Medium Format vs. Full Frame Locked

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
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Rob de Loe Forum Member • Posts: 98
Re: Medium Format vs. Full Frame

It's lovely to see such enthusiasm for film here. I've been in and out of film a few times now, starting with 35mm, and then quickly moving into 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and 4x5. There are aspects of film photography that have pulled me back in twice now after what I thought was quitting it for good. But I left it behind again earlier this year after another deep dive into 4x5. I wanted the camera movements that I thought I could only get with a proper 4x5 view camera, and I thought that scanning 4x5 would give me the resolution, detail, tonality, etc. that I wasn't getting from my APS-C tilt-shift outfit. Film had come along since I last shot 4x5. Second generation TMAX 400 sheet film is amazing stuff.

But... apart from the movements, it ended up being a pointless detour. I'd ripped out my darkroom a decade ago, so printing meant inkjet, and that meant scanning. Anyone considering scanning needs to be realistic about some things:

* If you want to scan roll film, you're going to have to buy a used scanner that's probably very old already. They're not making new dedicated film scanners. Before you get excited about drum scanners, they're all pretty ancient now, operating them is not simple, good luck finding a computer that can run the software, and people who can service the thing are getting old.

* Flatbed scanners are a decent option, but limited. Yes, Epson released an updated scanner (the V850). But apart from a few minor tweaks, it's essentially the same thing as the V750. There's a huge long thread on on Epson flatbed scanning, with lots of disagreement about what the top end is. Many people agree that anything over 2,300 ppi is just made-up data. Yes, you can scan at higher resolutions, but more pixels doesn't always mean more details. Sometimes it just means more pixels. To get the best results you'll want to wet scan. And give yourself lots of time to figure out how to get good results, because flatbed scanning is a bit of a black art. I recommend Vuescan.

* Camera scanning is viable and works very well. That's what I did. I wet mounted 4x5 negatives and camera scanned them with a template that allowed me to quickly stitch 12 frames to make 2,666 ppi files. I saw no benefits with this setup to higher resolution. If you're interested, here you go:

* Once you have your file, now you roll up your sleeves and start spotting. Unless you're working in a clean room that is used to make microchips, you're going to have dust. And you probably have dust and scratches on your negative that you picked up when shooting and/or processing. I got sick and tired of spotting 4x5 scans in short order.

What sealed the deal for me is the 100+ MP files I was creating did not make better quality prints. They just didn't.

I'm now using a Fuji GFX 50R on the back of a Toyo VX23D digital view camera. I get all the camera movements I had with my 4x5 monorail camera, with none of the hassle. The best part is you don't have to spend a fortune on lenses. Very good results can be had for very little money.

So by all means, shoot film if it gives you pleasure. It's a wonderful medium -- still totally relevant today. But I would encourage anyone who think that the scanning side of the equation is easy to do a little research first.

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