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Author Topic: Digital prints no good above 8 x 10. Discuss!  (Read 8828 times)
Pelao
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« on: January 06, 2006, 10:22:45 AM »
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Hi
So I was listening to the latest LensWork Podcast and the subject was the limitations of digital photography.

The editor asserts that there is no way digital photography can compete with larger format film photography in terms of print quality once you go above and  8x10 print. I should note that he says much the same for film 35mm.

In particular he was referring to fine art prints, and feels that digital is no position to compete with the legacy of fine art film.

I have seen wonderful large, fine art prints from a digital camera. However, I cannot say they are the equal of those taken by say, a medium format camera. I just don't know.

Are we rapidly becoming pleased with something significantly less good than what went before?

Your thoughts?
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2006, 11:01:26 AM »
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This is a common statement from Large Format shooters --  IMO it is a position born of bias and not fact.

If you know how to process a digital file and are using a current high-resolution digital system like the 1Ds2, D2x, digital MF back or similar, you can easily exceed the quality of traditional MEDIUM format fine art prints.  Period.

As far as 4x5 and up goes, the differences begin to blur. But if you ask any current digital shooter who used to shoot LF what they think, you'll generally hear something like the tradeoffs of quality and convenience generally lend favor to the digital system.

Personally -- and IMHO only -- I still shoot 4x5 film and scan when I want the best landscape fine art image.  However my primary reason for using the view camera is for what its movements allow me to accomplish during the composition and capture stage, and not any direct technical superiority of the medium.

Though to be complete on the technical front, I do still grant an edge to scanned 4x5 from a detail standpoint.  However tonality and dynamic range favor the direct digital capture.  Color is arguable, but suffice it to say I can alter a properly captured RAW digital file sufficiently enough to emulate most any slide emulsion and do this AFTER the fact -- something not really possible when scanning a chrome.

My .02 only,
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2006, 12:02:10 PM »
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> The editor asserts that there is no way digital photography can compete with larger format film photography in terms of print quality once you go above and 8x10 print.

This has the makings of yet another endless hot air thread, but there is a much simpler and more decisive way to resolve this issue. In computing we have something called the Turing test and the same idea has also been used to devastating effect to knock a few regional chips off a few snobbish shoulders in wine tasting.

Simply prepare several prints larger than 8x10, some film + wet darkroom, some digital capture + digital darkroom. Each print would be labelled with a number or letter, which keys to a master list possessed by the judge(s) but not by the test taker(s) and each print would be otherwise unlabelled. The first question is whether Mr Lenswork can even separate them correctly. Remember photography includes colour as well as monochrome; and digital photography includes scanning backs and 39 mp wonder cams, not just APS dSLRs. And if he can't separate them, then he can't be assured of ranking the large format film prints more highly than the digital prints.

To be a digital photographer and/or print maker seems to put people on the defensive twice over: vs. film and vs. painting. Let us take a leaf from Stephen Jay Gould and make Separate Magisteria our mantra. Surely there are enough gallery walls on the planet for all three technologies.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2006, 12:03:23 PM by Dale Cotton » Logged
bob mccarthy
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2006, 02:56:27 PM »
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Personally -- and IMHO only -- I still shoot 4x5 film and scan when I want the best landscape fine art image.  However my primary reason for using the view camera is for what its movements allow me to accomplish during the composition and capture stage, and not any direct technical superiority of the medium.


[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55364\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

A little off topic. I've been tempted to resurrect the old 4x5 (for purely personnal use) but scanners seen to be in two classes. Cheap (sub $1000) or more expensive than I'm will to spend. ($10,000+).

Where did you end up? Any comments you'd offer.

Bob
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2006, 03:55:13 PM »
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Where did you end up? Any comments you'd offer.

Bob
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Hi Bob:

I split the baby in the middle   I have an Epson 4990 and it does a very credible job on 4x5 chromes giving me more detail than I get from my 1Ds2.  If I need a significantly higher quality file -- which has not happened yet -- I figure I can send it out and have it drum-scanned.
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tshort
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2006, 04:54:33 PM »
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FWIW I recently toured the Kohler (plumbing fixtures) studio and was surprised to learn that they have made the switch to digital completely.  They were shooting Phase 1 backs on MF (Hassy) bodies.  When I asked the studio director how he liked the quality he said they were very happy with it - he said it was better than MF film, and maybe not quite as sharp as LF film.  He said they made a banner for a tradeshow out of digital image, and it was quite sharp even up close - not bad considering it was 80 feet long.

Don't know why I was surprised - I do believe most pro studios have gone this way.
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-T
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2006, 05:41:36 PM »
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i shoot digital LF (Betterlight scanning back). i'm printing both inkjet as well as digital negatives (to be printed on traditional hand coated platinum). The Betterlight will give you better than 4x5 film (provia) output. my 1dsmk2 images are normally stitched (two adjacent frames from a 90mm T/S lens), giving about 35-39Mp. Better than 6x7 scanned (i own a Howtek 4500 drum scanner, and have compared), but not as good as 4x5. I'd probably put it a touch better than 6x9.  My reference for quality is enlarged so no digital artifacts are detectable with nose-to-print. For Bayer images, that's about 200-240 dpi for me. For Betterlight, that's from 180 to 220 (no interpolation done with the Betterlight).

Howtek scanners are frequently up for sale on ebay from $1500-$3000. a real bargin (until you have to repair them). Haven't found any other CCD scanner that matches.


         jim
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2006, 08:32:28 PM »
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I think the LensWork Podcast is rubbish. I've seen 13x19 inch prints produced from digital files made with either a Canon 1DsII or a Phase 25 back; in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing tonality, colour rendition and detail are on the whole very, very hard to best with film/darkroom technology.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2006, 02:33:16 AM »
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Hi Bob:

I split the baby in the middle I have an Epson 4990 and it does a very credible job on 4x5 chromes giving me more detail than I get from my 1Ds2. If I need a significantly higher quality file -- which has not happened yet -- I figure I can send it out and have it drum-scanned.
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Jack,
Or you could move up to an 8x10" format. Doesn't the Epson 4990 scan 8x10" film?

I've never used a larger format than 6x9cm, so I might well not know what I'm talking about, but from the little I do know about film and lens MTF and resolution, the maths implies that the best digital MF cameras have a long way to go before they could match 8x10 film.

For example, there's a lens designed for the Gigapxl project that apparently (?)delivers at f22 30lp/mm in the centre at 50%MTF, falling off towards the edges of course. The lens is designed for a 9x18" format. When used with 8x10" format, the fall off would be less significant. I'd estimate about 30 lp/mm at 30% MTF at the edges.

But lets use a conservative figure of 20 lp/mm which would be above 50% MTF over most of the film area. The MTF curves for color film would suggest that some types of film can record 20 lp/mm without any noticeable loss in contrast at all. Ie. their MTF response up to 20 lp/mm is 100%. In fact, it's sometimes above 100%, implying a certain degree of natural sharpening.

Converting to mm we get 8x10 = 200x250mm. At 20 lp/mm we get a total picture resolution of 4,000x5,000 line pairs. At best it takes 2 Foveon type pixels to record 1 line pair or 3 Bayer type pixels, so by my calculation a digital camera that could equal the resolution of film based 8x10" format would have to be an 80MP Foveon type sensor or a 160-200MP Bayer type sensor.

Whilst grain (or clumps of grain) is (are) a major problem with film, often degrading fine detail, the larger the format the smaller the problem. For example, an average size clump of grain on 35mm Provia F which might be quite noticeable, is effectively less than 1/50th the size on a piece of 8x10" film, as seen on the same size print. (Or perhaps I should say, as not seen on the same size print.)
« Last Edit: January 08, 2006, 02:49:12 AM by Ray » Logged
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2006, 05:40:34 AM »
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Going to 8x10 is a tempting option, but the cost and inconvenience grow expotentially compared to 4*5...

The lack of quickload, the weight of the equipment and the need to use a cheap flat bed scanner instead of an Imacon will result in no particular image quality advantages with even fewer images taken...

Granted, using the same flatbet scanner 8x10 will probably deliver better results, but you might have Newton ring issues unless you use a scanning fluid, which can be done, but then...

Regards,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
mbridgers
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2006, 07:31:08 AM »
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To be fair, Brooks Jensen uses an Olympus c8080 as his digital camera.  As we're no doubt aware, a camera with a small sensor like that will have trouble being smooth and sharp above a certain print size.  He explains this better in this thread:
Lenswork Forum

Look for the entry by "Lenswork".
« Last Edit: January 08, 2006, 07:31:37 AM by mbridgers » Logged
Pelao
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2006, 07:50:21 AM »
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To be fair, Brooks Jensen uses an Olympus c8080 as his digital camera.  As we're no doubt aware, a camera with a small sensor like that will have trouble being smooth and sharp above a certain print size.  He explains this better in this thread:
Lenswork Forum

Look for the entry by "Lenswork".
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55470\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You are right, that does make a difference. It was certainly not clear from the podcast that he was using that camera.
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2006, 10:31:34 AM »
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Jack,
Or you could move up to an 8x10" format. Doesn't the Epson 4990 scan 8x10" film?

I've never used a larger format than 6x9cm, so I might well not know what I'm talking about,

Ray:

As Bernard says, 8x10 is no picnic.  I actually tried it once.  After going through the hassle of loading holders and capturing 6 frames, I then had to recover from wallet-shock when I had them processed.  After being underwhelmed by the final result -- my problem, not the medium or equipment's -- I sold the camera.  My affair with 8x10 lasted about a week; the results did not justify the effort or costs.

Aside from the issues surrounding the sheer size of the camera, one runs into some significant tecnical difficulties.  The first is finding a lens that covers 8x10 and is as sharp across the field as a conventional 4x5 lens -- and I'm not sure such a lens exists.  Usually 8x10 lenses will only resolve about half the LPmm across the field that a corresponding 4x5 lens will.  Since there is 4x the area in an 8x10 you end up with a net resolution gain for any given print, but you lose DOF.  Factor in film-flatness issues, smaller apertures to compensate for the DOF loss, longer exposure times allowing more subject and camera movement, and the technical problems one must overcome to make a superior image multiply.

Next there is the issue of finding a lab that will process 8x10 -- and then one that will process it consistently.  Assuming you do find one, the cost per frame for 8x10 chrome compared with 4x5 jumps through the roof, making the digital option all the more attractive, at least for me.

However, with all of that said, I have seen images from a few photographers that have mastered the medium and the results are impressive -- huge prints with incredible detail.  So if one can overcome the above issues, the final image will be superior to one captured with the 4x5.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2006, 03:09:22 PM »
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I have one friend whose main camera was an 11x14" Deardorf. Of course he only made contact prints. He generally referred to his Land Rover as "my camera bag."

I had an 8x10" for a few years long ago. I always used it for B&W only (I did and do all my own processing). Never shot a chrome in it. For me the best thing about the 8x10 was looking at the ground glass under the dark cloth and seeing those gorgeous images in full living color!  

But while it was fun for a while, in the three or so years I had it I ended up with precisely one (count them: 1) image that I like. That one I have indeed scanned with my Epson 4990, and it is a fairly decent scan.

Eric
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2006, 03:26:09 PM »
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Ya, many, many moons ago I had a Graflex with a Kodak Ektar lens and a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 roll-film back. I used Ilford FP3 film and printed the negs to 11x14 using a Beseler enlarger equipped with a Schneider Componon lens on various fine Ilford and Agfa papers. The results were gorgeous - great detail, fine tonal gradations, and I have no doubt whatsoever that I could do even much better today more easily with my Canon 1Ds and Epson 4800 printer. Nostalgia and a bit of puffery is great stuff for the soul sometimes, but it shouldn't shield us from reality.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2006, 03:34:28 PM by MarkDS » Logged

Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ray
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2006, 04:49:07 PM »
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Well, you've certainly convinced me. I'm not getting into 8x10" format   .

And in any case, if I were to, I'd certainly want a wider printer than the Epson 7600.
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Moynihan
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2008, 06:21:00 AM »
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Just read this thread for first time.
Does anyone know what digital camera he is using now?
Does anyone know if his opinion has changed?
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2008, 07:38:53 AM »
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Just read this thread for first time.
Does anyone know what digital camera he is using now?
Does anyone know if his opinion has changed?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=172182\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

It was rubbish in 2006 and even more rubbish now; if that's what the editor of Lenswork really believed back then, so be it - "free country" - but it truly is a very tired - no - thoroughly exhausted issue.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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picnic
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2008, 07:52:57 AM »
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It was rubbish in 2006 and even more rubbish now; if that's what the editor of Lenswork really believed back then, so be it - "free country" - but it truly is a very tired - no - thoroughly exhausted issue.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=172187\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I've subbed to Lenswork for years--don't listen to the podcasts and have only tried the 'extended' once--but may try again.  Its my favorite photography magazine.  I hadn't gotten any vibes from Brooks about digital vs. film at all---esp. in lieu of the fact that they publish a lot of portfolios from digital photographers.  Now--this may not mean a thing, only his bias towards MF/LF photography---but I don't think its a digital vs. film thing.  BTW--my link to this particular podcast didn't work so I couldn't listen to it in context.

Diane
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mbridgers
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2008, 08:55:18 AM »
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Michael interviews Brooks in the Video Journal numbers 15 and 16.  That's probably the best way to get context on Brook's views -- the podcasts are almost "random thoughts".  

I especially enjoy lenswork extended -- the audio interviews with the photographers are always enlightening, and now there are several videos per disc, including dark room tours with folks like Huntington Witherall, Kim Weston, and John Sexton, as well as other video interviews or presentations from other photographers.

And I think the original post referenced a podcast about reverse-engineering in a sense.  Start with a target print size and work backwards through the processing.  It was discussing limitations of digital, and came after a podcast on the benefits of digital that caused something of a stir on APUG.

The archive of podcasts is here: http://www.lenswork.com/lensworkpodcast1-3.htm

The two that started this thread are probably these:
http://www.lenswork.com/podcast/LW0239%20-...new%20media.mp3

and this:
http://www.lenswork.com/podcast/LW0240%20-...t%20quality.mp3
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