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CptSlevin

35mm Film Resolution

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Hello guys!

Kinda tricky question to answer, but I really need your help and knowledge regarding resolution.
There are a lot of photographers from film era, who shoot 35mm and medium format and can analyse their results.

So the question is!
Can 35mm film (for example Leica M7) with new lens of an aspherical design (for example Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 which is amazingly sharp) compete with old MF cameras and their lenses in terms of their resolving power? Was there enough of a boost in lens industry to ± compete or the format of negative really matters that much?
As my lab in Moscow can scan 35mm film at 6000x4000px with high amount of details.

Thank you!

Cheers ❤️

Edited by CptSlevin

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This is an interesting question and my answer may not be popular. I spent most of my working career doing retinal photography. Around 2000 most cameras were converted from film to digital. We shot slide film, mostly Ektachrome 64 or 100. When the cameras had 6MP cameras, the results were so good almost everyone used digital, the availability of large monitors helped to. These were specialized backs with very thin filter stacks. At the same time I was doing large format printing on the side, one of my clients was doing product photography with Kodak DCS 760s, again a camera with a light. filter stack I could do more with their files than scanned transparencies. So in my experience cameras with 6MP surpassed film, with certain cameras. My experiences, data gets muddier as filter stacks became thicker. 

Today's lenses are objectively better than "the great older lenses" I think they have to be to cover the higher digital resolutions. I do like some of my older lenses. Older lenses can be attractive for their qualities, so subjectively some older lenses have a strong attraction. 

Film also has a subjective feel which some prefer. 

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35-mm film with modern lenses is better than 35-mm film with 30-year-old lenses. But type 120 or 220 roll film with good lenses (such as Fujinon, Mamiya, Schneider-Kreuznach, Zeiss, etc.) is better than 35-mm film with any lens.

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4 hours ago, CptSlevin said:

Hello guys!

Kinda tricky question to answer, but I really need your help and knowledge regarding resolution.
There are a lot of photographers from film era, who shoot 35mm and medium format and can analyse their results.

So the question is!
Can 35mm film (for example Leica M7) with new lens of an aspherical design (for example Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 which is amazingly sharp) compete with old MF cameras and their lenses in terms of their resolving power? Was there enough of a boost in lens industry to ± compete or the format of negative really matters that much?
As my lab in Moscow can scan 35mm film at 6000x4000px with high amount of details.

Thank you!

Cheers ❤️

I think there is a flaw in the comparison you are trying to make.  

The modern lenses are of course more perfect in optical design.  But that this not necessarily impactful on film.  And the more clinically perfect the lens the more clinically perfect the rendition.  This may or may not be desired.  

The thing you are missing is the size of the film!  

An old Zeiss MF lenses on a 6x7 or 6x9 film plane against the most optically perfect Leica APO lens on 35mm format film will in most cases win every day of the week.

In summary, it's the film size, stupid! (not calling you stupid just trying to be funny :) )

 

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When I was shooting ISO 50 Fuji Velvia 120 on my Pentax 67 I did the calculations based on average silver grain size of 1 micron (ex Fujifilm) to see at what point digital cameras would offer equivalent resolution and therefore the 'tipping point' when a move to digital might make sense.  It worked out that I'd need a digital camera with 50+ MP sensor to equal the Velvia 120's resolution.  At that stage such cameras didn't exist so that was that.

Pete.

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The short answer is as 01af and A miller say - Medium-format film will still beat 35mm film virtually every time.

The longer answer is - yes, it's a tricky question. Which film? Which medium-format (6x4.5? 6x6? 6x7? 6x9? 6x17?). How large a final image? (web display? A4? A2 or larger?). What format for the final image (full-negative format? cropped to an ISO 216 ("A") or US letter or 8x10 paper shape? cropped to match the other native format (e.g. 35mm film cropped to square, or 6x6 film cropped to 2:3 proportions?)).

A Kodak Box Brownie is definitely "medium-format" (6x9) - but with a simple meniscus lens of f/8 or so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownie_(camera)

Not too hard for 35mm film with a good lens (even 40 years old) to match or beat the total resolution (film + lens) of the Box Brownie, and do it at f/4, in dimmer light. (Assuming ISO 125, the standard speed of box camera 120/620 Verichrome film). Even more so if we allow the 35mm camera to use ultra-high-resolution/ultra-fine-grain ISO 20 microfilm (which may or may not be available in 120 or 620 - Kodachrome was only briefly and sporadically made in 120).

There's a dirty little secret about MF film lenses - they usually are not as absolutely sharp (lp/mm) as 35mm lenses. Medium-format lens designers have an additional problem to solve - covering a larger area without vignetting - and they can (and must) often sacrifice some resolution to achieve that goal. One reason why trying to adapt MF lenses to 35mm cameras is often disappointing. It is similar in the digital world - a lens for a small-sensor camera (or phone-cam) may be able to reach 300 lp/mm - but only over an area the size of a fingernail (which is all it needs).

What puts MF ahead is having more mm (56mm vs 24mm of film width) to work with, with a reasonably sharp lens. An MF camera can be sharper with only a 60 lp/mm lens (total resolution 56 x 60 = 3360 lp) than a 35mm camera with a 120 lp/mm lens (24 x 120 = 2880 lp).

OTOH, in an A4 print, that difference may not be visible.

All that leaves aside non-resolution differences. MF may produce less DoF for a given field of view and aperture (e.g. 50mm f/2.8 vs 80mm f/2.8), and it may produce better tonality (more film grains to separate more delicate tones in the same area of a scene.)

Leaf-shutter MF lenses produce subtly different bokeh/blur-effects as they iris-open and -closed, compared with 35mm focal-plane shutters with an unmoving lens opening.

In the era when 35mm began to challenge MF in general-purpose and news photography, commercial photographers (magazine illustrative, advertising, catalog, studio portrait, formal wedding) stayed with MF for a simple reason - grain. There was often not much resolution difference between MF and 35mm in A4/3 (8x10/11x14") prints or pages - but fashion editors and brides and executives and sales managers wanted clean, unspeckly, true-to-life imagery. No grain. Which MF could usually provide in those sizes - and 35mm could not.

Edited by adan

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... as said Adam and Adan for me analog beats digital ! 

Just look at this table  from the point of view Size result of one scan in comparison with the two digital cameras Nikon D800 and IQ180 of Capture One.

Without comments for me.  In example I scan one photo of  my M7 - 35mm summilux lens and I get 120 MB for one in Tiff image !

Best H 

for the table , sorry for the link I can not find it for the moment 

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vor 4 Stunden schrieb Doc Henry:

Just look at this table [...] for the table, sorry for the link I can not find it for the moment 

Nevermind. This table is not worth its salt. It has its math wrong, and it doesn't mean anything anyway even if the math was correct.

Counting film grains and comparing those to pixels doesn't make sense. The image quality from a 20 - 24 MP digital camera easily surpasses that of scanned 35-mm and medium-format film. For best image quality from film, do not scan! Instead, print on silver gelatin paper in the wet darkroom.

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13 minutes ago, 01af said:

Counting film grains and comparing those to pixels doesn't make sense.

Actually it does if you're looking to find the smallest dot that a film or sensor can resolve, which was the original question.  Yes there will be variations such as the density of grain and the size of grain dependent on the chosen film, the resolving power of the optical elements, and the 'Bayerisation', A to D conversion accuracy and ability, and demosaicing in the digital image train.  But ultimately, sheer resolution will depend on the smallest element in either that can capture image information, which will be film grain and photosites (or sensels) typically quantified in megapixels.

Pete.

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6 hours ago, Doc Henry said:

... as said Adam and Adan for me analog beats digital ! 

Just look at this table  from the point of view Size result of one scan in comparison with the two digital cameras Nikon D800 and IQ180 of Capture One.

Without comments for me.  In example I scan one photo of  my M7 - 35mm summilux lens and I get 120 MB for one in Tiff image !

Best H 

for the table , sorry for the link I can not find it for the moment 

The reason that TIFFs from film are so large is because you scan the grain - and grain aliasing as well- and it gets turned into data. That has nothing to do with resolution.
That table means nothing.

To measure resolution you count LP/mm for a given contrast level and take it from there.

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23 minutes ago, adan said:

The original poster wanted a comparison of 35mm film (with modern lenses) to MF film (with older lenses) - why is everyone turning this into a film vs. digital debate?

Agh, my bad, Andy, I was concentrating on the 6000 x 4000 scan remark at the end and got distracted. 

Pete.

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Film normally has a resolution of 40-80 LP/mm, which translates to a sensor resolution of about 5 MP. However, this doesn't mean much, as grain is random  and not regular like pixels and the value is dependent on contrast, meaning that the impression of resolution may be much higher with film. Also, some films do reach considerably higher LP/mm values. (Up to 600 LP/mm for low-ISO document film). Which in practice means that you get wi(l)dely diverging numbers, depending on your source.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_resolution

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I was just giving my experience, scanning film resolution depends on the scanner more than the film. Most high end consumer scanners may say they can do 6000dpi anything above 3200dpi is empty resolution and I am being generous. Drum scanners and high end commercial scanners can do better. But I have seen awful drum scans too.

I have used 4x5 and most 2 1/4 formats over the years, thinking of taking out my 4x5.

Of course large format film is superior to 35, but some feel digital has surpassed 2 1/4 and 4x5 especially in some of the rarefied 32 MP and above. I saw an exhibition recently of Neal Rantoul who has been photographing western Washington state over a 10 year period. He started using 4x5, one year he decided to take a Nikon D810, and never looked back. He teaches at a major university in Boston, MA, so he has access to drum scanners and has total control over his printing. His prints were 40x32 inches, from 4x5 and 40x27 from the Nikons. Looking at the prints from a normal viewing distance (3-4ft) there was no apparent difference. At nose distance you could see the 4x5s were slightly better.   

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Bigger negatives give smoother tones, but then how big are you going to print?

i was just reading in a 1935 Leica News & Technique issue that at that time Leica cameras were used to produce huge prints for the background in studio film sets, 75 feet wide to fill the whole background to a set. So it all depends on what you want to use the picture for. The text reads as if it was translated from German to English by someone who’s first language was not English!

Edited by Pyrogallol

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On 11/11/2019 at 7:54 AM, adan said:

The original poster wanted a comparison of 35mm film (with modern lenses) to MF film (with older lenses) - why is everyone turning this into a film vs. digital debate?

you tried! 

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On 11/11/2019 at 1:03 PM, jaapv said:

The reason that TIFFs from film are so large is because you scan the grain - and grain aliasing as well- and it gets turned into data. That has nothing to do with resolution.

Actually a classic TIFF, without any compression applied (e.g LZW), will be the same size for a given resolution, irrespective of content. A completely white image saved as a TIFF will be the same file size as the noisiest scans saved as aTIFF (if they are the same pixel dimensions).

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...which means that the TIFF file size has nothing to do with film resolution, only scanner resolution.

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Quote

"...Leica cameras were used to produce huge prints for the background in studio film sets, 75 feet wide.."

I can't speak for everyone, but 50x75 feet would be a print size that would serve my purposes...

Edited by Herr Barnack

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