My test between digital capture vs scanned medium format chrome

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by christos_chatzoglou, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. Hello.
    I made a test to see about the overal look of an image, made by a digital camera and a medium format scanned chrome.
    I also checked about how many details can capture each one.
    Both photos made at the same place, but not in the same day in late afternoon.
    I used the max optical resolution of the scanner (4000ppi) Nikon coolscan 9000ED.
    I adjusted only the local contrast due curves and levels in photoshop.
    For the digital capture i used the shift movement of my tilt and shift lens (Canon TS-E 24mm), to take two separeted photos that i sticked togethet via photoshop.
    To my eyes the digital capture has better dynamic range but also seems a little fake with a "digital look".
    About the details the scanned file looks far better.
    For big enlargements i think that scanned files from medium format chromes can deliver best prints.
    Which is yours opinion?
  2. The pics are too small to draw any meaningful conclusions!
  3. Another image for the details
  4. What happened to the color?
    What apertures were these lenses shot at?
  5. I failed before
  6. About the color is probably the longer time exposure of the provia 100f (about 10").
    I didn't touch it.
    Aperture for the film camera was f45 while for the digital was f20 (min aperture f22)
  7. f/20 is well into diffraction territory for the 1Ds. (I don't know off hand how bad diffraction hits 617 at f/45.)
    That said, you'll need more frames stitched if the goal is to match 617 on fine detail in a very large print. You might get away with one row, but you'll need at least 5 frames to stitch. A pano head would be in order.
  8. Something must be off in your scanning workflow. Even a ten second exposure shouldn't turn most of the frame purple like that.
  9. Diffraction is well before f45 on a 617 as well.
    These should be redone at the design apertures of the lenses rather then stopped down to the maximum. Were you stopped down so far to get the depth of field you wanted? If so you focused on the wrong point.
  10. To be honest - I'd suggest to repeat the test, same day, same light, ca. f/22 with the 617, ca. f/11 with the Canon - to get roughly comparable images.
  11. "For big enlargements i think that scanned files from medium format chromes can deliver best prints."
    I have 60" wide prints from a Technorama 617S III with a 72mm on my walls at home. No problem making them directly from the film. In my case they were through an internegative to print.
    Kodak used the original Linhof Technorama 617 with the 90mm to make the huge transparency displays that use to hang at Grand Central Station over the Kodak section. Again no problem making quality prints that were 10s of feet wide.
    One problem you might have is that a 75mm Super Angulon would not be the lens of choice for critical results on 617 as you need about 180mm of coverage just to cover the diagonal of 56x170mm. As the 75mm only has a 198mm circle at f22 @ infinity vs the 229mm circle of the 72mm XL the results will be not nearly as good at the edges and corners, especially since you need to add the center filter with the 75mm but might be able to creatively compose with the 72mm so it would not be needed, thanks to the larger circle of illumination.
  12. I put the focus to the hyperfocal distance and i stopped down (not at f64 that is the minimum aperture of my lens), to obtain maximum depth of field.
    I used as always, a heavy tripod and cable release, plus mirror lock up for the canon.
    When i used to my schneider lense, apertures f32 and f45, i never show any differences on sharpness.
    I use to print 24"x72" and never show any serious difference in sharpness at this size.
    When i took the first photo with my 617 camera, i didn't have in my mind to make this test.
    I return back to the same place after a month, to shoot digital becouse, i had my eos 1dsII left out of use more than one year, using to shoot only panoramas, just to see if with the simple way to take just two digital captures throught my TS-E lenses, i could obtain same big prints with same contrast, details, colors and dynamic range as with the 617 chromes, for printing large as before (24'x72').
    To my eyes with close inspection after printing these cropped parts, are acetable sharp both, but the digital crops missing information.
  13. The question that's burning in my mind is: how in the heck did you scan the film on the Coolscan? To my knowledge (and I have an 8000), 84mm or so is the max for one frame. Sorry if this is off topic, but I'm sure there are a lot of people who would like to know as well.
  14. I use the glass holder to keep as flat is possible the chrome.
    I make two scans 6x9 (first one, covers about half lenght of the chrome and second scan for the rest).
    Next step is sticking together these scans with p/s.
  15. apples to oranges, not very scientific without the proper equipment and settings.
  16. Yup, Vinny is right. Two completely different forms of media and too many variables to make any realistic comparison. This has been done to death. If you like using film, use film, or do digital.
  17. Why would anyone post this tired question in the Large Format forum? Didn't get slapped around enough in Medium Format land?
  18. You can make a realistic comparison. It's not a perfect comparison, and probably never will be, but as long as you understand the differences and variables involved, a comparison can be made.
  19. Detail aside, the digital file is the winner for color. What's up with the "purple everything" in the film image. Nasty! It's shots like that that turn people to digital capture everyday.
  20. Dave, the color is something easy to adjust in photoshop (i made a very fast try).
    But one thing that none of you takes care, is about the big difference of the dynamic range.
    This is the only part that digital is far away the winner.
    And d.r. is something that someone cann't adjust in photoshop without creating high levels of noise.
  21. Christos, no offense, but feel free to alter the film scan image so the color balance is the same as the digital. Of course, DR in this case is far better with the DSLR. However, the balance reverses when one switches from chromes to a neg film like Fuji Pro 160. With the blocked shadows in the scan, there is no way to get the color to be the same in both.
  22. Here a try to make the balance between the photos the same.
  23. It's not really a film vs. digital test. It's more of a scanner vs. digital origination test.
  24. "It's not really a film vs. digital test. It's more of a scanner vs. digital origination test."
    I agree and have always wondered why more people don't take this point more seriously, though one should temper these remarks that good scanning *can get you close* to what is on the film. Going the other way, here's a comparison that everyone would object to:
    1. Take a hunk of film and, using an enlarger, make an optical print using photoreactive paper. Say 16x20.
    2. Take a digital capture file of the same scene, using the same optics and so forth, and using digital projection, make an optical print. Say 16x20.
    How would the two prints compare? Since current "off the shelf" digital projection is radically outclassed by optical enlarging, my guess is that the print originating from film would vastly outclass the digital one. But then, naturally, everyone would complain the comparison isn't fair, which it isn't...
  25. Interesting thread. I think that a part of the problem is due to the quality of the scan as well as the digital file. Post processing is the digital darkroom, so I was intrigued by people's effort to see how close the two photos are after some adjustments. Below is my effort, which I hope the OP does not mind. I think it is impossible to get them identical because the shots are from not just different days but different seasons. (Look at leaves.) My conclusion is a great deal of the difference is due to the way the film was scanned and the digital photo was processed. It would be important to eliminate these differences even before comparing the quality produced by MF film and a DSLR.
  26. Paul you made a perfect work to the color balance,
    This thread is about my dilema about, the easier way to shoot panoramic for take large prints (24''x72'') and with the maximum quality.
    Shooting 617 means a lot of time for scanning, but easier to shoot (no problem with moving objects or need to leveling perfectly the camera), while the digital capture, using a panoramic head (like panosaurus or other), plus ts-e lenses, needs more time durind the capture (to set up tripod, mount the pano head, leveling and take a lot of photos), but you avoid the 1.chromes cost 2.developing cost and time 3.scanning time.
    About the quality, i think that sticking five or more digital photos, from a 16.6 Mpixel camera we can take the same or even better quality for 24''x72'' prints than a scanned 617 chrome.
  27. Christos,
    No question that stitched photos from a DSLR is easier than LF film. As for quality, everyone seems to have a legitimate opinion. I think both formats have their strengths and weaknesses, so it is a matter of what one values. I do agree with others that if your final objective is a print (rather than web posting) from film, then it is better to go directly from negative to print, skipping digital scanning, which can introduce many more difficulties and challenges related to color, tonality, etc.
    For me, one of the challenges of multiple DSLR photos is alignment. From what I understand, the ideal situation is to move the sensor but keep the lens still. This requires a lens with large coverage, such as one of Canon's T/S lenses or Nikons PC-E lenses. Even then, you need a special lens/camera tripod mount to ensure that the lens remains in the same place while the body moves about.
    I have been experimenting with an alternative, that is attaching a DSLR to the back of a LF camera, which allows me to move the back standard while keeping the front standard still. Still trying to refine a hybrid design, and you can see what had been done so far at
    I emailed you via, but I am not sure if you got my message. I asked if I can post your original examples on another web site as a retouching challenge. I want to see what others can do to color correct the two photos as a way of improving my post processing skills. Let me know if that is ok.
  28. Paul, of course you can post the examples to anywhere you want.
    I would like also, to know how did you make the adjustment of the color balance.
  29. Christos,
    Thanks for allowing me to post you photos elsewhere. I will probably do it early next year because I am preparing for a family trip to Hong Kong for the holidays. We do one major trip every so many years, and my nephew is studying there.
    As for the adjustments, the answer is layers and masks. It is impossible to do a single adjustment for both the sky and the ground. So, separate adjustments for each part.
    Have a happy holiday.
  30. The truth is always in the print. Forget what we see on our monitors.
    What I believe is that the FF digital bodies with great glass can probably hang with MF capture of the same scene or light conditons.
    How ever, for 2 main reasons, the immense capture area and movements of a view camera, 4x5 or larger sheet film in the hands of a good photographer will out class image quality and the resulting print of digital capture by many miles. No need to compare.
  31. My wish is that finally someone would perform a direct comparison under **identical** conditions:
    A. One DSLR full frame at 100 ISO with a 20mm wide angle lens or a 100mm short tele on one tripod
    B. One 6x9 with a Fuji Provia 100F or Astia 100 and a Schneider Super-Angulon 5.6/47mm or a Rodenstock 5.6/45mm or a Rodenstock 5.6/180mm on a tripod
    C. Both tripods are centered on a line 90° to the shooting direction, max distance 50 cm
    D. The light will be metered with an external lightmeter like a Sekonic L-608 or similar
    E. Both cameras and lenses will have the same exposure time and aperture
    F. Both cameras will be triggered with a cable / remote release at the same moment
    G. The Fuji Film has to be developed by a professional E6 lab
    H. A savvy scanner operator with a Nikon LS 9000 and VueScan to digitize the slide at the highest resolution (4.000 ppi) and 48 bit
    I. A savvy operator to 'develop' the digital file at 48 bit
    Then - and only then - it would be a viable comparison for me.
    Of course you could use a drum scanner, but because this should be a fair comparison I would insist on the Nikon LS 9000. The use of a drum scanner would always make film a winner hands down, even with 35mm.
    So if Christos or anybody else would perform this sort of comparison by following my specifications I really would appreciate it.
    Unfortunately I can't perform such a test because I've never had a digital camera and I guess I never will.
  32. Unfortunately I can't perform such a test because I've never had a digital camera and I guess I never will.​
    I had one once but I managed to get rid of it!
  33. Jens - like I said need to test...the more film area will blow away digital...
  34. Rob, it will not be for me or my ego, I just would like to end this endless discussion. Just recently a popular German online magazine ran a comparison between a Nikon F6, a Nikon D3x, a Canon Mark 1DIII and a Sony alpha. Guess what the've put into the Nikon F6: a Fuji Sensia negative film with 400 ASA! To be honest, I hate these biased comparisons. The new generation doesn't have any brains anymore to be **fair**.
    To me it's not a question to go digital, because I know that no plastic stuff can beat my fine tuned 6x9 systems. One slide with the Fuji GW 690 III or my Arca Swiss and Rodenstock lenses and everybody knows how f*cking expensive and lousy digital is :)
  35. Jens, the comparison here is between, digital files from scanned chrome (with a nikon scanner and not from drum scanner) and digital capture.
    These two files has a big difference in size (a 6x9 chrome, scanned at 4000 ppi, gives about 650MB while the digital capture from 16.6Mp camera gives only 95MB, at the same bit depth).
    BUT, when you change the image size to both, to take the same image size for a print 24''x36'' at 300dpi, the differences are not as much as you wait to see from original files so differents in size.
    Scanned files includes a lot of grain, while digital captures are very clean and you can upsize them to this print size, without serious deterioration.
  36. I guess I'm just an outsider looking in. Don't had to compare as I dont do digital, no color and never will , but guys! Have fun! :)
  37. My wish is that finally someone would perform a direct comparison under **identical** conditions:​
    From your text that followed, it seems like you what you want is a comparison very different from **identical**, unless that was what the asterisks were supposed to signify?
    Of course you could use a drum scanner, but because this should be a fair comparison I would insist on the Nikon LS 9000. The use of a drum scanner would always make film a winner hands down, even with 35mm.​
    It sounds like you are saying the film is better until you add the scanner in which case it might be a fair comparison except in the case of drum scanners, which merely reveals the fact the film was better all along. Why go through the comparison exercise when the conclusion is already built in?
  38. @ Bravin:
    the asterisks were meant to emphasize or signify my statement
    Why go through the comparison exercise when the conclusion is already built in?​
    As long as nobody will perform this comparison there won't be any conclusion.
  39. As long as nobody will perform this comparison there won't be any conclusion.​
    You have stated that if one uses a drum scanner, even with 35mm, the film will be the winner hands down.
    In other words, you have already established a conclusion.
  40. If somebody made a conclusion that drum scanner is the best well, they are right as flatbed scanning negatives is a joke.
  41. I have followed this and other "comparison" threads with great interest. I don't think they are a waste of time or effort. I am less concern with which is best (digital vs MF vs LF, etc.).
    Instead, my interest is in understanding the potentials and limitations of each tool since I use multiple platforms. What are trade offs regarding the quality of the images (not just sharpness, but also color, tonality, global and micro contrast, feel), as well as easy and challenges of using photographic equipment and processing the products (e.g., the difficulties of scanning and developing/printing).
    By knowing these things, I hope that I can be better able to select the right tool for the type of images I struggle to capture.
    So, I do appreciate the helpful and insightful information that many have provided, and at the same time respect those who have strong opinions.
    Happy holidays to all.
  42. Keep in mind that the premise of this thread relates to outcomes via one output medium - and not, necessarily, to the idea of "best possible results." However, although I have in my possession a dye-transfer print of an image captured on velvia by a 6X9 Fuji...and to my eyes nothing in the realm of digital output has yet come close...I'll admit that this is all very subjective. Happy Holidays!
  43. ...and what is this thread doing on the LF forum?
  44. You have stated that if one uses a drum scanner, even with 35mm, the film will be the winner hands down.
    In other words, you have already established a conclusion.​
    Saves all the hassle of doing the experiment and coming to a conclusion which people will disagree about.
  45. John, is the second time that someone asks about what is this thread doing, on the LF forum.
    The test is made betwwen 617 camera, that like all 617s uses 5''x7'' format lenses, vs digital capture.
    So, apart that this camera uses roll film, we have large format lens, plus that the exposed film area is too close to 4''x5''.
  46. An article I wrote about a year and a half ago on this subject is available here:
    It discusses some things not mentioned in the replies above, but the aforementioned replies also raise some other issues, so I will revise the article in a week or two to address these new issues (color variations, etc.)
    Remember, at the end of the day, what is important is how the photo looks hanging on your wall; there are many paths to getting that wall-worthy print ... but some paths are less rocky than others!

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