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BIG enlargements from M8?

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I'm in the studio on a Saturday working on a long print run (75 20x24s plus a few 30x30s). My shipment of 24 inch rolls of Cranes Museo Silver rag didn't show up in Friday's FedX, so I'm running the job on my stock 44 inch rolls. Because my artist client insists on 1.5 inch borders, I have 17 inches of paper free. I've been fitting my own M8 work in the free area at 13x19 and 16x24.

 

Comparing these prints to 20x30s and a 40x60 hanging next to one of my printers, I have to say that the smaller prints are much nicer. While the M8 files hold up well at the larger sizes, the smaller prints are richer, smoother and wonderfully detailed. Comparing the 13x19 prints to the 16x24s, the 16x24s are just as good. The 16x24s have the wow factor without seeming unnatural or overpowering, like really big photos can sometimes seem.

 

The same is true for my client's work. Her 30x30 prints are from 500 mb scans of 35 mm slides and the 20x24s are from Nikon D1 files. Neither look that great upon close inspection. But softness and artifacts seem to work in her style and all of these prints will grace some Honolulu hotel wall. No one will notice the digital artifacts and loss of details because, after all, you don't go to Honolulu to look at the art on the walls.

 

Tom

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...I've been fitting my own M8 work in the free area at 13x19 and 16x24.

 

...

 

Tom, what size M8 files and what rez? I assume yours are single-frame files.

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..... Her 30x30 prints are from 500 mb scans of 35 mm slides and the 20x24s are from Nikon D1 files.....

 

Tom - When I read this I couldn't help thinking about how clients knowledge of, and expectations from photography has declined. When I was darkroom printing I considered that above 10x8 inches, enlargements from 35 mm started to show significant strain. I know that enlargement printing was an inefficient means of extracting printable information from the source original - compared to good scanning, however I can't help thinking that printing 30x30 from 35 mm is absurdly optimistic, as is 20x24 from a Nikon D1. I can't imagine I would enjoy the result.

 

I'm not having a pop at you for printing them the size your client requested I hope you understand, but perhaps your client, and hers, should have asked appropriate questions about enlarging the originals.

 

I remember when clients, in general, understood the reasons for 35 mm, 120 rollfilm, and sheet film. It seems that now a camera is a camera is a camera, and the quality distinctions we once made as an integral part of our craft are often seen now as irrelevant or affectatious.

 

.................... Chris

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...I can't help thinking that printing 30x30 from 35 mm is absurdly optimistic, as is 20x24 from a Nikon D1. I can't imagine I would enjoy the result.

...

 

Chris, I appreciate where you are coming from with respect to "enlargements" but I think you must recognize that things have moved on a bit. The public certainly wants larger prints. Look at how the photographic fine art market has changed over the past thirty years concerning image size. And the available digital technology has facilitated this trend.

 

Today, I am afraid "size does matter."

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I can't help thinking that printing 30x30 from 35 mm is absurdly optimistic, as is 20x24 from a Nikon D1. I can't imagine I would enjoy the result.

.................... Chris

 

I've had a 24x30 (inch) print made from an M8 file and the result looked great at an observation distance of "as close as I can get my eye to the surface of the print". Size matters, but 10MP is actually quite big, and the M8's lack of AA filter helps quite a bit when it comes to not generating artifacts in the first place.

 

The problem with enlargement in digital is of course different from the problem with optical enlargement; with optical enlargement you lose resolution whereas with digital enlargement you get jaggies or posterization. The two media can't really, therefore, be directly compared when it comes to enlargement issues because the defects you're managing are not the same.

 

I'd have no hesitation in printing 10MP files from a good digital camera at 20x24, however. The physical size of the sensor isn't the major issue.

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A few years ago I saw the travelling Salgado 'Workers' exhibition. The quality of the large prints was superb. Sure if you went up close the grain was obvious - I think he was shooting Tri-X - but the sheer quality of the prints was astounding, even at the large sizes that were being displayed.

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A few years ago I saw the travelling Salgado 'Workers' exhibition. The quality of the large prints was superb. Sure if you went up close the grain was obvious - I think he was shooting Tri-X - but the sheer quality of the prints was astounding, even at the large sizes that were being displayed.

 

I saw that too, Steve - and the prints were indeed great. To be clear, I'm not saying you can't get great big prints from film - just that you can with digital and that the processes are different.

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Bob - I was referring to the enlargement equivalent of 30x45 inches from 35 mm, and 20x24 inches from a Nikon D1. You were referring to prints from an M8, in which case; I too would expect to print at 20x30.

 

.............. Chris

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Subject matter is important here. A portrait, still life, or flower macro from a 10 mp digital may reproduce well in a large print, but a detailed landscape will usually not (at least in comparison to large format scan).

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I remember when clients, in general, understood the reasons for 35 mm, 120 rollfilm, and sheet film. It seems that now a camera is a camera is a camera, and the quality distinctions we once made as an integral part of our craft are often seen now as irrelevant or affectatious.

 

.................... Chris

 

Chris,

 

The art world is geared up to print BIG. That's good because a large portion of my business is making big prints for my clients. I'm guilty myself. I shoot activities like boat and helicopter rides and then make banners, posters and window displays. 40x84 inch banners are the norm from 12 mb files. But these banners are designed to be viewed from passing cars. Most posters tend to be 24x36 and most good digital cameras can handle this type of enlargement. Of course this type of poster is not art. It is designed to get a tourist to part with $150 for the Na Pali experience.

 

My posting however, is aimed at the art world. Big prints are popular. They command a lot of money. My client gets thousands of dollars for her prints. Well, in fairness, her subject matter, sense of lighting and talent have much to do with her sales. But the actual quality of the file does not stand up to close examination by someone with a discerning eye. She knows this but as long as hotels and the like buy her prints, I doubt she will upgrade from her present cameras.

 

The rest of my business is reproducing art. I wouldn't think of using anything less than a scanback mounted on a 4x5 with a apo lens and cross polarization to make a digital capture of a painting. Captures of this type are noisless, fully detailed and, with good profiles, as color accurate as possible - say 90-95%. Now these 300+Mb files can make big prints without suffering from artifacts. I print 40x60 inch canvases every day.

 

My point is that Leica M8 files look great at 13x19 and 16x24 when printed on a good paper (Cranes Museo Silver Rag, Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl or Harmon Gloss). These sizes are a good match for this camera. I've made some nice 20x30 and 24x36 prints from M8 files as well as from D2, 1Ds, 1DsII and 5D files. The M8 files/prints look better in terms of sharpness, detail and color at these larger sizes than do the Nikon and Canon files... but the real wow comes from 16x24 inch prints on Harmon Gloss taken with the M8. Its just a better fit.

 

Tom

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Tom, what size M8 files and what rez? I assume yours are single-frame files.

 

I shoot single frame raw at 160 ISO with 21ZM/35CVM/90 Elmarit. I'm suprised at the smooth rendition of color of that little CVM.

 

I print on two Epson 9800s. I plan on replacing one of them with a 11,880 when it becomes available from my dealer.

 

Tom

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My point is that Leica M8 files look great at 13x19 and 16x24 when printed on a good paper (Cranes Museo Silver Rag, Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl or Harmon Gloss). These sizes are a good match for this camera. I've made some nice 20x30 and 24x36 prints from M8 files as well as from D2, 1Ds, 1DsII and 5D files. The M8 files/prints look better in terms of sharpness, detail and color at these larger sizes than do the Nikon and Canon files... but the real wow comes from 16x24 inch prints on Harmon Gloss taken with the M8. Its just a better fit.

 

Tom

 

That's very interesting and useful information, Tom. I shall try that combination - thanks!

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Tom - I entirely understand your position; needing to fulfil the demands of clients. I think my post was a whiney lament for declining photographic standards in general - which I could expand on; but there is little point as I have no solutions to offer. I'm pleased for you that you can service a Photographic Art market but where I am that market does not exist; no-one is buying, so no-one is being exhibited in commercial galleries, so no-one is selling. Good luck to you though.

 

................. Chris

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...the Photokit output sharpener is a pretty good all in one plugin. The Nik sharpening tools are interesting because they let you take into account viewing distance, but I still like Photokit for a final sharpen (though the M8 needs less of that than most other cameras ...

 

Jamie, thanks for the suggestion. I downloaded a trial before this but didn't get to test drive it.

 

I've reached a momentary stability point (where some new piece of software is NOT being insterted into my workflow -- damn computers) and will read the book mentioned above and then test a sharpener.

 

Regards,

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Tom - I entirely understand your position; needing to fulfil the demands of clients. I think my post was a whiney lament for declining photographic standards in general - which I could expand on; but there is little point as I have no solutions to offer. I'm pleased for you that you can service a Photographic Art market but where I am that market does not exist; no-one is buying, so no-one is being exhibited in commercial galleries, so no-one is selling. Good luck to you though.

 

................. Chris

 

Thanks Chris!

 

Times change. In the 80s, I had a pair of Crosfield drum scanners to scan the chromes from my 4x5 and 8x10 cameras in order to reproduce art. When desktop publishing came around everybody jumped on it to save money and move their operations inhouse. It took nearly 15 years for the quality to catch up with the scans the Crosfields made. But few cared, they were saving money by doing it themselves. Its like that today. Most people have forgotten what a good large format camera can do. Still, these days I take my M8 out in the field with me and my Linhof stays in the studio. My days of 30 pounds of gear in the field are gone. (As are the chemicals, film waste and $2,000 monthly scanner payments.)

 

FWIW: The photo art market has never been good. For example, I only print for about 5 or 6 photographers on a regular basis. In comparison, I print canvas and watercolors giclees for about 150 painters. Of those 150, maybe 30 make enough to live off their art. Only one of the photographers makes enough to completely live off her art sales - though I doubt many would be comfortable with the up and down nature of photo art sales. Here, in a resort community, some retired and semiretired photographers suppliment their retirement savings with print sales but most of their sales turns into new equipment and supplies. And who wants to spend their retirement years in a hot, dusty booth at a craft fair selling their prints? As for galleries, well most are geared for paintings. The common logic is: "After all, anyone can push a button." There are, however, more and more galleries devoting wall space to visionary photography. Landscapes rarely cut it anymore. The photo art I'm printing is underwater closeups of coral and shells with a few prints of whale tails and close ups of sharks. Everything is sepia toned (hence the Cranes Silver Rag) and in stark contrast (which helps hide the digital artifacts). Not everyone can "push that button". Like I said before, its her vision that is driving her print sales.

 

In comparison, my own landscape prints are in two different galleries. I sell a print or two a month. Its enough profit for a modest dinner out with a bottle of wine, or a Leica lens every year or two.

 

Tom

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... I print canvas and watercolors giclees ...

 

Tom, I have an interest in printing on canvas.

 

I have an Epson 2400, so only a 13-inch capacity. Is there a book you would recommend, and does it make sense to go down this road with a skinny printer?

 

tnx,

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Thanks Chris!

 

Times change. In the 80s, I had a pair of Crosfield drum scanners to scan the chromes from my 4x5 and 8x10 cameras in order to reproduce art. When desktop publishing came around everybody jumped on it to save money and move their operations inhouse. It took nearly 15 years for the quality to catch up with the scans the Crosfields made. But few cared, they were saving money by doing it themselves. Its like that today. Most people have forgotten what a good large format camera can do. Still, these days I take my M8 out in the field with me and my Linhof stays in the studio. My days of 30 pounds of gear in the field are gone. (As are the chemicals, film waste and $2,000 monthly scanner payments.)

 

 

FWIW: The photo art market has never been good. For example, I only print for about 5 or 6 photographers on a regular basis. In comparison, I print canvas and watercolors giclees for about 150 painters. Of those 150, maybe 30 make enough to live off their art. Only one of the photographers makes enough to completely live off her art sales - though I doubt many would be comfortable with the up and down nature of photo art sales. Here, in a resort community, some retired and semiretired photographers suppliment their retirement savings with print sales but most of their sales turns into new equipment and supplies. And who wants to spend their retirement years in a hot, dusty booth at a craft fair selling their prints? As for galleries, well most are geared for paintings. The common logic is: "After all, anyone can push a button." There are, however, more and more galleries devoting wall space to visionary photography. Landscapes rarely cut it anymore. The photo art I'm printing is underwater closeups of coral and shells with a few prints of whale tails and close ups of sharks. Everything is sepia toned (hence the Cranes Silver Rag) and in stark contrast (which helps hide the digital artifacts). Not everyone can "push that button". Like I said before, its her vision that is driving her print sales.

 

In comparison, my own landscape prints are in two different galleries. I sell a print or two a month. Its enough profit for a modest dinner out with a bottle of wine, or a Leica lens every year or two.

 

Tom

 

I also live in a resort town (Long Beach Island, NJ). I am also retired. I built my first darkroom in 1959, and was making 16"x20" C printsin 1959. I am VERY fortunate to have arrived at a great understanding with a local popular restaraunt/pub here. I have complete freedom to hang my work there. There are 70 matted and framed prints there (print sizes 13"x19", 16"x24" and 20"x30" with appropriate larger mat & frame sizes). I can agree with Tom 100%....size does matter. Seeing a 20"x30" seascape of the tourists' "favorite spot" yields significant (for me anyway) print sales. Up until a few years ago I was scanning roll film and 35mm negs with Polaroid 120 Printscan film scanner. I am now using a 1DSII and M8. The M8 yields beautiful B&W 20"x30" prints, with appropriate subject matter. The 1DSII 20"x30" prints (developed with DXO Optics), upressed with "Blow Up", and grain added with "Exposure" are big sellers.

This is a great forum and thread.

Best

Dave G

Beach Haven, NJ;)

Home

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Hi Dave,

 

Spent most of my childhood years on Long Beach Island! That was until the storm of 1962 washed away my father's house in Harvey Cedars as well as the development he was building, Love Ladies Harbor. My grandfather's house in Ship Bottom survived the storm and I spent my summers there until 1967. Loved that island. I'm about 8,000 miles to the west now on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It still has a lot of the feel of Long Beach Island of the 50s and 60s. But this too is changing fast.

 

Congrats on selling you photos. Widas?

 

For what its worth, 20x30 on 24x36 paper in a clear bag with a foamcore backing is my best selling size. My observation is that qualitywise, 16x24 holds the sharpness and tonality of a M8 file better. Its not a big difference... its more like looking at a print made from a 6x7 neg vs a print made from a 6x4.5. But you're right, big sells.

 

Tom

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