Yes to the last question and this is true for any stitched image. The single image will also lack the detail of the stitched image. The difference between just printing large and printing large at high resolution is the viewing distance can be the same as for an 8x10. Flowers are only marginally easier to shoot in a studio, they still move quite a bit over time.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer in so detailed a manner; it has helped me appreciate the value of stitching. I realize many try to take so many photos, and stitch, to try to get a uniform level of clarity across the whole image (or to work on different exposure levels on different parts of the image), I never really thought about the advantage from a sheer "size/quality" standpoint, until reading some of Ray's remarks.
That being said, and with all due respect, there is no way a studio-placed flower moves with anywhere near the frequency, or the drama, as a wildflower. I would say not even remotely close, otherwise what would be the point of studio conditions? Sure, over time (taking 700 photos), a studio flower would doubtless have some subtle movement ... but please ... it would still be not approach anywhere near the movement of a wildflower, outside in the wind, being subjected to those same 4 hours and 700 photos.
The FOV of the flower shot at this magnification (2.5X) is larger than even the P65+ can manage in a single image. It would require fewer frames, but the focus stacking would require the same amount of images for the DOF. Each individual image has a DOF that is a fraction of millimeter.
I absolutely can see the value in stacking and stitching to create a larger file, so that one can print a much larger final overall image, but for average-sized prints I don't see any real qualitiative advantage in your posted 100%-crop image over this 100%-crop of mine:
I am sure that at 44" yours would have an advantage, but I would say mine would remain excellent up to 24" x 36", so I suppose stitching would have value to me only if I forsaw an image being good enough to warrant a 44"+ blowup.
A single image shot at a smaller aperture could not begin to have the same DOF and diffraction would eliminate a lot of the fine detail.
Well, again, my image was taken with a single shot and I feel (even at a 100% crop) that the detail stands up quite well to yours. Perhaps it is not perfecto, or at the level of a P-65, but it is still very clear, and I can't imagine doing much better than that, even after 4 hours and 700+ shots. I have attached a 1/4-size reduction of the full image below, but believe me it is just as clear at 100% as relayed above. That being said, I do wish I had taken the same photo in 4 quadrants, and stitched them together, if for nothing else that I could make an even larger print than I can now.
This was shot with an Olympus e330, using a reversed El-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 at f/5.6 on a custom bellows setup: http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....showtopic=34499. It took around four hours to take all of the images.
My shot was taken with a Canon 50D using a Canon 100mm USM Macro lens, f/18, ISO 100, with a MT-24 MacroRinglight Flash, and it took me less than 5 minutes to get the composition and actuate the shutter. If I feel I have a really nice photographic opportunity, I will probably make a habit of incorporating many different shots of the same subject in preparation for a much larger composite file, specifically for printing purposes, but again it would have to be a really stellar shot that I planned to make a very large print of, in order to make all of that effort worthwhile IMO.
I really do appreciate your time and detail of explanation, so thank you.