7.19.2012

Why fast lenses on small cameras are different from long lenses on big cameras.


No digital trickery in the depth of field in this shot.  Just the normal fall off that occurs when you use a 150-180mm f4 lens on a six centimeter by six centimeter square camera at its closest focusing distance. Look at the eyes and then look at the ears. Sharp versus smooth and effortless unsharpness.  And acres of imaging area for detail and high definition.  Is it any wonder that people still buy and use bigger cameras?  Some times "good enough" isn't good enough.

All the different formats have different looks and some of it is predicated on two major considerations:  1. Can you make the focus fall off in a beautiful way while keeping what you want sharp very sharp?  And, is there enough finesse to the high value curve (shoulder) to give you a rich tonality all the way up into the highlights while keeping the shadow detail?

I've shot with a bunch of digital MF cameras and the DR is very, very good.  Now we need to get the manufacturers to work on the curves.  I still think black and white film is a very viable alternative to the "everything digital" mindset.  Not for everything but especially for  portraits of beautiful young woman.  Every time I see this print I want to go to the pool.  That's where I first met Jennifer.

18 comments:

Lenard Burgess said...

I agree that the larger formats are incredible, and I know that the m4/3 will not perform as well as my ultra sharp (and ancient now)70-200 2.8 on the 5DMKII.

Yet I am still blown away by the 25 1.4 Leica, when exposed right up to the clip point then pulled back in post. The transition from sharp to unsharp when shot in that way is very good, at least to my eyes

Neal said...

Even the focus fall off on a normal lens on 6x6 is wonderful in it's own right. B&W film is a very viable alternative but then again.. So is C41 colour. The new emulsions from the dying Kodak are absolutely wonderful in tonality and colour gamut (new Portra 160 and 400). it will be a real shame if Kodak has to crumble completely.

then again Fuji still makes some darn fine emulsions.

Craig Yuill said...

This is one of my favorite portraits of yours. And it is a good example of why medium- and large-format film cameras should continue to be appreciated. I recently picked up some 120-sized Tri-X and Neopan 100 so that I can have another go at B&W medium-format film shooting, something I haven't done in several years. Thanks for providing us with continuous inspiration.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

I'm not about to go back to film, but film and digital are fundamentally different when it comes to characteristic curves, because they record light in different ways. Characteristic curves are plots of density vs. exposure (logarithmic scale). What the shoulder of the curve demonstrates is that as a film receives more and more light the density changes less and less. That's why it so good at retaining highlight detail.

Light sensors in cameras are linear devices: more photons in, more voltage out in a straight line relationship. Once the sensor is saturated with photons no difference in the output. The response curve for digital cameras comes from the signal processing done in the camera.

I almost hate to go there, but the difference between film and digital is analogous, to a degree, to the difference in sound between tubes and transistors.

cidereye said...

Agreed Neal, I love the new Portra 160 & 400 - about to pop down to my local Calumet now in fact to indulge in some 120 bricks of both. For me getting rid of NC & VC and just having the one emulsion works.

I just hope that we can continue to get C41 colour film for a good while yet is all, E6 certainly is fast disappearing that's for sure. I see Fuji announced yesterday they are slashing their Velvia range buy quite a bit. Grrrrrrr!!!

jeremy d moore said...

This is a great post, Kirk, and you have hit the reasons I still lug around the larger cameras. For what it's worth, the Hasselblad 110 f/2 is still one of my favorite lenses of all time (damn the medical bills which forced me out of the system!).

http://i52.photobucket.com/albums/g10/jeremydmoore/Valorie_110f2_Curlers_03.jpg

atmtx said...

This portrait is one of my favorites.

ohnostudio said...

I had a really hard time finding Velvia 50 in 120 format last nite. I finally found some single rolls.

cidereye said...

Shouldn't be a problem with Velvia 50 120, Velvia 100F has been killed off along with Velvia 50 4x5 (and 8x10) which was a bit of a shock I feel as many landscape photogs shoot this.

More here:- http://www.photographyblog.com/news/fujifilm_announces_discontinuations/

kirk tuck said...

I owned a 110F lens for the focal plane Hasselblad series and selling it was one of the (many) stupidest mistakes I've made as a photographer.

Bold Photography said...

It is sad that Fujifilm is discontinuing those ... I think I have a box of Velvia 100F in my fridge right now (begging to be shot...).

Time to break out the Hasselblad and burn through some film.... it's shots like this that inspire, and in many different ways.

Richard said...

Jeremy d moore... the shot you posted is great. Dreamy bokeh.
Excellent.

Gregg Mack said...

The phoblographer had a very good summary of what Velvia speed and formats that you can stell get over at B&H, even if they are already discontinued.
http://www.thephoblographer.com/2012/07/19/british-journal-of-photography-fujifilm-discontinues-velvia-100f-and-velvia-50-in-some-formats-developing-story/

Rob Grey said...

Amen!

Rob Grey said...

Amen!

Scott said...

I've probably said this before, but this is absolutely my favorite of all your portraits.

Brightens my day every time I see it.

jeremy d moore said...

Thanks, Robert!

Dan Fogel said...

I really like this photo and have been lately using a Yashica Mat to great results with Tri-x and a bit of Neopan 400 I squirreled away. For what I paid for that camera, film and the equipment to process and scan it, I couldn't buy one digital lens. Portraits have been challenging, but I did manage one http://flic.kr/p/cyGyi7 and am encouraged to keep going. I echo the sentiment and hope that Kodak films remain available.