I found a few days ago this interesting comparison by Roger Clark between traditional enlarging and digital printing. I did not want to prolong an infinite discussion but I think this adds to the matterhttp://www.users.qwest.net/%7Ernclark/digital_advantage.htm
The author of the comparison rightly states that the digital print is, when viewed at distance, superior to the optical enlargement. I think we can all agree with that, I did distance myself a couple of steps from the monitor and I do agree.
Still I would like to say that, when seen from near, digital is blotchy and traditional is continuous, does not fall apart, as is in the nature of the analogic world, "natura non facit saltus".
Now the obvious question arises: Who cares what the effect from near is? The important is what is the effect from a distance which is appropriate to the dimensions of the picture!
I do agree.
I still remember though a photographic exhibition here in Rome - Palazzo delle Esposizioni, pictures from Afghanistan, they were printed so huge one had to stay near the middle of the room to enjoy them. No point in getting nearer, really. Images had their lower end at 1 m high and where probably 2 m high or more (that was in 2002 or 2001 and I can't remember well)..
No point in getting near, but obeying to human nature not just I but every person in the room (also) went near the pictures to put their nose in the texture of the print. That's just inevitable. We human beings want to explore details, we want to put our nose in it, we want to see what the picture is made of. It is like opening the toy to see what's inside, there's no escape.
Well, I shall say, if you don't put an obstacle between the pictures and the observer (if the observer of the large billboard print is free to get near, as he will certainly do) the traditional print looks better to me, because you see tones and not blotches. You would not make a sense of the "tones" as of the blotches, but "tones" are better.
I suppose you can create the same effect in digital (continuous tones lacking detail and contrast due to the extreme enlargement) but it could just be a waste of energy.
I think the provocative statement which has originated the discussion might be translated as: conventional printing looks better, if the print is really big and the observer can (and therefore will) get near the picture until he sees the "structure", the atomic components of it.