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Thread: For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

  1. #1

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    For those who don't print larger than 16x20 (from 4x5), and those who usually need great depth-of-field, that can't be taken care of by movements (i.e. need f32 or smaller apertures), and those who find the decreased dust, lower weight, and general convenience of Quickloads and Readyloads outweigh other considerations, what follows won't matter (maybe that means 90% of the 4x5 shooters out there : -) What follows is probably only of interest in the few cases where the highest sharpness is desired.

    The net result of my tests show that I get superior results with Toyo regular holders than with Fuji Quickload holders. Caveat: who knows, maybe I've overlooked something, or did something wrong, and others will get just as good results with either). Here are the details of my results:

    It may be known from other postings and articles on the large format forum that regular film holders give a more consistently accurate or flat film plane, than the packet type holders (Quickload, Readyload, etc.). However, I didn't know how significant this was until I had reason to obtain the sharpest possible result in a close up, and in another case, of buildings in the distance. Using 10x and 20x loupes to review my RVP 50 and Provia 100F transparencies shot with Quickloads, I noticied areas of unsharpness that were at the same distance as other areas that were sharp (although for the most part nothing looked totally sharp). Thinking I didn't focus carefully enough, or the camera was not aligned properly, or that there was something wrong with the camera, I did some careful tests.

    The tests: I used high quality lenses (Schneider 110xl, 135mm Apo-Sironar S, 90mm f8 Nikkor, 300 f9M Nikkor), focused carefully on different areas, using a 7x magnifier on the groundglass, using an Ebony 45SU, on two different subjects (one distant landscape with fences and building signs, etc, and 12 foot distance series of shots with several resolution targets on a wall). I shot more than 30 comparisons on Velvia 50 and some on Provia 100F. F-stops ranged from F11 to F32. I compared the same F-stop, the same focus, everything - i.e. Quickload RVP at F16&1/3 at 1/8 sec vs Toyo Holder RVP at F16&1/3 at 1/8sec, etc.

    Viewing transparencies with a 4x loupe, comparing shots on the Quickload vs Regular Film Holder, no difference can be seen (unless shot at F16 or wider aperture), as the details are too small. With 10x loupe the difference is apparent. With a 20x loupe the difference is easily apparent at a glance and the difference is large in many places on the transparency. The regular holder shots always came out right on the money, whereas the Quickloads shots always showed some areas of unsharpness.

    For example I can easily read wording on signs on shots made with the regular holder, but with the Quickloads shots the wording is totally blurred, and nothing can be read. Fence posts are blurred in most places (but not all) on the quickloads shots, but uniformly sharp with regular holder shots.

    These details are small on the transparency, and would only be visible for large enlargements (above 16x20 perhaps, or unless someone looks at a 16x20 very close-up). The difference between shots with the two holder types decreases when diffration comes into play, which is around f32 for most lenses (except the 300mm).

    So what does it really matter anyway? For me, an amateur, if I'm going to the trouble of lugging LF gear, taking a lot of time and effort and expense, most of the time I want the best results possible, regarless of my subject or potential enlargements.

    Otherwise (for me only; I don't mean to imply that others necessarily would feel the same) I would do almost as well as using Quickloads (or Readyloads perhaps) as to use a 6x7-6x9 dedicated roll film camera with a flatter and more accurate film plane (Pentax 6x7, Fuji 680, etc.). I.E. get the same resolution (but inferior tonality in prints 16x20 and larger) as 4x5 Quickloads, and gain a lot of convience and decreased cost. So, I guess I'll be using mostly the Toyo film holders in the future.

    I now feel that one of the reasons some people feel that high-end digital may appear to be superior in certain respects to medium format cameras (and scanning backs superior to LF film up to maybe 8x10), is that the imaging plane in the digital cameras/backs is totally flat and very accurate; but not so with film (even 35mm and MF). When film is scanned, which is probably a compromise in itself, then the film image plane was already compromised, then the digital to film comparison is going to be even worse (than if the film image was made with a totally flat and accurate plane).

    Also, I've found that in using regular holders I don't have to worry about the packet waving in the breeze, and that it is quicker for me to inserting a regular holder and shoot, than with all the steps involved with a Quickload. However, if the difference in sharpness between the two methods was closer I 'd gladly do 100% of my shooting with the packets, so as not to deal with dust, nor limitations on how much film I can easily take with me on a shooting outing due to weight and bulk.

    After going thru this exercise I did find that another photographer, who has a website, Ken Rockwell, already came to a similar conclusion (about the sharpness difference) long before I did. I wonder, if anyone else out there has come to a similar conclusion, even if the difference is not important to them (you) ?

  2. #2

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    As Pat Paulson used to say, "picky, picky, picky!" I'd be a great deal more concerned about your results if there weren't so many well-known LF photographers who use Ready/Quickloads and get great results.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    Weird. I've seen just the opposite. I inadvertently tested my Readyload holder against Lisco Regal IIs. By inadvertently I mean that I changed my mind about a shot for which I used 160PortraVC in readyload and decided that it might work better with Tri-X. So after shooting with the 160PortraVC I popped in a film holder and shot with Tri-X, closing down more for Tri-X.

    The results on a light table were interesting. Under a 10x loupe, the color negative was clearly sharper than the B&W negative. I wrote this off to the higher speed film being inherently less sharp than the slower speed film, but now I'm not so sure.

    I doubt it was defraction since I was shooting at f/16 and f/22 + 1/3 with a Apo-Sironar-S 150mm. I doubt it was motion blur since the entire sheet was like this and motion blur is usually worse in some spots than others. I doubt it was a film flatness issue since I was shooting slightly upwards, and gravity was pushing the film towards the aluminum plate of the film holder. Could be an alignment problem maybe, but it seems weird to me that one would work well while the other does not. Hmmm....

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4

    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    Dan, I too have come to the same conclusion after shooting 500-600 Xloads and equal amount of film-holder shots over a several year period, although I have never done any kind of "controlled" study as you have. It was just a "gut" feeling I had after viewing my results. There is one side of my Quickload holder and 2 smaller but specific areas of my Readyload holder that (when viewed with a 10x) seemed to produce some "softness" in the images. I would see these in varying photo-circumstances and shots from infinity to close-up. My uneasiness about this was solidified when, on one of my photo-vacations to southern Utah, I took only my Toyo holders and sheet film and re-loaded in the hotel each night using a changing tent. (I did this to save money on this particular trip. I always use film-holders when shooting from "home", for cost reasons, but generally take Xloads with me on a sortie away from home.) The resulting images from that one trip had no "soft areas" that I could find with my 10x, compared to images from other trips shooting the same general images. I have always assumed that this was caused by some "irregularities" in my particular Xload holders and, being a cheap amateur, decided not to replace them. Granted that the differences are minor, but it's one of those things I could never get out of my mind. Of course, this is also how senseless superstitions get started, too. I no longer leave home without my lucky socks, either.

  5. #5

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    my 2 cents:

    I remember from previous discussions that Grafmatics are even flatter than regular holders. What really counts is your own testing

    a link where this was discussed: http://medfmt.8k.com/mf/mfbest.html

  6. #6

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    HI

    Toyo holders are the best of the double side holders but I for example have only 2 of them and of course I use them for very critical applications but I also use my readyload and quickloads for it and never had a problem with them. But I use only in the quickload the Fuji films and visa versa! And I have many other holders like Lisco's etc. I only had sharpness problems and lightlakes with the polaroid holder and quickloads! But I will do a testing for my self also very soon!

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    For whatever it is worth,,,After reading this I went and checked some Acros readyload images that I had shot recently in a Fuji holder but not printed yet. They are of an historic building in Durango with some distant mesas in the background. The edges appear to be extremely sharp as I can count the struts on a distant microwave tower with a 10 power loupe. Fine details in the structure in the foreground appear sharp also. This was done with a 90mm Super Angulon at f32 and a 23red polyester filter on an old Zone VI that does not align very well. This would be the same loupe that I would use to make a preliminary evaluation to see if a neg. would hold up to a 16x20 enlargement.

    My intention with the readyloads is to use them as backup for when I run out of holders because of the expense. I would rather have an image that maybe won't print large than no image at all. Thanks for the testing
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  8. #8

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    Thanks to those who posted responses.

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this reponse, as there's always someone who has to interject some smart alec reponse that doesn't really address the original posting : --Bill, 2004-06-13 14:50:04 : "As Pat Paulson used to say, "picky, picky, picky!" I'd be a great deal more concerned about your results if there weren't so many well-known LF photographers who use Ready/Quickloads and get great results."

    Gee, I said already that it was picky and I thought I made it clear that my test results would only be of value in a small minority of cases, but Hey Bill - give it another read, just for kicks. (And, maybe you didn't consider that a lot of pros do mostly publication - magazines and books, which are hardly 16x20 or larger.) "For those who don't print larger than 16x20 (from 4x5), and those who usually need great depth-of-field, that can't be taken care of by movements (i.e. need f32 or smaller apertures), and those who find the decreased dust, lower weight, and general convenience of Quickloads and Readyloads outweigh other considerations, what follows won't matter (maybe that means 90% of the 4x5 shooters out there : -) What follows is probably only of interest in the few cases where the highest sharpness is desired."

  9. #9

    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    Dan: There are other considerations besides the film holders: First, film does not lie perfectly flat on the septum but will curl to various degrees depending on the change in relative humidity, thus the septum serves only as a reference plane. Second, film holders have a channel for inserting the film and this channel is wider than the film is thick to allow easy insertion of the film. This results in a gap within which the film can move, therefore the film holder soes not secure the film tight to the septum even at its edges. The old Linhof filmholders had spring loaded septums which eliminated the channel and always pressed the film at its edges onto contact with the septum. The Quick loads are also spring loaded but my guess is that the film, although pushed into contact with the septum may have a greater tendency to curl as your findings seem to indicate. The Toyo Holders, while reasonably good as far as the flatness of the septums have a channel which is quite a bit wider than the ANSI spec calls for. That makes them easy to load but allow greater space for the film to flop around within the channel. Because of all this, it is better to measure the septum depth of the film holder as that is the one thing that you can establish with certainty, at least theoretically because in practice making precise measurements is quite a bit trickier than appears. Using a perforated aluminum tool plate as a base for meausrements and a digital micrometer you can test the holders and the ground glass setting and adjust the groundglass to a statistical median of your holders. In this way you can adjust the ground to an optimal setting for the holders you decide to keep after selecting and weeding out those that show the greatest deviations. You would be surprised at their variations. Write me a line if interested.

  10. #10

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    For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

    Has anyone made comparisons with the Readyload equivalent? Does Kodak fare any better?
    Leigh Perry
    www.leighperry.com

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