Is Large Format necessary?

Started May 10, 2008 | Discussions thread
Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

Dario D wrote:

Hi all. I've been reading about the uses of medium and large-format
cameras, and was just wondering if anyone (who really knows the
ins/outs) has any opinion as to whether or not such high resolution
is actually necessary in most common applications (like landscapes or
fashion photography)

I just can't wrap my head around what you would do with all that
detail, because I've never seen a large print that had anything that
I would want to look at up close (unless it's just for the sake of
avoiding pixelation on massive prints that people might be able to
step right up to and examine closely).

Thanks! Hope this isn't coming across as opinionated or judgmental
at all. I'm just genuinely curious to know if medium/large format has
practical uses, or if it's a lesser-used medium for a reason. I
wouldn't know.

Absolutely yes. You are only focusing on one of the differences between small format and medium or large.

There are many other advantages, such as noise (the lack of it) and especially long exposure noise (I'm thinking 5mins to 1 hour exposures here), higher dynamic range, no AA filter (so fewer moire issues, or none) etc.

The backs are (nearly) all 16bit, and not only give more detail, but better colour than small format. Yes, the native print size of my images is about 24x18" at 300dpi, which makes a big difference to ability to reproduce. However, most big prints are printed at 180dpi, and are generally not intended for viewing at less than normal viewing distance.

Overall, the information allows you to process the image more successfully for many end uses, and many media.

Large format is better yet again, not because there are large format sensors, but because the Rodenstock and Schneider lenses are built without compromise (no zoom, no autofocus, manual setting of aperture, manual setting of shutter speed (max 1/500 sec) and manual cocking!)

Many of these lenses have no CA or distortion right out to the edges. (I have Schneider 35XL & 80N, and a Rodenstock 45 Sironar atm, which is what my own observations come from. Stitched shots of 350-400Mb 16bit tiffs.

Large format also allows you access to view cameras, so the lens can be moved independently of the body. What you can do with that could fill a page(!), but one example is that it allows you to shoot stuff without perspective distortion. (Yes, you can 'fix' it in post process, but you mess with the image quality - this is regularly done with real estate shooting, but for that purpose I think it's unlikely to have a impact on the final printed image, and also considering the duration of usage of the brochure.) Fixing this 'in camera' maintains the image quality.

Of course usability is different. MF and large format are not for everybody: There are many things a good 35mm camera is more suitable for, and are a lot easier to handle. Medium and large format require a larger wallet, and, more importantly, investment in time to learn how to use them.

Hope this helps
Jon Stewart

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