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10-07-2010, 01:16 PM   #1
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Limits of 35mm B&W Photography

One of my pet peeves is the practice of posting a link as a basis for forum discussion. It seems like an invitation for people to ignore the linked content and just jump in with their opinion. Well, here I am posting a link to an online article that I found interesting and worth wading through all the technical stuff.
Exploring the Limits of 35mm BW Photography
The article was published in response to marketing claims related to Gigabit brand film and contains a fair amount of technical explanation and research in regards to real world resolution and performance of currently available lenses and films. What I gleaned was:
  • The resolution of most systems is limited by lens quality, not film grain
  • Even with the best lenses, the system resolution is such that about 20x is the limit for reproduction magnification (19" x 28" enlargement from 35mm)
  • It is difficult to attain greater than 100 lp/mm resolution at the negative
  • TMax 100 was judged as the real world equivalent to much slower ultra-fine grain emulsions (at least for resolution). One could assume that the same would apply to Acros 100 or Delta 100.
For balance, here is a second post where the same author gushes about Adox CMS 20:
Modern slow speed films

Steve

10-07-2010, 01:34 PM   #2
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In that vein, here's a 1978 Modern Photography article where they attempt to reach 100lpm in a real world situation... they do manage it, but it is extremely difficult.

Click through to flickr and there's a very readably-sized version



Or just click these
All sizes | How Sharp Can You Get? | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
All sizes | How Sharp Can You Get - continued | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Essentially similar conclusions, some of it better or clearer than this newer article, some of it less...
10-07-2010, 02:04 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
In that vein, here's a 1978 Modern Photography article where they attempt to reach 100lpm in a real world situation... they do manage it, but it is extremely difficult...
Thanks for adding this article to the mix. I have read it before (previous post by you?), but had forgotten about it!


Steve
10-07-2010, 02:19 PM   #4
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Thanks for the executive summery. Now I don't have to RTFA

Based on my enlarging equipment (certainly not the best), I'd find for 135 BW that 11x14 enlargement was it. Maybe you'd still have fine grain at that size and more but it seemed that the BW tones started to become flat and the richness of the print was just not there anymore. It could be because of my larger format cameras tainted my visual experience though.

10-07-2010, 03:53 PM   #5
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The best that I've been able to do is with, (I think) Panatomic X with a Canonet QL17 range finder camera, hand held, using 36 exposures to get one good shot, in the wind, was an 8 x 10 crop from an about 24" x 36" image, or larger.

I know the detail producing ability of the old slow B/W films was there, it was, from there the equipment and the photographer that made the difference. (I'm too old now to repeat that, but when I was younger I was stronger and steadier, so I did it then.)
10-07-2010, 04:53 PM   #6
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Then again, sharpness alone isn't what photography is all about... or rather, there are other aspects than the pursuit of sharpness and resolution.

About the most amazing image I've seen was from more than 100 years ago, at the Metropolitan photography survey they put on a couple of years ago. It was I believe a contact print from a huge view camera.

Even with vintage 120 equipment I get tone and a thereness that can so quickly disappear with 35mm. True, heavy tripods etc will help with 35mm as with anything else, but with small and light equipment, it sort of defeats the purpose?


I've read that lens resolution is a 35mm concern - with larger formats that becomes less critical, and I believe it.

I also believe that APS-C is not the end all of digital quality.

But for most of us, the real question is what is good enough.
10-07-2010, 07:00 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
...Even with vintage 120 equipment I get tone and a thereness that can so quickly disappear with 35mm...
You touch on a very pertinent concept. Resolution is not everything and tonality depends to a great degree on the amount of emulsion available to express that tone.


Steve
10-08-2010, 04:06 AM   #8
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+1 on that. I'm wondering about this - seems before absolute resolution starts to fall apart, often tonal resolution does so. The size of the film area of course is important, but so is lens performance, i.e. the whole system response. When you downsize the system there's less room for the fine details, when you upsize the detail can spread out in luxury... and so those tonal differences are retained.

10-08-2010, 09:51 AM   #9
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Is quite relative to be honest... I've seen 100x120 cm enlargements (40x60 inch) and they are fine as long as you take a step back
10-08-2010, 11:15 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by titrisol Quote
Is quite relative to be honest... I've seen 100x120 cm enlargements (40x60 inch) and they are fine as long as you take a step back
This is also a very good point. Discussions regarding acceptable resolution usually assume a standard viewing distance that is relatively close to the print. This is discussed in the article working from the maximum acuity of human vision (about 1 minute of arc) translated to lp/mm at 25 cm viewing distance.


Steve
10-08-2010, 12:55 PM   #11
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Steve, thanks for starting this excellent thead and thanks also to Jussi for the link to that article.
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