Is Large Format necessary?

Started May 10, 2008 | Discussions
Dario D Forum Member • Posts: 79
Is Large Format necessary?

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.

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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

BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 23,850
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

In big shopping centers there are windows people can look through and see life size photos of people wearinfg dresses. This close, high quality images are necessary to show the weave int he fabric.

BAK

OP Dario D Forum Member • Posts: 79
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

Thanks a lot for going in depth, Jon!

That more than answers my question (and now I can relay the info to someone else, as well).

So I see that large format is a matter of achieving photos that do not have the numerous minor (or not so minor) compromises that small-format users sometimes have to deal with.

Thanks again!
--
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photoarts Regular Member • Posts: 265
Is more than one lens necessary?

If you do not care ,any camera will do .Nobody should take you seriously though.
you do not belong in this forum !

Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
You're welcome

Dario D wrote:

So I see that large format is a matter of achieving photos that do
not have the numerous minor (or not so minor) compromises that
small-format users sometimes have to deal with.

Yes, I think that's a concise summary. and also speaks to the issue of whether you actually need it to do the type of photography you do.

PS BAK made a very good point re fashion shooting.

Glad to help

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Jon Stewart

Charles Self Senior Member • Posts: 2,012
Re: Is more than one lens necessary?

photoarts wrote:

If you do not care ,any camera will do .Nobody should take you
seriously though.
you do not belong in this forum !

Wow! Who crossed your wires this morning?

The question pertains to pro (and super upper end amateur) gear, so it seems to me that it does belong in this forum.

Too, the answers were informative. Though I don't use LF, and I do have more than a rough idea of what it does, it was interesting to have it put precisely and concisely.

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james b norman Senior Member • Posts: 2,137
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

dario - i spent most of my career with a 4x5 monorail view camera doing recordation photography (architecture) for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Building Survey (HABS) for the collections of the Library of Congress. the work was all done in BW, hand processed to archival standards, all hand processed fiber-base prints. for this kind of work, the LOC does not accept anything smaller than 4x5 negatives, nor larger than 8x10 negatives, ie large format is a requirement.
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jnorman
sunridge studios
salem, oregon
Panasonic FX100
D200, nikon 12-24mm ED-IF AF-S DX, 18-70mm DX
Cambo 45NX, nikkor SW 90/8, 135/5.6, 210/5.6
Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 (1948 model)

Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
Hey Dario...

Got time to look at your site: That's some great work there, and a wonderful variety of skills you have.

I wish I had half your skills when I was your age!

(Alternatively, I've got half your skills and I'm twice your age )

All the best
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Jon Stewart

Vegasluv Contributing Member • Posts: 845
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

I still perfer my Hasselblad medium format to a digital camera's image. I just like the clarity better. Yes, it is a pain to set up, develop and process but in the end, i love the sharpness of the image better.

My Hasselblad is over 20 years old and it works like a champ! Serviced only once to make sure it was lubricated and working perfectly about 7 years ago.

apoartar Regular Member • Posts: 116
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

james b norman wrote:

dario - i spent most of my career with a 4x5 monorail view camera
doing recordation photography (architecture) for the Historic
American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Building
Survey (HABS) for the collections of the Library of Congress.

James, I didn't know about the HABS, but these are really cool large format pictures. Nice house too that Mark Twain lived in! - Brian

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=hhphoto&fileName=ct/ct0300/ct0332/photos/browse.db&action=browse&recNum=0&title2=Mark%20Twain%20House,%20351%20Farmington%20Avenue%20 (corrected%20from%20original%20address%20of%20531%20Farmington%20Avenue),%20Hartford,%20Hartford%20County,%20CT&displayType=1&itemLink=r?ammem/hh:@field(DOCID+@lit(CT0332))

Martin Frost Senior Member • Posts: 2,149
Do large format backs exist?

Jon Stewart wrote:

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.

Do large format backs exist ?
How much do they cost ?
Can you tell me the name of one ?
Thanks
Martin F.

Martin Frost Senior Member • Posts: 2,149
ok scanning backs but

ok scanning backs exist but if the medium format lenses would be as good as the large format lenses then this could also be done with medium format.

Do non-scanning large format backs exist ?
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regards
Martin F.

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Typing errors are intended to provide a basis for global amusement

Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
Re: ok scanning backs but

No, not at the moment.

There are supposedly some developmental prototype large backs (done for the military) for specific purpose, allegedly. Don't know the size, but I did read 60+Mpixels somewhere.

It's a bit of a holy grail; in theory it would be perfectly possible to to a (eg) 6x7" digital sensor, since they're all made out of smaller wafers anyway (and assuming you can manage the heat) , but nobody's done it yet. People speculate about the economics; if the cost has to be so much higher (presumably since the threshold is lower; think of the chances of putting together a sensor on a production line, with lots of small wafers, then testing it to find that one wafer, out of how ever many, is not performing - bang goes that sensor, in the bin), who's going to pay for it?

MF sensors are such a small market anyway. So, I'm not sure when we'll see large format sensors.

(All the views expressed above are purely my own speculation, and have no basis in fact whatsoever (!) )
--
Jon Stewart

DUSTY LENS
DUSTY LENS Veteran Member • Posts: 4,308
ok scanning backs but ,

Jon Stewart ,

Very good and impressive points on costs of Manufacturing and small market for the very high price .

Maybe some day the sensor will be made similar to the way the film on your LCD flat panel monitor is made .

Use less expensive materials and much larger scale to end up with more then the sum of the ingredients .

I predicted the cost of flat panels would come down , A no brain-er , about five years ago , so why not the same thing for the digital Camera Sensors .

Just like a large sheet of photographic film , Who Knows ?

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Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
Re: ok scanning backs but ,

Yes, I think that MF sensor prices will come down. They have been for some time, but it's slow.

What will really drive them down is when more photographers start using MF again. However, the starting price is so high, and the numbers of users involved are so small, that it will take a long time.

There are many other factors that influence users choice of system, and for much photography, 35mm dSLR's are far easier to handle, easier to upgrade, bigger range of lenses etc, while producing an acceptable image for most people. It takes a real determination and need to move from 35mm to medium or large format, and quite a bit of wad as well!

I think that's the reason why sensor prices won't drop quick; it's quite unlike other consumer items, like flat screens, where people can see the advantage of buying them, the day they get them - look at the transition to HD (transmission, DVD's, and even game consoles). These are the reasons which militate to improve sales of panels (therefore reducing price), but when it comes to MF digital, there are far fewer reasons, for far fewer people.

Hope this helps.
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Jon Stewart

David Phipps Senior Member • Posts: 1,015
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

Nice summary. I have one question/point I think you may be mistaken on. The No AA filter meaning no Moire... Isn't the AA filter their to prevent moire? meaning you have more possibility of Moire given the right focal length/distance/subject pattern?

I am basing the above on the Kodak Dslr's which have no AA filter so are superbly sharp but Moire is somehwhat of a problem.
--
I shot the White Album and other untruths by,
David Phipps

Jon Stewart Senior Member • Posts: 1,230
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

Thanks, David.

You're quite correct in your assertion, and I misspoke myself, leading to the implication that 'No AA filter == no moire'. This is, as you pointed out, incorrect. That sentence should have read to the effect 'no AA filter, and yet fewer or no moire problems'.

Having no AA filter maximises the output resolution of the sensor, and the proprietry software supplied with the backs has some sophisticated demoirise tools. These are effective, since the manufacturers have a very good understanding of how the back work.

I shoot Phase One (but don't do fashion), and you can have a look at their tool at http://www.phaseone.com/Content/Software/ProSoftware/ProductOverview/InFocus/Moire.aspx#

(David, you probably know this, but I'll put it in for anybody else who mightn't, just to be complete, and provide clarification)

Moire is caused because the sensors (both 35mm and MF) interpolate colour values. Each photosite (loosely AKA pixel) records either red or green or blue. Take a photosite that records in the red channel (ie a red pixel); The actual red value for this pixel has been accurately recorded, but, the green and blue values for this pixel have not.

The green and blue values are instead calculated by looking at the neighbouring values of the nearest green and blue 'pixels'. Hence the inaccuracy in figuring out the correct value, if you have patterns that come close to the size of the photosite.

With MF sensors the resolution is generally much higher than 35mm (except for the 1DsIII), and with more information, I think it is easier to make a more accurate calculation of the colour values that were not directly recorded at one particular pixel (remember, each pixel only records one colour). Hence there is likely to be less moire, despite not having an AA filter.

Even better, Sinar (if I remember correctly) and now Hasselblad make what are called multishot sensors. These take a number of images of the subject, each time moving the sensor by a 1 pixel increment (usually in a square pattern). Therefore each pixel in the image has an actual accurate value for red, green and blue. You can read about this by downloading this pdf and looking at page 3. http://www.hasselbladusa.com/media/997168/uk_h3dii_ms_datasheet.pdf

Accurate recording of red, green and blue for each pixel == no moire!

Hope this helps clarify and explain. Sorry about the original error!
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Jon Stewart

FrankD7 Contributing Member • Posts: 900
Re: Is Large Format necessary?

Hi,

I cannot speak for large format but I do have experience with MF format cameras, I use a Mamiya 645AFD/II and a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II both on film and with a digital Leaf Aptus back.

For the work I do, models (fashion/glamour) the MF is a wonderful method to give me exact the looks I want.

What people often don't know or seem to have forgotten is that the sensor size is very important for the control of DOF.

The larger the sensor the better you can control the DOF in the way that you can work with a very shallow DOF.

Take the 80mm 1.9 lens for the 645 system that lens will give you a wickedly small DOF and is razor sharp even wide open (although you really have to learn to work that lens).
Same goes for the f2.8 lenses.

What I found when I made the switch from FF DSLR to the Leaf Aptus 22 was that the files also are much more "solid" indeed the lack of AA filtering is great for detail resolving, but the 16 bits is amazing for shadow detail and highlight detail and graduates.

Also the dynamic range of the digital backs is a few steps better than a DSLR, the Leaf for example is rated at 12 stops (never tested it but comparing it to the Canon series it's at least 2 stops better).

Resolution is another problem, people tend to look at MP count only, that's why you have all those discussions about the 1DsIII vs MF backs.
There is ALOT more going on the MP's only (see text above).

For me the most wonderful thing about the MF system is the quality of the glass and the way the system works with DOF, you really have to work with it to understand.

For normal magazine work a 8-10MP camera will most of the time do just fine, for large billboards there is no need for a high MP count (viewing distance and DPI), were it can become important are big full body prints showing clothing and detail that people watch from close by, or for example fine art prints for landscapes.

So in short, large/mf format is necessary but not only for the MP count.

Greetings,
Frank
http://www.frankdoorhof.com
http://www.frankdoorhof.com/usworkshops
http://www.frankdoorhof.com/portfolio

spacioussky New Member • Posts: 5
Re: ok scanning backs but

Company called Better Light has sensor for 4x5 view camera. You can get them up to 240 MP. Of course the top one cost around 25,000. A lot of work and equipment but the best results once you figure it out. Just what I read, I do not own one, but do have a toyo 4x5 with 5 lenses and many accessories. Just love looking at a 4x5 transpariency.

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