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Thread: 4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

  1. #1

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    I've just completed a real world test for me between 4x5 and 8x10 formats. One 4x5 Linhof Technica with 150mm lens and one 8x10 Sinar P2 with a 300mm lens. Side by side at the same lens height focused on the same part of a very detailed urban landscape (buildings, trees, cement, piles of dirt, signage, tarmac, cars and people). Both cameras were on large tripods and fired simultaneously with cable releases at the same exposure time and f-stop.

    The film was Provia processed at normal. On the light box the 8x10 looked a country mile better, particularly through a loupe. They were then drum scanned to 100mb file size, reduced in file size slightly and printed at around 16"x 20". I would have put money on the 8x10 being a clear winner.

    The difference in resolving detail and sharpness was so marginal that I can barley tell the prints apart. There is zero grain in both. It's only when I study the most minute detail through a print loupe that I can pick up some of the differences.

    I also shot the same scene with my EOS 1ds Mk II. The large format film makes the 16MP image look absolutely rubbish.

    My test is by no means scientific (the lenses are different, the cameras are different etc etc etc) but it's how I operate - on location, scan at manageable sizes and print on inkjet. Others operate differently by scanning at huge sizes and printing on massive Giclée prints or by printing in a darkroom but unfortunately I don't have the time nor money for other processes.

    I'd never really bother writing about this but I'm truly staggered that there's no noticeable difference in the prints. I'd love to here from anyone who has conducted a similar side by side test.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    In my experience the point at which different film formats start to show a real difference is with enlargements of roughly 4x or bigger. Even a print from a 35mm negative can look great if it's a 3x5 print. When I used to shoot a lot of 6x7 along with 4x5 I seldom saw any difference between it and 4x5 with prints 11x14 or smaller. I suspect that if you made 20x24 or larger prints from your two negatives you'd see more of a difference but I've never enlarged my 8x10 negatives in a darkroom so I don't know exactly where they really start to shine. But 8x10 negatives must shine at some enlargement factor, Christopher Burkett doesn't lug an 8x10 system around just because he's trying to build up his muscles.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    your results don't seem surrprising at all. If both scans are producing 100mb files then the 8x10 scan is reducing its resolution to the same resolution as your 4x5 image scan. i.e. both scans contain the same amount of data/pixels. Depending on the scanner and the scanner software one of the images may look marginally better than the other since it will be putting each image through different software/hardware interpolation to arrive at 100mb file sizes.
    Only when you have to reduce print resolution below 300 - 360 ppi to achieve your desired print size from a 4x5 will you see a difference between the two assuming that you have scanned the 8x10 to a larger size so as to be able to print 300 -360ppi at the same size.

    i.e. if your neg quality is good enough and your scanner is good enough to give you 300 - 360 ppi at the print size you require, then there is no advantage in going to a bigger film format for the same size print.

  4. #4
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 1997
    San Jose, CA

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    I find it pretty predictable that you wouldn't see any difference between 4x5 and 8x10 with your methodology. Another way to think about this is that a 100MB file from 4x5 is almost perfect. So even if you had a 16x20 camera, you would do no better if you scanned it to 100MB, because one cannot do better than perfect. However, there is only so much one can do with a 100MB file. On the other hand, you say that the 1Ds2 print looks like "rubbish" in comparison, but many would argue that a 1Ds2 produces a pretty good print at 16x20.

  5. #5

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    I agree QT,

    I've got a 16x24 from a 1DS MK2 print as well as one shot with Astia 4x5 scanned on an Imacon 949. If you hold your nose up to the print (thereby only seeing a small part of it) than there is a slight detail difference....however, in smooth areas like the sky or water, the digital is more appealing because there is absolutely no grain. This difference becomes more obvious at 24x30. But to say a 16x20 print from the digital source is just plain rubbish.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    "the digital is more appealing because there is absolutely no grain."

    Having no grain is a lot like having no soul.

    presumably you are speaking from first hand knowledge...?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    Mark, I’m kinda sorry I read your post. It’s discouraging.

    For thirty years I have been kicking myself for stupidly selling my brand new personal 8x10 Deardorff, 300 amd 360 Symmars, dozen Fidelity holders, all in the plywood case nobody could lift, much less carry.

    Sure, the studio had an 11x14 job on a studio stand, but it just wasn’t the same.

    I have lately been trying to convince myself to max out the Visa and replace it with an 8x10 Ebony. It would be b&w 8x10 contacts vs enlargements from 4x5.

    Your results aren’t helping me justify the (seven grand, with lens & holders?) pricetag. That in itself is probably a blessing. ;0)

  8. #8

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    All I'm saying Dan is that people notice grain and accutance before they notice the slightly less detail at 16x20. The complete lack of grain improves tonality....and the higher accutance achievable from a clean digital source is why it takes a lower pixel count than many would imagine to equal 4x5.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Baton Rouge, LA

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    Is that 100 meg file an 8 bit file or 16 bit file?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Asheville, NC

    4x5 vs 8x10 print quality

    Seems to me the test is stacked against the 8x10. Try scanning the 8x10 chrome at the same resolution as the 4x5, and then tell me the differences. I think all your test proved is that a 100Mb file is superior to a 16Mb file and is equivalent to a... 100Mb file.

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