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Thread: Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

  1. #1
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    I asked this in the context of another thread

    I may not be explaining this the best way (that's why I take pictures...)

    I'm not sure if it's entirely an perception/optical illusion, or whether there is some math behind this, but:

    When someone says "I'm thinking of moving up to 8x10 and schlepping that around the countryside because I like the idea of a big neg" people on here often say "why bother with 8x10 unless you really want to do contact prints, just use 4x5 if you are going to enlarge" or words to that effect

    Apart from the differences if you are going to print big - 4 or 6 feet wide - which is another issue - I feel there is a real difference in look or perception between the same scene taken with an equivalent lens in the two formats.

    That is, suppose you photograph the same landscape scene in 4x5 with a 125mm lens and in 8x10 with a 250mm lens.

    Pretty close equivalents. But to my eye the scenes are rendered differently.

    I know I always get a little lost with the math and different DoF from one format to another and technically how the difference between a 125mm on 4x5 and a 210mm on 8x10 pans out. But even using movements to bring everything into focus from front to back in both photographs, to my eye there is a different perception of the space in the two images.

    Maybe it's an optical illusion? Maybe there is some math behind it? But my personal feeling is that photographing the same space using the two different formats (with equivalent lenses) gives two differing perceptions of that same space.

    Or am I completely wrong, and grain aside, if you took the two identical photographs with the two formats from the same spot using lenses that were equivelent in angle of view, blew them both up to say 20x24, visually, perceptually, they wouldn't look any different?
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

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  2. #2

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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    Hi Tim,

    Most of us that move to a larger negative do so in order to use contact printing. Azo printing would be a good example. There is also the added benefit of a larger viewing area while composing. I just made the jump to 11"x14" for many reasons. I will still shoot 8"x10" as well.

    There are many reasons to move to a larger format. The contact print for me is the ultimate in artistic creation. Keep in mind that the camera is another tool in the art of photography. Not all shots that are taken on a 4"x5" would be taken on an 8"x10". The larger the format in general the more time one takes to compose the image. I enjoy the pace of the larger camera.

    The other item to consider is the enlarging process. For the average photographer that does not have a large darkroom the enlarger may not be an option. As far as comparing two enlargments side by side that is an entirely different pickle. You could have 10 different people look at two enlargments from an 8"x10" and a 4"x5" negative. I am sure that you would have 10 different opinions. For me the difference is worth the larger size. Is the contact print better then an enlargement? Hard to say. I would just keep in mind that the contact print has a much different "feel". The only way to experience that is to see one face to face.

    I too posted a question regarding the use of ultra large foramt cameras. That was when I was considering the 11"x14". Most of the responses were that the 11"x14" contact print was no different then the 11"x14" enlargment from a 4"x5" negative. I say that the results of the contact print are what drives me to get the shot. In the end it is a personal taste. I say view a few contact prints and see what you think. I would be glad to send a few if you like.

    Bruce

  3. #3

    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    Well, to me since the perspective does not change if it is done from the same point of view, then there will be no difference in the final print, and that's irrespective of the lens used (except cropping would be needed so the same area of view is represented in the final print). This is of course to say, that the lens used does not introduce geometrical distortions of its own. So, aside a possible difference in the quality of the final print, I don't see how a "difference" could be perceived.

    I've not done anything above 4x5, but it could be that since you're looking at the ground galss on 8x10 from about the same short distance as you would with a 4x5, it might provide some illusion to what you're seeing.
    Witold
    simplest solutions are usually the most difficult ...

  4. #4
    Mike
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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    I think that there are many ways to look at this. From a technical perspective, there will be many minute differences which, when put together, can be significant. For example, the lens quality will be slightly different (esp. with color), the precise alignment of the film backs may differ. The needed exposure time increase for 8x10 will also cause differences, as will enlargeability. And there are surely others.

    In the end, stick with what looks and works best for you for any given situation. I always seem to think that most of my images would never have worked had I used a different film/set-up. Maybe subconsciously, I am aware of the end result and use that to my advantage. As with everything in photography, where there is a benefit, there is always an almost equal detriment to go along with it (cost, bulk etc.).

  5. #5
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    "Most of us that move to a larger negative do so in order to use contact printing. Azo printing would be a good example. There is also the added benefit of a larger viewing area while composing. I just made the jump to 11"x14" for many reasons. I will still shoot 8"x10" as well.

    I say that the results of the contact print are what drives me to get the shot. In the end it is a personal taste. I say view a few contact prints and see what you think. I would be glad to send a few if you like."

    No no no...! :-) that's not what I was asking (I shoot 8x10 as well as 4x5 and have shot 11x14 - and I have contact printed B&W. Also, many of us shoot in colour - which we don't usually contact print... but we still use 8x10).

    This question oroginally came up in the context of Jim Cookes 8x10 work Re-Placing Arcadia.

    Perhaps I can put it like this. I don't think his landscape images, printed to 16x20 would look the same (nothing to do with grain) if he had shot them on 4x5, using equivalent focal length lenses.

    Does that make sense?

    That is - I don't think he could have got the same feel and perception of that same scene if he used 4x5 rather than 8x10.

    Witold has what I'm asking I think:

    "Well, to me since the perspective does not change if it is done from the same point of view, then there will be no difference in the final print, and that's irrespective of the lens used (except cropping would be needed so the same area of view is represented in the final print). This is of course to say, that the lens used does not introduce geometrical distortions of its own. So, aside a possible difference in the quality of the final print, I don't see how a "difference" could be perceived."

    So you are saying there is no geometric or mathematical distortion if you view the scene from the same position using a 125mm and a 250mm lens? That the sense I have about this is basically optical illusion?
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  6. #6
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    I feel I work differently with the two formats, so it's not so easy to compare, even setting aside the issue of contact printing.

    I look at the groundglass differently when it's larger, though I'm not sure I can exactly say how. I can see different things. Maybe I feel more like a painter working 1:1, knowing that the print will be the same size as the image on the glass.

    I usually choose 4x5" when I want to work more quickly, but that's more a function of the design of the camera (Tech V vs. Gowland monorail) than the format.

    I prefer the look of classic lenses on 8x10", but I don't think they hold up well to enlargement, so my 4x5" lenses are more modern designs. In shots with short DOF, this affects the way the figure separates from the ground and the texture of the out-of-focus area. If I used lenses of the same design and analogous focal length on the two formats, I suspect they would still produce different results, since the appearance of the out-of-focus area is related to absolute aperture size.

    But say you take out the short DOF issue and shoot for maximum DOF. I still think you would see a difference in texture. A 2x enlargement looks different from a 4x enlargement to me.

  7. #7

    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    Yes Tim,

    That's what I'm saying. A "line-of-perspective" projected from the same point will be identical for any lens. The difference is that a wider lens will allow one to view more from the same spot. That's why I added the cropping issue if one is to compare same kind of apples.

    Going back to the quality issue, it may indeed make a hell of a difference and persuade someone to think otherwise. Given your question however, we should overlook that part.
    Witold
    simplest solutions are usually the most difficult ...

  8. #8

    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    When one uses a shorter lens, 125 vs. 250, objects in the foreground will appear larger in relation to the background objects and this altered relationship won't change with subsequent enlargement. The two pictures will look different when viewed from the same distance. You will probably have to view the enlarged photograph from a closer distance to get the same perspective.

  9. #9

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    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    Mathematically, they are identical.

    All things being equal (ie. you get identical camera alignment, the lenses have identical distortions, etc.), if you print 16x20 from each of 4x5 and 8x10 and overlay the prints, every point will register.

    However, if you throw the 4x5 and 8x10 trannies on a light table, side by side, things will look different, due to the differences in scale.

    If you can place the 8x10 trannie on a light box at twice the distance from your eye as the 4x5, and cover one eye to eliminate parallax, they will again appear identical.

  10. #10

    Does the same scene look different in 4x5 and 8x10?

    To me, the difference is more behind the ground glass experience than say comparing the final prints of equal size made from different negs of equivalent focal lengths. And I don't mean the enlarging vs contact printing issue. I find 8x10 to be the perfect size because you can take in all of the scene at once and see fine details at average viewing distance of 10 inches or so behind the GG. With 4x5, I seem to have to get closer and try harder to resolve fine details. Beyond 8x10, you have to move back to take it all in and the intimate details get slightly lost. It's like reading a book, imagine how uncomfortable it would be to read a half size text reduced proportionally with the size of an average book. I think it has something to do with the way our eyes work, the spacing between them and the distance from the pupil(iris) to retina(film plane).

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