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10-14-2015, 10:00 AM   #1
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How Did You Know MF/film is Better?

Sorry if I have a blind spot to this issue...I'm going to try to address this in another way...by asking you all how you became involved with medium format?

It is obvious in my little brain that a larger format will (all other things being equal) yield the potential for a better image. What is not obvious at all is how to identify that "betterness" using the tool available to me: my computer screen. I cannot tell from this vantage point there are indeed better images just because they are MF, or film. I have not found a side by side example page thusfar.

So...my question is whether you got into MF because the images are better and you were able to see that for yourself before you spent the money on a camera system.

I do thank you for your thoughts!

Dave


Last edited by daveward; 10-14-2015 at 10:01 AM. Reason: typo
10-14-2015, 10:08 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by daveward Quote
Sorry if I have a blind spot to this issue...I'm going to try to address this in another way...by asking you all how you became involved with medium format?

It is obvious in my little brain that a larger format will (all other things being equal) yield the potential for a better image. What is not obvious at all is how to identify that "betterness" using the tool available to me: my computer screen. I cannot tell from this vantage point there are indeed better images just because they are MF, or film. I have not found a side by side example page thusfar.

So...my question is whether you got into MF because the images are better and you were able to see that for yourself before you spent the money on a camera system.

I do thank you for your thoughts!

Dave
The larger negative size (e.g., 40 mm x 50 mm) means that it won't have to be enlarged as much when printing a, say 16" x 20", print as when the image from a 24 mm x 36 mm negative is enlarged to 16" x 20" Therefore there is less loss of resolution when enlarging from a larger negative.
10-14-2015, 10:23 AM   #3
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I bought a Mamiyaflex tlr and shot a few rolls on it (I still have the camera), which I developed and printed. For me, 35mm is definitely 'better'.
10-14-2015, 10:28 AM   #4
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I don't see all the voodoo in photo's, film or digital, that other people see. So better image quality? Sure I like it but don't need it. I like the way a camera feel's in my hands and I like the way they function. My RB has a mirror lock up then a release for the shutter, I love listening for that sound I can't really hear! Have a Yashica 635 that's terrible quiet too. My 645 Pentax doesn't have that but it feels great in my hands! A good photographer using the same film will probably get better shot's with his 35mm than I with my med format but I don't care, I like my med format equip!

10-14-2015, 10:39 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Re: How Did You Know MF/film is Better?

QuoteQuote:
So...my question is whether you got into MF because the images are better and you were able to see that for yourself before you spent the money on a camera system.
I would not say it is "better" so much as I would say it is "different." Each has its merits.
10-14-2015, 11:01 AM   #6
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you mention that you are using the computer screen to sort all of this out. I find that a print is the only way for me to decide formats. And for MF , a fairly large printer is the order of the day. Its possible to "see" the MF advantages in a 17x22 inch print. My going from 35mm film to small format digital to 6x7 film to full frame digital and then MF digital is all based on whats in the prints, that i make.

For the computer screen i would never have gotten rid of my original Pentax *istD………….
10-14-2015, 11:03 AM   #7
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I don't hardly shoot small format film anymore but do shoot MF and LF film. Each larger format yields better tonality and better results in terms of image quality. I don't know how you are not seeing that. It is very obvious when I edit my files or print them traditionally.

When you scan film, the scanner has to have a higher resolving optical path to capture high quality the smaller negative is. So inherently, commodity film scans will do way better the larger the negative is.

If you made a traditional 8x10 print from small, medium and large format then set them on a table, I'd be very surprised if anyone would mistake the small format print for one of the other larger format prints.

Last edited by tuco; 10-14-2015 at 11:27 AM.
10-14-2015, 11:23 AM - 1 Like   #8
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I agree with what you say Tuco, but I do not think it applies to people who are just starting out or non photographers. Most humans right now literally think that an iPhone 6 is the ultimate photo device and given a set of 8x10 prints or a computer screen most would be challenged to find the differences between the phone and the 4x5film capture.

10-14-2015, 12:41 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by 672 Quote
you mention that you are using the computer screen to sort all of this out. I find that a print is the only way for me to decide formats. And for MF , a fairly large printer is the order of the day. Its possible to "see" the MF advantages in a 17x22 inch print. My going from 35mm film to small format digital to 6x7 film to full frame digital and then MF digital is all based on whats in the prints, that i make.

For the computer screen i would never have gotten rid of my original Pentax *istD………….
That sir is the point of my inquiry. I suppose. It appears to me you had to have the equipment to prove it is better. I do not have the equipment, thus my view of MF examples is through the use of my computer screen. I do not have prints to survey, as you do. I am trying to understand the basis on which you all made "investments" in the equipment...was it just the intuitive premise that bigger negatives can be blown up better? Or did you see examples for yourself before you reached for your wallet? Thanks.

Dave
10-14-2015, 12:52 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by 672 Quote
I find that a print is the only way for me to decide formats.
I find a 35mm slide vs a 6x7 slide is the best way to compare the two formats. Prints/scans are always less accurate than an original positive viewed on a light table using a photo lupe.


Phil.
10-14-2015, 01:22 PM   #11
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An excellent question and thanks for putting your thoughts and questions out there.
It was a perfect opportunity to reflect on the subject.

I tend to agree with 672 and Tuco in terms of technical image quality.

Objectively bigger formats brings better technical quality for a given print size.
Whether that is the decisive factor for people evaluating the print is a different question entirely and people tend to react to a lot of other factors than technical image quality.

A well executed portrait shot on a grainy 135 format film will be very likely to evoke a different emotional response than an otherwise identical portrait shot on 67 format very finegrain film.
The answer to which one of the two is sharper, cleaner, has the highest resolution and smoothest tonality will be given, but which is the better image?
"Better" is very much a subjective definition and not necessarily something we have to agree on.

FIlm yields different midtones, have different highlight and shadow roll offs, grain properties, colour and contrast responses, not just compared to digital files, but various films compared to each other and to itself depending on how it was exosed and processed.
Digital with its perfect linarity, colour accuracy and clean, flexible files are very different again.

Thus for me it is not really about the objective image quality difference between different systems, but about how the chice of camera system, lens(es), film (or digital) and processing (including exposure) supports what I am trying to express.

The Pentax 67 is my workhorse system these days, as the properties of cetain film types suits the monochromatic expression I am after.
Along side I dabble with very basic cameras from the 30-60 on more experimental projects, where film quite naturally is the only possible solution. Today I had a 1930'ies Agfa box 44 with me on a stroll to figure out how the output fits into a future project.
Digital blends in for work and family stuff alongside 135 format film, just as I am slowly looking at large format for certain projects.

If you try figuring it out on your computer it will be difficult if not impossible, you will need to shoot, expose, develop, process, print and examine how the results fit your individual projects or which solution yeilds the best compromise, there is no one size fits all.
10-14-2015, 01:24 PM   #12
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I saw examples for medium and large format printed images that looked much better in terms of detail and tonality than did those from 35mm film. My first MF camera I traded a bicycle for so it was not a large outlay of money and I used that as my only MF camera until I had access to a Hasselblad system 30 years later. I then got hooked on using the Hasselblad as I simply enjoy using it. I then slowly made my own system and returned the borrowed stuff. I think my entire Hasselblad system cost me less than the upcoming Pentax FF will cost on release. I do not find the computer screen to be an adequate means to evaluate image quality of any gear.

You may have access to galleries that would assist you in seeing what a MF or LF image looks like. Someone at a local camera store or club may also be available to show you images. If you are only going to look at the images on a computer screen I see no reason to shoot MF or LF. I do not print my images large but as I said above part of the difference is in the equipment itself. I like the waist level viewfinder, the square image, the mechanical feel of it and that unlike my Rolleichord I can change lenses.

Of course if you do want to see some MF images that you can tell they are check out Holga or Diana images
10-14-2015, 01:30 PM - 3 Likes   #13
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Here is 135 canister, 120 roll and 4x5 sheet, respectively. The 135 is ISO 32 pan-x film and the MF is "grainy" ISO 400 film. I see way more grain in the ISO 32 shot.

I don't have a good 35mm film shot for comparison but the one here is using the same scanner as medium format both at 4000dpi. The 4x5 is on an even lower quality scanner. Do your 135 look similar to the medium format here on the computer screen with these small ~1000 pixel width files?
Scale them up to 2000 px in width and the difference is even more noticeable and that is certainly within the scope of a computer screen. The MF and LF images get better the small format just hangs on.







Last edited by tuco; 10-14-2015 at 01:54 PM.
10-14-2015, 01:56 PM   #14
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Here's something to bake your noodle

We tried this test many moons ago, back when there was a larger variety of photos in various formats published in Popular Photography. For fun we'd thumb through the magazine and look the photos, but not the captions, and try to guess whether the image was shot on digital, 35mm film, medium format, or large format.
Now keep in mind, all these photos were printed quite small, and were all on shiny magazine paper with fine line screen offset printing. You'd think any differences in original image quality would be invisible, right?
But we found we could accurately tell apart, eight or nine times out of ten, the digital, 35mm, and medium/large format shots. We usually couldn't tell apart medium or large format shots.
Digital wasn't hard to spot at that time - the colour wasn't quite there. But medium format stood out from 35mm film, even on a small photo printed only a few inches across on a magazine page. They just stood out.
We couldn't quite put our thumb on the exact reasons we could make the distinction, but we could, eight or nine times out of ten.
So it's not always about ultimate print size, or pixels, or grain. You could make the argument that the medium or large format photographer took images in a style different from 35mm or digital, and that might have been the difference.

Anyone else tried this test?
10-14-2015, 02:32 PM   #15
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There's no contest between medium format quality and 35mm. I had several 35mm cameras for years before I bought a 6x7 and there was just no comparison. Bigger is better when it comes to quality-always has been, always will. I have 16x20 photos on the wall that look as good as most 35mm photos in 5x7. For sheer fire power you can't beat 35mm but for the best enlargements over 8x10 MF is the hands down best.
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