clarity and quality

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by davidblevins, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Christmas day, I brought my ELX with a 80mm Zeiss T* lens to a friends house. I took 24 shots of 160c fuji film of people standing in front of the tree. I was amazed at how hard it was to focus. We become used to AF without realizing it. If you assume that the focus is on, what I would like to know is, does anyone believe that the hasselblad/220 film will be clearer than let's say my D200. I used f8/125 with two vivatar 285's using a flash meter?
    Thanks in advance,
  2. I have a D300 and a D2X as well as a 500 c/m, and I can tell you that the details and color rendition just blow me away. It's very hard to describe in an objective way, but the pictures just seem to have more "depth" to them. So far as focusing is concerned that does take a while. Use a magnifying prism with a split screen focusing screen and you you should be able to get sharply focused shots. I would not use these lenses if there were kids running around. Way too hard for me to assure focus. Of course using the Vivitars will freeze the action. Out of curiosity, how did you sync the second Vivitar. I don't know how to do that yet.
  3. An Hasselblad can be very hard to focus in dim light. It is hard to see the image, and you tend to look through the GG rather than at the image plane. At 6' (guessing) and f/8, the depth of field is a little over 1 foot. This seems like a lot, but isn't really. If one person is a little ahead of the other and you focus on the closest one, the far person will look a little soft at f/8. I have some suggestions...
    (1) Nothing ever looks sharp on a GG, just sharper and less sharp as you turn the lens. Focus through the best point, then back up a little.
    (2) Concentrate on keeping any screen markings in focus. If that's a strain, you need different glasses, a correcting lens or a focusing eyepiece.
    (3) Use a screen with a split-prism rangefinder. Focus on the eyes, eyeglass rims or failing that, the edge of the face. I find these focusing aids a distraction, others like them. Most screens have'm, and are widely available used.
    (4) Re-focus between shots - hope for the best. Use a tripod if possible. Adults are a lot easier to shoot with a tripod, since they don't move around as much as kids, and you have more time to set up before shooting. It's easier to focus with a tripod since things don't shake around as much.
    (5) Make sure your shutter speed blocks ambient light, unless you are using a tripod. 1/125 second won't guarantee there's no camera shake with an 80mm lens if ambient light comes into play.
  4. Edward
    What do you mean by the "GG"? Is that a "glass-something"?
  5. GG = ground glass (a generic term for viewing screen).
  6. A Hasselblad with some good film will blow your D200 out of the water.
  7. A Hasselblad with some good film will blow your D200 out of the water.
    Don't be so sure. They're close enough that the cost and fussiness of medium format produces diminishing returns. That's why you can buy spotless Hasselblads for 30 cents on the dollar.
  8. A properly focused 6x6 film transparency still has significantly more detail than the D200 is capable of. As for the focusing issue, perhaps you should investigate better focusing screens for your camera if you are having problems. It should be easy in good light.
  9. Edward please..... Your turning up my stomach acids. Stop reminding me how much my pristine, mint condition Hasselblads are not worth. ;=) I just want to use them in peace and admire them on the kitchen table. I agree, the outdated D200 does hold up pretty well, but there is no substitute for hand worked black and white on fiber paper, so I think I'll hold on tight for now.
  10. My own personal test results so far (Hasselblad vs. Nikon D300 at portrait distance) are in accord with what most others have said. That is: (1) if you nail the focus, the Hasselblad can capture fine detail better than the DSLR; but (2) it's hard to nail the focus. Film choice seems to be important too. I compared Astia 100 (the sharpest in my test) to Velvia 50 (second place) and Provia 100 (last place, about equal to the D300). The film was scanned with a Nikon 9000 and glass carrier.
    I don't have 100% confidence in these results, mainly due to doubts about my focusing ability. But since the tests made me happy—justifying continued use of the Hasselblad where feasible—I may not do any more.
  11. The caption on the lower right crop should say "CF" Sonnar, not "CR."
  12. Other than contrast, which is easily fixed, I don't see much difference between results in the Hasselblad and the D300. The same fine details are present in each. This is pretty much in line with what I see comparing my D2x and Hasselblad, after crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's.
    Try comparing the D300 at ISO 800 with NPZ800. That should reveal a clear winner.
  13. The sample images appear to be taken at the same distance (correct me if I'm wrong). If so, then the 150mm Sonnar would have 50% more magnification than the 105mm Nikkor. Yet the D300 compares very well given experimental tolerances.
    With a low contrast target like a wall map, Asti will have somewhat less resolution at the film plane than the D300 - 60 lp/mm to about 80 lp/mm. In a practical situation, you would normally shoot to include the same field of view, in which case the Hasselblad would clearly have more resolution - about twice as much. This is because Hasselblad film is more than twice the size of the D300 sensor.
    The nice thing about the Hasselblad is that you can equal or exceed the image quality of a $7K DSLR for a third the initial outlay, and take your time doing it. If you count your time, that's another matter.
  14. Edward, the sample images were composed to have approximately the same field of view (with the long dimension of the D300 matching the width of the Hasselblad square frame). So the Nikon shot (with a focal length approximately 3X normal) was taken from farther back than the Blad (with a focal length of approximately 2X normal). I realize that's a bit of an apples/oranges comparison but did it that way because I was also testing 35mm film and wanted to use the same lens for both the 35mm film and digital.
    I understand your point about contrast. I did try to neutralize that factor by using a curves layer in Photoshop to match the white, black, and one of the gray squares on the ColorChecker for each test image.
    Capture sharpening is also a possible variable I suppose. For that, I used the applicable PK Sharpener process for each type of image because that was as close to a standard as I could think of.
    And of course you're right about ISO 800. That's part of what I meant in saying I would use the Hasselblad (mine is a simple 500C/M) where "feasible." I love using it, but digital is better if one needs more than 100 ISO, automatic focus, automatic exposure, instant feedback, high frame rate, long telephoto, immediate images with no time or money required for processing and scanning, etc. As a practical matter, digital usually seems preferable. But not quite always I think.
    Also, I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone else. Just sharing my personal, admitedly somewhat flawed, test for whatever it may be worth. I would think others, like the OP, who are pondering whether or not MF film photography is worth the trouble, would want to do their own tests using their own lenses, scanners, and (maybe most important) focusing skills.
  15. If I may interrupt the surely new, fresh and fascinating film vs. digital discussion, can I go back to one thing the OP said: "I was amazed at how hard it was to focus. "

    You have a Hasselblad and you imply that you used it well before you got started on digital. Which likely makes you not quite a spring chicken any more. And one thing I just learned by my own experience is that presbyopia - age-related inability to focus close - really does creep up on you without you noticing, and can do so at a much younger age than many people perhaps believe.

    I recently got my first pair of progressive glasses, after probably a year or more of worsening near eyesight. The two things that really hit me was 1) hey, I can read in dim light again! and 2) wow, manual focus suddenly got a whole lot easier. And not just a plain ground glass like on my Pentax 67 either; a split image prism isn't nearly as useful as it can be when the edge you try to line up is blurry.

    So no matter what else you try, do take the time to check your eyes. Changes creep up on us without us noticing, and life is too short to run around getting unfocused shots when we don't have to.
  16. Yep, manual focus on a blad or Rolleiflex can sometimes be difficult. When in doubt, I have had an easier time of it just zone focusing and stopping it down. A better screen is the answer. As far as the digital vs MF dealie, my take is something like this: the cameras are designed for different things. If you need the speed and ease of focus, the digital is fine. W/ color neg film you won't see a lot of difference other than the digital's colors will look a bit weaker. If you're shooting transparencies or B&W you will see a noticeable difference in quality, especially at medium to large enlargements. Is it worth the extra hassle and expense ? Only you can decide that. If you're a B&W shooter your decision has been made.
  17. Focussing may indeed appear difficult when you were used to autofocus, but it can be done perfectly fine, no matter what screen.
    Never as fast as autofocus can be, true. But very often better. ;-)
    A more likely thing (or rather things) to cause problems are indeed our eyes. Janne's suggestion to have your eyes checked is a very good one.
  18. Okay, let's blow up those images to something usable, like a 20x20" image, and see which one is better. There's no comparison, unless you blow the focus on either camera. For Hasselblad, try a chimney focusing device. Add an Acute Matte screen, if you like. And make sure you have a clean GG screen.
  19. Okay, let's blow up those images to something usable, like a 20x20" image...
    The examples are 100% crops, pixel for pixel. If blown up you would get something larger than a 20x20" print. It's time to face reality.
  20. "100% crops, pixel for pixel"

    ... and exactly the same size? What a coincidence!
    That's what is wrong with most such comparisions on the net.
    The lesser format/medium (in performance - whichever that may be) is blown up to the point that it will not stretch any further.
    Then, that size is taken to be the norm, and the format/medium to be compared to is blown up to that same size. Not also to the point where it too cannot be stretched any further.
    So what we usually get to see is format/medium A still performing just about as well as format/medium B. Hardly ever what format/medium B is capable of still. Hardly ever how the second format/medium would (out)perform when it too is taken to its limits.
    So i habitually disregard all comparisons in which the 'comparees' appear exactly the same size.
    Unless the things compared are either sensors/bits of film of the same physical size producing the same pixel count (film after having been scanned, obviously), almost all such comparisons are pointless. (The ones that are not are the ones that reveal a difference so huge that it is impossible that it would have been produced by infavourable comparisons).
    And compare digital to film, and you obviously are not just comparing two methods of capture, but three. Film, after all, has to be scanned before it can be compared "pixel for pixel".

    It's time to face reality indeed! ;-)
  21. As Q.G. says, in my comparison, the digital is pixel for pixel, and the MF is cropped and down-rez'd and to match the digital framing. Doing a print comparison instead is a very good idea. I was thinking the same thing and will try it soon.
    By the way, I understand that film-vs.-digital debates are trite and tiresome. By doing these comparisons, I'm just trying to better understand the relative capabilities of the equipment I have. For example, this summer our family is planning a driving trip to the American west coast that will include Yosemite National Park and Point Lobos. I am trying to decide whether to take the Hasselblad or the digital kit. I will definitely take a 4x5 (after all, this is a sort of landscape photographer's pilgrimage), and taking all three seems like too much.
  22. "That's why you can buy spotless Hasselblads for 30 cents on the dollar."
    Funny how that works. You can buy D200 for about the same.
  23. The lesser format/medium (in performance - whichever that may be) is blown up to the point that it will not stretch any further.
    In this case, the OP indicates that both images had the same field of view, so each has the same degree of enlargement in the samples and would be the same size if the entire image were printed. The comparison is valid.
  24. "That's why you can buy spotless Hasselblads for 30 cents on the dollar."
    Funny how that works. You can buy D200 for about the same.

    Point taken. However the D200 has gone down in price because you can get a D300. The Hasselblad has gone down in price for precisely the same reason ;-)
  25. "the D200 has gone down in price because you can get a D300. The Hasselblad has gone down in price for precisely the same reason ;-)"
    Summary: both have gone down in price because something newer came along. This is not unique to the digital age, and also happened back in film days.
  26. "In this case, the OP indicates that both images had the same field of view, so each has the same degree of enlargement in the samples and would be the same size if the entire image were printed. The comparison is valid."
    It isn't.
    It doesn't matter that both images had the same field of view. We want to know how much of what was to be seen in that field of view was captured by the two media.
    Finding the limit in one medium, comparing that then to the other medium set to the same final size, is not a "valid" comparison.
    It's like testing the strength of two columns made of different types of concrete, put a load on both, increase the load gradually, and stop the test when one of them starts to show signs of imminent failure.
    Saying that right before that point, both columns were equally strong, because at the same load neither cracked, is like saying that this image test is valid, because they are both 100% crops.
    And that doesn't make sense.
    We have found the point where one of the two media begins to show signs of failing, and stopped the test there. What the other medium would still deliver before it too starts to fail is left in the dark completely.
    Saying, perhaps, that the two are equal, because just before the point one of them cracked you probably could not make out a difference, makes no sense at all.
    It got worse, even: brushing aside the difference we can see already, saying that it can be "fixed" "easily", is like saying that the cracks one of the two columns started to show can be easily fixed, and therefore - though we saw it happen - the one didn't start to crack before the other at all.
    Do that as an engineer, and you will sooner or later (sooner rather than later) get sued and jailed for criminal negligence.
    And rightfully so: i don't know about you, but i certainly wouldn't want to live or work in a building build by someone using such testing methods and criteria.
    I rather have someone build my house who not just recognizes and acknowledges that something starts to crack, but also would then not blindly go with the other stuff without testing when it too would crack.
    Comparative tests are fine. But they should be done properly, else they don't say much, if anything at all. We have seen where the one image started to fail. A "valid comparison" would go on testing until the other image would start to fail as well.
    Then and only then will you know the real difference between the two.
  27. I completely agree with Q.G.: the true test would be to compare both at the 100% pixel level for the D200, and then to enlarge the Hasselblad photo until it just started to look weaker, and then print the D200 at that size, and then compare again. Comparing only one way doesn't show anything about the *relative* strengths, and thus no comparison between the two is possible, only the weak statement that both formats passed this test.
  28. Make a scan/crop of the Hasselblad image at a resolution where it just starts to go fuzzy. Make a crop of the same area from the Nikon and enlarge it in PS to the same pixel dimensions. Compare. In other words, scale to the better image and see how the worse one fares by comparison.
  29. 'Film vs digital' is about as interesting as listening to my dog pass wind.
    Focusing tricks for old eyes: (i) Find a pair of cheapass high-magnification reading glasses, like 3 diopters or more. (ii) If there's a specular highlight in an appropriate place, focus on it. (iii) Use contrast to help-- I find something black is in focus when it looks blackest. Works for me, YMMV.
  30. Here's a pixel for pixel crop from the film scan compared to a similar crop from the D300 enlarged to the same dimensions.
  31. DeBakker,
    You make a good point - test each to the point of failure. In essence, how large could you print a scene taken with an Hasselblad on film compared to the same scene with a D300. It is one way to compare media, but not the only way.
    The business about adjusting contrast is just quibbling. Like adjusting to match colors, you can do this without affecting resolution. You can paint bridges too - the color is not an engineering concern. If there is a fundamental flaw in the photos of the map, it is that both are well within the capability of both cameras to resolve.
    In the comparisons between film (Ektar 100) and digital posted in my portfolio, it can be estimated that you could get about twice the enlargement from film before detail starts to fall apart. The grain in Ektar is exceedingly fine, and is not the limiting factor.
    That said, if you can get a good 20x30 inch print from either camera, distinguishable only on examination with a 3x loupe (the effect of a 100% crop example), do you really care if you can go twice as large with the Hasselblad?
    The following examples were not taken with the explicit purpose of making a comparison. However, I was able to select two images with approximately the same field of view, taken with good care - on with an Hasselblad (Ektar) and the other with a Nikon D2x. In order to make a 1:1 comparision, I resampled the D2x image (without sharpening) to the same resolution as the film scan - 8964 pixels. As you see, the D2x is not able to resolve details of the corrugated metal in the tower on the left, whereas the Hasselblad resolves it easily. There's nothing of interest in this image that tests film to the point of failure. Either would be useable at 20x30 inches.
    It is interesting to note that the D2x shows no signs of aliasing, which seriously detracts from shots of the same subject using a CFV digital back (also in my portfolio).
  32. Edward,
    Testing to destruction certainly is not the only way, no. But whatever way we pick, we must be aware of the limitations of the test. In every test, the test itself is in the results. And those limitations are what i wanted to point out.
    We see such tests all too often. Internet and paper publications are full of them. Tests in which we see that one of the things to be tested is stretched to where it still performs pretty well and is then held up to something else that also does very well.
    The all too easy and all too common, and incorrect, conclusion we are then presented with is that both are pretty much equal.
    I have carefully avoided taking sides in the underlying digital vs. film debate. It is not a debate that will be decided by anything but what people want to hear and believe.
  33. As Q.G. and Edward both seem to be saying at this point, I agree that it is extremely important in such comparisons to state exactly what was compared, and to state what the important bit was. For example, if it is only important to the OP that good 20x30" prints can be made, then in this case either camera is capable, and digital is of course more convenient.
    However, this conclusion touches only on resolution. The balance would swing towards film again if it were important what it looks like when highlights are blown. Digital often fails brutally in these circumstances, with colour shifts and CA, whereas film is more graceful. If a lack of noise/grain is more important, it goes back towards digital. And so on ad infinitum.

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