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Thread: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

  1. #1
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Dear ULF shooters,

    I've been contemplating a move to ULF for several years, and I've toyed with getting into various ULF formats: 10x12, 14x17, 8x20, etc.
    Given that I finally have a good scanner, and it can scan up to 12"x17", I'm looking into shooting 12x15.
    The dimensions are the same as 8x10, which I like.

    My question is: is there an appreciable difference in image quality between 8x10 and a ULF format such as 12x15?
    Or is it a negligible difference?

    Some of you shoot ULF because you like to contact print, others because you like extreme panoramic formats, and carbon printing is also a practical consideration.
    Those are valid reasons for adopting a ULF workflow, so maybe you haven't considered IQ as your prime motivation in using ULF. But why would anyone get into ULF if the dimensions are the same as 8x10 (or 4x5)?
    I'm just trying to gauge the difference in image quality between 8x10 and larger formats; at what size does the difference in IQ become really noticeable?

    My logical brain tells me 8x10 is the optimal format; that the trade-off of carrying larger cameras, film holders and lenses is not worth the small increase in IQ.

    What say you, commentariat?
    Thanks in advance

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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Really, you have to decide if you want more work on the front end or the back end. Front end: Heavier camera/holders/bigger film to deal with loading and unloading. Back end: Scanner/scanning/printing digital negatives.

    I'd rather have more work on the front end and enjoy the simple purity of contact printing from an in camera negative for the specific size print I want.

    To your point about 8x10, even though I've been deeply engaged with ULF for the last year or so, I still shoot with my 8x10 quite a bit. You can go farther, shoot more, and frankly, things just tend to work better. (Cameras, holders, film.)

    I think you will find 12x15 to be huge. A lot more work than 8x10. This is why I think 10x12 is such a nice format. Not that much more work than 8x10, but the negative/print definitely has more presence than 8x10. 7x17 almost feels like shooting 8x10.

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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    As fodder for a scanner, I think 8x10 would certainly give you all that you can use -- unless you want to make bedsheet sized prints (CalKing size!) that people can walk up to for detail.

    There are some trade-offs going to ULF, though I have only used 7x17 and 11x14. In a wind, with my solid Zone VI 8x10 I tend to produce a much sharper image than with my 100 year old 11x14 boxkite of a camera. If you prefer the look of normal to longer focal lengths, you will be dealing with more challanges with depth of field using 450mm+ lenses. And of course, more bellows in the wind!

    But for contact prints...ULF cameras are sweet!
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Thanks guys; I was more wondering at what size film would you see a big difference in image quality from 8x10?
    I can't imagine that carrying a larger, heavier 11x14 kit is worth the small gain in quality, but maybe the 16x20 is where you start to see a huge, perceptible gain?

    Karl, I find it interesting that you say a 10x12 has more presence than an 8x10; I would have thought it'd be hard to tell the two apart.

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    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    At some point, the size of the print will have to be determined. Not a whole lot of sense creating a huge file with far more resolution than the printer is cabable of using. Just a guess, but would not scanning a 16x20 negative have to be done at a lower resolution, just to keep the file size managable? If so there goes any advantage to using a 16x20.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    At some point, the size of the print will have to be determined. Not a whole lot of sense creating a huge file with far more resolution than the printer is cabable of using. Just a guess, but would not scanning a 16x20 negative have to be done at a lower resolution, just to keep the file size managable? If so there goes any advantage to using a 16x20.
    Absolutely right, Vaughn, but I'm asking the question outside of all those considerations, i.e., let's assume you have a 16x20 (or whatever format) scanner/enlarger, do you see a big difference in IQ from 8x10?

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    David Lobato David Lobato's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    I can't scan 11x14 negatives so can't compare them for IQ with the 8x10 negatives that I can scan. There is a raised lip around the edge of my Epson V700 which prevents laying an oversized sheet flat on the glass. If scanners with the combination of reasonable price and 11x14 capability existed, answers to your questions would be more available.

    I will say the size difference is not subtle. While analyzing a light leak problem with my old wooden 11x14 I realized things like flatness of the larger wood back is more difficult to maintain than with an 8x10 wood back. Slight sag of the bed rails increases the perpendicularity error of the front and rear standards. Fine details like this demand attention from the user of ULF cameras. The optimum sharpness of your ULF negatives is dependent on getting the best alignment of the camera. Which reminds me, my 11x14 lacks any swings, front or rear. It has only front rise and fall, and rear tilt. These add to the difficulties of getting subject matter in focus.

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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Then my answer is; in theory yes...in the real world, no.

    Just read David's post -- that is why I think in the real world, the advantages of ULF can be lost without great care and/or solid equipment.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Appreciated, David. And I realize that practical concerns and problems multiply for ULF.

    Forget the scanners, then; let's assume that someone contact prints multiple formats: 8x10, 10x12, 11x14, 12x15, 14x17, 16x20 and 20x24.
    At which size would you see a big jump in quality from 8x10? Would it start being radically better at 16x20? Or even at 11x14?
    Thanks

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    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: ULF: What Increase in Image Quality Over 8x10?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    Then my answer is; in theory yes...in the real world, no.

    Just read David's post -- that is why I think in the real world, the advantages of ULF can be lost without great care and/or solid equipment.
    Thanks, Vaughn.

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