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Thread: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

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    Super Duper
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    MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Okay, this is very dangerous territory I'm entering here ... but most of you here are pals (at least you were before reading this)

    First off, as most of you know, I've been around the block more than a couple of times, so I'm not a luddite, fuddy-duddy, dinosaur or hanger-oner ... I embraced digital immediately, and have sunk a King's ransom into it ... heck, some of you got into digital capture, even MF digital capture at my urging ... or at least a little bit I think.

    So, here's the thing:

    I personally do not think ANY digital photography has equalled film capture ... and I seriously fear that it never will (at least in my lifetime). Now I'm not talking about the usual caveats like B&W looks better to some people, I think it's across the board. I'm talking about looking at images the way they were intended ... as a visual medium viewed the way a human being looks at pictures, rather than using the the criteria of pixel peeping @ 200% on a computer screen, 100% side-by-side crops, or sterile resolution comparisons.

    Each year I review all my work and add my best few to a collection I keep. Each time I review the total collection, in every case the film works not only look better in general, they specifically look natively sharper, have more feeling of detail and real depth, and are richer ... especially richer in the contrast while still holding detail across the tonal scale. I know all the intellectual technological arguments against this conclusion, and have read countless pieces of information that says I'm wrong ... (which of course I embrace because I have sunk that King's ransom into digital

    My eyes tell me differently ... every time. Digital looks great ... until it's next to a well processed film shot ... even a scanned one.

    (NO, I am not abandoning digital, just thinking out loud and wondering if I've bought into a set of new clothes that doesn't exist)

    (BTW, this has nothing to do with all the other advantages of digital capture, or the commercial necessity to be technologically current.)

    Your thoughts?

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Marc:

    So what exactly did you smoke last night after the Kool-Aid cocktail and mushroom appetizers?



    .......

    A more serious comment now though...

    As I was reading this I was thinking whoa, I need to tell you about an older image I printed up a customer a few days ago. It was digital and not only did it look great, it had that classic smooth tonality of film. Then I realized it *was* an 'older' MF file and hence the original *was* film and I was working the scan -- DUH!!!

    And there went that argument.
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Well Jack, the Feds raided my neighbor's compound yesterday and burned a bunch of "stuff" ... ya think that might have been it?

    (I'm sort of serious about this after reviewing a bunch of work ... kinda depressing actually.)

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Well I hear you and I have noticed the difference as well. As you know (but most may not) I shot film for years in virtually every format from 35mm up through 8x10, and due to the native detail and tonality only gave up the LF equipment last year -- and in fact only gave it up sop I could enter into the direct single-capture MF digital world. What I can tell you after all my very deliberate comparison is this, and I'm only talking the aesthetic components, not the cost, convenience, capture, storage or processing components: I am of the belief the main differences in the aesthetics or "look" comes down to increased clarity and a modified luminosity and color response curve to get my digital MF files looking like traditional emulsions.

    The other side of the coin -- and clearly a topic for a separate but ancillary thread -- is the output medium. And to date while digital prints are generally excellent, none match the 'look' of a traditional wet print, even the wet lasers. Note that here I am not claiming traditional negative-to-paper-to-tray output is superior OR inferior digital output, just that the finals look 'different'.

    Finally, I think the biggest question we need to address is who all this is important to and why? We as critical imagists certainly can see these differences, regardless of how minor, and we each will as certainly have our own opinions about which we prefer. However, most customers may not see them, or may in fact even prefer the alternative version to us as the artist... It's a great topic and likely not one we will find any hard answers to since they vary for each individual. But at the end of the day, I think it's refreshing to note that film is far from dead and clearly has a future -- if only as a dedicated artist medium -- and that there are least a few of us around who continue to enjoy shooting both.
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I'm going to duck in here for a second to mention a movie review I read recently on the New York times site. The reviewer was discussing the "Benjamin Button" movie and while he liked the film, he said it felt a little "flat" or "cold", and that he (the reviewer) thinks it might have been better if it had been shot on film.

    The subtlety and richness of film has long been evident while watching reruns of "real" movies shot on film and "made for TV movies" shot with videotape. I think there's a parallel with digital vs. film photography.

    I also still believe that in the hands of a skilled photographer, film will always have a special magic that can't be duplicated by digital. And vice-versa.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Not sure if it helps or not, but I get just the opposite when I review my own work. The digital files are much cleaner--the viewer simply experiences the work, not the grain or any other artifacts of the recording medium.

    For me, this is one of digital's big advantages--the transparency of the medium! I used to work very hard to make my film shots like this, and now it is much easier. This is true for both my b&w and color work.

    On occasion, when I want the medium to be a part of the statement my work is making, it has not been difficult to to 'go the other way'.

    Obviously this is totally subjective; another person might look at the same body of work and *want* to see film's fingerprint--indeed some feel that digital imagery can be more prone to lacking warmth (not in the color temperature sense); I can understand why someone might say this.

    In the end I have published a small body of work with digital and film images in it. In a decade, no one has consistently been able to pick out the work done on film from the work done digitally (in fact, there is a film shot that has been in this body of work since 1999 that no one has ever selected as a film shot, despite the fact that it is, and is 100% faithful to the original transparency). It's on my site right now, if you care to try... (I know the images are small online though, so it's tough).

    Perhaps there's something about the film work, that's inherent to film that you like?? If so, I say embrace it! For more creative projects or those with less time pressure, why not enjoy yourself, shoot with film and scan (assuming that doesn't lose the look you like)?

    In the end, I'm asking why agonize over the production method? It's art--if you go with the flow that makes you happy, excited and give you creative energy, then that's a Good Thing. Personally I think we're way too hung up on the "how it got made", and sometimes the "what got made", the creative work, can get short shrift.

    My $0.02.

    Take care, and look out for Jack's Kool-Aid cocktail and *magic* mushroom appetizers next time, OK?

    -Brad

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    Senior Member KeithL's Avatar
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Okay, this is very dangerous territory I'm entering here ...
    Okay, perhaps very dangerous territory to say it, particularly here, but given the choice, does the capture medium really matter? Should we worry more about image qualities than quality images?

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I personally think one of the key issues is that it looks different and for the "older" more seasoned photographers, different sometimes is interpreted as better. I believe our neurons get trained to like specific things early on in life and hard to totally reverse. I was trying to think of another example.. Perhaps music-- some say old versus new developments in instruments. Even though the technology has improved greatly over the years, some of the old timers still like the sounds their old "guitars" make. Does this make the sound better? Just an idea to add...

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I used to have much the same thoughts, until I became more proficient at the "curves" style of adjustment.
    Digital does not have a "toe" nor a "shoulder". There used to be a lot of detail contained in those parts of the H&D curve, although shockingly compressed compared to the almost linear curves we get out of digital captures. Even though compressed, the eye could discern significant detail there. It is what "rich" shadows are composed of. The net, looking at some old step wedges, was that although outside the linear part of the curve, the compressed toe added a stop or two of response, although non-linear response. The situation at the shoulder is similar.
    We are beginning to encroach on that DR with digital capture, it is just that we process it differently.
    My best emulations of the film look are HDR shots where I have range-masked two images taken three stops apart, then applied an adjustment curve to emulate a compound H&D. These were not the very wide range "for effect" HDR images, but ones that were just intended to increase the linear DR of the composit file.
    -bob

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    The natural world is analog and film is part of that nature and so are human beings; while digital belongs to the cyber world and while we tolerate and sometimes might even like it, its in someways in conflict with the human nature.

    To rephrase, yes I prefer film over digital too but am too lazy to deal with it!

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I doubt that analog exists.
    Analog simply means that we don't have enough resolution to see the quantization.
    It is sort of the difference between magic and physics. One some bit of magical phenomenon becomes understood, it becomes physics.
    Even analog films and prints are microscopically dithered, and with some of today's printers, dot size is getting smaller than the size of paper grain.
    One big difference between wet chemical prints and ink-jet is that in wet chemical prints, there is more thickness to the emulsion. The image is contained within it rather than lying on the paper's surface.
    -bob

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    I doubt that analog exists.
    Analog simply means that we don't have enough resolution to see the quantization.
    It is sort of the difference between magic and physics. One some bit of magical phenomenon becomes understood, it becomes physics.
    Even analog films and prints are microscopically dithered, and with some of today's printers, dot size is getting smaller than the size of paper grain.
    One big difference between wet chemical prints and ink-jet is that in wet chemical prints, there is more thickness to the emulsion. The image is contained within it rather than lying on the paper's surface.
    -bob
    Sure it does, in the analog world things are made of real elements and not 0s and 1s.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    David,
    Let's not start, but no.
    I can count the number of photons necessary to cause a silver halide crystal to form a latent image.
    I can count the number of photons needed to achieve a given output level on a sensor.
    All pretty much the same, just the method of counting is different.
    -bob

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob
    Analog simply means that we don't have enough resolution to see the quantization.
    Quote Originally Posted by ddk
    in the analog world things are made of real elements and not 0s and 1s.
    I'm in the middle of both camps with this one...

    Digital quantization is, and always will be, finite. The real world involves curves, not squares. No matter how fine you go, you will always be missing some data.

    Obviously, though, a point is reached where it is impossible to discern the difference by 'sensible' means.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I agree. When I was first learning photography a year and a half ago, I took a class. Every second class we had to present our photos in front of everyone. The digital people (myself and others) we all proud with our images and our photoshop work but, when the film people put their stuff up... I was blown away with how much better it looked.
    It wasn't because it was sharper or stuff like that... it was something intangible.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Yeah, that "intangibility" is what has been difficult to intellectually describe ... maybe rightly so as it retains some of the artistic mystery.

    I always chalked it up to the variable randomness of grain verses regimented pixels forced to interpret the chaos of tones ... but I'm not so sure about that anymore.

    I do think it is a personal artistic issue, as the majority of my clients could care less .. and in some (not all) cases wouldn't know the difference even if I pointed it out.
    (If they could, I'd sell all my digital gear and use the money for automated film processing gear.)

    However, a good percentage of why I do this is still personal satisfaction, thus the questioning.

    Not so sure I totally buy the "transparency" of the medium notion Bradley ... while I do agree that grain can be intrusive in certain circumstances .... I personally have struggled more with the plasticity of digital as being far more irritatingly artificial and foreign to my eye. Also, with digital, it seems to be more of a struggle to escape 2 dimensions, where film feels 3D more effortlessly.

    Keeping the notion with-in MF, the native ISOs are actually quite low with anything higher requiring software assistance ... so equivalent ISO films, when viewed as humans view them, at sizes the eye can take in, rarely exhibit intrusive grain. Another good example of this is motion pictures ... we rarely if ever react to a film with ... "yuck, too much grain."

    I also do not buy that content is the end all, so it doesn't matter what is used. IMO, with a photograph just as with a painting, an intrinsic part of conveying the emotional content is the medium itself.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Well, I guess I'm going to sit on the fence with this one! My problem is that I was a good photographer back in the day, and my Cibachromes still say so.

    Now I'm a much better photographer - strictly my own assessment - but all my images since 2001 have been digital. My best pictures are digital.

    I love some of my film images, but their quality relies on factors that have nothing to do with the medium. The same applies to my digital prints.

    Bill

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Yeah, that "intangibility" is what has been difficult to intellectually describe ... maybe rightly so as it retains some of the artistic mystery.
    Personally, I chalk this up to subjectivity. Think about it--if the difference is literally not tangible ("capable of being appraised at an actual or approximate value", according to one definition at Websters), doesn't that approach the very definition of subjectivity? I agree very much with the subjective comment Mark made above.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    However, a good percentage of why I do this is still personal satisfaction, thus the questioning.

    Not so sure I totally buy the "transparency" of the medium notion Bradley ... while I do agree that grain can be intrusive in certain circumstances .... I personally have struggled more with the plasticity of digital as being far more irritatingly artificial and foreign to my eye. Also, with digital, it seems to be more of a struggle to escape 2 dimensions, where film feels 3D more effortlessly.

    Keeping the notion with-in MF, the native ISOs are actually quite low with anything higher requiring software assistance ... so equivalent ISO films, when viewed as humans view them, at sizes the eye can take in, rarely exhibit intrusive grain. Another good example of this is motion pictures ... we rarely if ever react to a film with ... "yuck, too much grain."

    I also do not buy that content is the end all, so it doesn't matter what is used. IMO, with a photograph just as with a painting, an intrinsic part of conveying the emotional content is the medium itself.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head here--one person's transparency is another person's plasticity! Who's right--the person who feels that digitals ability to deliver lack of grain lets the work breathe and makes it more accessible? Or the person who believes the characteristics of digital images can be austere, sterile and lack soul? In my opinion, both opinions have equal validity--but only from their own respective points of view.

    In the end, if you like the look that film delivers, you should take full advantage of it whenever and wherever you can. How better to feed that sense of personal satisfaction?

    -Brad
    Last edited by BradleyGibson; 11th January 2009 at 15:02.

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    DougDolde
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    This is getting too heady for me but I do see something in drum scanned 4x5 Provia that I don't see in Aptus 75S files. Yeah it's the look.

    But then the Aptus is a lot more versatile and generally I do prefer it. If I had a lesser digital camera probably I would still prefer film.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I was about to raise my hand and call BS on this. We have all read the tests online that show clearly and definitively that digital is better than film. A contributor to the Luminous Landscape forum proudly proclaimed that he believes the Nikon D3x is easily the equivalent of 6x9 film. Heck, even way back in the day I sold 20x30 inch prints from a 10D that clients proudly displayed in their lobbies and paid well for them. Film is dead folks, deal with it.

    But here's the thing. I have been mostly digital since about 2003, only shooting film for special projects, when I want that look, or when a digital body went down and I needed a backup. But, without exception, every picture gracing the walls in my home and in my office were shot on film -- all kinds of film, all formats of film. Not once before reading this thread did that cross my mind.

    My digital processing skills were in demand because I could make digital look more like film than they thought possible and I sold all my Canon gear for Leica because I thought the DMR images looked more like film.

    I've been saving my pennies to get a MFDB system, but really wanting to go buy Woody's Mamiya 7, another Fuji 6x9 or maybe a 4x5.

    As far as a chemical print vs. a digital print, I strongly prefer digital so I can work the image the way I see fit, but several of the images in my house are chemical prints and despite my best efforts I could never duplicate the look. And even though I spent a small fortune (for me) on an HP printer and rolls of paper, it can't touch the tonality from a Lightjet 430 -- especially since the local lab (PhotoCraft) will run my files straight and I get exactly what I want.

    I need therapy.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Green View Post
    I was about to raise my hand and call BS on this. We have all read the tests online that show clearly and definitively that digital is better than film. A contributor to the Luminous Landscape forum proudly proclaimed that he believes the Nikon D3x is easily the equivalent of 6x9 film. Heck, even way back in the day I sold 20x30 inch prints from a 10D that clients proudly displayed in their lobbies and paid well for them. Film is dead folks, deal with it.

    But here's the thing. I have been mostly digital since about 2003, only shooting film for special projects, when I want that look, or when a digital body went down and I needed a backup. But, without exception, every picture gracing the walls in my home and in my office were shot on film -- all kinds of film, all formats of film. Not once before reading this thread did that cross my mind.

    My digital processing skills were in demand because I could make digital look more like film than they thought possible and I sold all my Canon gear for Leica because I thought the DMR images looked more like film.

    I've been saving my pennies to get a MFDB system, but really wanting to go buy Woody's Mamiya 7, another Fuji 6x9 or maybe a 4x5.

    As far as a chemical print vs. a digital print, I strongly prefer digital so I can work the image the way I see fit, but several of the images in my house are chemical prints and despite my best efforts I could never duplicate the look. And even though I spent a small fortune (for me) on an HP printer and rolls of paper, it can't touch the tonality from a Lightjet 430 -- especially since the local lab (PhotoCraft) will run my files straight and I get exactly what I want.

    I need therapy.
    Funny stuff Bill.

    I have a similar thing going on in my home ... one framed digital print ... from the DMR no less, LOL! All the rest are from film, and 95% of those are silver prints.

    One of my favorites is a diptych of an old Merry-go-round at rest and blurred in motion that I shot with a Mamiya 7II and 43mm which I've yet to visibly match with any digital capture image. A majority of prints on my walls are collector's silver prints I bought back in the "Fat '80s" before MF Digital and Wall Street stripped me of most my disposable income

    Nothing like a reminder of what it "should" look like every time I walk up to my studio

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Bill

    Just to add to the dilemma, after shooting a few rolls of TriX on the Mamiya 7II in the past two weeks, I withdrew the auction. I was so blown away by things I knew the system did well, but which i guess I forgot after not picking up the camera in over a year, that I concluded selling this system was a serious mistake. Is it film, size of image captured, or something else? I don't know for sure but I know that I love what I am capturing with the 7II and i should resist any temptation to sell it because after it is gone I will seriously regret it.

    Woody

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    Bill

    Just to add to the dilemma, after shooting a few rolls of TriX on the Mamiya 7II in the past two weeks, I withdrew the auction. I was so blown away by things I knew the system did well, but which i guess I forgot after not picking up the camera in over a year, that I concluded selling this system was a serious mistake. Is it film, size of image captured, or something else? I don't know for sure but I know that I love what I am capturing with the 7II and i should resist any temptation to sell it because after it is gone I will seriously regret it.

    Woody
    I don't know about this whole film vs digital quandry.....but I am definitely lusting after a Mamiya 7 and 43mm lens.....thank you very much Woody (and Marc)!!!!

    Gary Benson
    Eagle River, Alaska

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Green View Post
    Film is dead folks, deal with it.
    I can't tell if that was tongue-in-cheek, but just for the record:

    there is still lots of work being done with film. Film has lost its marketing lead, that's all, and is a niche.
    Carsten - Website

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Ok, I'm going to offer my serious and considered opinion on this....and of course, it is just my opinion.

    I like both, I'm happy with both, I don't think either is inherently better than the other any more. There are two images of my own that I really like and other folks seem to feel the same about (both have been selected for Alaska wide juried photography exhibits). One was taken with a lowly Canon D60 DSLR (only 6 megapixels), the other with a 4x5 view camera. Digital vs film....doesn't get much different than these two images.

    Honestly, I don't think it makes that much difference, digital vs film. Shoot whatever you like...it's the final image or print that matters, not the camera or technology that captured it or produced it (the medium/technology is not the message?). Digital or film, silver or inkjet....I'm happy either way.

    Ok, it's true....personally, I would never go back to the wet darkroom....more than anything else....Photoshop and the digital darkroom rules!

    Gary Benson
    Eagle River, Alaska

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    Senior Member KeithL's Avatar
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I also do not buy that content is the end all, so it doesn't matter what is used. IMO, with a photograph just as with a painting, an intrinsic part of conveying the emotional content is the medium itself.
    Agreed, but there is a danger in becoming so obsessed by the science and maths - witness the Internet fora - that we loose sight of what image making should be about, communication and creativity.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I recall an article from the Leica magazine when they compared the DMR with film (in this case Velvia - and no, it is not my favorite film, and Tri_X I think).
    However they wrote that people post process digital files often much more in a neutral way, while many films deliever tonality and colors which would be not as neutral/ "correct" but much more interesting.
    This starts with shaddows, do we allways want detail in shaddows or doesnt it may look more powerfull with some blacks?
    White balance: do we want neutral looking colors if we photograph in the evening sun , or in bulb light, ore in the early morning? Is a white card really the best way to white balance?
    Maybe there is a risk of looking too much into histograms etc. instead processing images more powerfull and intuitive to the taste of our eyes.

    One thing where I am nearly sure that film beats sensors is the transition between sharp and unsharp and I believe its caused by the thicker film emulsion compared to a pretty flat sensor. More abrupt in digital, and the DOF seems shallower.

    The other area is that I belive films can handle mixed light mostly better than sensors do.

    The last point is that grain seems to add depth sometimes.

    If I had a professional lab available which would process all my images for low cost to my taste I would probably shoot a lot of film. But I dont so I shoot digital.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    Bill

    Just to add to the dilemma, after shooting a few rolls of TriX on the Mamiya 7II in the past two weeks, I withdrew the auction. I was so blown away by things I knew the system did well, but which i guess I forgot after not picking up the camera in over a year, that I concluded selling this system was a serious mistake. Is it film, size of image captured, or something else? I don't know for sure but I know that I love what I am capturing with the 7II and i should resist any temptation to sell it because after it is gone I will seriously regret it.

    Woody
    Woody, we all have regretted letting something go for practical reasons ... but I have to admit that only a few things I look back on were truly errors in judgement for me ... selling my two M7-IIs and all the lenses was one of the major ones I made ... followed by having sold my XPan-II

    Glad you kept it my friend. But, if you ever change your mind just e-mail me first

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    i'm with bob, everthing is digitzed at some level.

    as far as film, all of my work, B&W 6x6 and 4x5, consisted of deliberate, slow shooting and careful darkroom printing. form many of the images taken many years ago, I can still remember the details of where I set the tripod. my enlarger used a cold light to de-emphasize the crystalline nature of the emulsion and minimize surface artifacts. all of this is different from digital shooting today; no wonder the film has a different look

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    This is getting too heady for me but I do see something in drum scanned 4x5 Provia that I don't see in Aptus 75S files. Yeah it's the look.

    But then the Aptus is a lot more versatile and generally I do prefer it. If I had a lesser digital camera probably I would still prefer film.
    I think you've touched on an excellent point Doug. I would say the only files that truly "look better" than my P45+ files are a handfull of my best scanned Large Format -- though a few of my scanned 6x7's are close...
    Jack
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I think "t streng" makes an important point. There is a lot of effort made in digital to get detail and neutral color by both shooters and manufacturers. It makes sense; digital is the new medium and has to prove itself competitive with film in these two areas.

    But, when we speak of film we are talking about a bunch of different films tuned by color experts over decades, with different looks for different purposes and esthetics. As digital comes of age, perhaps, we will become more sophisticated at software tuning for different looks.

    But, the sensor has to be (if we work with one camera) one size fits all looks so it has to be fairly neutral.

    As far as looks. I trust people who say film looks different. I think all too often these discussions are based on theoretical ideas of what should make sense concerning resolution, color, etc. Intangibles are those things that can't be measured (yet or never), or don't conform to our current theoretical understanding. That does not mean our eyes can't perceive real differences that our brains can't explain.

    Best,

    Mitchell

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    One thing that really sets film apart for me is the sense that I feel more involved in the process, particularly in black and white. With slide film, everything needs to be done in camera -- you are literally creating the photo at that instant, furthermore, the display method is backlit and has a sense of realism that is almost impossible to equal.

    But it is really black and white (or color negative if you shoot it) that leads to a fundamental difference -- I make the image in the camera (no interpolation of bayer filters etc...it is just the light that I decide to let in, focused on the film), I process the film in my choice of chemicals which creates the negative image. Then I print it in an enlarger, physically creating a unique image, etched in silver that will last decades or even centuries. You have to use your hands to physically draw out an image, and even if you argue that raw processing has a similar effect, the physical act of printing has a very different feel. I think this is why certain photographic collectors still have a much stronger attachment to film than to inkjet prints -- they feel there is more of the artist in the works. Obviously this is a subjective matter, but I think it is another reason why certain people (myself among them) still prefer film...it makes them feel closer to the image -- the actual object d'art (to use a snobby term).
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Marc I have experienced the same regarding personal favourites and after much thought I had to put my mathematicians head back on to explain the phenomenon. I think we are experiencing a simple statistical error in concluding film produces more keepers versus digital. The error is a sampling error involving a number of potential biases - most notably the so called 'survivor bias'.

    Simply put - if a person has been shooting for many years - by definition the film years ( still?) outnumber the digital years. Added to this is the fact that in using personal work to define 'favourites' and personal work often having a bias towards film shootin ( I know that is the case fo rme) a person is actually biasing towards film again.

    Only time will tell...

    Regarding film 'profiles' versus digital processing - I still prefer to use B&W, although recently I have become impressed with SilverFX.

    One thing for sure as Stuart alludes to - the whole process of making images with film is different and I agree in many ways more involved and contemplative. Again a different process will deliver different personal value beliefs again biasing the ourtcomes! -

    I wont be selling my Leica MPs, my XPan or my MF film backs any time soon.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Richardson View Post
    One thing that really sets film apart for me is the sense that I feel more involved in the process,
    Interesting. I really prefer digital for that reason -- because I am more involved in the process. Heck, I control the whole process. At the time of capture I can check the histogram to make sure I am capturing all the information available in a scene (or at least not losing anything I need), and then in post I can craft the picture exactly how I want it.

    With film, I feel like I am just along for the ride. I can control the general tonal curve of the image by selecting a film with that response and deciding whether to process straight or push, and trying to guess at an exposure that records my vision of the scene faithfully. BUT, I don't really know what it looks like until I get it back from the lab, if there is a mechanical problem with the camera I won't know until I get the film back, if my lab screws it up, if the film scans poorly, if if if if if if if. My 10D was an eye opener because for the first time I was in total control of the entire image making process and it was like having a polaroid for every image!

    The other thing that really shaped my view of the photographic process was when I started selling all my Canon gear and bought Leica, but had not yet found a DMR. At the time I was doing digital work for a well know travel photographer who would come back from a trip with 5,000 - 10,000 images from his digital Nikons. Sorry to toot my own horn, but I worked digital magic and made the images really look like film. Every. Single. One. But as fast as I was, it was still a lot of time, but there is no way anyone could turn around that volume of film on the deadlines we had. Since I was sans digital I was back to shooting film. It seemed like every frame that came back from the lab was perfect -- no processing necessary.

    I had neither time nor energy for my own work (even dealing with clients) so I loaded up the R8. The film that came back blew me away. Staring back at me was the look I had spent years trying to create with Canon and Nikon digital. Even with the DMR, I have created "recipes" for NPH, Provia and Velvia.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Well Silly Little Me
    prefers to SHOOT Film, develop negs
    send out to be scanned
    & a Sprinkle of Digital Darkroom PP...

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I think we have some different ideas about the process...I suppose I am largely thinking that most digital cameras are purely electronic beasts, they will focus the lens, set the aperture, wind the film...oh, wait... reset the shutter and so on (though not all...certainly some of the MFDB's and the RD-1, M8 etc allow more involvement). The light hits the CCD or CMOS and then usually goes through an IR filter, then an AA filter (again, usually), then the camera decides based on probability and complex algorithms, what color that particular area should be. It is an educated guess, albeit one that is extraordinarily accurate in the best cameras. Then, some sort of voodoo goes on in the camera and the data from the sensor is prepped for writing onto a storage device and an image is popped up onto the LCD. Later, you take this data and copy the 1's and 0's onto a computer, and a you bring up the image on your monitor, introducing a whole new set of educated guesses based on software and hardware calibration...again, extremely accurate in the best cases. There you can modify the data in a million ways through sophisticated software. You take eyedroppers and click on what you want neutral, you look at a graphic representation of the tonal range of the image and pull down and push up on that curve, shifting it at will...you have electronic noise averaged out or added to the image. Finally, you might decide to add little light pixels and little black pixels at the very smallest sizes in areas of tonal transition, so that your image appears to be sharper. Almost none of this is done by free hand -- it is all facilitated by extremely complex machines, churning through calculations at astounding speeds.

    I just feel like I am more of a factor in what is going on in a film camera -- it's just me and chemical reactions -- generally the cameras are simpler -- many are entirely mechanical. I turn the lens to focus it, I turn the aperture ring to set it, I rotate the wheel to set the speed, I wind on the film when I have taken the photo. The same goes in the darkroom -- I load the reel, I mix the chemicals to my desired composition, I shake it the way I want, let it in there for the time I want. Once the negative is created, it is like being at the camera again -- I set the focus and image size, the aperture, and I use my actual hands to dodge or burn the prints. I place the image in the developer, agitate it by hand, decide when I want to stop the development, same with the fixer...do I tone or bleach? Again, it is either timed and done by hand, or selectively with a sponge or brush. Does it need spotting? I better get my ink and brush...

    Believe me, I know there is a place for digital and a place for film, and that both can be equally representative of an artist's intention, I just feel that there is more of ME in a darkroom print or even film scan I make than there is in a digital print. And I know that many do not share that view, and that it would be easy to argue that you have less control in the film based process. However, it is a FEELING, and as such I don't have to justify it to you bozos! ;P
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterA View Post
    Marc I have experienced the same regarding personal favourites and after much thought I had to put my mathematicians head back on to explain the phenomenon. I think we are experiencing a simple statistical error in concluding film produces more keepers versus digital. The error is a sampling error involving a number of potential biases - most notably the so called 'survivor bias'.

    Simply put - if a person has been shooting for many years - by definition the film years ( still?) outnumber the digital years. Added to this is the fact that in using personal work to define 'favourites' and personal work often having a bias towards film shootin ( I know that is the case fo rme) a person is actually biasing towards film again.

    Only time will tell...

    Regarding film 'profiles' versus digital processing - I still prefer to use B&W, although recently I have become impressed with SilverFX.

    One thing for sure as Stuart alludes to - the whole process of making images with film is different and I agree in many ways more involved and contemplative. Again a different process will deliver different personal value beliefs again biasing the ourtcomes! -

    I wont be selling my Leica MPs, my XPan or my MF film backs any time soon.
    Peter

    It is not your damned XPan II, it is mine. Sorry that I sold it to you (not really my friend) so I only hope you love it as much as you say. It was a real mistake on my part given that I now realize what a wonderful instrument this really is. So enjoy, and at least give us the benefit of seeing some of your work with this system.

    Your pal

    Woody

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I have not delved into this thread much and I just got home from 10 days in LA and a little beat up but honestly I have not shot film in so long and I mean years here like maybe almost a decade I simply have forgot about it. Commercially I can't shoot film and personally really never bothered to shoot film again, I like the extra control I have now after the fact and can change my mind easier. Other than that it is a older medium for me and just a means to a end. i really don't put much stock in how I get there just as long as i do , I work really hard at many things in photography to get to a image and the medium itself is not so important to me. I will do things differently on the tech side but in the end I view them somewhat equally. My theory is i have to shoot digital so i will work as hard as i can to make it what i want not what it is or it is supposed to be. I just don't believe in limits. Like many things in photography what some camera's are supposed to be or better at i just break those rules all the time.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Hey Woody - I am very grateful about the XPan kit - as you know I goofed selling mine a few years ago..thats why I jumped on you - when you were thinking about selling the mamiya 711...-


    PS thinking about that spare 203 of yours..( seriously) I have been shooting with a 205TCC and a CFV11 back - and I just love the combination..so teh idea of a back up film body appeals..


    Pete

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    ... heck, some of you got into digital capture, even MF digital capture at my urging ... or at least a little bit I think.
    Yeah, that would be me (amongst others, I'm sure). Hey, what happened to those incredible "fat pixels" of the CFV?

    Not that I regret it for a minute....film or fat pixels, either way works for me.

    Gary Benson
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    Proud owner of a CFV-II
    Last edited by bensonga; 12th January 2009 at 20:05.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by jlm View Post
    i'm with bob, everything is digitized at some level.

    as far as film, all of my work, B&W 6x6 and 4x5, consisted of deliberate, slow shooting and careful darkroom printing. form many of the images taken many years ago, I can still remember the details of where I set the tripod. my enlarger used a cold light to de-emphasize the crystalline nature of the emulsion and minimize surface artifacts. all of this is different from digital shooting today; no wonder the film has a different look
    Everything digitized ... that may be true regarding the internet, but not necessarily everything ... like I said, a majority of the prints on my wall have no digital involved at all.

    However, my comparisons were of digitized film images, and to my eye they still look better over-all. What especially looks better are B&W silverprints that were scanned on a high-end flatbed.

    Also, 99% of my film work wasn't done in a slow, plodding manner at all ... instead in a more candid, intuitive and spontanious way.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterA View Post
    Marc I have experienced the same regarding personal favorites and after much thought I had to put my mathematicians head back on to explain the phenomenon. I think we are experiencing a simple statistical error in concluding film produces more keepers versus digital. The error is a sampling error involving a number of potential biases - most notably the so called 'survivor bias'.

    Simply put - if a person has been shooting for many years - by definition the film years ( still?) outnumber the digital years. Added to this is the fact that in using personal work to define 'favourites' and personal work often having a bias towards film shooting ( I know that is the case of me) a person is actually biasing towards film again.

    Only time will tell...

    Regarding film 'profiles' versus digital processing - I still prefer to use B&W, although recently I have become impressed with SilverFX.

    One thing for sure as Stuart alludes to - the whole process of making images with film is different and I agree in many ways more involved and contemplative. Again a different process will deliver different personal value beliefs again biasing the outcomes! -

    I wont be selling my Leica MPs, my XPan or my MF film backs any time soon.
    Peter, I totally grasp what you are saying about statistics and biases.

    And that could well be the answer except for the fact that the "subjective review" I did was of my wedding work for which I have been shooting digital far longer than film.

    I'd say the math would be 30 to 1 in favor of digital in terms of output and selection of " potential bests" chosen primarily on the basis of content. I don't pick annual keepers based on the media used, but instead all the other creative criteria. Of those in the final selection edit, the film stuff stands out as visually more 3D and all the other stuff I mentioned above.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Green View Post
    Interesting. I really prefer digital for that reason -- because I am more involved in the process. Heck, I control the whole process. At the time of capture I can check the histogram to make sure I am capturing all the information available in a scene (or at least not losing anything I need), and then in post I can craft the picture exactly how I want it.

    With film, I feel like I am just along for the ride. I can control the general tonal curve of the image by selecting a film with that response and deciding whether to process straight or push, and trying to guess at an exposure that records my vision of the scene faithfully. BUT, I don't really know what it looks like until I get it back from the lab, if there is a mechanical problem with the camera I won't know until I get the film back, if my lab screws it up, if the film scans poorly, if if if if if if if. My 10D was an eye opener because for the first time I was in total control of the entire image making process and it was like having a polaroid for every image!

    The other thing that really shaped my view of the photographic process was when I started selling all my Canon gear and bought Leica, but had not yet found a DMR. At the time I was doing digital work for a well know travel photographer who would come back from a trip with 5,000 - 10,000 images from his digital Nikons. Sorry to toot my own horn, but I worked digital magic and made the images really look like film. Every. Single. One. But as fast as I was, it was still a lot of time, but there is no way anyone could turn around that volume of film on the deadlines we had. Since I was sans digital I was back to shooting film. It seemed like every frame that came back from the lab was perfect -- no processing necessary.

    I had neither time nor energy for my own work (even dealing with clients) so I loaded up the R8. The film that came back blew me away. Staring back at me was the look I had spent years trying to create with Canon and Nikon digital. Even with the DMR, I have created "recipes" for NPH, Provia and Velvia.
    Interesting, in all the time I shot film I guess I was lucky ... I never had a camera failure that I didn't sense immediately (except a shutter bounce that clipped 1/8" off the negs), and only lost 3 rolls of film to errors ... one I gave away to a tourist in the mountains who had run out of film and I graciously gave an exposed roll to because I didn't wind the leader all the way in ... LOL. The other 2 were lab errors.

    In contrast, I've had a digital camera that displayed the jpgs on the LCD but didn't write the file, an undetected CF card failure, and various user errors ... one of which was the catastrophic failure of a Western Digital hard drive while I was backing up the contents to DVDs .... 2500 images irretrievably lost because I didn't back-up as I went and waited to long ... my bad.

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by bensonga View Post
    Yeah, that would be me (amongst others, I'm sure). Hey, what happened to those incredible "fat pixels" of the CFV?

    Not that I regret it for a minute....film or fat pixels, either way works for me.

    Gary Benson
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Proud owner of a CFV-II
    Yeah, that love for the CFV is predicated on one main thing isn't it? ... It looks more like film than most other digital solutions ... at least the color files do

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    How do the Kodak 645 Pro and CFV/CFV-II images compare?
    Carsten - Website

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    I only shot 35 mm film and never anything larger, so I can't say that I have the same experience as some of you other guys. I also got so soured on poor film processing by the "pro" labs in the area, that I gave it up completely except for B&W which I process myself and shoot from an M7. However, that mainly is just for fun.

    I switched to MFD, to get the tonality / DR / color / & resolution which I was not getting from 35 MM digital or film.

    I do have to say that I personally like my digital files better, except when I'm going for a more classic B&W look.

    The funny thing is that, I'm not even sure that you can truly call my film shots as film shots. Once developed, they get scanned and then printed digitally. Nothing goes through a full wet darkroom anymore for me.

    So, hello digital and loving it.

    Ray

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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Everything digitized ... that may be true regarding the internet, but not necessarily everything ... like I said, a majority of the prints on my wall have no digital involved at all.
    Marc, I'm going to take you to task here .

    If you look at the science of silver-halide exposure based emulsions, you will find it takes a fixed and measurable number of photons to 'convert' a single crystal of silver halide. Once that happens, it remains in the activated state, and as such, that grain has a binary response to light -- it is either exposed or it isn't, on or off, a zero or a 1.

    The grains are either of differing sizes or stored at different depths in the emulsion, or both, and this is how some get converted and others don't, but it is still a binary process -- a single grain either receives enough photons to expose or not. So a group of the crystals together form a sort of matrix that allow for a range of tones within any given "volume" of emulsion. That volume of emulsion then re-acts to varying quantities of light in a fashion very similar to a ........

    single digital sensor pixel.

    Now the above *may be* poitning us in a direction to help explain why certain DB's tend to resemble film emulsions -- at least our favorite ones -- more than others; the photometric response of their single pixel (or more accurately the Bayer set of 4 pixels) is for whatever reason very similar to the photometric response of a similar volume of film emulsion.

    Cheers,
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    True enough, but film still has a large random factor, in the size, shape, depth and number of layers in the grains, and this isn't matched by digital. So, although each crystal acts in a binary fashion, the distribution still has a random, yet statistically distributed look, whereas digital is deterministic.

    On the other hand, and perhaps some of the more expensive film-look filters do this, it ought to be possible to "play back" the photons recorded by the sensor over a randomly generated grain soup, and get something closer to film.
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    Agreed Carsten -- so just you wait until the next MF digital sensor has a random array of 6, 6.8. 7.4 and 9 u pixels... Or perhaps more likely, the 6 u sensors will get slightly randomized conversion algorithms for the deBayering.

    ,
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    Re: MFD ... Emperor's New Clothes?

    It would already help if they would build in a slight, random offset in each microlens.

    In fact, and this is a current area of research in graphics chip design, if they could even pick a specific, repeating, *apparently random*, tile-able pattern, that would help.
    Carsten - Website

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