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[OM] Musings on large prints from different cameras

Subject: [OM] Musings on large prints from different cameras
From: AG Schnozz <agschnozz@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2006 07:31:59 -0800 (PST)
Can the eyes be fooled?  At what point does one capture method
supercede another in large prints? At what point does it not
matter?  Will a picture still sell if it isn't perfectly sharp
or has visible grain?

This week, I got another batch of enlargements made up for art
sales. These ranged from 8x10 to 16x20s. Some were from film
(Velvia 100F) others from the E-1.  All were cropped long-side
only to fit the print format.

In the 16x20s is there ANY visible difference between the E-1
pictures and the scanned Velvia 100F pictures?  The sharpness is
the same and the grain/noise is non-existant. Granted, much of
the sharpness/smoothing is a signature of the RIP the lab uses,
but the weakspot in both images appears to be optical. When
pixel peeping the images on the computer, there is no missing
information in the prints--all details are retained.

One particular picture was a tossup between a shot taken on film
and an identical picture taken with the A1.  I've been making
inkjet prints of the A1 shot all along, but with the new scanner
and the discovery of an unprocessed roll of film with the same
shots on it (taken with the IS-3, I think), I decided to go with
the film version for the art-print job.  The A1 shot appeared to
be sharper (RSE converted RAW file), but the dynamic range was
slightly less than the Velvia shot. (say huh?)  The picture in
question is the Des Moines railroad with Iowa Capital Building
shot.  The railroad cars have incredible amounts of pattern
details with converging lines, grids, etc.  The A1 picture
retains better details up to a point. As soon as the various
lines approach the resolution limit there is extensive aliasing
and color artifacts. To cover them up, I have to intruduce
random noise into the picture. The Velvia shot has "implied"
detail. Even though the overall sharpness of the picture is
lower, the details are greater. Furthermore, as the various
lines and patterns approach the extinction point, they smoothly
transition into the film grain instead of hitting the digital
brick wall. But in print, which is better?  Film.  This is true
in the 8x10 prints as well as the 16x20 prints.

What about the E-1 shots?  It's hard to argue with their color.
My wife is able to identify an E-1 picture almost every
time--regardless of how much or how little I've processed them. 
She claims that their is a richness and three-dimensionality to
the images that the other cameras can't quite get.  The only
time I've fooled her is with a film shot taken with the 100/2.8
on Velvia.  The resolution of the E-1 pictures is lower. We can
blame in on lack of megapixels, but I believe it's actually the
AA filter to blame.

So to the question of which is better in enlargements, film or
digital?  Neither.  

AG

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