How much shaper is LF compares with my Mamiya RZ? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I don't know too much about LF photography, but I am learning day by day from this web site. I am currently using Mamiya RZ, with is 6x7 format. I am intrested buying either the Toyo Field 4x5 AII or the Toyo Field 8x10 MII. I heard that there is not too much difference in sharpness incress from 6x7 to 4x5, and I am not sure it worth the weight, the cost of a new darkroom to go all the way to 8x10. I am attempted by the sharpness from LF prints, and I am confused which way I should go. I would like to have one complete set of each format if I am very rich, but I am not. Please help me to make the decision.

-- Alex Wong (, November 30, 2000


Well, it's not all about sharpness -- at least for me. There are swings and tilts and variable DOF. Maybe you might want more than just sharpness for a reason. Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, November 30, 2000.

Working a view camera is a very different experience from working an SLR of any format. Setting up the camera and deciding how you want the final image to look is a slower generally more meditative process, but actually exposing the film can be just as frenetic.

Because of the movements on the front and rear standards a view camera gives you much more control over the final image than a camera where the relationship between the lens and and the film plane are fixed, or even over one where you can move just the lens.

Modern films have reduced the differences in sharpness between medium and large format films, but large format emulsions have improved too. see John Sexton's books Listen to the Trees or the new volume Places of Power or check out Jack Dykingka's work or the work of Michael Fatali, or Peter Brown.

If you are not interested in landscape photography, looking through the portfolios and books by Mary Ellen Mark. Many people who work in 8x10 don't enlarge the negatives but simply contact print the images.

-- Ellis Vener (, November 30, 2000.

Alex, aside from the perspective and focus control that you get with movements, LF prints contain far more detail than what is found in MF prints. This extra information can really be appreciated when your enlargement has reached a certain size. If your prints are not very large and you are satisfied with the quality of them then there isn't much reason to switch (assuming there is no interest in movements). With colour film, moderate enlargements appear similar when comparing a 6x7 print with a 4x5 print side by side, but with b/w film you notice a greater difference.

Normally, I will shoot colour with 6x7, but with b/w, if it isn't in LF I begin to feel a little ripped off with my results.

My suggestion would be to photograph the same subject with your 6x7 and then with a rented or borrowed 4x5 and compare your results. I think this will give you a reference point for evaluating your decision. My thoughts are that if you are after detail and tonality, once you try LF you will never look back. You just can't beat it.


When I shoot colouriit all depends on how large you plan to enlarge

-- Dave Anton (, December 01, 2000.

Sorry about that last line, i don't know how that got there, or why it is even underlined???...

-- Dave Anton (, December 01, 2000.

Alex, the first time I saw an exhibition of prints from a photographer (who is now a good friend), I was persuaded he was shooting in large format. When he told me he was using a RZ67, I was more than perplex! His prints were not noticeably less sharp than the ones I made from 4x5 although they were enlarged at 20x24". Each time he has a new exhibition, I wonder on the sharpness he gets from a 6x7! Last exhibition was in 24x28. Still very sharp. Of course, if I make a 36x44" from a 4x5, then he admits his limits, although he still gets very decent results in my opinion. But as others have said, the large format is a different approach, technically and sometimes emotionally too. I use a Pentax 67 as well but I like 4x5 better, even if good 6x7's are sometimes more prolific. What I find also interesting in LF is that I can have one camera with a few lenses and a rollfilm back in my back pack and be able to shoot anything from 6x7 to 6x12 and up to 4x5 (Quickloads) with a "reasonable" weight. My friend is limited in the distances he can walk from the car if he wants to have his RZ67 outfit plus a Fuji 617 for panoramics or he must choose one set. Also a 4x5 with a few lenses well choosen for the field weighs much less than a RZ67 outfit. Something to consider if you like backpacking.

-- Paul Schilliger (, December 01, 2000.

I made the same transition, except it was from a Bronica SQ-Ai SLR to a Galvin (and now Toyo) medium-format view camera instead of to a 4x5 or 8x10. Although there are definitely differences to be seen with a larger format, for prints up to 16x20 or so, they're minimal ... even more so if the film is scanned and printed digitally (at least, in my experience ... ymmv).

Unfortunately, I did lose a bit of sharpness in the process as I have found the large-format lenses I can afford have a bit less resolution than the Bronica lenses I was using previously (they are also quite a bit less resolving than the lens on my el cheapo Minolta Autocord...) but I've finally come to accept this as a fair tradeoff for tilts and swings and the ability to correct perspective.

I also prefer the convenience and lower cost of shooting rollfilm and the ability to change formats from 6x6 to 6x9 on the fly is also nice ... in the end, though, the only way you'll find out if a view camera is right for you is to try one. I did and ended up hooked but I know several people who decided to stay with their present systems instead as they found the pace of working with a view camera far too slow for their shooting styles.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, December 01, 2000.

I'd say that modern film emulsions have progressed medium format to at least where LF was 25 years ago.
Sharpness is really a non-issue, any increase in quality is in tonality, rather than resolution.
If you're happy with the results you're getting from 6x7, and you don't need camera movements, then you don't need LF.

-- Pete Andrews (, December 01, 2000.

There is a significant increase in image information with each format increase. As previous posters have pointed out, this might or might not be relevant on the final print. If you're a "sharpness freak", at least with LF, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made the sharpest possible image, regardless of how you'll use it.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, December 01, 2000.

There is more to life than sharpness...I shoot 35mm through 5x7 and like them all, for different reasons. If sharpness really is the goal, there really is nothing like an 8x10 or larger contact print. There is also the matter of a spectacular tonal range...

-- Steve Clark (, December 01, 2000.

Forgetting about the other advantages and disadvantages of the different formats, my experience has been that I can tell no difference, in sharpness or tonal range, in an 8x10 print between my Pentax 67 and my 4x5. At 11x14 prints I can see some slight difference on occasion, I think, but it's very slight. At 16x20, which I don't do very often, I think I can always see a difference both in "sharpness" and in tonal range. My x10 contact prints usually seem to be noticeably better in sharpness and tonal range than either 6x7 or 4x5 prints in that size but the difference isn't always that nocticeable and is less than you might think (or at least was less than I was expecting when I started with 8x10 contact prints) from reading about the beauty of contact prints. I enjoy the contact prints and they are as close as you'll get to seeing what is really on the film but they rarely knock my socks off when compared to a really good print from 6x7 or 4x5. I suspect this is attributable to the improvements in film and paper made over the last couple decades (or maybe just to my aging eyes). At first I thought maybe I just wasn't a very good contact printer. Then I saw an exhibition of photographs by Paul Caponigro that included both contact prints and enlargements. Most of the time I couldn't tell which was which without reading the catalog. I have read, but don't know since I don't have an 8x10 enlarger, that there is no noticeable difference between 8x10 and 4x5 enlargements at least until you get beyond 16x20 prints. All of this is obviously just my experience, others may differ.

-- Brian Ellis (, December 04, 2000.

And it is very hard to dodge and burn a contact print. There are many ways to a good image and image manipulation via burning and dodging are sometimes the only way to get an image you want. Unless you light the image there are very few images that don't require some manipulation. James

-- lumberjack (, December 04, 2000.

I use both an RZ and a Toyo Field AII. The RZ is clearly the choice for mobile work, even hand held with prism viewfinder. On a tripod it is very clear. I use the 4x5 with T-55 Polaroid because I can get a very good scan of the large negative on my Epson photo scanner. I just ordered a Polaroid back for the RZ and I will compare the negatives soon. These are both useful tools for the digital age. The color transparencies on both of them are exceptional. Since I still use the "wet" side of my darkroom, I must say that the 120 film is a lot more convenient to develop in the Jobo while the sheet film has more power if you use the Zone system and develop the sheets individually for their N values. Have at it and see for yourself.

-- Ed Messina (, December 12, 2000.

"And it is very hard to dodge and burn a contact print."

It is? Since when?

-- Sean yates (, December 12, 2000.

Two of the leading Large Format Gurus, Ansel Adams, and Brett Weston, in their later years decided that hauling around an 8x10 and all its baggage was becoming physically impossible for them. Rather than just downsize to 4x5 they decided that since they would have to enlarge anyhow, that they might as well go to 6x6, which they felt was virtually impossible to tell from enlarged 4x5. I'd stick with the 6x7 RZ, if I were you.

-- Bill Mitchell (, December 13, 2000.

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