I printed a lot of 35mm up to 11X14, but I was doing mostly street stuff back then, and I liked the less-than-perfect effect. I might have gone bigger if I'd had enough money to buy 16X20 paper and bigger trays. (Some things never change LOL) There's a guy named Neal Parent up in Belfast, Maine, who (as far as I know) still does BIG prints from 35mm negatives. His stuff definitely doesn't have the f/64 look, but it seems to suit his style and he's had considerable success. I've seen a lot of his prints in person, and they certainly catch your eye, technically flawed or not.

Peter J
« Last Edit: January 16, 2009, 01:47:57 PM by Petrjay » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2009, 03:38:52 PM »
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Brings a smile to my old face; thanks for that.

I used to work in fashion, lo those many happy years ago and part of my work was to provide stand decoration photographs for spring/summer and autumn/winter fashion shows (financed by DuPont/Monsanto as I remember) for a variety of knitwear manufacturers in Scotland. Well, to get to the point of the thread, for black/white it was always 35mm Ilford FP3 (and later 4) in Nikon, but for colour, Hasselblad and Ektachrome. Sadly, Kodachrome 120 wasn´t around at the time - missed that boat entirely.

The 35mm pics were blown up full-width on 40" paper and 60" high. They worked just fine in the location/context/ethos of the time.

Other guys used Kodachrome 25 for the bigger prints, but I always felt that film left too much deep shadow devoid of any detail; too much contrast by far. Worse, colour inter-negs were but another opportunity for something to go wrong.

So how big can you go? There is no definitive answer to a question like that; it all depends on the job you have to shoot, what it makes practical sense to attempt the shoot with and, not least of all, budget. One of the beautiful things about photography is that there IS no answer to a question like this. It all boils down to client, usage and particular photographer. What would David Hamilton´s stuff have looked like if attempted on LF? Sarah Moon in her heyday and those beautiful images for Pirelli´s ´72 Calendar; her dreams for Cacharel? As I say, it depends what you want to achieve.

Rob C
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bill t.
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2009, 11:13:06 AM »
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(Rob, you're as old as the hills!)

In the old film days there was a sizable school of photographers who passionately embraced grain, grovelled in it, couldn't get enough of it.

Enlargement?  The bigger the better!  After all, what makes Grain is Good!  Try Acufine with Tri-X pushed to ASA (aka ISO) 3200 or so, ooh!  Sooo Artistic!  Rodinal could give you pretty good billiard-sized grain too, but frankly the tonality was too nice for serious consideration.

Don't know if we have any contemporary deliberate digital noise grovelers, but it's possible.

35mm Plus-X in D76 1:1 for 7 minutes at 70F worked pretty good for me.  But 10" on the long axis was as far as I'd ever care to take it...and mind you, I was using Full Frame film!

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Moynihan
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2009, 08:05:14 AM »
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In 35mm film format, i would rarely go higher than 8x10 in B&W.
With Kodachrome 25 & Velvia 50, up to 16x20 sometimes (Cibachrome).

But that is just me, i guess.

I limit my 10 mp digital printing to 8x10ish.

"With virtuoso technique, large prints can look almost as good as small ones." (John Szarkowski talking about Ansel Adams)

 
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2009, 03:14:02 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
(Rob, you're as old as the hills!)

Don't know if we have any contemporary deliberate digital noise grovelers, but it's possible.

35mm Plus-X in D76 1:1 for 7 minutes at 70F worked pretty good for me.  But 10" on the long axis was as far as I'd ever care to take it...and mind you, I was using Full Frame film!



Trouble with any similar discussion is that it is always subjective - has to be.

Coincidence: I used D76 1+1 for everything. It was a busy little studio and darkroom; I did it all on my own; a one-shot developer gave the best chance of consistency in working situations. When still amateur I tried all manner of crap - when I had learned enough to face the world, I standardised on things that had endured. Hoped it might rub off...

Moynihan quoted the use of Kodachrome. Very good for printing press work, as is/was much transparency material. Again, you have to go back to the requirement of the job: there have been mindblowing posters created from 35mm; many top calendars and similar promotional material. The one thing I would not like to use Kodachrome for would be Ciba prints. I had to, sometimes, but contrast was always a bitch - a bitch one could do very nicely without, all things being equal. Ciba, too, was ever a problem by itself.

As I said, subjective.

Rob C
« Last Edit: January 24, 2009, 03:16:29 PM by Rob C » Logged

barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2009, 08:24:45 PM »
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Not sure where this small print stuff comes from.

I won't debate MF and LF are the way to go for big prints, nobody would. But I remember getting my ist larger than A3 sized optical 35mm print, shot on what I was using, as a teenager, kodak gold. Far from the best print film around.

Not a drop of grain on it, no matter how close you push your nose to it ;-) Sharp and I was pretty impressed. As for the shot, it's more sentimental than great..but I had no complaints print wise.

Been very happy with FP4 for enlargements too, yet to try out the new Ektar 100..it's looking good though. If we go down to tech pan films, then they do defy the print sizes many suggest. Now if I can get decent results, why not you folks??

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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2009, 09:08:33 PM »
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Hi,

It all depends. As far as I can recall if you did the eyesight, film and lens resolution math you would probably arrive to about 8x10 as the maximum size limited by normal human vision. There would always be folks that said that MF would give better results even on 8x10. IMHO all this depends much on processing.

Once I shot a picture along with a friend, he was shooting a Hasselblad SWC with Trix-X at 200 ISO developed in D76 and I was using a Minolta Xe-1 with a 24/2.8 Rokkor using Plus-X developed in HC110 also at 200 ISO. We printed both images on 8x10 using an Apo Rodagon. The difference between the two was pretty small, but my friend consequently tought that the 135 picture was the one taken with the Hasselblad.

In the optical darkroom each processing step looses some qaulity. The MTF of the involved systems is multiplied. In the digital workflow we may have fewer steps and the MTF can be improved between the processing steps by careful sharpening.

How much you can enlarge also depends on the subject, some pictures relish in detail and need lot of resolution, some have other qualities.

One thing I'd suggest we need to take into account that with today's digital we get immediate feedback, we can judge sharpness with a flick on the camera and any negligance definitively shows up at actual pixels. This feedback makes us much less sloppy on technique, and improved technology also helps.


Best regards
Erik
Quote from: Farkled
It's kind of an idle question, but it seems to me that when I was 1st starting with SLR photography (1980) that the pundits were opining that 8 x 10 was pretty much the limit for a 35mm enlargement.  Do I remember correctly?
« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 09:14:44 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

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