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Author Topic: First experience with medium format film (GA645i): somewhat underwhelmed...?  (Read 2236 times)

gpagnon

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Dear all,

I just bought a Fuji GA 645i for a good price, and I shot a roll of HP5Plus 400. I had the roll developed and scanned by a local lab. When the scans came back (around 3000x4000 pixels: highest possible resolution, they told me, on the Fuji SP3000 --- which also disappointed me, but that's another issue), I was not very impressed.  Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations about the quality of medium format film, but taking the same picture with a Ricoh GR (APC-size sensor) and converting it to black and white gave me much more detail.

Does this match your own experience, or do you think something about development or scanning did not go quite right?  Or is it just the HP5Plus 400 that is not a very detailed emulsion (I shot a  Portra 400 on a Rolleiflex a few months ago, and it looked much better in terms of resolution).

It seems to me that there is really not much to gain with film here, and the costs are huge compared to digital (roll + develop + scan ~ $4-5 per frame!).  Also, do you think that the quality is really much better than what you could have with a 35mm film camera and a good lens (say, a Summicron)?  The latter would of course be a much svelte option, and more fun to use, if one needed to scratch the film itch every now and then...

I am attaching the pictures, along with 100% crops.  If you have any thoughts or feedback on this, I'd appreciate it very much!

thanks in advance


giuseppe
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Chris Barrett

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I actually prefer the film scans... more tone in the sky and better shadow detail.  You're losing some image detail due to the higher speed film and yeah, those seem like low res scans.  With a 4k dpi scan from my drum or V850, you'd get about twice the file size.

I'd suggest you shoot FP4+ or even better, Fuji Acros is you want to see more detail and find a lab that will deliver bigger files.

Cheers,
CB

gpagnon

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Hello,

thank you for the quick reply.  Yes, I do like the overall feel of the film scan (especially the grain), but I was just expecting more detail.. I'll try some other film, as you suggested and also finer scans.

best
giuseppe
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Chris Barrett

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Also, if you really want to push for detail, try Rollei RPX 25.  I did this whole series on it with a Hasselblad 501.

gpagnon

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Wow, that's a whole another level!  Congratulations..
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ErikKaffehr

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Hi,

In my MF days I was shooting T-MAX 100 or Velvia. I scanned on a Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro. What I found that resolution-wise scanned 67 film was pretty close to 24 MP digital but very noisy. I did a lot of processing in Photokit Sharpener on one of those images and made a really excellent 70x100 cm (27"x39") print. I just made another 70x100 cm print from scanned Velvia but that one looked almost identical to one of my 24 MP shots of the same subject printed same size.

I would say that good scanning and proper processing is the key to get great results from film and neither is specially easy.

Best regards
Erik

Dear all,

I just bought a Fuji GA 645i for a good price, and I shot a roll of HP5Plus 400. I had the roll developed and scanned by a local lab. When the scans came back (around 3000x4000 pixels: highest possible resolution, they told me, on the Fuji SP3000 --- which also disappointed me, but that's another issue), I was not very impressed.  Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations about the quality of medium format film, but taking the same picture with a Ricoh GR (APC-size sensor) and converting it to black and white gave me much more detail.

Does this match your own experience, or do you think something about development or scanning did not go quite right?  Or is it just the HP5Plus 400 that is not a very detailed emulsion (I shot a  Portra 400 on a Rolleiflex a few months ago, and it looked much better in terms of resolution).

It seems to me that there is really not much to gain with film here, and the costs are huge compared to digital (roll + develop + scan ~ $4-5 per frame!).  Also, do you think that the quality is really much better than what you could have with a 35mm film camera and a good lens (say, a Summicron)?  The latter would of course be a much svelte option, and more fun to use, if one needed to scratch the film itch every now and then...

I am attaching the pictures, along with 100% crops.  If you have any thoughts or feedback on this, I'd appreciate it very much!

thanks in advance


giuseppe

bcooter

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Hello,

thank you for the quick reply.  Yes, I do like the overall feel of the film scan (especially the grain), but I was just expecting more detail.. I'll try some other film, as you suggested and also finer scans.

best
giuseppe

Like Chris says it's in the scans and the film.   Film is a different animal and has better transitions, but in the film days I always believed it took months to really understand a film.
All films are different, some like slight underexposure, some dead on, it just takes testing.  Scanning is an art and every piece of film should be scanned wet on a drum scanner.
The difference is night and day, vs. a ccd scanner.

Also it's an old camera, everything must be in spec and tested against a different camera, just to be sure.

Once a film was learned it was so easy, compared to what we do with digital.

This was shot many moons ago with an older kodak 64 asa transparency film.   Nothing was done in post other than some clean up.  It was shot with a tobacco lee filter, a little white fill, processed and drummed scanned.

Don't compare detail, because this is probably a 10th generation downsized jpeg for a presentation and all kodak films had a lot of grain even low asa.



The beauty of film was few people looked at grain unless it was way pushed and post production was a snap.


IMO

BC
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Chris Livsey

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You are looking at one parameter I think, detail, no doubt like most of us used to 100% zoom view, on that particular aspect, unless you are fortunate and skilled enough to use an 8x10 yes I'm looking at you CB on Instagram, digital will win. I would never shoot film even slow fine grain to compete with digital detail. As BC says you need to dial in your feel for the medium and you need a decent scan your local lab isn't going to be where the best work is done, no idea where you are but photographers send their film here from all over the world, there may be some hype but you can't knock the results and help: http://www.richardphotolab.com/film in Europe the go to is  https://carmencitafilmlab.com/
And if you thought your local lab was expensive, think again.

Again we don't know how much B/W your local lab runs or what the soup they use is, humble me can get this, which is just a test frame from a spacing check on the back after service, out of 120 Delta 400 80mm f2.8 planar @ f2.8 on a 500c/m hand held, my test branch, home developed and scanned on a Epson V850 flatbed which by rights should be rubbish and probably is compared to a pro drum scan. This is straigt out of the scanner no post work other than a touch of sharpening for web jpeg and crop.
You have a journey ahead before you, don't jump to conclusions about film on the basis of your first roll.

« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 02:45:46 PM by Chris Livsey »
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SZRitter

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If you've never shot film, there are a lot of dark arts involved (some pun intended). Your technique has to be dead on. I have shots off my Yashica (6x6) and Bronica (6x4.5) that hold up detail to 24mp. But, the biggest part of film is not the detail, it's the tones and color. If you want technical mastery, shoot digital or 8x10 or larger. If you want the feel, stick with film.

Also, learn to develop B&W yourself, it'll save you a lot of money and give you tons of control. It is simple, but expect to screw up a few rolls.
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bcooter

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You are looking at one parameter I think, detail, no doubt like most of us used to 100% zoom view, on that particular aspect, unless you are fortunate and skilled enough to use an 8x10 yes I'm looking at you

Again we don't know how much B/W your local lab runs or what the soup they use is, humble me can get this out of 120 Delta 400 80mm f2.8 planar on a 500c/m hand held, my test branch, home developed and scanned on a Epson V850 flatbed which by rights should be rubbish and probably is compared to a pro drum scan.
You have a journey ahead before you, don't jump to conclusions about film on the basis of your first roll.



Back in the film days, when digital was just making it's presence every photographer I knew that had a problem with scans I recommended Nancy Scans.   They're not cheap, but the scans come back clean, rich and beautiful.  Nancy still personally does every tango scan herself and knows her stuff.

http://www.nancyscans.com/2d-3d-scanning

Also it takes time to learn a film.  We have a lingerie client that at the time was obsessed with detail and we tested a dozen films.   (color).    It was funny, that Fuji Provia had the most grainless detail by a long way, but in the end the client liked the look of Kodak epr 64 which had a lot of grain compared to provia, so that's what we shot, so in other words, the look won out on detail.

Film can be magical and makes a great look, but compared to the new batch of glass smooth high rez digital backs, doesn't look that good at a pixel level, but when you view it in a print, it's worth the effort.

8x10 is just tremendous, but other than CB that shoots his fine art work with film and http://www.gregorycrewdsonmovie.com/image-gallery.html  that made his bones on 8x10 fine art film, most people just stick with digital.   

We're in talks about shooting a 5 week movie, 4 weeks of pre pro and I keep saying let's shoot on film and everyone gasps, but in movies film if shot right can be much prettier and easier than digital.

I sourced out a very good colorist that grades and conforms high cost movies and commercials.   I asked him what cameras he would recommend and he said 1. Film,  2.  Arri digital  3.  RED digital and there was no number 4.    He said it takes him 1/4 the time to grade film over digital because by the time it goes through telecine, 75% of the color is where it's suppose to be.  With digital we make it up as we go along, regardless of the luts we devise with digital.   

So in my view film is worth it if you have the time and inclination.  Also still film cameras are cheap. 

IMO

BC

   
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razrblck

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Agree with everything said before. I have shot HP5 plenty of times, both 35mm and 120. It has a lot of grain no matter what you do, so you won't have fine details with it. For that you'll need FP4, if you want to go the Ilford route, or spend some more money and get the Fuji Acros.

Don't go into film thinking you can replace digital, nor the other way around. They are different beasts in how both handle color, tones, rolloffs and so on. Digital will give you sharper results without anything special, so if that is all you need don't bother with film. If you like shooting film, instead, you'll have to find the right one and have good technique to maximize the details. Then you'll need a really good lab or do it yourself, which is relatively easy with b&w. Scanning is an art as well.
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JoeKitchen

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I have a bunch of B&W silver prints on my wall toned with Gold and Selenium that were all shot with TriX 320.  The grain is apparent, but the prints are just so nice. 

I have yet to see a inkjet print compete with a well made silver print, especially one that is toned.  And I think scanning B&W negatives is the wrong way to go.  They are meant to printed on silver rich paper. 

B&W is tough, not because the developing is difficult, but because no one does it really anymore.  Color is all processed in a machine just because you have to be extremely precise with the temperatures to get the color right.  The slight amount the temp could change while processing the film could mess up the color, so using a machine is worth it.  No one does it by hand, but with B&W there is an art to the development.  Using the basic machine processing, especially when there are so many more ways to process B&W film, does not make sense.

Not to mention how you develop the film changes depending on how you shoot and what you want to use it for. 

I shot TriX for years and I would shoot it many different ways.  Sometime I would shoot it at 160 ISO and pull the development in microdol 1:3 by 10%.  Other times I would push it to 3200 ISO and push it by 40% in HC110 full strength. 

When doing contact prints with platinum, I would expose it at 80 ISO and pull it 20% in HC110 1:1. 

I've also shot FP4 and HP5, but never liked them as much as TriX. 

Just like BC alluded to, you need to shoot the film a lot to really learn it.  I had a professor who would always say, until you can stack a foot worth of film you've shot, you still haven't learned it. 

Insofar as detail, I really think we pay way too much attention to that nowadays.  I once shot an interiors job by accident on my P45+ at ISO 200, back when we were working on C1 v6.  Boy, at 100%, they did not look good; I was ready to offer a reshoot.  The client loved the images and never said anything. 

Every now and then I look at my Velvia 50 4x5 slides under a 15x loupe so not to go crazy over details. 
« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 03:22:03 PM by JoeKitchen »
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ced

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For me the film could be processed better than that with fine grain and the scan is really bad, it is true that wet mounting the film for scanning is like night & day with the end result.
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pixjohn

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I use to shoot  with this same camera and tmax-100,  I can say it created amazing results.

Hi iso + poor scan = bad image.
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kers

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What about Kodak Technical Pan ( 25 asa)

it used to be the finest grain, sharpest BW film with even more red sensitivity...

Maybe it is surpassed by Fuji Acros?

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eronald

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What about Kodak Technical Pan ( 25 asa)

it used to be the finest grain, sharpest BW film with even more red sensitivity...

Maybe it is surpassed by Fuji Acros?

I don't think sharpness is the point here, "feel" and tonality is the point. You need to find the right film, and if it is BW there will be a gain if you develop it yourself and experiment with developers and dilutions. You might also run off a contact print or two, they may be small but they need no equipment to make and are magical to hold.

Edmund
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razrblck

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Ok so for comparison, this is HP5 in 35mm format. No pushing, shot and developed at 400 and scanned on Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED.

The grain is clearly visible. This film is fast, but I would use it more for candid shots of people or street.
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gpagnon

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Thank you very much for the comment and advice, maybe I should just try to send a frame to a lab that does drum scanning to get a feel for the difference. Obviously, not feasible cost-wise for every shot, and only useful in the case I'd want to do a large print I guess. 

By the way, that portrait is stunning: I absolutely love the tones and the texture, that almost-tactile feeling...

cheers
giuseppe


Like Chris says it's in the scans and the film.   Film is a different animal and has better transitions, but in the film days I always believed it took months to really understand a film.
All films are different, some like slight underexposure, some dead on, it just takes testing.  Scanning is an art and every piece of film should be scanned wet on a drum scanner.
The difference is night and day, vs. a ccd scanner.

Also it's an old camera, everything must be in spec and tested against a different camera, just to be sure.

Once a film was learned it was so easy, compared to what we do with digital.

This was shot many moons ago with an older kodak 64 asa transparency film.   Nothing was done in post other than some clean up.  It was shot with a tobacco lee filter, a little white fill, processed and drummed scanned.

Don't compare detail, because this is probably a 10th generation downsized jpeg for a presentation and all kodak films had a lot of grain even low asa.



The beauty of film was few people looked at grain unless it was way pushed and post production was a snap.


IMO

BC
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gpagnon

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Well, let me just thank you all for your generosity in taking the time to reply, you have provided me with a wealth of really helpful knowledge and information!

I do love the overall feel of film over digital, and I am not really bothered too much by it having less detail than digital: the tonal transitions and the "tactile" quality of the grain for the lack of a better word (something like running the palm of your hand over nice wood vs smooth plastic), more than make up for it in my opinion.  I *was* expecting better detail from that format, though, so I wanted to check with experienced photographers whether that was normal or could be due to developing/scanning/film choice --- and you answered plenty to that. 

Right now I don't really have the time to develop and scan myself and, despite the picture I posted was in B&W (the roll was already in the camera when I bought it), I am actually more attracted to color film.  It's a pity that good lab processing is now so difficult to find and so expensive, with people often having to resort to send their rolls to labs in different countries  (BTW, thanks to Chris Livsey for the pointer to the Carmencita Lab: on an Instagram conversation, somebody told me that for him it was "Carmencita forever", and I didn't really understand what he was talking about! :D )  Hopefully, we'll see a reversal of the trend, with film getting at least a bit of the old share back.

very best
giuseppe
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razrblck

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I feel you, in Italy there is very little left and often the labs you can find do film with very minimal care about the end result. Unless you spend a fortune and wait one to two weeks to get the results back, you are pretty much stranded.

The lab I used to go for color has messed up more rolls than I can count, all 120 too and some really good pictures. I stopped going there but now have no place close by that can do it. I have about 7 rolls between 120 and 35mm, all undeveloped, because I just want to do it myself in the near future.

If you can find someone good let me know!
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