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Author Topic: Sharper lenses & more pixels  (Read 5404 times)
Giedo
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« on: January 03, 2006, 07:27:55 AM »
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It seems accepted that nowadays sensors (at least the bigger ones with more than 10MP) exceed most lenses in the ability to extract detail. And that we need sharper lenses to keep up with future sensor-developments.
But then why (is my first question) is film still better in producing big prints than digital? Do film and lenses work better together?

recently I saw a test of a canon 400mm f/5.6 on www.photozone.de which mentioned
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Some may be surprised that all these long tele lenses don't deliver a better performance than many wide-angle lenses. Please note that there's QUITE a bit more space between the test chart with super tele lenses so the longer the focal length the higher is the amount of air diffusion (the distance to the test chart is focal-length x 1.6 x ~40).
This made me think! I want to have the longest tele for wildlife, but in the hot savanna there is a lot of hot air and thus more diffusion. So my second question is: why bother spending a lot on the sharpest of all lenses and the highest mp count when in practice detail will be lost anyway?
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Giedo
michael
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2006, 08:13:59 AM »
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Wow, you're making (or at least accepting) a lot of groundless assumptions.

Firstly, the statement that "film still better in producing big prints than digital" is one which very few photographers that I've ever met would agree to. This seems to be a "straw-man" argument in the light of the fact that most people have switched to digital for the exact reason that it exceeds film-based photogaphy in almost every respect.

Secondly, the idea that you wouldn't need sharp lenses because on "the hot savanna there is a lot of hot air and thus more diffusion", is likely one of the most silly statements that I've ever read. It's like saying that there's no point in eating a fine and expensive meal if you're not hungry.

Well, no. In that case don't. Maybe you should have that gourmet meal when you do have an appetite.

Next.

Michael
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Giedo
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2006, 09:35:01 AM »
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I was indeed under the assumption that film produces better blow-ups than digital. But groundless?
I do work a lot with professional photographers and still see them working with film now and then. In that case I allways ask them why they don't switch to digital and they mostly reply: because of the quality that still doesn't match film tonalities and because they can blow up film as big as they like while digital is limited to about A2 prints...

I guess they and I are misinformed. Thank you for correcting that.

And for your second prompt response: Thanks for the compliment. I like making silly statements.
Hope that is ok on your forum?
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Giedo
michael
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2006, 10:14:45 AM »
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One silly comment a week is permitted. Any more that that and you'll be placed on report.

Michael
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2006, 10:59:22 AM »
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Giedo,

It could just be that the photographers that you come into contact with don't own high-end digital equipment (yet) and so revert to their film cameras (medium format perhaps?) for larger prints. There may be a lot of people in this situation, I am guessing. If I owned a medium format camera but didn't produce large format prints very often, it would be difficult to justify speding top dollars to completely convert. It would be cheaper to buy a roll of film now and then. The large prints produced with this equipment were perfectly ok 4-5 years ago so they should still be. It might be interesting to ask them why they do what they do in any case.
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2006, 12:42:40 PM »
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It seems accepted that nowadays sensors (at least the bigger ones with more than 10MP) exceed most lenses in the ability to extract detail. And that we need sharper lenses to keep up with future sensor-developments.
But then why (is my first question) is film still better in producing big prints than digital? Do film and lenses work better together?

recently I saw a test of a canon 400mm f/5.6 on www.photozone.de which mentioned

This made me think! I want to have the longest tele for wildlife, but in the hot savanna there is a lot of hot air and thus more diffusion. So my second question is: why bother spending a lot on the sharpest of all lenses and the highest mp count when in practice detail will be lost anyway?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55083\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I find this thread amusing as I naively stated in passing on another forum that digital (I quoted the D2x) surpassed film and I was in return insulted by someone who prints his own slides and claimed I was talking nonsense and lacked objectivity. Well I used to use Fuji Provia 100F, a decent tripod and ball head, a decent lens, and routinely stuck a bean bag on top, so I do not doubt my ability to get sharp images. IMO a 6MP APS sensor can almost match the resolution of Provia 100F (not quite though) but where it shines is the smoothness of tones and the absence of graininess and hence the image quality is IMO far superior. As for a camera such as a Canon 1Ds, well, I wouldn't presume to add to what Michael has said.

As an aside, some people will state that grain is too small to be seen. Well yes it is, but the grains clump together and those supergrains can be seen on small enlargements e.g. A4 and IMO they significantly degrade the image quality. It's all very well having bags of detail, but if its drowning in grain, what's the point?

I'm tempted to get out my old path-lab microscope to determine how much detail is really in my slides (but fighting for survival with the grains).  

Heat haze certainly is a problem when viewing dicky birds with my 77mm telescope at magnifications of 30x and higher but only at certain times of year and only at long distances.

Leif
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BJL
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2006, 12:52:17 PM »
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... in the hot savanna there is a lot of hot air and thus more diffusion. So my second question is: why bother spending a lot on the sharpest of all lenses and the highest mp count when in practice detail will be lost anyway?
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

There is a good discussion of how atmospheric effects limit resolution at
[a href=\"http://www.gigapxl.org/technology-atmosphere.htm]http://www.gigapxl.org/technology-atmosphere.htm[/url]

From that, I would say that only somewhere between 100MP and 1000MP do atmospheric effects typically become a resolution limitation, though of course there are situations where far less resolution is possible or needed. It seems to me that lenses and DOF needs will eventually be the main physical limit on image detail, except in the extreme case of that gigapxl camera (very wide angle, very shallow DOF, etc.)
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Paulo Bizarro
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2006, 12:11:04 AM »
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The hot air in the savana makes for beautiful sunsets.
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pfigen
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2006, 07:29:24 PM »
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"I find this thread amusing as I naively stated in passing on another forum that digital (I quoted the D2x) surpassed film and I was in return insulted by someone who prints his own slides and claimed I was talking nonsense and lacked objectivity. Well I used to use Fuji Provia 100F, a decent tripod and ball head, a decent lens, and routinely stuck a bean bag on top, so I do not doubt my ability to get sharp images. IMO a 6MP APS sensor can almost match the resolution of Provia 100F (not quite though) but where it shines is the smoothness of tones and the absence of graininess and hence the image quality is IMO far superior. As for a camera such as a Canon 1Ds, well, I wouldn't presume to add to what Michael has said."

Having done a fair amount of these types of comparisons, I'd have to say that it wasn't until the 1Ds that a DSLR could match the sharpest of the normal contrasted films. Looking at film through a microscope defintely shows higher resolved detail than on even the best scanners or through the best enlarging lenses. With a 1DsMK2 and the finest lenses at the sharpest apertures, the digital captures are beyond what you could hope to get from scanned or projected 35mm film, and up to a certain printed size, will best most medium format films. I was perhaps one of the later adopters of DSLR technology, as I was always doing my comparisons using a Howtek 8000 ppi drum scanner, compared to which, all the 6-8 megapixel cameras fell short.

Most of my work is for commercial assignments, so the Canon's are more than sufficient, but I have been making a series of 2'X3' prints in the last week to see how well the 1DsMK2 looks at that moderate size, and all I can say is that I am as blown away as everyone I've shown any of the prints to. The subjects range from Bodie landscapes to portraits to studio product shots, and all of them look to my extremely discriminating eye, better than anything I could get from Howtek drum scanned 6X7cm transparency. I'm not sure where the size limits are for these types of files, but I expect that at a certain size, film enlargements, even with less detail, may start looking better if digital artifacts start becoming apparent. I guess I'll have to swallow the ink and make a 40X60 from the MkII and see just how it hold up at that size.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2006, 04:11:26 PM »
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To "answer" your initial question, more pixels in newer bodies means more investement needed on the photographers's part, which means that photography seen along these lines becomes yet another area of human activity which becomes controlled more by economics and less by talent.

The endless race for better technical tools is great for those photographers that can afford it, and who manage to convince the world surrounding them (their customers) that better technical images is what they need.

As far as I am concerned, I feel that the current polarization of the discussions on the technicalities of photography is just as bad for photography as the emphasis on quality has been for many industries. It is only good for the very few wealthier folks, and ends up preventing to some extend creativity and talent to play the central role that they should be playing.

In a way, more pixels will come as yet another obstacle in the way of photography in its endless quest to be acknowledged as a full fledged art form.

Don't get me wrong, better technical tools are not bad in themselves, but the focus on the quality they deliver as an over-stressed metrics of the value of an image is IMHO bad.

What is interesting to notice though is that this phenomemon appears to be stronger in the Western world than it is in Japan where many magazines still publish a lot of work shot on film using small/medium format equipment. Whether this is just resistance to change, or the result of a thoughtful approach is unclear though.

Anyway, I know that this is probably not what you had in mind when you posted your initial question, and my comments might be more relevant as follow up of the article recently published by Alain Briot...

Regards,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
BJL
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2006, 04:27:57 PM »
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In a way, more pixels will come as yet another obstacle in the way of photography in its endless quest to be acknowledged as a full fledged art form.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55312\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Nice comments. I wonder if forums devoted to the art of painting are so full of obsessive drooling over ever thinner brushes and ever bigger canvasses?
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Ray
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« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2006, 07:45:05 PM »
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The fact that the atmosphere adds yet another factor to the list of things that conspire to degrade the final recorded image is something we should at least be aware of. However, it's no good reason not to buy a sharp lens as Michael has said, but it does seem to be true that in unfavourable conditions, whether it be a poor resolving, grainy film, dust and haze in the atmosphere, or simply a subject devoid of much detail, the resolving differences between the good lens and the mediocre lens, as seen in the final result, are reduced.

I recall when I first tried a Canon 1.4x extender with my 100-400 zoom. I was photographing distant subjects and even though there was no noticeable haze, the distortion and contrast reducing effects of the atmosphere were sufficient to make the extender useless. There was no advantage to be had whatsoever. For a while I believed my Canon 100-400 zoom was just not high enough quality for use with an extender so I stopped using it. Some time later, whilst messing around with test charts, I used it again with the 100-400, just out of curiosity, and to my great surprise found there was significantly more detail to be had. So I took a few 'real world' shots at close distances of around 30 metres, with and without extender, and found with a brightly lit, contrasty subject, the 1.4x extender did indeed serve some purpose with this lens.
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mikeseb
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« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2006, 08:12:55 PM »
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Giedo,

It could just be that the photographers that you come into contact with don't own high-end digital equipment (yet) and so revert to their film cameras (medium format perhaps?) for larger prints.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55106\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I am one of those "people", sort of. I shoot MF film out of economic necessity; it is not cost effective for me right now, at my production volume and with my other financial commitments, to invest in a MF digital back. I have no doubt of digital capture's technical parity with, or even supremacy over, film in the MF realm. Though I believe film has a certain "character' and "feel", and though I don't mind--I rather like it--film grain, I am confident I can duplicate these characteristics once I've ascending the MF-digital learning curve a bit.

I'll be purchasing a digital back as soon as it makes sense, cost-vs-benefit-wise, for me. Like if my production volume dramatically increases, and if I find I can no longer spare the many hours required to develop film, scan negatives, and do all the necessary post-processing prior to printing; or find myself against tight deadlines that can't be met working with film.

As for the statements about lenses--it makes sense to me to start with the maximum image information you can acquire, at the highest quality, and work from there, devil take the scene conditions.
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2006, 05:43:53 AM »
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There is another factor that grips the remaining "film is better " crew.
Check out Thomas Kuhn's theory of the incommensurability of paradigms
Cheers
Brian
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jani
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2006, 07:24:36 AM »
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Nice comments. I wonder if forums devoted to the art of painting are so full of obsessive drooling over ever thinner brushes and ever bigger canvasses?
Well, I guess you could deduce something from the fact that there are humans involved in both art forms.
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Jan
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« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2006, 10:40:27 AM »
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In our business there are more compelling reasons for choices between film and digital.  We use LF when a job calls for big enlargements with a lot of detail, and especially when the body movements are needed.  

In the days of yore when we shot film exlusively, our annual outlay for film and processing ranged between $25k and $30k US, with most of it MF.  In 2005 we spent a little less than $2k on film and processing while our business volume was up about 50%.  The film consumed included exactly 20 rolls of 35mm for clients that insisted on it, no MF, and the remainder 4x5.  In spite of a box full of MF gear, our DSLRs have completely replaced MF for us.  Theory is fun, but when your livelihood is on the line results are trumps.
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dbell
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« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2006, 04:35:07 PM »
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As far as I am concerned, I feel that the current polarization of the discussions on the technicalities of photography is just as bad for photography as the emphasis on quality has been for many industries. It is only good for the very few wealthier folks, and ends up preventing to some extend creativity and talent to play the central role that they should be playing.

In a way, more pixels will come as yet another obstacle in the way of photography in its endless quest to be acknowledged as a full fledged art form.

Don't get me wrong, better technical tools are not bad in themselves, but the focus on the quality they deliver as an over-stressed metrics of the value of an image is IMHO bad.

Regards,
Bernard
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55312\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Despite the fact that I'm a fairly avid adopter of new technologies, I am in complete agreement. No piece of equipment can make you see better. The notion that one HAS to have expensive equipment to produce good art is both incorrect and dangerous.

Plenty of students do great work using minimal equipment (out of need) and plenty of established photographers do the same (by choice).
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2006, 05:38:27 PM »
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Despite the fact that I'm a fairly avid adopter of new technologies, I am in complete agreement. No piece of equipment can make you see better. The notion that one HAS to have expensive equipment to produce good art is both incorrect and dangerous. [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55383\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
This is - or at least started out as - a landscape art photography site. The founding father and original paradigm is Ansel and his 16x20" prints with near microscopic detail, crisp acutance, creamy gradations, and plentiful dynamic range. Stieglitz switched in mid-stream to that horse as well, after doing gorgeous earlier work that involved a much more painterly/impressionistic rendition of detail. The early-Stieglitz approach was the baby that got thrown out with the bathwater of pictorialist content. Weston bought into the aesthetic but opted out of the epic print dimensions: an 8x10" Weston is a thing of delicacy and beauty.

Those who are locked into the grand f/64 paradigm require vast quantities of megapixels per image. That's fine; whatever turns your crank. But if your budget doesn't allow you that luxury, no need to sulk: both Weston and early Stieglitz show the way. I'm tempted to say that the megamegapixel approach is so popular in photo art because it makes the least demand on the artistic half of the equation, but that would be offensive and is probably incorrect to boot.

Those who need sacrifice megamegapixels on the altar of a high-end workstation to satisfy their Muse (or their clients), have been driving the evolution of the digital camera for years now, else we'd all still be content to drive a 3 mp Canon D30 or the 2.7 mp Nikon 1D.

No argument from me.
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Ray
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« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2006, 06:34:30 PM »
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Those who are locked into the grand f/64 paradigm require vast quantities of megapixels per image. That's fine; whatever turns your crank. But if your budget doesn't allow you that luxury, no need to sulk:

Dale,
Welcome back to the forum. I'm not sure that nowadays using an 8x10 field camera is so relatively expensive. In fact it's probably the cheapest of all options for those who desire the
Quote
microscopic detail, crisp acutance, creamy gradations, and plentiful dynamic range
of the Ansel Adams print.

High resolution flatbed scanners are now available at a lower price than a good 35mm scanner and whilst the cost of processing an 8x10 piece of film is quite high, one tends not to shoot nearly as many frames as 35mm.

I personally wouldn't bother with LF , not because I can't afford it, but because I get more joy being active with a 35mm camera slung around my neck taking a hundred shots per day. The painstaking crafsmanship of spending many hours on a single frame before I've even got it into Photoshop, doesn't suit my temperament.
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2006, 08:32:42 PM »
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> Welcome back to the forum

Thanks, Ray; at first I thought you were also one of the missing but was a little afraid to inquire the reason. Good to learn it's just a prolonged stay in Angkhor Wat or someplace mundane like that. ;)

> I'm not sure that nowadays using an 8x10 field camera is so relatively expensive. In fact it's probably the cheapest of all options

Very interesting point. I was of course thinking along the lines of Canon Mark IIs and digital MF backs. For me the 8x10 is a very distant and larger-than-life memory of my maternal grandfather with his sombre-hued wooden box atop a towering wooden tripod.

> get more joy being active with a 35mm camera slung around my neck

You're really shooting film, not digital? ... not to hijack this thread ... or has that been done already? ;)
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