Canon 5D vs. Medium Format (Film)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Progressiveabsolution, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. I know this discussion has been beaten to a pulp, but why not ask some
    things that I hope haven't been touched upon so much...

    1) So the "resolution" has been the objective/scientific evidence that
    the 5D is as good as medium format. Then again, Rafe or Rafe B?
    (forget his name from terrapin) says that his prints from either the
    LS8000 scans of medium format and the digital prints are equal or that
    the digital exceeds the medium format when it comes to color. Since
    the LS8000/9000/Mulit Pro scanners are considered some of the very best
    available, it seems we are REALLY talking about putting one format next
    to another and comparing the two. The claim, and I don't say that Rafe
    said this, though maybe he did at one time, is that the Canon 5D or
    better yet, 1DSMKII shows more detail than MF film based cameras. One
    pointed out how they could count the hairs on the digital print but not
    on the film print. I guess this proves film doesn't actually capture
    "reality/objective" world afterall and all this time people using film
    have only managed to get "most" of the detail from life. However,
    higher end digital is capable of getting that detail the film can never

    Question one is: How does the digital camera that competes "resolution"
    wise, extract more detail than film, and if this is true, why would
    "anyone" with 10K-25K worth of film based equipment still own it when
    they will never get that detail a digital camera can get?

    2) In terms of the "color" produced by the two formats, pro digital and
    mf film, it has been argued that the pro digital cameras excel in color
    with some exceptions going in favor of print (C41) based film. I have
    to agree that the array of color is simply amazing in what the digital
    can do, but is the "flat" look of film that many refer to not what life
    really looks like??? I don't know how many shots I have seen by pros
    that use the very best digital camera to make a scene look like it is
    tahiti when it is just San Diego. Sand is colored brownish when it is
    white in life. But these colors obviously have a lot of
    appeal/flashiness to them while the film colors look much more
    "pale/lifeless" in a sense. It isn't to say the film looks inaccurate,
    but is to say that the digital makes things "appear" realistic, but are
    much more based on aesthetic appearance and catching the eye...but
    doesn't one ever wonder how in the world a bird with beautiful color
    suddenly looks like an angel with remarkable color one has never even
    seen on this bird??? I don't want to debate the color issues with
    digital because you can say the same things about film. I have seen
    some of the most saturated or dense looking film based images that are
    in no way looking like life, but they surely make for a beautiful
    artistic look, just like the digital can do the same. So please pay
    attention to this last part where I say that both can exaggerate or
    "make" their own color to look a certain way, but that at the same
    time, I feel that digital by and large makes life look a lot different
    than film when both are aimed to reproduce it in an "accurate" looking
    way. *****The primary reason I raise the color thing is because I have
    never seen a photo "on the web" from a pro digital camera that looks
    like film.***** I can see many are trying to achieve a look of film,
    but without the grain, of course...but never have I seen an MF photo
    look like a Canon 5D photo. They can look similar in some instances,
    but I'm more or less referring to context of streetlife, nature,

    3) Going back to this resolution thing, and that some claim the 5D or
    1DSMKII can outresolve film in MF...what about the counter-argument of
    digital "adding" detail to the photo that isn't even there? I know the
    example I posted above was about counting hairs and so I take it this
    person either counted the person's hairs after the photo was developed
    or they just "assumed" from what they saw that that person had more
    hairs. Either way, it's interesting that there is a counter to the
    notion that pro digital and digital in general "adds" artifacts/extra
    information that the film does not. And this obviously complicates
    things because one then has to point out that film cannot produce the
    information that exists in life whereas digital format, in
    other words, can produce what we see in life while the other is either
    not capable of doing so or is adding artificial context to the image.

    So number 3 deals with my final question: Does digital indeed have the
    ability to outresolve film? That is, is film simply not capable of
    producing the same detail of life? Again, how in the world can
    "anyone" care to use film if they know it is not reproducing life
    faithfully and is leaving out details that digital is able to
    capture??? I personally care for "the look" of the image, but if I
    know my setup cannot produce life, why even bother using it when I can
    get "close enough" if not the same "look" from the device that is able
    to get more information/reproduce life more faithfully. Why only get
    10 of my cat's 12 whiskers when I can get all 12 of them???

    The reason I ask these questions is because:

    1) If the better pro digital cams can do more than MF film can, it only
    takes $2200 plus $1800 in Zeiss/Rollei lenses to completely humiliate
    MF film setups that cost upward of $10-$20K!!!...let alone the scanner
    that can be drum scanned for rediculous prices or go for the Nikon 9000
    which goes for $1800. That's 2-5X the price of the digital setup
    which can take a million photos before that MF system can get in 100.

    2) Why is there still a market for all this MF stuff if the digital has
    proven dominance over it?

    3) Why does this MF market continue to maintain stability while the
    digital one coninues to drop? Yes, one can say better digi-toys come
    out every year, but what about MF stuff...this has been around for tons
    of years yet it either increases in price or stays the same. As an
    example, to get a Contax 645 system, you must shell out big
    bucks...same with a Hassleblad system and how about them Schneider
    lenses=$$$$$$$$ Why won't these Schneider lenses come down to
    $100-$500 when the digital stuff like the 5D is going to be at $800

    I'm ranting and raving because I'm really frustrated about which
    direction to go at this point. To me, in a perfect world where the
    Canon 5D is indeed on par or even superior to MF, it makes zero sense
    to spend 2-5X the amount of money to get an MF setup. If the 5D can be
    disputed by the MF crowd and that 2-5X difference has some kind of
    warrant (not for arrest of course:)), then it seems getting into maybe
    even a lower budget MF setup that is capable of competing with higher
    end setups in the film MF world would be the better step.

    I'll leave this one up to discussion/debate/whatever that can help me
    find a decision here on what is the best move to make at this point.

    Thanks all!!!
    Progressiveabsolution, Sep 25, 2006
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  2. The experience here (lots of MF cameras, a Nikon 8000, and a 5D), as well as
    several comparisons on the net, have all been that 11 to 13MP digital is
    roughly equivalent to 645 (or cropped 6x6), and is slightly edged out in
    detail capture by 6x7 (or 6x6 compared to a square crop from 11 to 13 MP
    Film has a long "tail" in its MTF response. So you can see fine patterns,
    but at low contrast and high noise. Not useful for making photographs, but
    very useful for claiming that film captures zillions of MP of information.

    Film nuts such as myself still have our cameras because (1) we can't sell
    them, (2) the larger format ones still produce better images than 11 to 13MP
    digital, and (3) US$600 will get you that lovely Rolleiflex 3.5F that you
    always wanted and normal humans can't resist a bargain.
    Lots of film types like Velvia<g>. Digital is more accurate than most films
    in terms of color rendition, and is more flexible than any specific film,
    but may not be able to exactly emulate a specific film.
    You haven't seen much work in Velvia, have you<g>? That sort of distortion
    has been going on in color photography since at least the mid-60s with
    Look at the images at I can never guess what camera they come
    That's Foveon and the Leica cameras that produce bogus detail. Canon
    includes a low-pass filter and so is at least somewhat honest (I'd prefer it
    if they used a stronger one, but at least it's there).
    But the vast majority of "film fans" claim that they like grain, and grain
    is the ultimate "added detail" (well, added texture). All the smooth areas
    in your images have a gritty texture. The same gritty texture everywhere.
    And they claim they like it! Complete garbage to my eye.
    Well, 11 to 13 MP digital is clearly superior to 35mm film, competes with
    645, and loses to 6x7.
    Well, I don't undertand why people like 35mm....
    There isn't a market for MF, other than bargain hunters.
    Bronica is long dead, Mamiya was sold to a software company (and has
    discontinued some of their MF cameras), Pentax no longer sells MF cameras in
    the EU, Fuji has discontinued their MF cameras, Hasselblad has discontinued
    all but their core products (e.g. the 200 series is history), which can be
    used with digital.
    Contax was always ridiculously overpriced, and has been discontinued.
    Those lenses are all still usable with MF digital backs.
    Agreed. I moved from the Sony F707 to Nikon 8000 + MF four or five years
    ago, and got several good years of use out of it, but I wouldn't recommend
    it today. Get a 5D and learn how to use it. I haven't shot a roll of MF film
    since the 5D arrived here, almost a year ago.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
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  3. Progressiveabsolution

    ASAAR Guest

    Many Fujis (probably not the best ones) cater to that crowd. Mine
    has three color options. Standard, B&W and Chrome. So nobody need
    fear having their Kodachrome taken away. Someone should tell Paul.
    Do other cameras have settings that mimic specific films that you
    know of? It should be easy to manage, but it would probably be best
    implemented in a photo editor. I haven't used the big ones, but I'd
    be very surprised if there aren't at least several plugins that do
    this if the ability isn't built-in.
    ASAAR, Sep 25, 2006
  4. Progressiveabsolution

    Scott W Guest

    Even better would be to have this in the raw converter where there is a
    larger dynamic range to work with.

    Scott W, Sep 25, 2006
  5. ROFL. As I mentioned before, the "Landscape" picture mode on the current
    Canons (and any older Canon that produces RAW files via DPP) does the Velvia
    electric greens quite nicely. Although, you have to expose carefully, since
    DPP doesn't let you adjust exposure after the fact and Landscape mode blows
    highlights really easily, just like Velvia. Sigh. (It lets you adjust
    exposure, but doesn't give you back any of the information it threw away in
    it's first conversion step. Grr. RSP allows you to get highlights back by
    using the "Fill light" slider to reduce overall contrast and then fine
    tuning the highlights with the exposure compensation.)
    There used to be plugins that emulated various B&W films for B&W conversion,
    although that is a somewhat different question.

    Again, the Canon "picture modes" do that (although they're pretty limited:
    "Faithful" and "Landscape" are the only useful ones; e.g. "Neutral" is too
    low contrast). The late and lamented RSP RAW converter (killed by Adobe:
    they didn't like the competition so just bought it) had a "Vibrancy" slider
    that was very nice. Presumably there are others.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
  6. Thanks guys.

    Seems like MF still has a place IF you can afford the expensive Nikon
    8000/9000 scanner. But if you add up say a nice setup from Hassy or
    Rollei and the scanner, like I say, it can be way overpriced compared
    to the Canon 5D and nice Zeiss/Rollei/Schneider/etc. lenses. Add on
    top of that the fact that you get to work images on a consistent basis.
    I can see why the 6X7 would be good for use on serious blowups, but
    I'd still want a 6X7 that has rangefinder glass such as
    Contax/Leica/Hexar AF on it. I like the Fuji ok, but don't consider it
    as good as the other brands. But then again, with a serious blowup,
    I'd certainly take the Fuji over anything else at this point in
    digital/film photography.

    Regards to all and now to sell the house to buy a nice Canon 5D and
    some good ole Zeiss glass...:)! Oh...I need batteries and a 4gb CF
    too, right?:)
    Progressiveabsolution, Sep 25, 2006
  7. Progressiveabsolution

    Scott W Guest

    The sensors are all pretty much the same, differances come from the
    processing of the data.

    Scott W, Sep 25, 2006
  8. Progressiveabsolution

    Stacey Guest

    ASAAR wrote:

    From what I've seen, the sensor is a larger part of what determines the kind
    of film a digital camera mimics. You can do things in PS to adjust this but
    each "flavor' of sensor looks different from what I've seen.
    Stacey, Sep 25, 2006
  9. Man, where do you live?? <s>. I can't buy a dog house in the Bay Area
    for the price of those items! I would go with one extra battery, and a
    couple of 1 or 2 Gig cards to start with. When you really need to have 4
    Gigs, the sweet spot will have moved in your favor.

    Good luck and good shooting!
    John McWilliams, Sep 25, 2006
  10. Stacey...since you are aware of the Kiev setup and the Olympus setups,
    how would you compare firstly the Kiev setup with proper Zeiss glass
    (Flektogon/Sonnar w/newer versions with 5 digits for serial number) to
    a DSLR w/12MP like the 5D? would compare the last produced Olympus DSLR (E330)
    w/11-22mm and 50-200mm glass to the Canon 5D or other 12+ MP cam
    w/similar glass?
    Progressiveabsolution, Sep 25, 2006
  11. Progressiveabsolution

    Mark² Guest

    I think the bottom line here (for me) is this:

    If you (generic 'you') are SUCH a fine photographer that the only remaining
    factor involved in determining the superiority of two images is whether you
    used the 5D or MF...then you're going to do extremely well with either--to
    the extent that the question doesn't involve post-processing issues/costs,
    etc. Capabilities at this level are SO close, that it's more likely to be a
    near non-factor. NO... This is not the typical "it depends on the
    photographer" line that gets mindlessly spewed here. I often disagree with
    that assertion because there really are aspects involving enlargement,
    detail extraction, etc. where the capture device really DOES make a
    difference. In this particular case, though, the two really are so close in
    capability that you're not likely to suffer taking one over the other in the
    strict question of capability. For me personally, the
    cost...time...hassle...and loss of control over the process (developers)
    involved with film means I'll gladly take the digital path. The control I
    can maintain from start to finish compared with color film (assuming one
    doesn't have a full color lab in their basement) makes my 5D extremely
    attractive over MF.
    Mark², Sep 25, 2006
  12. Progressiveabsolution

    Frank ess Guest

    David J. Littleboy wrote:

    There is a "vibrancy slider in the Lightroom Beta 4 (four).
    Frank ess, Sep 25, 2006
  13. Yes. I just noticed that. I'm looking forward to playing with it. Lightroom
    Beta 4 also has multiple ways of rescuing blown highlights that aren't
    actually blown in the RAW, both of which may be slightly better than RSP's.
    Image rotation (pretty much an absolute requirement here) and automatic lens
    distortion/CA correction are both still missing, I think. (Both of these can
    be done after the fact in Photoshop, but I'd prefer to get them out of the
    way during RAW conversion.)

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
  14. Assuming that 35mm film is equal to 6.3MP (3072 x 2048), based on the fact
    that Kodak chose this size for their PhotoCD format (I assume they didn't
    just pick that number out of thin air), then that would produce a print of
    10.2"x6.8" at 300dpi, which is more or less the 10"x8" that 35mm is supposed
    to be good for.

    Arguably it contains more detail than that, Norman Koren estimates 35mm to
    be equivalent to 8.3MP, but there's also grain to consider, which IMO is the
    limiting factor with film, rather than resolution.

    But anyway, working on the assumption that 35mm = 6.3MP = 10"x7" at 300dpi,

    645 = 17MP = 16"x12"
    6x6 = 23MP = 16"x16"
    6x7 = 29MP = 21"x16"
    6x9 = 34MP = 24"x16"
    4"x5" = 85MP = 34"x27"

    So the 1Ds MkII would be equivalent to 645 and the 39MP Hasselblad H2D would
    be slightly better than 6x9.

    As I say, IMO grain is the limiting factor with film, not resolution, so the
    real question is not "how much resolution does film have?" but "how much you
    can enlarge film before the grain becomes visible (or objectionable)?"

    Paul Saunders, Sep 25, 2006
  15. Basically, that's about it, except that no one who has looked at 11 to 13MP
    digital and 645 has thought 645 captured more detail, and a lot of people
    who have looked at 6x7 vs. 12 or 12.7 MP digital have had to look really
    closely to see a difference.

    What is happening here is that you really can't tell the difference unless
    the linear resolution of one system is at least 15% or so better than the
    next. So you'll see a difference if you look at 12x18 prints from 8MP and
    from 12.7MP, but you won't be able to tell the difference between adjacent
    cameras in the 8/10/12.7/16 MP sequence.

    Which means that Canon is up the creek with the 5D, since it won't be enough
    better than the 10MP class APS-C cameras to notice, other than the high-ISO
    It depends on the film and the scanning method. Provia 100F doesn't really
    show grain, even at 13x. It just gets soft. Velvia 50 shows grain, Velvia
    100F is closer to Provia 100F. Negative films scan grainy, although 4000 ppi
    scans clean up nicely with NeatImage. Here are a bunch of scans.

    Anyway, the experience here is that with a 4000 ppi Nikon film scanner (and
    a careful workflow), any decent film makes a gorgeous 7x enlargement, is
    beginning to lose it at 9x, and is a complete disaster at 13x.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
  16. I haven't done such comparisons myself so I'll take your word for it.
    So I gather. For twice the linear resolution you need quadruple the
    megapixels, so for twice the res of a 6MP camera you'd need 24MP. Which
    means that the H2D is only twice the res of the 400D.
    I'm pretty sure that's why Canon refrained from increasing the res with the
    30D, but have now given in with the 400D due to market pressure. I think
    the 5D and the 400D would make an ideal pairing for a lightweight two camera
    system, the 5D for use with wide angle to standard lenses, and the 400D for
    use with telephoto lenses to take advantage of the crop factor, for example
    turning a 500mm into an 800mm but with better DOF, and still a decent
    resolution. Best of both worlds IMO. But the 5D needs to drop in price a
    Hmm... I've got a 23" wide panoramic print (Horizon 202) scanned from
    Provia F at 400dpi and I can see the grain up close, but I suppose it's not
    really obvious as grain, it's more sort of blotchy, the sky colour isn't
    even. But it looks fine from a distance.
    Haven't tried Velvia 100F. I prefer Astia now, I find the low contrast
    ideal for scanning.
    You can say that again!
    Really? I've got Neat Image Pro but I rarely use it. It always seems to
    reduce the detail too much, I've never managed to find an ideal balance.
    I'm loathe to lose sharpness so I tend to accept a certain level of grain,
    even though I hate the stuff. I find that the noise reduction filter in CS2
    is less heavy handed and more natural looking.

    I do have quite a few good shots that were unfortunately taken on negative
    film, any advice on where I could find suitable Neat Image settings to deal
    with them?
    Interesting, I've seen those before.
    If we again assume that 35mm = 6.3MP, then 7x is equal to 310 dpi, 9x is 241
    dpi and 13x is 167 dpi. I haven't done much printing from film scans, most
    of mine are from digital. Personally I can't really see any difference
    between 240 dpi and 300 dpi, and I'd say the lower limit of acceptability is
    180 dpi, although I don't like to go that low. But that's with digital
    images, I haven't really tested the limits with film scans.

    Paul Saunders, Sep 25, 2006
  17. Yes. It goes somewhat blotchy as opposed to gritty. I've only printed a
    couple of tiny crops of 4000 ppi scans directly at 300 ppi, which is a 13x
    enlargement, but the impression was more of softness/lack of fine detail
    than grain.
    I shot a bit of Astia 100F, but didn't fall in love with it. Provia 100F
    seems a good compromise between the not-quite-enough pop of Astia and the
    excessive contrast of Velvia 100F. Velvia 100F is very nice when it flies,
    but the contrast means that it's much more sensitive to exposure than Provia
    100F, which is surprisingly forgiving for a slide film. Real Velvia fans
    I managed to get some good results with NeatImage on some Reala scans years
    ago. I ended up not using it, though, since it took 25 minutes of CPU time
    for a 645 frame. That was a couple of PCs ago, and NeatImage claims to be
    twice as fast now, so I need to try it again.

    But I think I turned most of the sliders way down. But I was (and am)
    downsampling to either 2200 ppi (for 6x7) or 2700 ppi (for 645), so I get
    some of the sharpness back.
    I don't really remember what the sliders did, and it was several versions of
    neatimage ago. I think I basically set it up to clean up the sky areas just
    a tad in the preview window and then let it do it's thing. But I didn't lose
    much detail at all.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
  18. Progressiveabsolution

    Annika1980 Guest

    It's difficult to do a fair comparison of the 5D to MF.
    That's because nobody shoots MF anymore!

    Annika1980, Sep 25, 2006
  19. Stop laughing at me, you creep; I resemble that remark. I haven't shot any
    MF since the 5D arrived...

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Sep 25, 2006
  20. Ok,

    Getting a bit confused here. From what Paul was saying, a 645 cam
    gives a 17MP image (12"X16") which is what a Canon 1DSMKII is. But
    here, we're talking a 4MP to the 5D which isn't so much. Then again,
    when enlarged, the 20D looked extremely non-existing in a test against
    the 5D and that's only a 5MP difference Yes, the 20D showed the image,
    sorta...while the 5D showed the actual detail and sharply. I must say,
    however, the images I keep seeing on the web at flickr/pbase/etc. of
    the 5D (pro ones) don't look so impressive (looked at many using very
    expensive Zeiss/Contax glass on them). But then again, I don't think I
    am finding enough pro examples because Canon is so mainstream and
    people either don't know how to use them or something is wrong with how
    they are loaded on the net. A Contax G/Leica M image looks better to
    me with a proper scanner, but these people are scanning in very
    artistic and beautiful images while it seems a lot of the masses or
    what are supposed to be called great photographers with the money to
    spend on the Canon have fine, but not any close to $5000 fine including
    the glass images. The Fuji S3 looks much sharper (don't ask why?).
    The Olympus E system looks much nicer for color but doesn't "appear as
    sharp as the Fuji and about the same level as the Canon. I saw a
    person's photogallery that had a 5D and Contax glass (very good Contax
    glass)...and his images looked no better than Contax SLR stuff...not as
    good as G stuff IMO. But his 350D images were really poor w/exception
    of a couple compared to the 5D. Maybe film has a "unique" way of being
    loaded in where digital does not? It seems like it should be the other
    way around, but isn't.

    At this point, I'm looking at the Olympus E330 due to the 7.5MP and
    the live view. The photos on the web look superior to any other
    digital cam I have seen, but it's really tossing up apples and oranges.
    Problem is, according to all of these "specs" and other various
    things, the E330 can do a nice 8X10" print, but going any larger it
    looks bad. This says that people have spent HUGE SUMS of money on the
    E1 with the expensive Zuiko Digital lenses and can only print to 8X10"
    when upsampled. How in the world do pros get by doing this??? I saw a
    comparison of a pro-model shooter that used both E330 and Nikon D200.
    How does he present his images to the agency when the agency usually
    needs a larger result, no?

    How I wish I could use all of these tools to do a print with them all
    and see for my very own eyes the results we are talking about here.
    Progressiveabsolution, Sep 25, 2006
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