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Thread: medium format vs large format lenses

  1. #1

    medium format vs large format lenses

    I have had my 4x5 camera for a few months now and have shot quite a few pictures with it. I have always thought that I should be seeing more out of it though in terms of sharpness. I have some pictures of the same subjects I took with my medium format (mamiya) camera and they are significantly sharper. I focus my 4x5 carefully and check every area of the gg. But even when focusing on a specific single object the mamiya is sharper. I use tmax in both and develop both in the same developer. I print the medium format with a new Rodenstock lens and the 4x5 with a new Schneider comp s. I have used a readyload and the toyo film holder in the 4x5 with the same results. My lenses are a Nikon 90sw 5.6 and a new Rodenstock 180mm sironar s. Does any one have any thoughts? It seems to me it is probably a lens difference. Looking at a print from the medium format side by side with one from the 4x5... well, the 4x5 in really unacceptable.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Buford, GA

    medium format vs large format lenses

    Assuming you are in the U.S. and have one of our Rodenstock lenses with the lifetime warranty we would like to see the lens and a print and a negative.

    Call us at 800 735 4373 if it is one of our lenses to set up a test by our service center.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 1999

    medium format vs large format lenses

    Mike, Could it be that you are not stoping the lens down far enough? I have found that with the majority of my landscapes I use f22 as the absolute minimum and often use f32 as my "norm". IMHO I understand that on the whole MF lenses are sharper than LF, and 35mm are even sharper than MF! But the benefit of using LF is in the tonality I can get from my larger negs when compared to a MF one. To get anywhere near the quality of 5x4 negs I need to use a much slower film and enlarge to a lesser degree. The lenses you are using are amongst the best in their class, I would be VERY surprised if you had 2 duds! I always assumed that my LF negs would show ultimate sharpness, they don't ,however they are still "better" than anything smaller. Give them another try, maybe a shot of a building facade so you won't need any movements. Stop the lens well down and then compare the results. Let us know how you get on and good luck! regards Paul

  4. #4

    medium format vs large format lenses

    Good job Bob!!

  5. #5

    medium format vs large format lenses


    There is a possibility that the Mamiya optics display greater acutance while the LF lenses display greater resolution which may be deceiving until print size really starts to increase.

    However, you don't mention which LF camera it is that you have had for a few months or whether it was purchased new or second-hand. Given that the Toyo and Readyload holders are performing equally yet producing an inferior image sharpness than the Mamiya I would venture to suggest that the positioning of your ground glass in the ground glass frame may be the culprit. If there is a discepency between the Ground Glass Plane during viewing/focussing and the Film Plane during exposure no lens will be performing at its optimum with the error more noticeable the shorter the focal length.

    Other threads on this forum have dealt with ground glass / film plane allignment and this is an area that may warrant some consideration in your case.

    Good luck ... Walter

  6. #6

    medium format vs large format lenses

    I've noticed the same thing with my 6x9 view cameras but assumed that because they don't have the advantage of a larger piece of film, this is a byproduct of their larger image circle and to be expected.

    That said, have you confirmed that your camera's back is locating the film plane in the same plane as the ground-glass? It's also possible the fresnel (assuming your camera has one) is positioned incorrectly, which can cause the plane of focus to shift far enough that the Depth of Focus can't cover for it.

    If you're not able to address these issues yourself, then it might be worth paying a good technician to check them out for you. Although I can't claim them as mine, I've seen some _very_ sharp 4x5 prints over the years so I know that it's possible.

  7. #7
    Robert A. Zeichner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 1999
    Southfield, Michigan

    medium format vs large format lenses

    One reason for disappointment with optics on view cameras can be traced to alignment errors in the ground glass. You can have the sharpest, most contrasty lens in the world and if your ground glass/film plane coincidence is out of whack, you'll never get a sharp negative. I've seen this numerous times. A good friend and I went on a trip to test out his newly acquired Meridian folding metal field camera. The previous owner thought it might be a good idea to install a Fresnel brigtening screen under the ground glass. It made the view brighter, but it also made it impossible to ever get a sharp image. Contact prints from his negatives were as big an image he could live with. I removed the Fresnel, replaced the grungy gg with a new one and did a test with film to confirm proper alignment. It passed with flying colors and continues to yield excellent images. With hand cameras, it is almost a certainty that what appears sharp in the viewfinder will be just as sharp on film (assuming the camera hasn't been damaged), but with view cameras there are many more variables. Tell us what camera you are using and whether you purchased new or used. Does it have an aftermarket viewing screen installed? You may simply need to have the gg adjusted. This should be done by an experienced professional and should be film tested to prove the adjustment was successful. I authored an article on how to build your own gg alignment test target. See if you can get your hands on the Nov./Dec. 1996 issue of ViewCamaera magazine and check it out. Don't get rid of that lens or abandon LF until you've investigated this. Good luck.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2000

    medium format vs large format lenses

    Your right Mike. I used to have a mamiya 6 but I've traded for cambo wide with 47mm XL. I recently compared the B+W negs of the 47 XL and 50 mm of the mamiya 6 (same image ie a japanese bridge at night) the mamiya was heaps sharper wide open (F4) vs F11 of the 47 XL even whe I crop the 4X5 to the image size of the mamiya. I'm not going to even bother taking an image with F5.6 with the XL and compare it with F4 of the mamiya.

    Obviously the 4X5 image is heaps bigger than the mamiya and the coverage of the 47 XL is unbelievable. Which is the reason why I traded in my mamiya! It would have been nice if the lens is as sharp.

    I will buy the 150mm apo symmar soon for my cambo wide. Any comment on this lens guys? Regards, Renee

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    medium format vs large format lenses

    It would probably be a good idea to test the back and rear standard of your view camera. It could be that the film holders and readyload holder are not in the sharpest plane of focus for your back.

    Somewhere on the www, I've read a technique for determining how to check the holder alignment with the camera back. I can't remember who had this on their site. Anyone remember???

    A non-scientific way would be to take multiple shots with each shot at some slightly different focusing point in relation to what you deem the sharpest focus on the ground glass. I hope someone else can explain this better, but I'll try again.

    1.) Take a shot with what you deem the sharpest focus achieved at the ground glass.

    2.) Next, move the back slightly (very slightly) out of focus (forward of where you'd normally have the sharpest image on the ground glass) and take a shot.

    3.) Next, focus the ground glass so the image is sharpest again and then move the back backward so it's just slightly out of focus. Take this third shot.

    Make note of each shot. I'd put something into the actual scene to indicate which shot is which so you can later differentiate the three easily on the light table. Maybe a small white card with something different written on it for each shot.

    Make sure your technique is exactly the same for all three shots (i.e. lighting, letting the camera stabilize after inserting the holder, letting the tripod stabilize, etc.). Use the same lens for all three shots, same aperture and shutter speed, same shutter release technique, etc. Minimize as many variables as possible, so you can determine the actual cause of unsharpness.

    Try the same exact technique for both of your lenses to see if one lens exhibits the problem more than another. Next, if you want to pursue this further, repeat this test at different subject distances (i.e. close-up subject for one trial, then a distant subject focused at infinity for another trial).

    I hope this helps. Let us know how it works out.



  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Vancouver, BC

    medium format vs large format lenses


    While there are many valid points above (gg alignment etc...) your enlager lenses are different. Try removing that variable by conducting a similar test using a fine grained transparency film such as Provia in both cameras. Inspection of both trannies with a good loupe should give you a better idea of the discrepancy.

    Good Luck.

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