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View Full Version : Analog VS High-End-Digital: 80 Mpx, 4x5 Film, Mamiya Macro, IQSmart 2



PaulSchneider
4-Oct-2011, 19:51
THIS IS A CROSS-POST OF A POST ON LULA I DID IN ORDER TO BRING IN MY FINDINGS REGARDING THE 8x10 vs 80 MPX DEBATE

Hi guys,

I'm writing this because I've been eagerly following the discussing ensuing the article from Mr. Zuber on the front page.

At some point, I found the results didn't match my experience with both media. I can say that since I'm in the lucky position to both own complete 4x5, 8x10, 80 Mpx, Alpa setups as well as an IQSmart 2 scanner. I also own the arguably best lenses for these systems such as Sironar-S's and SSXLs in different focal lengths, the Phase One LS lenses, the mamiya macro lens and a SK digitar lens for the Alpa.

Basically my impression was that the supposed advantage of digital was emphasized way too much and that many members of the forum who owned significant digital outfits jumped all over the results feeling comforted in their decision to buy into such expensive systems and shoot with it. That's why I feel that I could throw in a few of my findings for what they're worth in order to maybe put another angle into this discussion.

It is important to mention that I work a lot and that photography to me is just a way of escaping and having a passionate time doing something I really like. Hence my goal with this post is to uniquely discuss the technical aspects of the media and not my photography per se which I want to keep private. I'm quite curious and I love the technical aspects of photography, which is also the reason why the article of Mr. Zuber piqued my interest to start analyzing the differences of analog and digital more profroundly. First and foremost I want to know an answer for myself and I hope my findings might be of interest for others too who do not have the means to compare both media as I do at this moment in time.

I sincerely think that this forum has a heavy pro-digital bias and that this skews the objectivity of some comments. It is clear that working professionals who shoot fashion or architecture will laud the advantages an 80 MPX kit affords; but this shouldn't detract from the fact that a well-executed LF image can yield great results that can still exceed digital in terms of feel, special something and, yes, resolution. This is my personal opinion and this being said I would like to throw in my preliminary findings for what they're worth.

WHAT I COMPARED

Equipment used:

Analog: SSXL 150 @ f22, Expired Kodak Ektachrome shot on a Linhof TA 45s
Digital: Scanned @ 4000 DPI with IQsmart 2, non-wet
Shot with Mamiya Macro 120mm @ f16 on a light-table @ 1:1 and so as to cover the whole 4x5 as an 80 Mpix shot
Digital Back: Leaf Aptus 12 @ ISO 50 with a cable release on a DF body

The comparison: I took 4x5 chrome of a night scene I had lying around and compared different means of digitzing it as well as a digital shot of a similar scene in order to visually appreciate the resolution differences.

What I found, purely subjectively:

1. Digitizing film with a 80 Mpx back on a light table is almost as good as my IQSmart! Extremely easy and fast. When buying the IQSmart I compared it to a Flextight and found the Flextight to be less good. So basically if one shoots 4x5 digitizing a a negative or chrome with a newest generation back almost completely eradicates the need for a scanner that maxes out at 2000 DPI. Attaching the back to a mac workstation would let your digitize 30-40 4x5 in an hour with great quality.

2. The IQSmart does yield higher quality overall, even compared to a 1:1 shot of the film but the advantage really is slight. If one prints a 320 MPX 4000 DPI scan at 300 DPI it is more practical to use the IQSmart, because the grain structur looks nicer, the image is slightly sharper and because you don't need to stitch. Scanning at that resolutions take long though, never counted the exact minutes.

You could stitch multiple 1:1 shots and get similar resolution, but it is more tedious.

Uprezzing the full-frame shot of the 4x5 yields, I think very, very acceptable results, especially when printed at 300 DPI.

3. The sharpness of the full-frame shot of the 4x5 is not that far off from a shot of a 80 MPX back in purely digital means. 8x10 ist twice the linear resolution, I hence sincerely believe that 8x10 still can create unsurpassed image quality.

4. I find the analog picture, the colors a lot more pleasing. I think at high enlargements the analog print would look amazing.

5. I love both media, but analog in now way is as low-rez as it has been put forht in that article.

If I find time, I will conduct a controlled test of the same scene with both 8x10 and 80 MPX and I'm sure that 8x10 will hold its own.

The images that follow are:

1. The full scene

http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/4853/80mpixfullframe.jpg

2. A comparison of a sharp detail of the scene digitized and sharpened pleasingly for me with the different media (scanner and macro setup)

http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/7479/comparison80mpxiqsmartd.jpg

3. A comparison of an 80 MPX detail shot, sharpened with a 100% crop of a full frame macro shot of a 4x5 chrome.

http://img522.imageshack.us/img522/2515/digitalogcomp.jpg
Shot at 2011-10-04


Kind regards

Paul

PaulSchneider
4-Oct-2011, 20:02
To conclude, the 4x5 is possibly a little less sharp and detailed than the 80 MPX shot; but 8x10 has 4x times the area, so in my opinion it is safe to say that an expertly executed 8x10 shot with the best lenses and scanned on a high-end scanner will offer more resolution than high-end digital. This is my finding, regardless of all the mathematic approaches or other tests conducted.

Also I find the grain structure and the colors a lot more pleasing. The grain structure allows for enlargements that look nicer to me. Especially the IQSmart produces an exquisit 320 MPX file I would love to print at 1.75m wide. I believe that for ultra large prints in an fine art setting I would always prefer analog over digital. Digital in my eyes makes perfect colors, and all to easily has a clinic look to it. It is too perfect. Of course there are curve tweaks, noise plugins etc. but it still isn't the same. Especially the last linked image above exemplifies this. I love the digital back for its strengths: i.e., speed, sharpness etc. But the look of analog gives it a painterly look which immediately reminds me of that special something I feel when I see art and not a glossy prospectus. Also be aware that I missed focus and only really the signs and the post are sharp on the analog pic and the house is already a bit out of focus...

And most surprisingly: a 80 MPX system with a macro lens is an extremely good scanning solution for everything below 8x10. Don't lust after that X5 anymore...

Kindest regards to you all!

Paul

toyotadesigner
5-Oct-2011, 08:39
Nice. Really, I mean it.

But definitely a waste of time!

Please be so kind and don't post any more images, unless you will have following setup:

PhaseOne 80 MP back, 4x5 with Fuji Provia 100F or Astia, two tripods with the cameras mounted at the same location, pointing to the same object, triggered at the same time. The Provia developed from a certified pro lab and scanned with an Imacon or drum scanner.

Did I mention to be very crucial/critical while focussing the 4x5?

Anything else is worthless.

Let me tell you this: I'm shooting with an Arca Swiss and a 6x9 back, Fuji Provia 100F. Tonal range / dynamic range, sharpness, color rendition, etc are still better than what the PhaseOne 80 MP can deliver. The only difference: PhaseOne delivers the image faster to your computer, and the handling of the PhaseOne is faster and simpler. On the other hand the Arca offers tilt/shift/rise/fall/swing with any lens I have for it - something you definitely can't do with a digital cam. Not yet.

But because my scenes are rather static, it doesn't bother me at all.

aluncrockford
5-Oct-2011, 12:57
Err ,if you stick a phase one back on your sinar you can use all the movements you need
Though the wide angles are a pain to use .I did exactly the test you mentioned and the digital back file was cleaner and sharper, if it was better is subjective but from a commercial point of view Digital wins hands down ,just ask yourself if it film was better from a commercial point of view do you really think I would have spent over 60,000 on digital backs

Robert Hughes
5-Oct-2011, 13:04
The upshot is, if you stick a sheet of film and 60,000 on the back of your camera, it's gonna look about as good as the equivalent digital back.

toyotadesigner
5-Oct-2011, 13:13
Err ,if you stick a phase one back on your sinar you can use all the movements you need

Sure, if you still have some 15 K to purchase some wide angle Rodenstock or Schneider Digitar lenses after investing 50 K in the PhaseOne back.

I don't know why you've spent so much, unless you are working in the fashion industry and have first class **paying** clients.

Sorry, but in most cases I have the impression that the owners of the hi res digital backs have an urge to justify their investment.

Brian C. Miller
5-Oct-2011, 13:49
Hi, Paul!

I'm a bit confused about what you've done. It seems that you used an 80Mpx back as a copy camera? And you are comparing that output to a scanner?

Nathan Potter
5-Oct-2011, 14:13
Brian, I'm likewise a bit confused about the procedure. If Paul gets a chance perhaps he could clarify a bit.

It's always difficult to do these comparisons with so many variables that can influence the results. But comparisons are useful, however executed, because they provide the opportunity to get a sense of how the equipment performs.

Nate Potter, Austin TX.

Kirk Gittings
5-Oct-2011, 14:23
Hmmm this may be the most confusing contribution to this debate to date-not sure of the point:

high end flat bed scanner vs. a 80MP back with macro lens in place of the scanner?

Sorry but that has 0 relevance to anything I am doing or ever plan on doing.

Noah A
5-Oct-2011, 15:08
It seems the OP is comparing three formats: an 80MP Leaf Back; a 4x5 film image scanned on an IQSmart; and the same 4x5 film image 'scanned' by taking a copy photo with the Leaf Back and a Mamiya macro lens.

I think the test is confusing. The IQSmart scan is clearly better than the Leaf copy-shot "scan", so why not simplify the test and compare 4x5 on a high-end flatbed with the Leaf Back?

I don't think many of us are going to buy an expensive MFDB to do copy shots when you could get a drum scanner (which would probably be better than the IQSmart) for less than the cost of some MFDB systems.

Robert Hughes
6-Oct-2011, 09:13
Rube Goldberg would be proud.

PaulSchneider
6-Oct-2011, 10:03
My point simply is, that the detail I can extract of reproducing a 4x5 chrome with an 80 MPX back isn't so much inferior to a controlled shot of a similar, real-life scene with a digital lens when viewed side by side. This is the third image.

My theory is really simple: if the macro lens shot does outresolve the full-frame view shot of film, the image would be less detailed and hence sharp than a digital real-life shot of a compareable scene. On the other hand, if the film outresolves the 80 MPX I would get a really visually sharp 80 MPX repro shot of the chrome and would see even more detail at a magnification of 1:1.

It is very subjective, but my impression is that 4x5 film isn't that far away from 80 mpx in terms of resolution.

As a side note I discovered the usefulness of "scanning" film with a macro lens on a light table. From now on I will mostly digitize 4x5 with my macro lens. It is that good.

I will probably do a full-on 8x10 80MPX comparison but I need to find the time ...

Kind regards
Paul

PaulSchneider
6-Oct-2011, 10:04
Rube Goldberg would be proud.

Is that a sarcastic comment? Don't understand ...

toyotadesigner
6-Oct-2011, 10:33
I guess he means there are better, simpler ways to get a nice image.


My theory is really simple: if the macro lens shot does outresolve the full-frame view shot of film, the image would be less detailed and hence sharp than a digital real-life shot of a compareable scene. On the other hand, if the film outresolves the 80 MPX I would get a really visually sharp 80 MPX repro shot of the chrome and would see even more detail at a magnification of 1:1.

Weird? Weird!


It is very subjective, but my impression is that 4x5 film isn't that far away from 80 mpx in terms of resolution.

It delivers a higher resolution. Just have a 4x5 chrome scanned with a drum scanner, and you don't have to be subjective or speculative anymore.

QT Luong
6-Oct-2011, 10:50
I understand the point of testing the MFD as a scanner. That result in itself is interesting, since the equivalent set up in 35mm (shooting a 35mm slide with a 20+MP camera) doesn't give very good results. The repro argument in #12 looks sound to me too, but it is redundant with the other comparison.

While the idea of introducing the MFD as scanner in the mix is interesting, it confuses many readers (hence the unfortunate negative posts, which are all too common). Your points who be made much more clearly in two separate posts: (a) scanned film vs. digi (b) scanned film vs. repro.

PaulSchneider
6-Oct-2011, 10:55
ok i ll come back when i do a controlled test ... hopefully i find time ...

unixrevolution
7-Oct-2011, 07:22
just ask yourself if it film was better from a commercial point of view do you really think I would have spent over 60,000 on digital backs

I have no idea why you bought a digital back. For all I know, you could just be a gadget addict, with sixty-thousand pounds burning a hole in his pocket.

Brian K
7-Oct-2011, 18:08
Paul, not wet mounting the film on the scanner is not a fair example of what an IQSmart can do. Wet mounting reduces grain and increases resolution. Also the IQSmart 2 is res limited to 4300 optical, which is shy of the ultimate resolution of many films. I find that some films exceed 5000 dpi.

Also the method of doing a copy camera setup is a poor one. You're photographing a photograph, and we all know that there's always loss when you do that. Your process is not testing film versus digital, but a MFDB versus a scanner.

aluncrockford
8-Oct-2011, 05:35
If I had not spent the money I would not still be working in the area I do, which is high end advertising, and no 5x4 film is not as good as film in a commercial context . I have mentioned before I shoot film for my personal work because I prefer the look and feel of film but using it for paid work is not practical

PaulSchneider
8-Oct-2011, 08:43
Paul, not wet mounting the film on the scanner is not a fair example of what an IQSmart can do. Wet mounting reduces grain and increases resolution. Also the IQSmart 2 is res limited to 4300 optical, which is shy of the ultimate resolution of many films. I find that some films exceed 5000 dpi.

Also the method of doing a copy camera setup is a poor one. You're photographing a photograph, and we all know that there's always loss when you do that. Your process is not testing film versus digital, but a MFDB versus a scanner.

I disagree with both statements.

First, I have certain qualitative requirements concerning sharpness if I print something. Of course you can drum scan a piece of film at 11 000 DPI and get huge files and so on. But then the image will not have the sharpness I like. For me the ultimate criterium is sharpness to the point that you can get 1 feet close to the image and still see a lot of details. It is very qualitative and I can't pinpoint an exact resolution number; but for my experience scanning at about 3000-4000 dpi on a piece of LF film is completely sufficient and exactly what I strive for quality wise.

I have tried wet mounting, but I don't finde the difference to be too striking.

Lastly, if you scan the process is quite similar to a copy setup with a macro lens and a high-res back. In both digitizing scenarios you have a lens system in between a digitizing sensor and a film plane. I do not exactly why it shouldn't be possible to extract the same quality.

Believe it or not, I'm the first person to concede a quality advantage to scanners if it is merited; heck, I do own an IQSmart2 myself. But we're in the year 2011 and digital back technology has come so far as to produce beautiful, practically noise-free 10k x 8k files in one shot. The macro optics are considered to be some of the best in the whole Phase One line-up and the quality trule is amazing. I was really surprised to see that the detail and clarity I can get from a 80mpx copy setup is that good and so near to the results I get with the IQSmart. And yes, there are still differences. But believe me, if you print 5-6 feet wide, an enlargement made from the 80 mpx file will be very, very close to the file I get from the IQSmart with a lot less hassle and time needed.

But this is normal considering that I'm pitting 2010 technology agains 1990s ccd technology.

Did you ever try reproducing a piece of film with an 80 mpx back?

Kind regards

Pablo

Ed Kelsey
8-Oct-2011, 09:21
Makes absolutely no sense to me eiher.

PaulSchneider
8-Oct-2011, 09:24
what exactly doesnt make sense?