I have always maintained that b&w sheet film presents many operational drawbacks. No sound nor motion of video, no color, no fast and zoom lenses nor motor drives of 35mm, etc.
The major, if not singular, quality which sheet film brings to the party is a remarkable ability to capture exquisitely fine detail. One often hears law enforcement people on the news lament the poor quality of digital surveillance pictures (which can’t be clearly enlarged) in bank robberies.
In my technically sloppier moments I refer to this quality as sharpness. But, as a former college kid, I am aware that the proper terms are acutance and resolution.
Twelve years ago, I worked for a friend who is even more technically anal than I am. His specialty was 8x10 Ektachrome, shot on a king’s ransom worth of Sinar and Broncolor equipment. Absolutely no expense spared. Everything absolutely perfect. Every time.
One day, while doing a food assignment for a very young Boston art director, we caught her examining the 8x10 transparencies on the lightbox, using a loupe her boyfriend had given her to inspect 35mm slides.
She declared that the chromes were “soft” and began to insist that the entire project be reshot.
It took a great deal of fancy talking on the part of the studio owner to convince her that the 8x10 chromes were already the size they would be lithographically reproduced, and there was no point in looking at them through magnification. Finally, she backed off and the day was saved.
I knew enough to make myself scarce during that discussion. But, you know, the girl had a point. Those sheets of color did not seem to my eye as “sharp” per square inch as 35mm and 120 roll film. Especially under a loupe.
There is always the chance that the film could have bowed slightly from the center of the holder due to gravity. Anything was possible, except camera movement as we lit with the mighty Broncolors.
But I sometimes wonder if thick emulsion (color especially) sheet film is somehow not quite so crisp as microscopically thin tabular grain 35mm and roll film.
After years of doing b&w exclusively, color and chromogenic images always look slightly mushy to my eye. Perhaps that was it.
What do you think?