View Full Version : 6x9 vs. 4x5 In todays digital world?

Mike Kravit
6-Jul-2001, 18:52
An interesting question....

In today's world of drum scanning and digital printing does using a 4x5 for arch itecture and landscape work over a 6x9 make any sense. With high quality drum sc ans, enlarged images seem no longer a controlling factor.

The 6x9 seems appealing due to it's size and weight. The use of roll film is als o quite appealing due to avcailability of emulsion.

I currently have two 4x5 cameras. An Ebony SV45U for field and travelling and an Arca F-Line 4x5 for location architecture. My thought is to acquire an Arca Met ric 6x9 to use for both. I would like opinions both pro and con.

Yes, I can attach a film back to my 4x5's, but I am looking to reduce bulk and s implify. BTW, I will never sell the Ebony, so I will always have the 4x5 option.

Thanks Mike

mike rosenlof
6-Jul-2001, 19:31
An interesting question indeed. And I, of course, don't have the answer.

I love using 4x5, and I do believe the quality is higher than I can get with 6x9 (especially since I dropped my 6x9 Fuji, but that's another sad story), but if the end result is something other than a photographic print - namely halftone, Web, magazine reproduction, I too would really question if 4x5 vs. 6x9 makes any quality difference.

I will disagree mildly with your statement "With high quality drum scans, enlarged images seem no longer a controlling factor." You still need to have the information in the negative and a 4x5 neg (or transparency of course) can still hold more information than 6x9.

I think the quality potential of the intended final product is more of a factor to consider when you choose your format.

paul owen
6-Jul-2001, 20:14
Mike, There has indeed been a dramatic leap in terms of emulsion quality over the last few years. This has meant that roll film is getting closer to the quality of sheet, in some cases. BUT, this improvement has also meant that the same technology is being applied to sheet film! IMHO, roll film cannot compare to sheet film, especially when it comes to black and white. I recently shot the same scene using 6x9 and 5x4. I used APX25 in roll film and FP4+ in sheet. The 5x4 wins without question! But there is a place for roll film, as you quite rightly state, and there are many occasions where I use roll film in preference to my 5x4, especially when weight and ease of setting up is paramount. Have the best of both worlds and get a 6x9 and run it alongside your 5x4. My only thought is, that I only ever seem to use front rise/fall when using 6x9. The greatly reduced size of the GG makes it difficult to observe tilt, but maybe this is a problem personal to me alone! It might be an idea to get some feedback from users of "pure" roll film cameras, ie Mamiya 7, Fuji rangefinders, as one of these would seriously reduce the weight of your kit!! Regards Paul

ed kang
6-Jul-2001, 20:55
If you're already a 4x5 user, and you're finding yourself asking a question like, "6x9 vs 4x5", it's plainly obvious that there are more immediate issues at hand than merely enlargement capability. In fact, Mike, you mention this: "The 6x9 seems appealing due to it's size and weight. The use of roll film is also quite appealing due to availability of emulsion".

Asking whether using 4x5 over 6x9 "makes any sense" makes no sense to me. It matters on the situation, even within the context of architecture and landscape work.

So, answering your more immediate question:

You want to: 1) reduce bulk 2) simplify

Towards that end, I recommend the Metric 6x9.

mark lindsey
6-Jul-2001, 21:16
both will give you the quality you need for most uses unless you will be enlarging really big, worry more about which one will be best for which situation, large format is great, but what if you can only get the shot with the medium format??

Mike Kravit
6-Jul-2001, 22:31
Some interesting points are raised. I guess the biggest problem is I read a few point of view on other lists and start thinking. Thinking can be a dangerous thing.

In all reality, I love shooting 4x5. I find the control it offers in processing, exposure, and precision all play a part in the final image.

Still, discussing these issues provides a useful venue to reinforce ones own working methodology and open the mind to others.

Thanks all,


mike kwiatkowski
6-Jul-2001, 23:36
I own both a Mamiya medium format and a Toyo 4x5 field. Since I bought the 4x5 I have not touched the Mamiya. I always carry my camera in a back pack and I was a worried that a 4x5 would be a bit much. To tell you the truth, the 4x5 weighs not one bit more than my medium format. The body may weigh a bit more in 4x5, however, the lenses are much lighter. And of course the filters and meter are the same. As far as film goes, I use Fuji and Kodak readyloads so my film and holder are very light. I carry my pack at least three days a week where I live and have taken it all over the world so I know the feel of it well. If I was forced to say which one is heavier I would probably say my medium format with three lenses is maybe a bit more than my 4x5 with three lenses. (I use the same carbon fiber tripod for both) Film is more expensive for my 4x5 and I do not have the ability to crank off some shots at different exposures and hope for a good one. But those facts have just made me be come a better photographer. The tonal range captured by 4x5 is greater and I know have the ability to really use the development end of the zone system. I can even apply it a bit to my slides. The fact of the matter is that bigger film captures more detail. If you blow up a 6x7 and a 4x5 you might not see a difference in grain or even sharpness to an extent, but you will see a difference in detail captured by the film. With my 4x5 I routinely see things in the negative or slide I did not even see when I was there taking the picture. One other related thing brought me to 4x5. When I was thinking about going to large format, I wondered how much improvement it would make, if any. I went through many, many photo magazines and books and just looked at the pictures to see if I could guess if it was large, medium or 35mm. To my surprise I could tell at least 80% of the time. large format film just captures detail that smaller films never will. Mike

Jorge Gasteazoro
7-Jul-2001, 00:00
Mike like it was stated before it depends of the situation, but IMHO nothing compares to a contact print and is the reason now a days more and more people are shooting 11x14, 16x20 cameras. 8x10 has become the small format and 4x5 is the point and shoot..:-))

Glenn Kroeger
7-Jul-2001, 01:23

The Mamiya/View camera discussion is somewhat off-point, since you specifically want to shoot with a roll-film view camera.

Some personal observations... I now shoot primarily 6x9 with an Arca Swiss 69FC. I find that using color transparency film (Fuji Velvia or ProviaF) and printing via drum-scanning and LightJet output, the results I get from 6x9 are virtually as good as 4x5 for sizes up to about 20x24 (20x30). At 20x24, there is the first hint of difference in the finest details, but I hope my images are compelling enough that people don't want to take a loupe to the finest detail.

I like the ability to bracket freely (and affordably), to try different f-stop/shutter speed combinations. I also like the extra f- stop or so of depth of field and find it most helpful in being able to use faster shutter speeds since I find wind the most important problem in my landscape work. Since I often shoot in changing light, I can carry enough film to shoot the extra frames that often suprise me on the light table.

If I were shooting B&W, I would stick to 4x5, although I have gotten very nice results from 120, the tonality just isn't the same as the larger negative. For some reason that I don't fully understand, I don't see the same loss of tonality in color using the digital reproduction.

Cost aside, the two most compelling advantages I find in 6x9 are the wonderful Arca-Swiss binocular viewer and the substantial reduction in bulk of my outfit. Most of the decrease in bulk is the difference between 80 shots worth of Quickload (4 boxes plus holder) and 80 shots in 6x9 (two pro-packs).

I also like the fact that long-focus lenses are proportionally shorter and thus bellow extension and wind vibration are much less of a problem.

For best results with 6x9, I had to alter my shooting style. First, I try to buy the sharpest possible lenses. In 4x5, lens sharpness is not as critical, but in 6x9, you want the best. To get the best from your lenses, I am careful not to stop down farther than necessary. There have been many discussions on this forum about diffraction vs. DOF, and I am a firm believer that infinitely more images are disappointing due to lack of DOF than due to softness from diffraction effects. Nonetheless, I try not to stop down beyond what I need, so I ususally try to stick to f/16-f/22, where in 4x5 I would go to f/32 without hesitation. I also use a compendium shade when reasonable to prevent any loss of contrast from internal flare. Finally, the biggest loss is the ability to crop without mercy. I force myself to shoot more different angles and compositions in the field since I want to maximize the use of the smaller image area.

Executive summary: If you shoot mainly chromes, and print via digital to sizes of 16x24 or smaller most of the time, 6x9 will be very satisfying particularly in reducing bulk for travelling. If you shoot alot of B&W, do the Zone thing, or find yourself printing 24x30, stick with 4x5.

7-Jul-2001, 01:40
Well said, Glenn. Well said.

I made the switch to 4x5 because I wanted control over my B&W images. The zone system isn't the easiest to do with roll film. If I shoot my Velvia or Provia transparencies, I shoot either my Nikon 35mm or my Canham 4x5. I would probably choose a 6x7 or other medium format camera, if I had the resources at the moment.


Mike Kravit
7-Jul-2001, 10:19

Thank you for your insights into your use of the 6x9 Arca Swiss. Obviously from your point of view the 6x9 works well for your type of working style.

My point in this thread was to solicit objective and varied opinions. I believe that I will not give up 4x5 as I love the shooting style that I have developed with it. Additionally, with the introduction of the new single sheet T-Max 100 Readyloads (my film of choice since Tri-X is not available in Readyloads)I have been getting excellent exposures without light leaks.

So my point was to ascertain if shooting 4x5 vs 6x9 with todays film emulsions and digital workflow will allow comparable results with image enlargements of a reasonable size (perhaps up to 20x30). Your opinions regarding this point are very helpful and appreciated.

To elaboorate; I recently shot 5 rolls of Agfa Scala on my Contax 645. I drum scanned a number of these images and I was quite taken and impressed with the results. Tonal range, detail, sharpness was all excellent. I print to 20x24 on my Epson 7000 and found the difference between 4x5 T-Max and the 645 Scala to be subtle and difficult to detect visually. So I would think that the difference between 4x5 and 6x9 might be evel less so.

Thanks all for the great response and gamut of opinion.


Ellis Vener
7-Jul-2001, 12:00
Don't forget that you'll need at least one new wide angle lens to take in the angle of view you are currently getting with your widest lens on 4x5

Carlos Co
7-Jul-2001, 14:51
I'm excited to see how well the new Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro (4800 dpi, 4.8 dmax) with ICE3 will compare with the best drum scanners. If so, then switching to 6x9 would make lots of sense.

Charlie Stracl
9-Jul-2001, 14:06
For what it's worth, I feel (in a view camera), 4x5 is easier to use than 6x9, simply because the movements are easier to judge on the ground glass (because the image is larger) and a given amount of movement (in degrees) creates a bigger arc (in inches or mm) at the lensboard or back.

Garry Edwards
10-Jul-2001, 07:04
Leaving aside all the personal preferences and technical arguments - and I'm not suggesting that they are not valid - I will be sticking with 5"x4" for the forseeable future, because all of my work is commercial and many of my commercial clients are advised by their printers that their jobs should be shot on 5"x4".