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01-30-2014, 10:53 AM   #1
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Is Medium Format that good/35mm bad, or am I doing something wrong?

Hey everyone!

I'm finally up and running again at the new place. Just in time to be halfway through my stint in Southern AZ already! Anyways, I've gotten around to processing and printing a backlog of film. Recently, I picked up a nice 645 MF, and if what I'm seeing is true, I may get a nice speed grip, a nice metering prism, and be done with 35mm...

So, I shoot FP4 in both formats. Recently I was printing 5x7's from FP4 in 135 and 120 (developed together, shot at the same time). From everything I've heard/read about things, there should be no visible difference between the formats when printed at 5x7.

Unfortunately, I can't really upload scans, so I'll try to describe as best as I can:

I printed a shot of an old rusty Thunderbird at sunset from a 645 negative with lots of small foreground detail in leaves and rocks on the ground (75mm f/5.6 at 1/60). I also printed a similar 35mm shot (Super Tak 35mm f/3.5 f/6.8, 1/125).

The Super Tak 35mm f/3.5 is my sharpest 35mm lens, and my 75mm EII is pretty good as well. Looking closely at the prints, the 35mm print looks a bit sharper overall, but I can attribute that to the massive mirror in my ETRS and shooting handheld. However, if I put my reading glasses on and look closely, the MF print has more..... micro contrast and micro detail, plus the tonality looks a bit smoother. The leaves, rocks, and bark in the 35mm shot look good, but it just doesn't have the same level of tiny details that the MF print has... It almost looks over-sharpened in comparison.

Both were done on a Componon 75mm EL lens @ f/11. D76 1:3 for the developing of film.

Anyways, with everything I have read, I shouldn't be seeing this much of a difference at this level. Is D76 1:3 too dilluted/sharp for 35mm film, giving it an 'oversharpened' look?

Has anyone else had these had these same revelations with Medium Format and 35mm? Am I destined to never want to make an 8x10 from 35mm again?

I'll try to upload small crops of the prints to demonstrate. It's kind of like comparing the butteriness of creamy vs crunchy peanut butter...

If there's this much difference to my eye at this level, I guess I'll be super happy when my new Burke & James 4x5 gets here next week...... The one I accidentally bought for $20.49

01-30-2014, 11:34 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Well, to a large extent, what you're seeing makes perfect sense.
It's mainly a matter of enlarging ratios .

In terms of SQ/mm, a 35mm frame is 864 sq/mm and a 645 (Pentax) is 2324 sq/mm.
A 5x7 print is 19293 sq/mm, so that's 22X bigger than a 35mm frame, and 8X bigger than a 645 frame.

Assuming the on the film resolution is the same, you're magnifying one a lot more than the other.
01-30-2014, 11:50 AM   #3
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True-- From everything I've read, the human eye shouldn't be able to perceive more than 10 lp/mm, so with good lenses on 35mm I should be exceeding that. Everything I read/saw was basically stating that I wouldn't be able to see a difference until beyond 8x10.

Huh. I guess I'll stick to MF. Maybe I have a pickier eye than some. After seeing this, it's hard to believe people that claim they have great 16x20s from 35mm, and that they have no reason to go bigger.

It's odd, though. Sharpenss is the same or a bit better in 35mm, but everything else seems better in the MF shot.
01-30-2014, 12:03 PM   #4
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In my rediscovery of b&w film over the past 4 years, 35mm is fine for a lot of things and as an SLR is smaller / lighter (in general) than a MF camera it's just easier to use...however, as I now own two 645 cameras and a 6x7, I find that the image quality and keeper rate of my MF images is just much higher. For me it's a simple case of having more image and better resolution. I won't give up 35mm but I sure prefer MF for the important shots.

01-30-2014, 12:14 PM   #5
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The more you stretch the grain apart in an enlargement, the more you reduce the richness of the tonality, naturally.
01-30-2014, 12:24 PM   #6
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I guess that's true in general. I get that the sharpness holds up, but the MF just seems so much richer and smoother. I wasn't expecting much of a difference at small proof prints, but I may just have to stick with MF for most things. 35mm still is better for chasing around animals, I guess, and runnin' and gunnin' flash work (digital, especially for flash work). But for those purposes, swapping the ETRS for an ETRSi, and throwing on an AE prism and flash would do the same thing. If 35mm lenses resolve better than 645, I thought they would've been equal for small sizes. I guess I underestimated what a difference having more film real estate would make on fine contrast and tonality.

I'm starting to realize that the 645 seems a much better all-purpose camera than 35mm. I guess I could still probably justify my dream Pentax 6x7, though, depending on how I feel about using the new Press Camera in the field.
01-30-2014, 12:35 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by fretlessdavis Quote
...
I'm starting to realize that the 645 seems a much better all-purpose camera than 35mm. I guess I could still probably justify my dream Pentax 6x7, though, depending on how I feel about using the new Press Camera in the field.
The bigger the format, the less dynamic are the scenes you can capture, in general. And by the time you get to an 8x10 view camera, setup times and captures are hardly spontaneous and things in the scene don't move much at all. But I'm sure someone can point me to an exception to that rule.
01-30-2014, 12:53 PM   #8
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That is true. I don't shoot many dynamic scenes, though... And what about the old newspapermen shooting Graflexes hand-held? Searching around, you can find excellent dynamic shots from sports in the 50s.

Such as this:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-D1b4Zk2I9S0/TX6ZnFOcJEI/AAAAAAAAAY8/LxvuI...dodgers_AP.jpg



I recently saw a snap of someone in the press booth at the Beijing Olympis shooting with LF, too. I have no doubt that the skill required to capture that kind of shot on MF or LF is about 20x beyond my current skill set! Haha.

01-30-2014, 01:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by fretlessdavis Quote
That is true. I don't shoot many dynamic scenes, though... And what about the old newspapermen shooting Graflexes hand-held? Searching around, you can find excellent dynamic shots from sports in the 50s.
Yes, it was and exception and a standard press camera of the day. But still, how many frames could one person carry.
01-30-2014, 04:11 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by fretlessdavis Quote
I guess that's true in general. I get that the sharpness holds up, but the MF just seems so much richer and smoother. I wasn't expecting much of a difference at small proof prints, but I may just have to stick with MF for most things. 35mm still is better for chasing around animals, I guess, and runnin' and gunnin' flash work (digital, especially for flash work). But for those purposes, swapping the ETRS for an ETRSi, and throwing on an AE prism and flash would do the same thing. If 35mm lenses resolve better than 645, I thought they would've been equal for small sizes. I guess I underestimated what a difference having more film real estate would make on fine contrast and tonality.

I'm starting to realize that the 645 seems a much better all-purpose camera than 35mm. I guess I could still probably justify my dream Pentax 6x7, though, depending on how I feel about using the new Press Camera in the field.
Medium format offers much smoother tonal graduation even in areas where there is no detail (i.e. skies, water etc.). This was apparent to me when comparing a Lubitel to Pentax 35mm gear. The Lubitel lens was quite soft and the prints showed less resolution than the 35mm (OK it was 120 Kodak Gold V's 35mm Ektar 25), but the tonal graduation simply made the MF images look better and more pleasing.

John.
01-31-2014, 08:47 AM   #11
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After taking a peek with negs in my enlarger, it seems like Delta 400 has about the same level of microdetail/smooth tonality as FP4 in 35mm. I also took a peek at some of my other 35mm FP4 negatives and came to some conclusions:

For 35mm 1:3 D76 'sharpens' images a lot more than I expected vs 1:1. 1:3 Looks great for 120, but in 35mm, the sharp grain (still fine) becomes much more apparent earlier on (makes sense). Maybe straight D76 or another developer would help tame this a bit?

Second, my *best* 35mm shots (tripod, MLU, etc) on FP4 seem slightly better overall than my handheld MF in terms of everything but smoothness, although handheld 400 film is pretty even with handheld FP4 in 35mm, and FP4 handheld just doesn't have enough DOF when avoiding slow shutter speeds (5.6 and 1/60 in the evening twilight/deep shade for example). I'm sure if I took the same care with my ETRS on a tripod, T-grain 100 speed film, the sharpness should be up to snuff, with the nice tonality.

Anyways, another quick question (slightly off topic). If I'm mostly shooting still shots, and it's rarely windy where I am, how much ND would I need to make the mirror slap a non-issue? Say I metered at f/5.6 @ 1/60, but need some more DOF. Since I have no MLU-- tripod f/11, 25A or X1 and an ND 1.2 would bring me right into the range of 1-2 seconds if I stop down further-- would this be enough to make the mirror shake less of an issue, or should I just find a body with MLU?

Same thing goes for the Pentax 6x7-- as I keep finding good deals on ones without MLU...
01-31-2014, 09:36 AM   #12
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With the Pentax 6x7, I'd say it's the shutter curtain momentum coming to a stop and not the mirror that is the most cause of concern. A sandbag type weight on top of the camera while on a tripod helps a lot if you are going to get critical.

I can't say what threshold of a long exposure renders the camera vibration non-recordable but 10 seconds should do it. And, in general, I'd look for a MLU version of a 6x7. Mostly for its age. Your chances of getting a problematic camera that old increase significantly. I've never came across a 4 stop ND filter before. I only see them in the usual 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 stop verities.
01-31-2014, 09:46 AM   #13
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Really? I have a Tiffen 1.2 (4 stop) grad. I also have a Tiffen 0.3 (1 stop) that I use to thin out depth of field a wee bit, or deal with the lack of the 1/8 setting on my 285HV's. The 1.2 is perfect for getting nice 1 second exposures of waterfalls and such in canyons out here, without stopping down too much. Sadly, like my entire filter collection, it's 52mm. I guess a sturdy tripod and a bag for rocks, sand, water, whatever, would be better. If I'm printing to 16x20 from a 645, or potentially 6x7, how imperative (in people's experience) is MLU? From what I've done so far, prints get too grainy for my taste before they lose sharpness.
01-31-2014, 10:54 AM   #14
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I didn't say 4-stop ND filters don't exist. I do 16x20 prints (scans and print) on my 6x7 with no noticeable grain on the ones I do a special process. I over expose 100 and 400 tabular grain film by 3 stops, under develop it and it both compresses the highlights and makes for much finer grain with a staining pyro developer.
01-31-2014, 11:32 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
I didn't say 4-stop ND filters don't exist. I do 16x20 prints (scans and print) on my 6x7 with no noticeable grain on the ones I do a special process. I over expose 100 and 400 tabular grain film by 3 stops, under develop it and it both compresses the highlights and makes for much finer grain with a staining pyro developer.
There's a guy who knows what he's doing...

if you lived closer I'd be begging you to process film for me, I just can't be bothered taking the time for that kind of process, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what you're doing.
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