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Thread: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

  1. #1

    MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    Hi guys,

    I know that I'm sticking my nose in a bee's nest, especially considering that it's my first post in this forum ...

    ... but here comes a sincere question from someone who is pondering large format photography as a means to getting into ultra high resolution prints. The last months I thought that medium format digital is the be and end all in terms of photographic quality, especially with those high prices in mind I thought it must be the best.

    After a lot more reading though, I reckon that to achieve the highest quality possible analog is still the way to go?

    My question is this: In 2010, with the p65+ and H4D-60 (soon, apparently) around as the best digital backs, how does medium format digital compare to large format photography?

    Can one achieve similar print sizes or not with digital means? Or is ist still a completely different ballgame? After more than a year after the p65+'s introduction I'd be happy to hear some experiences?

    What resolution can one squeeze out of a 8 x 10 negative with the best available hardware? somewhere I read that it is about 19500 x X pixels?

    I know that here's a thread about this, but the this picture got me thinking .... :

    http://www.gettyimages.de/detail/853...-Entertainment

    ...

    Kind regards

    Paul

  2. #2

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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    I think the tactile quality of the print is way more important than resolution an ink jet print is still just an ink slick. If the viewer is making a decision by inspecting a print with a loupe, your subject matter has lost the war...EC

  3. #3
    hacker extraordinaire
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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    I agree with evan clark. If you have no desire for analog, use digital. If it's all about pixels, you might as well start with pixels.

  4. #4
    David de Gruyl's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    Ok, is a 6x4.5 (cm) frame the same as a 4x5 (in) or 8x10 (in) frame? Even if you use the worst film in the world, you will have more information on the larger "sensor". I would even argue that the 6x4.5 digital back is less interesting than the fleet of 6x7 gear you could replace it with.

    All that being said, the larger format has drawbacks, primarily in weight (for 8x10) and in limited depth of field. You may have more light striking more photoreceptive elements (silver halide molecules or whatever) but more of it has the potential to be out of focus. The larger the area, the smaller the DOF. This is why a, 8x10 portrait looks so much different from a MF portrait (in my mind).

    Also, processing, handling and scanning a piece of 8x10 film is non-trivial. You might consider 4x5 as a better size for resolution gathering. In fact, I get better scans at higher resolution from 4x5 than from 8x10. I also don't feel stupid putting color film in the 4x5 (because I print color digitally, there is no benefit derived from the 8x10 for color).

    This does not stop me from using the 8x10, but I do consider part of what I do performance art. The other part is making prints. So far, nothing beats a contact print. 8x10 is a much more reasonable size contact print than 4x5. It is still on the small side, but I am unlikely to get a bigger camera. No room for it.

  5. #5

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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    If resolution and large print sizes are your goals, you may want to consider a Betterlight scanback.

  6. #6

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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    All that being said, the larger format has drawbacks, primarily in weight (for 8x10) and in limited depth of field
    I see those as advantages ;-)

    The question is moot, one can always do a better scan from the film and digital backs will continue to improve. For all practical commercial uses, digital rules.

    But only with large format do you get the size, weight, and three-dimensionality that a smaller film or sensor size will never be able to capture. Not that you can't make great images with small cameras, but especially with shooting people with a big camera, it is a different experience in itself, which changes the way the subject responds.

    Holding a H3 up to someone's face ain't the same as setting the Deardorff up!

  7. #7
    David de Gruyl's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio View Post
    Holding a H3 up to someone's face ain't the same as setting the Deardorff up!
    Uh, exactly.

    Or, for that matter, waving a crown graphic around has a completely different effect from any other type of camera. People tend not to care if you stick one up their nose, and fire 1000 watts in their eyes. (ignore the number, I have no idea what my metz hammerhead yields).

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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    First you have to define "image quality". If it's purely a math problem then a properly scanned sheet of large format film wins by a long shot. An 8x10 inch piece of film has many many times the amount of data than a MF digital back so that's that.

    All of the other stuff is subjective. You have to use whichever tool fits the job best for you. Whether one is better than the other is up to you and your personal needs.

    Which is better, a hammer or a screw driver?

  9. #9

    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    I agree with erie patsellis: king of the hill is betterlight but it comes at a cost. Long exposure times and problems with artifacts if the subject moves (wind). I shoot 8x10 and scan with respectable scanner (Heidelberg Tango drum) but it does not approach the betterlight. Also there are no cords and batteries to film. there is a clarity and color purity not matched by focal plane sensor DSLRs. Having said that, I don't have access to a medium format back for comparison mainly due to expense. a used betterlight goes for $8K, far less than medium format but you have to add the camera and it must be a rigid one (I had to replace my wooden folder with an Arca Swiss). this also gives the opportunity to shoot both 4x5 and betterlight digital just by carrying a few holders.

  10. #10
    Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Large Format - where are we today?

    This is almost an academic exercise:

    http://www.imx.nl/photo/leica/camera...4/page164.html

    and it deals with small film vs small sensor, but it shows that certain film, with a certain technique, and a certain type of subject (b&w test pattern with fine lines and hard edges), and a certain output, analog can have better resolution than digital (same size sensor).

    It's yet-another-film-vs-digital comparison, and a laboratory exercise, but still...

    ...Mike

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