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Author Topic: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?  (Read 2443 times)

brandtryan

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Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« on: December 05, 2016, 02:24:10 PM »

First time poster -- though have perused the site for years.

Last year I acquired the following gear for general photography:

Nikon D750
Zeiss Milvus 50mm
Zeiss Milvus 85mm

Of course, after having had this gear for a short time, I am now dead set on a project, which if all goes well, will end up producing images that could potentially require large prints.  I'm now wondering if I should have gone the Medium or Large Format route. 

My fundamental question -- how large should I be able print images without losing any quality - assuming people will be viewing the prints in a gallery, with their noses mere inches away from the prints?

I've done a little research -- and from what I can tell -- I'm going to be limited to something like 22" x 33", or thereabouts?  I realize this question is a bit vague -- but I'm only looking for a vague, ball-park answer.  From looking at other related questions - it seems the most important ingredients to this question are sensor size, lenses, and how the final prints will be viewed -- so for me, those details would be: full frame sensor, zeiss prime lenses -- and perhaps most important, the viewers of the prints might get very close, in a gallery environment. 

When one moves to medium/large format -- are the potential print sizes measured in feet instead of inches?  Are "mural" (say, 6 x 9 FEET) sized images simply out of the question for images captured by a FF sensor?  Do people even exhibit photographs that large?  It seems like the (albeit few) famous photographers I've researched recently all use medium/large formats for their large gallery prints.

Another related question -- if a FF sensor is equivalent to the size of 35mm film -- how the heck do they manage to blow it up so large (in a theater) for a movie that was shot with 35mm film??  I'm guessing it has to do with how our brains perceive motion pictures versus a still image?

Thanks!

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BobShaw

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2016, 06:11:48 PM »

Hi,
It is all open to interpretation but my experience using both Canon 5D and Hasselblad MF is that the 35mm camera can produce acceptable prints up to a metre or yard. To me they are obviously degraded, but still usually acceptable. The MF still looks perfect at that size. Obviously lens quality has a big impact and bigger cameras have better lenses simply because a smaller camera image has to be magnified more to produce the same size.

Don't sweat it until you answer your own question, then it is obvious. Avoid gloss and use matte.

Movies are a whole different thing. The brain fills in the gaps and you are a long way back anyway. It is like a billboard seen from a car 50m away. You could shoot it with an iPhone.
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brandtryan

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2016, 06:28:00 AM »

Thanks for the reply Bob  :)
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2016, 06:52:22 AM »

Hi,

I would say that 24 MP is quite enough for prints 27" x 39".

With the Milvus lenses I would think that you would be better served by a higher resolution camera, like the D810.

MFD covers a wide range, from 37.5 MP Leica S, over 50 MP 1.3X crop up to full frame at 100 MP.

Assuming that you can print 27" x 39" from 24 MP

  • 50 MP would yield 39" x 56" 
  • 100 MP would yield 53" x 78"

But, that assumes very good lenses.

I have a 4m x 0.9m sized print outside my office. It is stitched from several 24 MP images.

It seems that the new X1D lenses from Hasselblad may be crazy sharp, something like the two Milvuses you own. But, the X1D needs less magnification, so it may give even sharper images.

Best regards
Erik

First time poster -- though have perused the site for years.

Last year I acquired the following gear for general photography:

Nikon D750
Zeiss Milvus 50mm
Zeiss Milvus 85mm

Of course, after having had this gear for a short time, I am now dead set on a project, which if all goes well, will end up producing images that could potentially require large prints.  I'm now wondering if I should have gone the Medium or Large Format route. 

My fundamental question -- how large should I be able print images without losing any quality - assuming people will be viewing the prints in a gallery, with their noses mere inches away from the prints?

I've done a little research -- and from what I can tell -- I'm going to be limited to something like 22" x 33", or thereabouts?  I realize this question is a bit vague -- but I'm only looking for a vague, ball-park answer.  From looking at other related questions - it seems the most important ingredients to this question are sensor size, lenses, and how the final prints will be viewed -- so for me, those details would be: full frame sensor, zeiss prime lenses -- and perhaps most important, the viewers of the prints might get very close, in a gallery environment. 

When one moves to medium/large format -- are the potential print sizes measured in feet instead of inches?  Are "mural" (say, 6 x 9 FEET) sized images simply out of the question for images captured by a FF sensor?  Do people even exhibit photographs that large?  It seems like the (albeit few) famous photographers I've researched recently all use medium/large formats for their large gallery prints.

Another related question -- if a FF sensor is equivalent to the size of 35mm film -- how the heck do they manage to blow it up so large (in a theater) for a movie that was shot with 35mm film??  I'm guessing it has to do with how our brains perceive motion pictures versus a still image?

Thanks!

BartvanderWolf

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2016, 07:35:56 AM »

First time poster -- though have perused the site for years.

Last year I acquired the following gear for general photography:

Nikon D750
Zeiss Milvus 50mm
Zeiss Milvus 85mm

Of course, after having had this gear for a short time, I am now dead set on a project, which if all goes well, will end up producing images that could potentially require large prints.  I'm now wondering if I should have gone the Medium or Large Format route. 

My fundamental question -- how large should I be able print images without losing any quality - assuming people will be viewing the prints in a gallery, with their noses mere inches away from the prints?

Hi,

This very close inspection of image resolution/quality will limit your 'uncompromised' maximum output size.

Something in the order of 300 PPI output will be at the threshold of average human visual acuity at normal reading distance in good light, so approx. 21 x 14 inches output size for a 35mm FF. At about 3 feet viewing distance, a 69 x 46 inch sized output from the same file would have a similar visual resolution. So a lot depends on how strict your minimum viewing distance requirements are.

That's not to say you can't do better than that at a smaller size and with higher print resolution, but the benefits also depend on postprocessing, which almost always benefts from more pixels.

Quote
When one moves to medium/large format -- are the potential print sizes measured in feet instead of inches?

MF is not magical. It just happens to potentially offer more pixels in a single shot, and maybe a very good lens will allow to make good use of it. Stitching multiple smaller images will potentially allow even higher resolution results.

Quote
Are "mural" (say, 6 x 9 FEET) sized images simply out of the question for images captured by a FF sensor?

I've seen such enlargements, and they were good enough to stop people in their tracks, as those people were walking along the aisles of trade shows. Of course the actual subject matter can help.

Quote
Another related question -- if a FF sensor is equivalent to the size of 35mm film -- how the heck do they manage to blow it up so large (in a theater) for a movie that was shot with 35mm film??  I'm guessing it has to do with how our brains perceive motion pictures versus a still image?

Motion between frames and viewing distance are the explanation.

Cheers,
Bart
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brandtryan

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2016, 08:39:02 PM »

Appreciate the replies!  Looks like I could benefit from more pixels, or alternatively, consider the "stitching" method -- though with the particular content I plan to capture, this method could be problematic.
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brandtryan

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2016, 08:33:58 AM »

Hi Erik --

What is "MFD"?

Thanks,

Brandt


MFD covers a wide range, from 37.5 MP Leica S, over 50 MP 1.3X crop up to full frame at 100 MP.

Best regards
Erik
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2016, 08:49:49 AM »

Hi Brandt,

Medium Format Digital. Everything larger that full frame.

I may have misunderstood your posting, sorry in that case!

Best regards
Erik


Hi Erik --

What is "MFD"?

Thanks,

Brandt

brandtryan

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2016, 01:05:34 PM »

Oh -- duh.  No -- you didn't misunderstand -- just didn't know that particular acronym. 

Hi Brandt,

Medium Format Digital. Everything larger that full frame.

I may have misunderstood your posting, sorry in that case!

Best regards
Erik
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2016, 10:22:10 PM »

Hi,

A longer answer…

There is a relation between needed resolution and viewing distance. For 20/20 vision, the resolution limit is around 360 PPI, at 25cm/10" viewing distance. If we assume that viewing distance is 50 cm / 20" the resolution limit would be 180 PPI. For large prints, 50 cm would be a close viewing distance.

It is often said that 180 PPI is needed for a very good print.

So, you can divide the pixel dimensions of your camera and get a maximum print size for 180 PPI.

Here are some figures:

SLT 9924 MP 22"x33"
P45+ (older MFD)39MP30"x40"
A7rII42MP29"x44"
IQ350 (50 MP MFD)50 MP34"x46"
IQ3100MP (highest resolution MFD)100MP48"x64"

The table above is based on 50 cm viewing distance and 20/20 vision. I practice you can print quite a bit larger, if proper sharpening is applied. The reason is that it is more medium and low frequency detail that dominates visual acuity.

I made an interesting test a few months ago. My Distagon 40/4 CF on the P45+ is not very sharp off axis and the Canon 16-35/4L zoom I use with the A7rII that I have is significantly sharper.

I made two A2 size prints from 50% crops, that is something 33" x 47". There was no discussion that the Canon/A7rII was much sharper in that region the Distagon/P45+ combo at 50 cm viewing distance. The Distagon/P45+ was actually below what I would call acceptable at 50 cm.

But, moving back to 80cm - 1m the difference disappeared fully and the Distagon/P45+ image actually looked a tiny bit sharper.

How come? The central part of the image was actually quite sharp with the Distagon and it may be that it had higher contrast for medium detail.

Here is an off axis crop from the Canon 16-35/4L at actual pixels:


And here is a similar crop from the Distagon 40/4:


The weakness of the Distagon can be explained with the MTF data from Zeiss attached. I have seen a similar, but less pronounced loss of sharpness on all Hasselblad Distagons (40/4CF, 50/4CF and 60/3.5 CF).

Best regards
Erik

« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 10:50:09 PM by ErikKaffehr »
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brandtryan

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2016, 06:19:55 AM »

Thanks for the detailed answer Erik!  Makes sense --
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kers

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2016, 06:41:43 AM »

hello brandtryan ( Ryan Brandt?),

You have bought very good lenses and a 24MP camera...
In my opinion you could make a perfect 150dpi print from that - about a meter wide.
I make these print all the time from my camera d810... they look perfect.
Your lenses will do more than 36MP so with a different body you could print to perfection even larger.

Now i am talking about perfect looking images, when looking very close.
But depending on the subject less quality wil do fine...
a good example is the worldpress photo winner 2016 with an underexposed very grainy shot in the dark at 12800 ? asa
also many meters high advertising posters come from 35mm... if the photo has a simple defined subject - like a face - you do not need many pixels to get the information across
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Petrus

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2016, 08:41:02 AM »


Another related question -- if a FF sensor is equivalent to the size of 35mm film -- how the heck do they manage to blow it up so large (in a theater) for a movie that was shot with 35mm film??  I'm guessing it has to do with how our brains perceive motion pictures versus a still image?

Bit off-topic, but in real life 35mm film frame is less than half of 35mm stills frame (135 format). What is even more surprising is that the real life 35mm movie projection resolution in a good theatre is not even HD quality in video terms, that is the pixel resolution is equivalent to less than 2 MPix! Still it looks perfectly good enough, as the motion and rapidly changing frames hides the actual graininess of the film, and there is no time (if the movie is even slightly interesting) to stop and contemplate the resolution of the images flashing by.

Facts here: http://www.motionfx.gr/files/35mm_resolution_english.pdf

Then again the question of if 135 size (a.k.a. FF) modern sensor is capable of producing gallery sized prints is a bit funny, as much much worse 135 film prints, even from pushed Tri-X, were displayed in galleries world over for half a century, and never the critics complained about excess grain. It simply was part of the medium. Now it seems people (artists, that is) are worried if the prints are not technically perfect and pixels invisible, as it has became a real possibility to produce large detailed prints with relatively compact and cheap digital cameras. I think the message should be more important than the medium, unless one is striving for an over realistic "photorealism" in the real sense of the word. Then maybe a 50-100 MPix mid format camera would serve better, or maybe 8x10", or larger, film. Otherwise any decent digital camera is good enough.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2016, 02:36:13 PM »

Hi,

The reason movies get away with sub full HD resolution is that they are in control of viewing distance, but also because motion is less demanding on resolution than stills. It is related to how the brain works.

I often present my images on big screen viewed close by. I really long for 4K.

Best regards
Erik

BobShaw

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2016, 03:14:51 PM »

135 film prints, even from pushed Tri-X, were displayed in galleries world over for half a century, and never the critics complained about excess grain. It simply was part of the medium. Now it seems people (artists, that is) are worried if the prints are not technically perfect and pixels invisible, as it has became a real possibility to produce large detailed prints with relatively compact and cheap digital cameras. I think the message should be more important than the medium, unless one is striving for an over realistic "photorealism" in the real sense of the word. Then maybe a 50-100 MPix mid format camera would serve better, or maybe 8x10", or larger, film. Otherwise any decent digital camera is good enough.
True, the message is more important to get people to walk over, but if they do walk over and find it lacking they usually walk away. Film grain being visible is more acceptable than square pixels. Probably because they were a bit random and "artistic".
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TonyVentourisPhotography

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2016, 06:41:36 PM »

The best way to know is to do a test print.  Print something based on that subject matter to the size you want.  That's honestly the best way to decide.  If it works, yo will know, if something doesn't work for you, then hopefully it will guide you towards what needs to be adjusted.

Another way to get to the size you need is to use Alíen Skin blow up.  It's a great software, and you can get away with a 2x enlargement that's virtually no different than the original.  At least in my experience. 
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kers

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2016, 07:15:58 AM »

The best way to know is to do a test print.  Print something based on that subject matter to the size you want.  That's honestly the best way to decide.  If it works, yo will know, if something doesn't work for you, then hopefully it will guide you towards what needs to be adjusted...

I even have the opposite problem sometimes; that the images is to small to work... ( for instance too many details)
I have one here that works at 4meter wide... :) but i printed it 1.2 meter and it is just too small.
indeed a testprint is a good way to check...
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TonyVentourisPhotography

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2016, 12:17:11 PM »

An interesting thought... maybe an image is not about the small fine details.  No, viewing distance cannot be controlled in all scenarios of an image hanging in a gallery...but so what?  Do images need to be tack sharp and reveal more details as you get closer in?  Do I need to see clothing fibers individually and the photographers equipment logos in the reflections in an eyeball?  What if the photo is not about all that and it is the large message displayed in the image when viewed as a whole?  So people will walk up not see anything extra and back up again and hopefully appreciate the image for what it intends to do.  We get so caught up in the fine detail, it's like trying to pay attention to the spacing of letters on a typed page instead of just reading the sentences.  And then being worried about which typewriter has the best letter edges and spacing. 

If showing off an extreme level of detail at insane sizes is required, then extreme cameras are required.  Just as in the past.  Stitched images from a 100mp back will work nicely.  If the image is the most import thing, virtually any camera will do.  It comes down to what balance point are you comfortable with as well.
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hasselblad2017

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2017, 02:44:59 PM »

Thank you guys for posting.
I am trying to find someone who has shot Canon 5ds at 50MP and compared the quality with Hasselblad 50MP back or Phase One 50MP back.
Anyone knows of a review out there?

Thank you
Rafal

ErikKaffehr

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Re: Is a FF DSLR sensor enough for large Gallery Prints?
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2017, 10:45:02 AM »

Hi,

This is a comparison with a 60 MP back: http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=107680.msg886251#msg886251

But this looks only at resolution.

This compares the A7rII to an IQ 160 back: https://www.photigy.com/phaseone-iq160-vs-sony-a7rii/

Best regards
Erik


Thank you guys for posting.
I am trying to find someone who has shot Canon 5ds at 50MP and compared the quality with Hasselblad 50MP back or Phase One 50MP back.
Anyone knows of a review out there?

Thank you
Rafal
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