Heresy : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I came to LF from using a Hasselblad and Zeiss lenses. I was very happy with the results but, like many people I think, I was lured by the LF promise of even sharper pictures and smoother gradation. I use AgfaPan 25 and Rodinal with the Hassy and you would be hard pushed to see so much as a speck of grain even in large enlargements.

Well, even though I love struggling with an upside down reversed groundglass under a baking middle-eastern sky, I have to confess that my results haven't been better than the Hasselblad. The grain on T-Max 100 is bigger than Agfa25 and I don't think the gradation is better What am I doing wrong? I have a Toyo 45CX with Sinaron 4.5 75mm, S-Angulon XL 90mm, Nikkor 150 f/5.6 and Nikkor f/8 300mm lenses. The glass is good. The camera is adequate. Must be the operator ...

I don't think it's camera shake - Manfrotto 344b with 141c head. Not massive - but should be adequate. Also my negs don't look like they have shake. My results aren't dreadful - but they aren't earth shattering either. Maybe I should consider the heretical notion of returning to 6x6...? Any ideas? YA Sinclair

-- Yaakov Asher Sinclair (, May 17, 2000


What developer do you use for the T-Max? BTW you may have better luck tying to get PAN F in sheets and use them. Or try FP4+ developed in a 1-60 concentration of ILFOSPEED print developer, for approximately 11 minutes, though it is worth experimenting to get your preferred time - this does work, I'm not pulling your leg.

-- David Kirk (, May 17, 2000.

I think you are mixing apples and oranges. The agfapan 25 is a much finer grained film than Tmax100. To do the comparison you would need to use agfapan 25 in sheet film(I don't know if it exists). If your looking for zero grain use sheet film versions of Technical Pan 25 by Kodak. I personally have not used it - I use only T-max 100 in XTOL. As well you can't do the whole movement thing with your 6x6 normal camera. My friend has a fancy Rollei and he gets awesome images with his medium format camera. I bet you do too. To outdo the medium format with LF I suppose you'll need to resort to finer grain film, very large prints, contact printing the neg, camera movements or the use of indivual sheet development with the zone system. I don't think your question is heretical but rather based on technical limits of the medium. I'd like to here other ideas on this intersting question. Keith

-- Keith Baker (, May 17, 2000.

The only reason I use LF is for the camera movements and image control.

It's been my opinion since the introduction of T-grain emulsions that as far as pure sharpness is concerned, modern MF lenses and film are every bit the equal of certainly 5x4, and probably anything larger. IMHO there can be some improvement in tonality with LF, if you compare like with like, but trying to compare different techniques across different formats is like asking why your horse thrived on hay and oats, but your dog died.

-- Pete Andrews (, May 17, 2000.

I myself recently switched from using Hasselblad to view camera. No, the results aren't "earth-shatteringly more amazing", but.... a) using movements to straighten perspective and b) using movements to tilt the DOF plane make a BIG difference. For handheld photography, I continue to love my Hasselblad. If I go through the trouble of using a tripod though, I may as well use a view camera for the added flexibility of movements. Grain size and lppm I can put onto the negative are quite secondary!

Before you give up on your view camera, try TMX in XTOL developer. This combination (in my somewhat limited tests) gave grain rivaling Technical Pan (!!!) and finer than Agfa25 in Rodinal.

-- Andreas Carl (, May 17, 2000.

I disagree.

When you enlarge a negative you are 1) magnifying the grain size and 2) introducing another optical element, namely the enlargers lens, between the subject and the final image.

I have never been able to obtain the sharpness in, say, an 8 x 10 print, with an enlargement that I can get with a contact print from my Deardorff. This is independent of film/developer combinations.

This may be due to some inefficiency on my part in small/medium format processing. But, the physics intuitively tells me that actuance and resolution have an inverse relationship with enlargement.

Yes, shooting Techpan at ASA 25 and developing in a fine-grain developer is going to get very acceptable results on an 8x10 print with regard to sharpness. But, everything has a price. I can get as good or probably better results of the same subject with the Deardorff and I can do it with ASA 200 or even ASA 400. So I can stop down to f/45 and get great DOF and still not blur the clouds with a 20-second exposure. Plus, with lens tilt, I won't have to stop down to f/45. I can shoot at f/22.

Of course, the question has to be asked..."Who is going to be happier climbing out of the Grand Canyon, the guy with the 2 1/4 camera or the guy with the 8x10?" And the natural answer is: "The guy with the 8x10. He brought a mule."

Everything has a price.


-- Jason Kefover (, May 17, 2000.

Yaakov, I too am a committed APX 25 user in 120 roll film. IMHO there is nothing better as far as sharpness is concerned!! But when I began using LF (5x4) I did so in the knowledge that APX 25 was no longer available in 5x4 sheets. I recently visited Scotland with both outfits to shoot landscapes, and as a matter of interest I shot the same scene in 120 (APX 25) and in 5x4 (Ilford FP4 Plus) and dev'd both in PMK Pyro. The results as far as sharpness is concerned are identical!! (IMHO anyway) In fact the APX 25 in PMK is as sharp as I have ever got!! But despite the similarities the larger size of the 5x4 neg has resulted in unbelievable tonality that a smaller neg cannot give me. I am determined to stick with LF and am slowly getting to grips with all the movements I need for landscape work. The sheer amount of control that I have over my images is reason enough for me to use 5x4, and IMHO cannot be equalled in a camera without the benefits of a view camera's movements. Stick at it !! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, May 17, 2000.

I think one of the problems in obtaining absolute sharpness in LF is that not all sheet film holders hold the film absolutely flat.Film can even buckle slightly in very humid conditions when the dark slide is initially removed,so one should allow time(how much?)for the film to equilibrate before making the exposure. With regard to sheet film I can only refer you to Tillman Crane's article(Viewcamera Mar./Apr.1996) on his review of Delta 100/400.It has been said that Delta 100 is the sharpest b/w film.But like others have already said LF is not always about sharpness but about tonal range,and it is this richness of tones for me that make LF work so worth while. Regards,Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (, May 17, 2000.

Camera movements aside, I think the ability to contact print is the biggest advantage in terms of tonal range and sharpness of LF over MF. If you shoot 4x5" and enlarge, with today's films and Hasselblad lenses, indeed, there might be no inherent advantage to the larger film size per se (again, leaving aside the enormous advantages of camera movements and the ability to develop each sheet individually). I'd say, if 4x5" doesn't produce the results you want, try 8x10".

-- David Goldfarb (, May 17, 2000.

I know I've brought this issue up a number of times in various threads, but I still maintain that the importance of ground glass alignment should not be under estimated. Chances are if your Toyo is a stock model and has had no modifications done to its viewing system, it is most likely right on the money. It never hurts to check this and you can do it with a film test described in my ViewCamera article (Nov./ Dec., 1996).

That aside, I think another important reason to consider LF over MF is the ability to plan an exposure and develop each image one by one if necessary. In other words, it's a bit easier to employ the zone system with sheet film than with roll film. It's not impossible to do it with roll film, it just takes several magazines dedicated to different development times.

I don't believe the differences in various premium lenses are as critical to final print quality as many make them out to be, but that's just another opinion. I do feel strongly about using enlarging lenses at their optimum aperture. The degradation at small apertures was demonstrated to me at a printing workshop a couple of years ago and since I've started paying more attention to that (and enlarger alignment) I've seen dramatic improvement in sharpness in my prints.

One final comment I have is that toward the end of his career, Ansel Adams praised the Hasselblad as one of the most elegant high quality systems for photography ever developed. He adopted it as his standard outfit. I have to believe after as long a career as his, even the energetic Adams got a bit tired of schlepping view cameras around. But, take a look a "Moon Over Half Dome". Shot with a 500C and a 250mm Sonnar, no excuses need be made for this image. Could MF be used to make the sorts of negatives that require compound Scheimpflug movements to maximize DOF? Probably not, although there are now Hasselblads with limited movements. Maybe there is a place for of both these formats. I personally wouldn't give up either one.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, May 17, 2000.

This has turned out to be a wonderful discussion thread.

I've yet to fully master LF work in 4x5, but the biggest gain I've found is in tonal range and smoother micro-contrast. You won't see these in TMax unless you really work out your exposures & developing system. It's pretty easy to see in traditional films, though, such as AgfaPan, FP4+, HP5+, Tri-X. Get the Film Developing Cookbook (Troop & Anchell). It has a good discussion of film/developer combinations, and tells you why the TMax films don't deliver everything they seem to promise, and how to get the best out of them.

At 4x5, the grain won't appear that much better on the available traditional 4x5 films than with MF AgfaPan 25.

-- Charlie Strack (, May 17, 2000.

To me the advantage of LF is the means of operation. When I am finding a photograph, it is a much more deliberate process than when working with a handheld camera. I know that there will be more work in the darkroom precisely developing each sheet for the particular subject matter, not to mention the added expense. I think that it is this attention to detail that tends to make LF images better. When I look at prints from Ansel Adams, John Sexton or Ray McSavaney and the like, there is grain in their photographs. Fine grain and sharpness tend to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. For me the advantage of using a LF camera is the mind set that I use in the process. I must say that since I have learned the lessons of LF that my smaller format work has improved.

-- Jeff White (, May 17, 2000.

I have never felt that sharpness was the deciding factor between medium, 35mm or large format. I will agree with you in an instant if you say your Canon, Nikon or Hasselblad lens is sharper than my 4x5 or 8x10 lens. I suspect some of the smaller point and shoot cameras might have sharper lenses. The difference comes with the room on the negative. That room delivers smoothness, contrast between adjoining tiny image areas, and gradation. My LF prints look sharp due to the above mentions advantages. I am satisfied with the way they look, as are my customers. I have never had a single customer say they my prints needed more sharpness. I have two prints that are good sellers that were made with what most younger photographers would say were piece of crap lenses. One was made with one cell of an uncoated, triple convertable Wollensak lens that does not even begin to quit being fuzzy until about f16. The other is an 8x10 shot made with a Gundlach anastigmat that is from the turn of the century. Both prints appear sharp, have great tones, and have won numerous prizes at art shows. They are sharp enough. On the other hand, were I doing studio work, I would not consider large format even though I learned to shoot portraits on a 5x7 Noba stand camera. The Hassys, Bronicas, Pentax 6x7 and RB67s run rings around LF for color studio work. They are cheaper to operate, have great film capacity and much easier on the photographer. Outdoors is a different story. I want those movements, even though I do 99 percent of my scenic work with front and back tilts. I very, very seldom use sliding front or back movements and only very rarely swing movements, but I want them there if I need them. One camera type does not replace another. I certainly would not want to photograph a football game with my 8x10 or 4x5, although sports were covered for many years with LF. Give me a 35mm with motor drive and 36 exposures for such events.

-- Doug Paramore (, May 18, 2000.

You didn't mention the size of your enlargements. I use both 6x7 (usually HP5+ or T Max 100) and 4x5 (same films). When I enlarge to 8x10 I see no difference in "sharpness" with either size. When I enlarge to 11x14 I don't usually see a "sharpness" difference but I think I sometimes see better tonal gradations with 4x5. When I enlarge to 16x20 (which I don't do very often) I see a definite difference in both sharpness and tonality with 4x5. However, even if you never enlarge beyond 8x10, as others have said there are reasons to use large format besides "sharpness."

-- Brian Ellis (, May 29, 2000.

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