on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers
Peter Clark
Featured photographer
International Garden Photographer of the Year – Collection Four
Book review
Mionší Forest – Josef Sudek
Book review
Big Camera Comparison – Editor’s Commentary
Tim Parkin gives his thoughts on the Big Camera Comparison
Big Camera Comparison – Comments
Feedback from our epic review
Big Camera Comparison
THE Epic Comparison
Viewpoint Editor’s Letter editor@onlandscape.co.uk
Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Content Issue Twenty Eight
Comments4

Peter Clark

In this issue we talk to Peter Clark - a photographer from Staffordshire who, in my opinion at least, had the best image in this years Take a View competition (The Landscape Photographer of the Year). We asked him the typical questions. In most photographers lives there are 'epiphanic’ moments where things become clear, or new directions are formed. What were your two main moments and how did they change your photography? I got into photography almost by accident; my first passions were rock climbing and mountaineering, and it was through these activities that I developed a deep appreciation for nature and the landscape. Climbing immersed me in a world that had previously been unimaginable to me and it captured my imagination in a way that nothing else ever had. When I got home from my climbing trips I desperately wanted to show my friends and family the places that I’d been to, and so I became increasingly interested in photography. I suppose I’d have to say that my first real epiphany happened five or six years ago when my father bought Colin Prior’s book, ‘Scotland, The Wild Places’ for my mother as a birthday present. I was immediately entranced by Colin’s stunning images of the Highlands and I fell in love with the panoramic format. For a number of years after that I don’t think I took a single image that wasn’t a panorama, and I measured the success of my images based on how similar they were to Colin’s! So if my first epiphany was discovering the panoramic format, strangely enough my next one was realising that not all photographs had to be panoramic. I came around to the idea that ‘normal’ photographs could be just as visually stunning as their wider counterparts and I enjoyed being able to use my filters without having to worry about how the frames would stitch together in Photoshop. I was also forced to rethink my compositional style which really helped me to develop as a photographer. In other words, my second epiphany was realising that my first epiphany was a load of rubbish! That’s quite depressing. You studied art in school but went on to study adventure media; kayaking, climbing, writing, etc. What got you interested in art and did you think about studying it at university? I’ve been interested in art in some way or another for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by birds and ornithology when I was much younger and I spent countless hours making detailed sketches of various species wherever I could, normally in the back of school exercise books! In my mid-teens the birds turned into cars, and I decided that I wanted to become a car designer when I left college, which would have meant studying art at university. However, climbing eventually took over and I moved away from the idea of studying art. You mentioned that you got worse results with your first DSLR than the compact that you were already unhappy with - what happened? How did you get to where you were happy? I think that’s true. I know that certain members of my family were not too keen on the idea of me spending all that money on fancy camera equipment, and so I felt a lot of pressure to try to prove them wrong. I saw using auto mode as cheating, meaning that the results that I was getting were poor in comparison to what I’d been used to with my little Olympus compact. After a while though, and a lot of trial and error, I did start to see an improvement in my pictures. I’m still nowhere near where I want to be though! Could you tell us a little about the cameras and lenses you typically take on a trip and how they affect your photography I’m afraid to say that I’ve always been a digital photographer and I wouldn’t know where to begin with a film camera (I realise that this may make me unpopular on here!). My first ‘proper’ camera was a Canon 30D which I used with an EF 24-105 f4L IS USM for a couple of years before taking the plunge and buying a 5D Mk II. At the same time as the camera I bought a 70-200 f2.8L IS USM, which is a fantastic lens but I must admit it doesn’t get all that much use, and more recently I’ve bought a 16-35 f2.8L II USM. I also use a Lee filter system and I’ve just got hold of a Heliopan 105mm circular polariser. My next purchase will hopefully be a 24mm TS-E lens. Your climbing must be very important to you. Do you still climb and do you combine it with photography much? It is, but not as much as it was. I find that I’m more interested in photography these days than climbing but I do enjoy it when I get the opportunity to do both at the same time. I’ve always been inspired by mountainous areas and I’d say that the vast majority of my images have been taken in the mountains and have required a certain amount of climbing in order to get the shot. I’ve been involved in a couple of climbing accidents and I’ve known people who have died climbing, and that has really made me reevaluate the risks involved. Tell me what your favourite two or three photographs are and a little bit about them. Like a lot of photographers, I find it quite difficult to judge my own work. My favourite images are invariably the ones that I enjoyed capturing the most or the ones that I associate with happy memories or good experiences, and in that respect, my favourite photos are not necessarily the same as my best ones. I also change my favourites on a regular basis, but here are my current top three: Derelict Cottage, Lochranza. I took this shot on the final evening of a two-week long holiday in the Scottish Islands. We spent a week working our way down through the Outer Hebrides and then we spent another week on the Isle of Arran. The weather was awful throughout and definitely not conducive to landscape photography. I was feeling really despondent on the final day when, suddenly, the clouds broke up and I was treated to this beautiful evening light. The only problem was the midges which were worse than I’ve ever known them! I think it was worth it in the end though. Rawhead Woods. I haven’t always loved this shot but it has definitely grown on me recently (probably something to do with it earning me £1,000 in the LPOTY!). It was a fantastic morning when I took this shot and I went home with a number of images that I was pleased with. I took it during the prolonged cold spell that Britain experienced during December 2010. I couldn’t talk about my favourite photos without mentioning at least one panorama! This shot was taken not long after I bought the 5D Mk II and it shows Loch an Eilean in the Cairngorm National Park. It is a stitch consisting of five photographs and I feel that it’s one of my better compositions. I love the way the mountains in the background get progressively further away and then they almost seem to blend into the clouds. I was also really luck with the direction of the light because it casts shadows over the loch and provides some foreground interest in an area that would be quite blank without. What sort of post processing do you undertake on your pictures? Give me an idea of your workflow.. My workflow is pretty simple really. I invariably shoot RAW files and then import into Aperture. I have used Adobe Lightroom in the past but I find that Aperture is much more user-friendly and intuitive. If it’s a panorama that I’ve shot I then export the individual files and stitch them in PS CS4. I make all of the normal adjustments in PS including curves, levels, sharpening etc, and I fix any distortion if it needs it – which it normally does if I’ve used my 16-35mm. I then use masks to make any local adjustments. Sorry for being quite vague but each shot is entirely different and I don’t have a set workflow as such. Your photograph that got into the Take a View competition is very good indeed. I was wondering how many pictures you entered and whether this was your favourite (most people say that the picture that was chosen typically isn’t) Thank you Tim! I was honoured to be chosen as one of the winners, especially given the quality of the other work in the book. I can’t remember the exact number I entered, I think around seventeen perhaps. I wasn’t all that confident about any of them but I selected the winning image as a bit of a space-filler because I’d paid to enter the maximum number of images. As I mentioned before, I’ve grown to like the shot a lot more now but I think that’s because of the rewards that it’s brought me. Do you print much of your work? If so how have you approached it and if not, why not? I do print my own work but I have a very haphazard approach to printing. I bought a Canon Pixma Pro 9500 II about a year ago and I print up to A3+. My monitor is not colour calibrated and so I have to print a series of test-prints before I get anywhere near decent results. I bought a book called Fine Art Printing for Photographers about two years ago but I haven’t got round to reading it yet. I suppose I should really! Where do you want to take your photography? Have you thought about trying to earn money through it. That’s a bit of a predicament for me at the moment. On the one hand it’s my hobby and I don’t want to risk losing it and on the other hand, who doesn’t want to earn their living doing the thing they love? At the moment I take photographs because I want to and I don’t want to get to the stage where I take photographs because I have to. Tell me about the photographers that inspire you most. First and foremost, I have to mention Colin Prior again. I am a huge fan of his work and I have probably taken more inspiration from him than any other photographer. I also love Joe Cornish’s images and ‘Scotland’s Mountains’ is one of my favourite photography books of all time. I recently bought ‘With Landscape in Mind’ and found it really interesting to be able to see how Joe works in the field and how he approaches landscape photography. Adam Burton is another landscape hero of mine and I recently bought one of his images of the New Forest which is sat just above me as I write this. His work is always technically superb and he has his own unique style that I really like. Other photographers that inspire me include Don Tiffney, who is always very constructive on Flickr and who posts some top-quality images, Michael Kenna, Doug Chinnery, Chris Friel, Pete Leeming and many more. If you were told you couldn’t do anything art/photography related for a week, what would you end up doing (i.e. Do you have a hobby other than photography..) I would probably head to the mountains somewhere and go climbing, cycling, skiing and walking for a week and maybe take a few good books for the evenings. What sorts of things do you think might challenge you in the future or do you have any photographs or styles that you want to investigate? Where do you see your photography going in terms of subject and style? The biggest challenge these days is finding enough time to go and take pictures. With working full-time I rarely get the opportunity to head out with the camera. I would really like to be able to build up a bigger portfolio of Cheshire because I think it’s a beautiful county and it’s rarely explored by photographers. People tend to pass by on their way to North Wales or the Lake District. I’m also becoming increasingly interested in more abstract landscapes and I want to experiment a bit more with ICM images like Chris Friel’s. Who do you think we should feature as our next photographer? Maybe someone like Robert Fulton. It would be interesting to get his perspective on winning LPOTY. [gallery link="file" order="DESC" more

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International Garden Photographer of the Year – Collection Four

Our first book reviewed here is The International Garden Photographer of the Year, the catalogue to the annual exhibition held at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. The competition which specialises in plant, flower and botanical photography showcases the hugely diverse skills of today's 'garden' photographers and the natural spaces which inspire them. The book, well printed and thoughtfully put together, is a testament to the high standard of this year's entries. Aside from content, the layout itself is visually very appealing. Adjacent images are nicely juxtaposed and captioned with information about how they were created and the equipment used. I find this a much more reader-friendly solution than similar competition catalogues which seem to list the camera and production details on the final page, as an afterthought. The double-spread Portfolio pages are also a welcome feature in the book. Interspersed among the individual photographs, they acknowledge extended bodies of work and give context to the photographer's dialogue with his subject. As the competition itself is called 'Garden Photographer' as opposed to 'Garden Photograph of the Year', surely this is how most of the work should be judged. Jason Ingram's Portfolio especially caught my eye, and provides an interesting alternative to the more colour-saturated landscape vistas. The six images, which focus on the hands of vegetable growers clasping their recently picked produce, are rustic in subject and yet delicately captured. Monochrome is used to stunning effect – highlighting the organic textures of both plant and skin. As a theme, 'Garden' appears to have been widely interpreted. Of course, there is the occasional traditional shot of a well-kept garden 'swathed in evening light', but the majority of photographs are innovative and often unpredictable. The book itself may not be ground-breaking as such, but the talent which the competition showcases make it a worthy purchase. Furthermore it is priced at a reasonable £25 for 150 pages. A welcome addition to any bookshelf. You can buy this book at the Beyond Words website. [gallery link="file" more

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Mionší Forest – Josef Sudek

The second book is from the Czech photographer Josef Sudek. Born in 1896 in Kolin, Bohemia, he initially trained as a book-binder before being drafted into the Hungarian Army. Whilst serving on the Italian Front his right arm was severely wounded and eventually had to be amputated. It was during his convalescence in hospital that he first became acquainted with photography, taking pictures of his fellow inmates. He often had to cradle the camera in one hand, using his teeth to compensate for his right arm. Sudek is probably best-known for his striking black and white still lifes; his compositions of drinking glasses, seashells and eggs have become iconic in the history of twentieth century photography. This book however, details a body of landscape work, dedicated to the Mionší Forest in his home country of Czech Republic. The project spanned over twenty years of Sudek's life and was his final photographic venture before his death in 1976. The series of images remained unpublished during his life-time, largely because he intended on continuing to re-visit the theme. Sixty four of the set are beautifully printed in this book, which also contains two moving tributes from Antonin Dufex, an historian and expert on Sudek, and Peter Helbich, the photographer's best friend who accompanied him on each of his journeys to the Mionší Forest. His affiliation with the forest came from a fascination with trees, once they had died and shed their leaves. He rarely photographed them for their picturesque qualities, but instead was interested in their statue-like forms, how they appeared like tombstones or totem-poles rising from a devastated landscape. Sudek's dedication to the subject may have originated from his time at war, his respect for the fallen soldiers. His photography immortalizes it's subjects and the trees in this series are portrayed with a similar stillness and monumentality to his still life compositions. The personifying of inanimate objects has been linked to Surrealism, yet I find more connections with the paintings of Cezanne. Sudek seems to employ what the still-life painter called 'the melancholy of the apple': light picking out wrinkles, dents and flaws in the surface of the object. The earlier images in this book were taken with a 13x18cm camera and the later with a wooden 18x24cm format and a 10x30cm panoramic. Photographs include the original film rebate and are printed to highlight the exceptional level of detail and soft tones of the original contact prints. Every time I return to this book, I appreciate the photographs more and more. His trees gradually take on different identities; to me they seem as much portraits as they are landscapes. Sudek is a master of light and mood, and this book is testimony to that. A very sombre set of images, yet a fascinating insight into a relatively unknown body of work. The book costs £42.93 and is available from Beyond Words [gallery link="file" order="ASC" more

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Big Camera Comparison – Editor’s Commentary

// Planning When I first considered running this test I figured it would be quite hard work and would take a few days to complete. Little did I know I would end up spending around a hundred man hours completing it. The test started as a reaction to a few articles comparing digital with film over the years, all of which were lacking in some way. Some overestimated the resolution that can be laid onto film by large format lenses, others missed out on critical techniques to make the sharpest pictures on one platform or another. In all though, there was definitely room to make a definitive review of high resolution imaging technologies. I was in a fortunate position to know the supplier of Phase One cameras in the North of the UK and to have a business partner who had a great deal of experience shooting digital and film cameras and hoped (naively perhaps) that including two ‘experts’ in the digital side of photograph would circumvent some of the criticism from that camp. We also spent some time making sure we had the best gear for the digital cameras, knowing that someone somewhere would say “Ah! You should really have been using a Alfalfa Alpagon on a steel reinforced concrete plinth!”; so we talked to Paula Pell-Johnson from Linhof Studio who loaned us the Alpa SWA with a Digaron 40mm lens which combined with the Phase One 645DF, Cambo Wide and Linhof Techno which we had access to already should be enough to cover a few different bases. We also talked on various forums about how best to get the sharpest pictures and finally calculated the depth of field based on the pixel size of the IQ180 (turned out to be 10cm either side of the target at the 7m distance for our studio test) to ensure we weren’t asking too much of our focussing abilities! It was also thought that a good test would be to include some DSLR’s and so we arranged for a colleague, John Robinson, to come with his Nikon D3X and combined with my Canon 5D2 and Dav Thomas’ Sony A900 and a couple of tilt shift lenses from “Lenses for Hire” we covered quite a range (not forgetting the legendary Mamiya 7 in the middle). The Day of the Test The day of the test turned into an epic 8am to 5pm marathon with the majority of this taken up in the studio. Each camera was focus checked at least three of the five people present (All four of us, Chris Ireland, Tim Parkin, Dav Thomas, Joe Cornish and John Robinson) and the Alpa was checked by everybody (we all wanted to see how astonishing the Alpa fresnel and ground glass was!). Focussing wasn’t easy at times either. We were targeting the ‘resolution trumpet’ (we really need a better name for that) and we could only ever manage to see the low resolution version on all cameras apart from the 8x10 (which we hoped had a good ground glass registration - turned out it did). Even the live view on the Alpa was not the easiest thing to use because of the 1s refresh rate. We did spend some time taking multiple pictures with very small shifts of focus whilst checking the maximum resolution we could achieve afterward so became very confident that we were achieving the maximum we could get out of the cameras. The most difficult focussing was probably the Mamiya 7 though, trying to get critical focus using the Rangefinder wasn’t that easy. However, I did find a ‘cheat’ way of doing it which was using the video camera on 100% zoom and pointing it through the rangefinder window! I shouldn’t have worried in the end because the effective depth of field for the Mamiya was even more than the IQ180. Around 2pm, after 6 hours of studio shooting, we decamped to the Yorkshire Moors for the ‘landscape’ test. Joe found an excellent spot that he has used a few times in the past and we spent another two and a half hours getting very cold whilst setting up multiple cameras. The IQ180 on the Phase 645DF was as easy to use as the Sony A900 and Mamiya 7, taking very little time to set up beyond working out the best focussing point for hyperfocal operation. Setting up the 4x5 wasn’t too much of a hassle either, only taking about ten minutes to get set up. The 8x10 was a different matter and even using two of us, it still took a good 15-20 minutes to get set up, stable and focussed (we were using two tripods on the 8x10 - pretty essential for sharp shooting as the camera flex is enough to degrade the image). The windy conditions had us thinking that the 8x10 would probably do worse than the 4x5 in these conditions but the combination of Joe and my skinny frames blocking the wind the results proved better than expected (although one of the Velvia frames was slightly fuzzy). The Results Well, I’ve refrained from commenting on the results until everybody else has chipped in so as not to influence people but here goes. What do I think? Well, I have to say I was incredibly impressed that the 8x10 could manage to nearly double the linear resolution of the 4x5. Most sources will tell you that you sacrifice a lot of detail using 8x10 but we definitely proved that if you can avoid stopping down too much then you can get astonishing resolution out of 8x10 photographs. However, at larger taking apertures this can be a different story, more on that later. Let’s start with the results that started the exercise in the first place, the IQ180 vs 8x10. Well the results put that to bed and pretty authoritatively at that. The studio test shows that the difference in the capabilities of the two systems is enormous. The IQ180 files are 7,660x10,328 pixels whereas the resolving power of the 8x10 system can generate pixel sharp images at 22,400 x 28,000 pixels, nearly three times the linear resolving power and nine times the ‘megabyteage’ at an astonishing (and computer defying) 630 megapixels. Our 4000dpi scans of the 8x10 transparencies generated a 7.6Gb 16bit file, finally pushing me to upgrade my 8 core Mac Pro to 16Gb of RAM and a 64Gb SSD raid 0 scratch drive - and it was still painfully slow. This isn’t quite the end of the story though, as seen in Hans Strand’s comments where he says he is getting better results from his medium format back than he was getting from 5x4 and 8x10. Digging a little deeper, Hans was using much larger apertures that used in the tests so I did a few calculations. The following table might look really confusing at first but bear with me. What I've done is to provide, for each platform, a list of aperture's used in the test where each row shows an equivalent aperture for each platform. i.e. the first row in each table is the aperture that gives the same depth of field for that platform. What follows this is the theoretical maximum enlargement based on diffraction (based on the table here) - however I've modified these to limit the maximum enlargement based on a couple of different factors. The first limitation is the maximum enlargement of a 35mm digital ~20Mp camera which is 12" x 18" (at 300dpi). The next limitation is placed on the Phase IQ180 system because it has a maximum enlargement of 26" x 32" (based on 300dpi). The next limitation the maximum resolution for lenses for the Mamiya 7 which is about 100 line pairs per mm. The final limitation is the resolution of LF lenses which is about 70 line pairs per mm. Each of these tables now shows the largest enlargement in mm for each platform and each f-stop for equivalent depth of fields. Fortunately you can ignore all of that maths and skip your way down to the very last table which shows the ratio of the different platforms to each other at equivalent focal lengths. 35mm f/stop multiplier height/mm 2⅔ 13 312 2.8⅔ 13 312 4⅔ 13 312 5.6⅔ 13 312 8⅔ 13 312 IQ180 f/stop multiplier height/mm 4 16 646 5.6 16 646 8 16 646 11 16 646 16 13 525 Mamiya 7 - 6x7 f/stop multiplier height/mm 5.6 13 728 8 13 728 11 13 728 16 13 728 22 8 448 4x5 f/stop multiplier height/mm 8⅔ 7.5 720 11⅔ 7.5 720 16⅔ 7.5 720 22⅔ 7.5 720 32⅔ 5 480 8x10 f/stop multiplier height/mm 11⅔ 7.5 1470 22⅔ 7 1372 32⅔ 5 980 45⅔ 3.5 686 64⅔ 2.5 490 4x5 vs 8x10 IQ180 vs 8x10 IQ180 vs 4x5 (8⅔/16⅔) 2.0x (4/16⅔) 2.3x (4/8⅔) 1.1x (11⅔/22⅔) 1.9x (5.6/22⅔) 2.1x (5.6/11⅔) 1.1x (16⅔/32⅔) 1.4x (8/32⅔) 1.5x (8/16⅔) 1.1x (22⅔/45⅔) 1.0x (11/45⅔) 1.1x (11/22⅔) 1.1x (32⅔/64⅔) 1.0x (16/64⅔) 0.9x (16/32⅔) 0.9x In summary, this table shows the maximum critical enlargement for each camera type at each aperture taking into account diffraction and 'best lenses'. e.g. 35mm and Mamiya 7 are film limited at 13x but the IQ180 sensor will allow a 19x enlargement before diffraction kicks in. The last table shows the relative enlargement ratios of the camera pairs shown. e.g comparing IQ180 and 8x10 shows that at smaller apertures the advantage to 8x10 is 2.3x but this falls behind at f/90 to 0.9x - diffraction has killed 8x10's advantage The last section shows the aperture for each platform and the ratio difference in achievable resolution. As you can see, when we are working at the operating apertures we used in the Studio test, the 8x10 is capable of over 200% of the resolution of the IQ180; However, as the need for depth of field increases this advantage starts to disappear. By the time you are using an aperture equivalent to f/5.6 on 35mm cameras, the advantage of the 8x10 over the IQ180 has dropped to 50% and if you should need to stop down to the equivalent of f/11 then the advantage of 8x10 has disappeared. The advantage for 4x5 is is minimal - the theoretical advantage is 10% for smaller apertures but this disappears by the time you get to around f/8 equivalent and for apertures smaller than f/8, the IQ180 has a distinct advantage over 4x5. (don't forget that these are 'equivalent' apertures based on 35mm - the actual aperture is shown in the table above - pick a row from each table to see the equivalents, e.g. the first row in each table is the equivalent in terms of depth of field). Now this matches up with our studio and field work quite well. The distinct advantage to 10x8 is rapidly degraded by the time you get to the field work where it has maybe 50% advantage in resolution. The same is true of the 5x4 shots where at the taking apertures of f/22⅔ showed a similar resolution to the IQ180. Just as an aside, the Mamiya 7 did very well in the resolution tests and yet the files looked a lot worse than the absolute resolution would indicate. This is due to the grain of the film starting to obscure tonality and fine detailed textures. Low contrast elements got lost within the grain in most cases. The Mamiya 7 ended up resolving considerably more than the DSLRs but looking only slightly better than them. Comparing Canon 5Dmk2 with Mamiya 7, Portra 160 Noise Reduction Choose Which Cameras/Films to Compare Before side Nikon D3X Mamiya 7, Portra 160 Mamiya 7, Portra 160 Noise Reduction Mamiya 7, T-Max 100 Canon 5Dmk2 After side Nikon D3X Mamiya 7, Portra 160 Mamiya 7, Portra 160 Noise Reduction Mamiya 7, T-Max 100 Canon 5Dmk2 At first it looks like the DSLR's are quite a bit sharper but once you look closer you see that the details are quite mushy. this is something that has been observed in the IQ180/film results also and is symptom of the way digital and film resolve fine detail. With digital, the finer and finer detail in an image are quite contrasty all the way to the resolution of the sensor and then, at that point, there is no more detail. The camera detail hits a resolution brick wall beyond which it cannot go because of the size of the pixel. Film, on the other hand, renders detail quite differently. Finer and finer detail loses more and more contrast so that at the point where digital hits a brick wall, film has lower contrast so the digital looks sharper. However, the film keeps on going finer and finer until either the grain overwhelms it or the scanner runs out of resolution. What this can mean is that digital can look sharper "at a certain critical resolution". This resolution is dependent on the format but having printed out lots of tests, seems to be at the point of a 300dpi print at native resolution. Once you enlarge beyond this, film carries on looking good but digital starts to look 'plasticky'. Having said that, this critical resolution for the IQ180 is 26" x 32" print - quite good enough for nearly all purposes. In our final print comparison, once you enlarge beyond this to 40" x 50" for example, the 4x5 and definitely the 10x8 start to look better than the IQ180. Digital Artefacts One of the inevitable side effects of the digital cameras used is that caused by the Bayer Array. The bayer array means that not every pixel counts for full colour information. In fact, for red and blue, only one in four pixel counts. These effects are not generally seen but as you approach the resolution limit of these cameras, strange things start to happen. The obvious effect is that occasionally colour will appear where there was none in the original picture, or colour will disappear where there was some. For instance, if you look at the close up detail of the nikon lens, the white numbering on the aperture rings have begin to be coloured on the IQ180 files. Also, some of the red berries in the water in one of the transparency tests have almost completely lost there colour. Less obvious is why we appear to have some sort of grid pattern on the resolution chart for the IQ180 and why this grid pattern is overlaid with blue and red colouring (image shown below). There are a few things going on here - firstly we have the fact that once the resolution of the lines gets higher than the resolution of the sensor, we get lots of aliasing happening. This means that the raw conversion algorithms can't work out what is a line and what is a dot. Why should they be working these things out in the first place? Well the aim of raw conversion is to take the data given and to create something that looks as sharp as possible. In order to do this, the algorithm takes the individual pixel data from each of the colour channels and tries to work out whether there are any contiguous lines or shapes. If there are, then the system can sample the brightness of each of the green, red and blue pixels along this line to work out what colour it should be (adding in the missing data for places where there are no red or blue pixels). When there is no obvious lines, the system hunts around trying to find anything that looks like one and in this case, mistakenly thinks that we have some vertical and horizontal lines and also mistakenly works out the colour as either red or blue depending on exactly which pixels happen to sit over these lines. The means that instead of a blurred effect, we get a mosaic like grid effect; and instead of a lower contrast grey colour we get a textured, coloured effect. As well as on the nikon 50mm lens, the effect is also very clear on the Nikon logo on the larger lens. Here is an image showing the individual pixels that represent the Nikon text. As the small lines of white text pass over the different coloured bayer filters, the colouring tends to either blue or red. You may wonder why you never see a green effect? Well this is because each row of pixels always contains green, in fact every other pixel. However, each row also contains either red or blue pixels. So one row will be green red green red and another will be green blue green blue. So depending on which row or column the white text hits will result in a different coloured tint. If the white line of the text spans two rows, then the blue and red cancel each other out and we get back to white again. Scanning Film All of the film was scanned on a 4000dpi Howtek 4500 drum scanner that can be purchased from between £800 and £1,200. These scans have picked up all of the detail of the 8x10 film but for the f/11⅔ 4x5 file, the microscope results tell us that there is more detail to be scanned. This does suggest that it may be possible to get more detail out but we would have to have access to a 12,000 dpi scanner to do so (the 8,000 dpi scanner we tried did not give a significantly greater amount of data). The Mamiya 7 results were very surprising though. The scans provided a great deal of detail but when we examined the results through our microscope we were amazed to see a significant amount of extra detail still left. For the Mamiya 7 T-Max image, the resolution detail matched the 4x5 4000dpi scan! This does suggest that it may be possible to get a result from the Mamiya that would compete with the IQ180 in a very, very good darkroom. Achieving this in practise is unlikely though, but that won't stop me trying. We also had a look at how much detail we could get out of the film if we only had access to an Epson flat bed scanner (V750). It was no great surprise to see that the Mamiya 7 results were degraded to a point where they were only really a match for the Canon 5Dmk2, not quite matching the Nikon D3X. The quality of the 4x5 files was degraded to a point where the detail resolution was a little worse than the IQ180 but the overall result was aesthetically a lot worse for the transparency (you can see this comparison on the Nikon Lens test in the smaller sample of side by side comparisons). However, scanning the Portra 400 on the Epson resulted in a file that was not a huge amount worse than the drum scan in terms of resolution and colour fringing. This would suggest that if you don't have access to a drum scanner, you may be better off shooting negative film? The 8x10 Portra 400 scan was hardly degraded at all however; the results showed a similar level of sharpness of that of the drum scan with very little evidence of the colour fringing and halation that flatbed scanners are renowned for (all Epson V750 scans were made at 4800dpi and down sampled to reduce noise). Printed Results The very last task that I undertook was to make prints of all of these images at various sizes from 20"x24" to 64"x80". Obviously I didn't print them at full size but I did make 12"x17" crops. The results of these were quite enlightening. At 64"x80", the 8x10 print was considerably better, it held more detail and the tonality was smooth even though it was slightly grainy. The IQ180 image had that 'plastic wrap' look to it that wasn't particularly pleasing. I did wonder whether adding noise to the IQ180 file would improve that and to a certain extent it did. Although the IQ180 still looked soft in comparison with the 8x10, once noise was added (using Alien Skin's 'Exposure' plugin) the 4x5 and IQ180 prints looked on a par with one another. At a more realistic gallery hero image of 30x40" print, the images started to look on a par with each other with the edge given to the 8x10 if you really 'nosed' the print (i.e. it has sharp detail in the 20 lines per mm range) and the edge to the IQ180 because of the high acutance at around 5 lines per mm. The 4x5 print holds the same detail as the IQ180 now but looks less sharp because it doesn't have that high level of acutance. However, there is something aesthetically pleasing about the 4x5 and 8x10 images because they don't have this acutance - this is a purely subjective thing though When you come down to 20x24 prints, the difference between the difference cameras is very difficult to discern a difference between the 4x5, IQ180 and 10x8 images beyond a difference in tonality. The Portra 400 and IQ180 produced very similar images but the Velvia 50 had a definite ability to separate tones, especially in foliage, that both the IQ180 and Portra 400 couldn't manage. This wasn't possibly replicated in Photoshop either. Whether you like that difference or not is a subjective decision - personally I like it in some images and not in others. It's also as impossible to emulate as it is to remove so if you get your Velvia image, you won't be able to wind it back out again - it isn't just saturation by a long shot. What was a surprise out of all of this was how bad the Phase One P45 managed. The resolution wasn't a great deal better than the Sony A900 - which was evident when we produced prints of both of them side by side - but the colour was terrible. There was no way to compare the files without making quite dramatic selective colour changes (i.e. removing yellow from the greens and yellow/greens, removing magenta/red from everything and also desaturating the greens). I have an idea that this may be something to do with a clash of the frequency spectrum of the bayer filters/sensor and the spiky frequency spectrum of light reflected from chlorophyll. The reason this may be so is that although plants look green, the actual colour spectrum of chloropyll is a combination of almost an almost ultraviolet purple/blue with an almost infra-red red. Because of metamerism, these two colours get detected in our eye and combine together to give us green. However, digital sensors have all sorts of strange behaviour around the ultra-violet and infra-red ends of the spectrum and any slight imbalance between these two ends will end up with chlorophyll looking a weird colour. However a synthetic green patch that looks identical to our eyes may render perfectly correctly. OK - as a colleague of mine would say "back away from the science Tim"... Back to the Sony A900 for a moment. I was incredibly impressed with the output of this camera on the landscape test - the colour rendering was very natural and looked very similar to the IQ180. During this test the results from both this camera and the Nikon D3X have been very impressive and although I'm a bit tested out, I would love to do a comparison of DSLR colour at some point in the future. Overall Conclusion OK - what do I think of all this after spending so long on it. Well, first things first; The IQ180 is the first digital camera that really competes with the best that film can manage. It has the resolution to compete with 4x5 and 8x10 for prints up to 30"x40" and, more importantly for me, it has the colour rendering to compete with negative film. In all respects it is a very highly desirable item. So I would say that if you have the money, either through the volume of work you do or personal reserves, then think about buying one of these. They will produce results that will cope with almost all jobs. I say almost all jobs because there are still three areas where film excels. Dynamic Range The IQ180 has one of the highest dynamic ranges of any production digital camera and yet it is still a long way from matching the dynamic range offered by colour negative film, especially the film that has just been released by Kodak, Portra 400 and Portra 160. The truth is that in many situations, especially if you are working at sunrise and sunset, you will still occasionally have to use graduated filters or blend multiple exposures together. It is estimated that the IQ180 has about a theoretical 13.5 stops of dynamic range but in fact has about 10 stops of usable range. Portra 400 has a theoretical 19 stops of dynamic range and a usable 15 stops (see here) and although could arguably benefit from a graduated filter occasionally, most people don't use them and don't need to. I have accidentally left a lens aperture open on a Fuji 6x17 after using the ground glass to focus and only noticed after a minute. That was 10 stops of overexposure on the film that I had just loaded into the camera. I was stunned when there was still an image scannable on the developed film (albeit a little grainy). Colour The IQ180 has stunning colour and I would say that this is a more important reason to buy this camera than it's resolution. However, the different colour film stocks available - especially Velvia 50 - give a range of palettes that just are not achievable even through photoshop work. Some artists, such as David Ward, using the idiosyncrasies of these palettes to their advantage in their creative colour work. Until film disappears, this gives a unique rendering of the world. Composition Until the IQ180 has a bluetooth tether to an iPad and at least a 15 frames per second live view, a ground glass screen is still one of the most accurate ways of composing images. There is no replacement for working with a reasonably large image in an environment abstracted from the real world. Even the upside down nature of the ground glass is argued by some as an advantage. Obviously many artists can work without this but on the other hand, many artists (just like many art directors in studios) find working on a large scale representation of the image a critical part of their compositional workflow. Price Well - I had to say this one didn't I? Myself and Dav Thomas hold large format workshops and we have some recommended kit for clients that would allow them to build a two lens large format system for under £1000. Quite recently I bought an 8x10 camera with reducing back and dark slides for £1000 also. I develop my own film so each frame of 5x4 only costs me about £4 a sheet (or £2.50 if I shop around for short dated stock). I shoot about 300 sheets a year which ends up costing about £1000-1500. In other words the outright purchase of a 5x4 system and two years shooting could cost less than a two lens DSLR system. My 10x8 shooting is a bit more expensive at about £8 a sheet (which would be £15 a sheet if I bought new film and sent it off for developing). I operate an Epson V750 scanner and a drum scanner (got to get a plug in! http://cheapdrumscanning.com/) and hence my scanning outlay was an initial £1200 on top of which consumables cost about £50 per scan. Disadvantages Do I need to go into these? Loading dark slides, carrying the equipment (although a minimal 4x5 kit can weight less than an IQ180 set up), developing, scanning, spotting film, inverting negatives, missing transitory light, processing huge files, etc, etc. All of these are true. My conclusion? Well, If the IQ180 were £10k and lenses for it were about £1k each then I'd be saving up. Would I get rid of my film equipment as well? No.. The process of shooting large format and some of films unique characteristics (i.e. Velvia colour, Portra 160/400 dynamic range) still give me something I want. The real answer is, of course, to use both :-) Tim Parkin - more

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Big Camera Comparison – Comments

Joe Cornish Having been involved in the testing process I was a little nervous whether our 'work' in the field and studio would stand up to close scrutiny. Previous internet-published tests often seem to have a hidden agenda, (possibly to prove that the tester is right having invested in a particular digital workflow!). As a reader it would be helpful to understand what that agenda is, if any. Tim, no regular reader of this magazine will doubt that you are a fan of film, and I know you were always intending to 'redress the balance' in this mammoth effort but I am confident that you have been as objective as possible. I think this examination has been incredibly thorough and is something of a revelation. What it proves unequivocally is that technology and marketing cannot conceal the laws of physics. Film 'engineering' is a great deal more mature than digital, and modern films are simply superb (digital is also superb, but we can all agree that a great deal of additional development lies ahead). Relatively low-tech, inexpensive lenses render huge amounts of detail on film. The vast size of the film capture area means that the images are subject to far less enlargement stress (let us not forget that 8x10inch film is nearly 25 times the image area of the IQ180's CCD sensor). The fantastic detail and colour rendering of the negative films was striking. The remarkably usable detail of the IQ180 was, in its own way, equally impressive. Overall, the pervasive degrading effect of diffraction is an issue on all devices, but because of the greater degree of enlargement required, far more significant on the MF sensors than on the large format film. Subsequently I have tested most of my film lenses with the IQ180, and that proves beyond doubt that even film lenses are diffraction-affected from F/11 and smaller. None of this is new, but the relative importance of it can be nicely glimpsed in this test. As a committed 'fence-sitter' who uses both digital and film these were fascinating results. It is important to remember that just because diffraction is noticeable at 100% on a high resolution digital back does not make smaller apertures unusable for real world print application. In theory there is a clear trade off: depth of field vs fine detail. But the fine detail 'sacrifice' is in practice insignificant for most print scales. Resolution is an important part of photographic quality, but only one part of the photographic experience. The opportunities and the ideas created by a workflow inevitably influence our approach. The scale and wonder of a large format ground-glass encourage very 'deep and resolved' approaches to composition (but possibly a risk-averse attitude due to the 'running costs'). The low cost and instant feedback of a digital system encourages a more experimental attitude, and gives us many more opportunities to explore timing relationships with fleeting and elusive subjects, such as clouds, light beams, waves etc (but it can also lead to an undisciplined 'I can fix it later' mentality). These apply equally, whether the work being done is personal or professional. As a matter of interest, one of the opportunities created by digital (and not covered here) is stitching; once we start putting a few files together (for example in a panorama) then they obviously become much larger files and relatively speaking higher resolution 'devices'. Additionally, I was so impressed by the quality of the IQ180, and with its ease of use that I ended up part-exchanging my nearly 4-year old P45+ with Chris Ireland's demo unit, the very one we used in these tests. As far as the whys and wherefores of which medium to adopt, the arguments advanced by David and Andrew above cover all the ground I would wish to visit. In reality, most will have already decided, and may simply use the results to prove that they were right. Especially if they shoot 10x8inch colour neg! However, in the end all of this is beside the point. For 99% of photographic applications, all of the devices tested will provide excellent quality. As has been said so many times before, the best camera is the one you have with you. David Ward I think it was Niall Benvie who described me as an ‘evolutionary denier’ (that’s someone who denies things, and nothing to do with hosiery) because I’m still emulsionally attached to film. (Enough puns for now…) But reading Tim’s incredibly in-depth and fastidious examination of the differences in quality between digital capture and film gives me, on the one hand, some reason to believe that I have made the ‘right’ choice but, on the other, shows me that in real world situations some of the quality differences aren’t that great. So if there’s not that much to choose in terms of quality, why don’t I convert? It seems to me that there are two main reasons, one economic and the other based on quality, but not just a narrow definition of quality relating to resolution. Let’s get the economic argument out of the way first. It has to be said that looked at dispassionately on purely economic grounds I would have to be mad to want to convert to digital capture when I only make around three hundred images a year on 5x4. I calculate that at around £5 per sheet processed (and that’s Quickload so things will be a lot cheaper when I run out) my film and processing bill is around £4,500 per year. If I wanted to swap to an IQ180 not only would I have to invest in the back but also change the camera body, a number of my lenses and get some new gear, such as the Linhof sliding back. It’s interesting to note that I failed to find a price for the IQ180 during a quick look around the net. My mother always told me to be wary of shops that don’t put prices on their goods… In search of answers, I rang Paula at Linhof and Studio and asked her what I’d need to put on my shopping list and how much this would come to. The basic price for me to convert to digital camera - including Phase 1 back, Techno body and other gubbins - would be £35,283. On top of this I would need to change some of my lenses (a further £3,600) and perhaps upgrade my computer to handle the large file size (let’s say £2,800 for a suitable Mac Pro). So the total bill is in excess of £41,000 – or more than nine year’s worth of film and processing. Even given that I will have scanning costs on top of the film and processing, it’s easy to see that there’s a strong economic disincentive for me to make the move. But for someone shooting product (who would have spent a far larger annual sum on film than I do) or in an industry that demands digital output such as advertising (where the day rates are also much higher) converting to digital capture is a no-brainer. And we should not overlook the reassurance, that digital brings, the comfort of knowing that the shot is in the bag. When working in a pressured, professional environment this is a huge psychological benefit and one that simply cannot be overestimated. And so to the issue of quality, my second reason for preferring 5x4. One look at the maximum print sizes for critical sharpness will confirm that few of us will ever need to approach the limits of resolution that even the Mamiya 7 is capable of. So why would anyone want to shoot on an IQ180 or, as I do, on 5x4 film? Surely in real world situations we simply don’t need the quality that these cameras can achieve? Perhaps a more pertinent question is how relevant a measure of overall quality is this analysis of acuity? Whilst it’s fairly easy to define the technical results for this aspect of quality there are other indefinite, even ‘unseen’ qualities which using a view camera brings to photographs. For me there are two main reasons for shooting 5x4. The first is that a view camera allows me to manipulate perspective and plane of focus in ways that are simply not achievable on a rigid camera. Though it may not always be readily apparent in the finished photograph, these manipulations are critical to my image making. It’s wonderful to have a large ‘original’ to make a print from but my overriding reason for shooting 5x4 is very definitely not simply one of quality as expressed by the resolution of the picture. But, I hear you say, you can have the view camera experience with a Techno and an IQ180. It’s true that many of the manipulations that I use are available on other ‘platforms’ (why aren’t they called cameras when a digital back is attached?) but a medium format view camera offers, in my opinion, a diminished experience - especially when one has used a 5x4 for as long as I have. The 6x4.5 ground glass feels cramped and it’s hard to focus accurately in the corners. As the format size diminishes with a view camera so the accuracy with which one needs to use movements such as tilt increases. Yet it’s harder to see if one has applied these ideally. The IQ180 helps out by showing the ‘in focus’ regions on live view. But this only works really well on subjects with reasonable contrast and granularity. In focus, smooth, evenly lit surfaces won’t be identified so well. The second reason, and perhaps the more compelling one for me, is that I still feel that film gives a better result than digital – both in terms of sharpness and other rendering qualities. It’s interesting looking at the image resolution target images for the Provia 5x4 and the IQ180. There are some very weird artefacts appearing for the latter, presumably because the algorithms for calculating what happens with a curved line are failing to cope very well. This rendering problem is also apparent in the image of the Nikon lens. On the 5x4 Provia it is possible to read the figures on the barrel but these become meaningless blobs on the IQ. Now it can be argued that this doesn’t matter in real world situations as this is an extreme enlargement and having readable text in an image is not of huge importance to landscape photographers. This is a little like the CD versus LP debate in hi-fi circles. The CD manufacturers claim that the audio information that is lacking in comparison to an analogue recording is of no importance, as most people can’t hear the difference. I’m just not sure that this argument really holds up under close scrutiny. Of more significance to me is the colour rendering of film, the feel for want of a better term. Each film has a particular feel as each responds in a prescribed way to the differing wavelengths of light. I really like working with the fixed palette of a film and treat what might be considered a limitation as a positive advantage. I am convinced that after a while one begins to see like one’s chosen emulsion and that this helps with the creative process. With digital there are no such fixed points. Whilst this might seem to offer boundless opportunities I feel that it can actually limit people’s creativity as they may become paralysed by the choice. Colour is a very personal matter, with each individual seeing things slightly differently – or even, in the case of some well known artists, drastically differently – but I believe that 5x4 transparency’s colour rendition is both more appealing and natural than digital. I know that a film like Velvia can hardly be described as neutral but the superb way that it handles fine colour detail in my opinion far outstrips the digital equivalent. So to summarise… Perhaps the economic question is a red herring and a more interesting question to ask is would I convert to digital if there were no effective cost barrier? Like many others I wistfully imagine the day when someone from Camelot phones to say, “It’s you!” but, come the day, I can’t quite envisage me spending a large chunk of dosh on a digital back. Having examined my motives for this view quite carefully I can honestly say that I don’t hold it because of any Luddite tendencies I may have, nor because I’m prone to parsimony. The real motives for my wanting to stay in the photographic Iron Age are to do with those qualities that I have mentioned. They may be hard to quantify but, nevertheless, I feel they are essential to my image making. Andrew Nadolski There are going to be some people who will see this extensive test as fuelling the fire of a ‘digital vs film’ debate. This is unfortunate as both have different strengths and for me it simply comes down to using the one best suited for a given situation. I think the test does debunk some of the misinformation that is peddled about the resolving power of digital compared to film. Over the years I have grown tired of reading that each new generation digital medium format back betters 5x4 sheet film; some people have been claiming that since the days of 22mp backs. I can even remember reading many years ago that a 6mp Canon was supposed to be ‘better’ than medium format film. If the goal is maximum resolution then at last we have the opportunity of an unbiased comparison of the best possible performers from each camp - drum scanned 10x8 film and an 80mp IQ180 digital back costing around £28,000. We can also see how the smaller formats scale up. To my eyes, and my own experience, the overall ‘winner’ today is 10x8 Portra, both in resolution and dynamic range. But looking forward, and being realistic, there is unlikely to any significant further development of film emulsions and we won’t be seeing any ‘new’ drum scanners or new film scanners of any quality. The next ‘phase’ (excuse the pun) of medium format digital backs will probably beat the best that film can realistically achieve in resolution but I think it is going to take a few more generations in sensor development before they can better the dynamic range of negative film. And, they are not exactly going to be cheap when they do! There is an argument that says the best camera is the one that you have with you and the one that allows you to get the shot you want in the circumstances. The following applies to me and how I work today: My personal landscape work For some of my landscape work I struggle to achieve with digital (regardless of price) what I can with film. That is to produce an exhibition print the size I want to be able to make with my style of working. My commercial work I cannot match the versatility of digital compared to film in today’s marketplace. To put it simply, I couldn’t work with the limitations of film in a commercial environment. An explanation I have been shooting colour negative film for 25 years, moving from hand printing to scanning my negatives when the Nikon LS8000 scanner became available. I found that by scanning my negs I could make exhibition prints which were far superior to anything I could achieve in the darkroom. I wrote an article for the late Chris Dickie’s AG magazine in 2004 about this. With my personal work the only deadlines I have are the ones I set myself. There is no client demanding pictures the next day so I can wait for films to be processed and the one hour plus it takes me to scan a frame of 6x6 at 4000ppi. This file equates to a file size of around 430mb and can produce a print size of just around 29 inches square at 300ppi. Although I have produced prints around 36 inches square I generally downsize that file and make 20x20 inch exhibition prints. What is sobering is that I can achieve this with cameras that can be bought for a few hundred pounds today. For a while I had a Hasselblad H4D 50. This was capable of achieving very impressive resolution and would produce a print 27x20 inches at its native file size, which, if shot under optimal conditions would appear to have more detail than film. I found I could obtain stunning results by focus stacking when I was working with non-moving images. However compared to film there was a greater deterioration in image quality as I stopped the lens down to its smallest apertures. The biggest problem I had was the necessity to use ND grad filters under the conditions I often choose to shoot under, which I found very frustrating. The other aspect which I found affected my picture making was the value of the equipment! On a couple of occasions I found myself reluctant to get the camera out of the bag due to extreme weather conditions, £20k + doesn’t buy you weather sealing! There are, it must be said, frustrations with working with film. I have had a film ruined this year by a lab and the Nikon film scanner I use has minimal depth of field even with a dedicated glass carrier. If there is any curvature in the film the sharpness can drop significantly and this can be visible in 20x20 inch prints. This is not an issue with drum scanners but I don’t think I would be prepared to go through wet mounting every piece of film I wanted to scan and print. If I was shooting on transparency I would have abandoned film years ago. The reason I still shoot film is that at the moment there is no medium format digital back currently available that can match the dynamic range of negative stock. Where I think digital has leapt ahead is in the smaller formats and this is down to the use of CMOS chips with the associated high ISO performance and other benefits such as Live View. I shot two jobs the other week that I couldn’t have shot successfully with film. The first was some ‘editorial style’ portraits in a hospital. I wasn’t sure what the lighting was going to be like and the location prohibited lugging studio lights around. I ended up balancing daylight, artificial light and two wireless iTTL flashguns with my Nikon D3. I was able to adjust the ISO up and down as required as the light changed. The other job was, I thought, going to be a three hour shoot. The client wanted me there all day. They ran me ragged shooting a mix of interiors, exteriors and even some floodlit sport. I couldn’t have packed enough film of differing ISOs to cover all that was required, or even enough film. And, at the end of the day the client asked for the best high res edits by the next afternoon! Shooting film is like a drive in the countryside in a classic two seater sports car (that may break down on occasion) but has ‘soul’. Digital is like the Audi that you can rely on to get you from A to B. In a ideal world you would want both but the ‘Audi’ would win if I could only pick one. Hans Strand (from an email conversation) Interesting results. However I would have liked to see the test being made on a typical shooting aperture. With 8x10" you rarely use f/22, since the depth of field is too shallow at that aperture. At least for landscape photography. A more relevant f stop would have been f/64. The same with 4x5" a more relevant f stop would have been f/32 and for IQ 180 it would have been f/16. You would never get this high resolution at f64 on an 8x10" as you got at f/22. Still I am surprised that the digital medium format was so mediocre. My own experience is that I am getting better results than from 4x5". Not that I have made tests like this one , but I can compare scanned transparencies with the digital files from my Hasselblad H3DII-50. When I compare large prints there is a significant difference in resolution in favour of the Digital medium format. F-stop also have to do with shooting style. If you use big foregrounds, you need to stop down your 4x5" to even f/45 and the 8x10" certainly to f64 if you want everything to be inside the depth of field. If you have a large object in the foreground which is sticking up from the ideal tilt plane e.g. a rock a plant etc. Also when I shoot in a forest and have a tree close to me. That happens all the time for me:-) Today I solve the problem with focus stacking at f/11 and two or even three focusings. At f64 you will just have a fraction of the resolution you get at f22. This can be discussed in a special thread :-) However I am surprised, since my own experiences, from using both 4x5" for more than 10 years and 8x10" for 5 years, is that I am getting better files from my medium format and I would never go back to film again. I fully respect your test though. My experience is that at f/16 the diffraction is still at an acceptable level whereas at f/64 there is no fine details left. Still I would sacrifice resolution for depth of field. A landscape image with patchy sharpness does not look good to me. With 8x10" you are extremely limited to what you are able to shoot. Depth of field is a big issue. Look at the images by 8x10" photographers like Christopher Burkett and you will see mostly flat surfaces like ponds of waterlilies or field of flowers or he shoots across a valley from one side to the other. This because he is avoiding depth of field problems. This problem was limiting me in the way I wanted to shoot my images. Now with focus stacking and better depth of field I can shoot more or less without any limitations. You also have the aspect of shutter speed. With 8x10" I was always getting several seconds and even minutes. Shooting in a forest without getting blurred branches was almost impossible. Then of course also the slowness of the operation of the camera which made it very difficult to catch the moment. That is another topic I know, but still it makes sense. Baxter Bradford Baxter used to use Ebony 45SU and a combination of Velvia or Acros and bought a P45+ back and Phase One 645DF a couple of years ago - ed The test has clearly involved a considerable amount of work and commitment to bring it to the stage whereby results can be shown and compared. It appears to me that the test was very much driven by the phenomenal capabilities of 8x10 with B&W film coupled with the 4000ppi scan. This is really pushing the envelope and whilst academically interesting, think that the practical needs and applications for such resolution are in the tiny minority, if they exist at all. Because of the extreme magnification, I was surprised to see how Grainy/Noisy the film files were also how badly the Alpa/IQ180 fared. This latter combination has pixel-peepers world-wide in raptures with the incredible detail obtainable, likewise the IQ180 with lesser camera/lens combinations too. Jack Flesher’s B&W Passing Storm, Yosemite image impressed me greatly. Post 208 shows 100% crop of trees on a ridgeline with the full image below Image quality is not all about sharpness and noise though, tonality also comes into the appearance and perceived quality of the look of a print. Deciding how this could be measured leads to another quandary! At my level of resolution and experience, I think that the P45+ back with the Phase One 645DF and lenses produces images which are the equivalent of my Ebony 45SU with Velvia or Acros using lenses such as the Schneider 110XL. Either system is more than good enough for the vast majority of situations. It was only my very best 5x4 film images destined for big prints that I scanned at the 2040ppi maximum resolution of my Imacon scanner. The vast majority were scanned at half resolution and they make 40x50cm prints at 240ppi which are not criticised for poor image quality. The same cannot be guaranteed regarding the picture’s content! Comments on swapping from Film to Digital. I’ve been using a Phase One 645DF with P45+ back for the last 18 months and prior to this had predominantly used an Ebony 45SU with a variety of film emulsions. There were a number of drivers which made me spend a considerable amount of money in order to sell up my film equipment and buy an MF digital camera system. There is no doubt that my approach to photography has changed in these 18 months, some of which is by necessity for the new system, some by flexibility, trying new things and getting immediate/short term feedback and I have made more images than when using my view camera. I am very aware that quantity isn’t everything! Waves have featured strongly in my subject matter and they are tricky customers necessitating shooting many images which would be very wasteful of sheet film. For some situations, I do miss not having camera movements to control both perspective and plane of focus. Should I wish to make another appreciable investment, then either a Linhof Techno or an Alpa STC, both with Digeron lenses would enable me to increase sharpness and have movements albeit the two cameras implement them slightly differently. Loading Darkslides, emptying them, film developing, drying and scanning film and subsequent post-processing account for far more time than I expend when adjusting a very demanding image from my P45+ in Capture One. In summary, I do not regret making the switch to MF digital from 5x4 film, which is what I expected, having undertaken considerable research before the making the large expenditure in order to effect the change. Equally, I am sure that there are many photographers who would weigh up their own needs and decide that a film camera provides their best solution. David Tolcher As someone who spends a lot of time considering how to get the best out of the different mediums I was very interested to see the tests that have been done. Myself, I have concluded that my D3X resolves about the same as a 1200 dpi scan of a 5x4 slide on my V700 but the output is very different. I am not surprised that film continues to impress especially in the larger formats. I believe that all the formats discussed are capable of resolving enough detail for commercial or ‘gallery quality’ work up to 30x20inches so we should concentrate on the look and feel of the image and its intended purpose. We are way past the point where any of the cameras tested cannot be said to produce good enough quality. For me the key difference is that film is a 3 dimensional medium and I believe that this comes through in the lowest resolution scans in the smallest sizes files, the output has a depth. Digital is a 2 dimensional medium and however good the resolving power of the chip the images always look flat to my eye. There are too many compromises fighting each other in the digital world for it to be an easy solution to get the quality you get easily from film and these are important in the real world. Diffusion on 35mm digital kicks in at F8/F11 with the D3X and lenses have to be the best in Nikon’s draw to get anything like the output the sensor is capable of. Use of T/S or PCE lenses only gets you so far and you still get issues with DOF. With wideangle lenses or movement on medium format digital sensors then you get colour shifts (magenta mainly) and fall-off issues in the corners so have to add extra steps in the workflow or use reference shots to realise the quality available technically. DOF challenges are even worse than 35mm and movements introduce more problems. For a few of the landscape photographers whose work I particularly admire these would be significant issues where extreme movement is used to great effect. I am with Andrew on this one, for commercial work where the shot has to be nailed on the occasion then digital is king but for ‘slow time’ work in the landscape arena then if you want the best at most reasonable cost it has to be film and preferably on 5x4 for cost/benefit & portability. Peter Cox Good to chat with you just now, and thanks for asking me for my involvement. As I mentioned on the phone, I'm impressed with the testing you've done, and admit surprise at the amount of difference between the IQ180 and the 8x10 results. Here are my comments. My own background is landscape photography and mainly digital. I have about a year's worth of experience with 4x5 film (using Velvia 50, mainly). I started as a digital photographer and moved into film when my resolution needs were not achievable with the digital equipment I could afford. I will confess that while I enjoy working with medium and large format film cameras, I do not enjoy working with film as a medium. You could say I was spoiled by always being able to review and confirm images in the field, and scanning is a process that I abhor. For my work, as I don't shoot large volumes in a year, 8x10 would possibly be more cost-effective for me, but due to the point I outline above I much prefer working with the IQ180 on my Arca-Swiss tech camera. There is also the issue of real world practicalities - 8x10 cameras are big and heavy, difficult to transport and are incredibly vulnerable to windy conditions. The IQ180 based system is much more compact, easier to travel with and can be shielded from wind much more effectively. As a result, in real field conditions, it's easier to achieve technical perfection than it would be with the 8x10. I'll admit to some disappointment to seeing that 8x10 film still trumps digital for resolution at this point, but in honesty for my purposes (and the purposes of any non-scientific photography) the differences (while obvious) are probably minimal in the real world. As you mentioned in the test, we're looking at tiny, tiny areas of these images and pixel peeping to a huge degree. Did you look at large format prints of these images when testing? I'd be interested to see what sort of subjective results you may have gotten if that had been done? I know from my own work that the IQ180 prints beautifully up to 30x45" - I don't make larger prints than that in general. I'd be very curious to compare an 8x10 image against the 180 in prints of that size. Sami Nabeel Thank you for the invite to comment on your very extensive report, very impressive Tim, I really have very little to add, it is very comprehensive and the reasons I went down to Phase One back rout are not technical or due to an extensive study. I had a hotel project in London that ran for 28 months that needed weekly progress reports documented with photographs and the the maths simply added up, it was much cheaper to by a Contax fit back P25 (we had a film based 645 Contax and lens) the immediacy of the output, quality and money saved was enough to upgrade to date to an IQ180. The fact that it easily fitted a view camera, which as you know is my preferred system for personal work clinched it. I still have my 5x4 system which I still use but a lot less since the P45+ came to be, it started to become apparent that the quality was approaching 5X4 and now with the IQ180 I think the images are a bit better that a 5X4 Imacon more

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Big Camera Comparison

Joe Cornish - Phase One P45 & 5x4 film; Dav Thomas, DSLR, moved to film and large format; Chris Ireland, Phase One’s representative in the NE of England more

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