Saturated color films more useful for 35mm than LF : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have personally found that while a 35mm landscape slide shot on a neutral film (such as Astia) looks a bit dull to the eye, the same scene photographed on 5x7 looks pleasing enough on the lightbox. I have a theory for this: in general one needs saturated films for landscape because what your brain remembers of the landscape had the vivid colors that it reconstructed, therefore if you look at litteral colors you are disappointed. The image information in the 35mm slide is too impoverished for the brain to reconstruct the pictorial space and color, but on the other hand, the information in the LF transparency equals or exceeds what you would see at the scene, and since it is input equivalent to the scene, colors are perceived as from the scene, ie in a satisfactory way. What do you think ? (just trying to justify my switch to Astia :-))

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, January 29, 2002


Definitely the case!! This is best seen in some architectural work I have seen where the colours are muted in comparison to smaller formats but MUCH more lifelike/realistic and therefore pleasing (to me anyway!!) I personally find the Velvia-type transparency too harsh.

-- paul owen (, January 29, 2002.

Certainly sounds plausible. In general, color photography is less demanding of sharpness because the eye perceives the color as containing more information. Given such context and frame dependent perception, I would think that it is quite possible that the larger film size (i.e., greater in-camera magnification) provides enough grist for the perceptual mill. Sort of the equivalent of greater microgradation in B&W that one gets with LF. After all, painters have used pigment colors (which are considerably less saturated than the backlit transparencies) and still provided a perception of visual saturation. So, I think the idea of saturation is very much a judgment the viewer makes, and like all judgments, is going to be highly context dependent. Cheers, DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, January 29, 2002.

I agree with the theory, but come at it from a different angle, I really don't like saturated colour, but in 35mm I use Ectachrome 64, and expose to saturate, drum scan and get excellent 30 x 40cm prints (I leave a largish white border). Now in 6 x 6 I use 400NC (I need the extra speed for hand-held) and get great 30 x 40cm prints with no margins. Now because I am a coward and have only used readyloads in LF I am stuck with 160VC, the saturation is exagurated, far more so than 35mm saturated infact to such an extent that I was going to post a question: how to make VC look like NC...

-- adrian tyler (, January 30, 2002.

Q - I think you are right. I have shot 35mm and 6x7 side by side with a friend who was using a 4x5. When I saw his stuff published, it looked better than my smaller chromes shot on the same film.

The other amazing thing I can't explain for the life of me, is why 4x5 has so much more apparent Depth of field than the pentax 67 I used to have. I had a pentax 165 that shot at F22, exhibited less DOF than my 180mm shot at the same aperature, no movements. DOF is supposedly a function of focal length, so it just doesn't figure. And I'm talking about absolute sharpness under a 10x0lupe.


-- (, January 30, 2002.

I agree in theory, but who's to say what "literal" color is? Certainly not the film companies; each one uses a different set of dyes unique to their respective products, so one man's saturated colors may be another man's literal interpretation. There can be no doubt that the brain plays tricks on us, but so do the film companies.

-- Chad Jarvis (, January 31, 2002.

H, in response to your DOF question.

The traditional DOF formulae would certainly agree with you about being puzzled. The lenses are close in focal length and the formulae would provide about equivalent DOF for both. However, I think the answer lies in the microgradation (acutance in other terms). The loss of acutance is typically the greatest in small areas. If the larger formats deliver somewhat enhanced acutance (after all, what is micro- contrast on a smaller format will be macro-contrast with a larger format due to the larger in-camera magnification), the DOF will seem to be larger (its partly an optical illusion and probably depends on the kind of picture, presence of micro-details etc). This is speculation on my part, of course. Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (, January 31, 2002.

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