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Thread: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

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    Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    Has anyone compared the image quality of a ca. 24 x 30 enlargement from a large format wide angle digital lens (e.g. Schneider digitar 47mm) shot on 6x6 film versus the same size enlargement shot with an analog lens of equivalent focal length shot on 4x5 film? I'd really be interested to know which version produces the "better" enlargement. Thanks!

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    Not done the exact comparison but I've had a few 1dskm3 files taken on a 16-35mm and some 5x4 ektar enlarged to 30"x20", taken on a 150mm, and then drum scanned.
    Film easily wins.
    The gradation between the tones is much better and the film has a softness I much prefer.
    The more film I shoot (after a break of a few years) the more I think it's still better than digital, except maybe commercially. Wouldn't like to go back trying to mix different light sources and shooting in low light.

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    I think the OP is inquiring about using lenses optimized for digital on film, not (yet another) film vs. digital debate.

    It's a good question, though to be fair I think you'd need to compare film of the same size. Even with the resolution advantage of the latest digital lenses, the larger 4x5 film will probably win out over the smaller 6x6 film, at least when it comes to grain and tonality, which in my opinion are more important to the look of a print than resolution.

    I know that 4x5 beats out my Mamiya 7 negs at larger print sizes. The M7 lenses aren't digital lenses, but they are quite good. The difference has less to do with resolution and more to do with better separation of tones. Having said that, I switched to 4x5 more for the perspective control than the image quality.

    Films are very good these days, and if you're drum scanning you should have no problem with making a good 24x30in. print from a MF neg, though 6x7 would be much better than 6x6, which would need to be cropped down to enlarge to that proportion.

    Based on my experience with scanning and printing 6x7 and 4x5 negs, I'd say that a 24x30 would be slightly better in terms of tonality and grain. These characteristics are primarily determined by the film and enlargement factor and have less to do with the lens.

    As for resolution, I can't answer that definitively since I've never shot with digital lenses, but my guess would be that it would be very, very close in a 24x30in. print.

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    An interesting question, but somehow I doubt that 'digital' LF lenses are any better than very good lenses for medium-format film. And if that's true, then we already know what wins between medium format and 4x5. 4x5 tends to win on resolution and tonality grounds, other things being equal (and they are never equal, because medium format is a much different way of working).
    Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
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    Cordless Bungee Jumper Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    The last time I checked photons do not behave differently in digital lenses than in film lenses. They are very consistant about following the same laws of physics.

    Aren't you glad you asked?
    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

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    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    An interesting question, but somehow I doubt that 'digital' LF lenses are any better than very good lenses for medium-format film.
    They are. The MTF results show it. I've seen at least two reviews of digital technical cameras where the reviewer made the assumption that they couldn't better, and continued to use their medium format optics. When they finally got their hand on an a digital lens, they said the differences were eye-popping.

    The Schneider and Rodenstock versions are the sharpest and highest resolution camera lenses that have ever been made, and in addition to that they are optimized for the idiosyncrasies of digital sensors.

    I've never used one of these but have looked at both the curves and a number of test images. They're startling. The big compromise is the size of the image circles. You don't get much in the way of movements. No idea what their out-of-focus qualities are like.

    As far as performance differrences at 24x30, I don't know. That's in a range where I can imagine the best digital backs beating 4x5. Much smaller than that you'll see no significant difference in sharpness. Much bigger, you'll get to a point where the 4x5 wins.

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    They are. The MTF results show it. I've seen at least two reviews of digital technical cameras where the reviewer made the assumption that they couldn't better, and continued to use their medium format optics. When they finally got their hand on an a digital lens, they said the differences were eye-popping.
    Is there any reason you couldn't use these lenses with medium format film?
    Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
    --A=B by Petkovšek et. al.

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    I know that in small format, I've had lenses that worked great for film and looked like crap with digital (lots of chromatic aberration and such). Newer lenses fixed that. There are also older lenses in small format that work great with digital. So my experience was that old lenses were a game of chance in how they'd perform for a high res digital SLR in the small format realm.

    I'd believe they are different for MF/LF as well. People are willing to pay for something capable by design rather than capable by chance.

    In MF/LF, the digital sensors are also a bit smaller, and require more magnification by the optics to get the same results, magnifying imperfections as well. (Unless you are stitching)

    It's hard for schneider, et.al. to compete against lenses they built 40 years ago that are still selling on ebay after living a pampered life, etc... It makes good sense that they'd build things optimized for what people are spending the big money on (digital).

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    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    This topic has come up before, and Bob S. has weighed in with useful info regarding
    Rodenstock MF digital lenses. A couple of side issues: although these dedicated digital
    lenses have higher MTF, a smaller viewing area requires more careful focus, and additonally, most film does not lies on quite as flat a plane as a digital sensor. Third, the limited images circles of some of these lenses would restrict their use of larger film
    and might be inadequate for 4x5 use. As to the wider debate over scale of reproduction, there is simply no way any kind of MF capture, digital or film, can
    compete with the detail of a proper 4x5 shot (let alone 8X10), especially if it is optically printed. But versus MF film, digital workflow either direct or scanned is going to be a much more convenient path for cleaning up little inevitable zits or dust spots and so forth on these smaller images, which get magnified to a much higher degree in the print than with LF film. In my opinion at least, digital capture is at its best in the
    medium format range, beyond that traditional analog is hard to beat if you want maxiumum information in the print itself. But check with Bob - I believe the Rodenstock
    dedicated digital lenses need some kind of correction element if film is used.

  10. #10

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    Re: Image quality from digital vs analog lens both shot on film

    Yes, Noah, you've very accurately reflected my original question. I'm not interested in digital capture. I have a DSLR for that, but I much prefer film. However, I do have a Rollex back for my Linhof TK and I much prefer the SQUARE format for all images. I know, I should simply crop the 4x5 down to square if that's what I'm after, but I like to compose within the square itself. My real question concerns the performance of the newer Schneider and Rodenstock digital lenses ON FILM (i.e., the MF available for the Rollex backs) versus my Schneider 47mm LX on 4x5 film.
    I agree with those assessments that the 4x5 film offers a clarity and smoothness of tonality that we just don't get with other choices (digital capture with smaller DSLRs or MF). I don't have a digital Rodenstock or Schneider, but am very curious to know what the results would be like if I used one on a Rollex film back. Again, I have no interest in digital capture with the Linhof, at least not until the digital backs stop competing with the M5 BMW in terms of price
    Thanks very much for all the responses!

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