6X6 obsolete??

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When enlarging to a maximum of 11x14 from 35mm & considering the quality of modern 35mm B&W emulsions is 6X6 obsolete??

-- Melvin Bramley (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), July 29, 2001


On the Leica Forum: Yes. On the Medium Format Forum: No. On this Forum: We'll see.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), July 29, 2001.

Then I must ask: How much quality do we need? from our lenses & film etc'. From normal!! print or slide viewing distances will we see a difference? A good photo should not be judged by how good it looks under a 10x loupe!

-- Melvin Bramley (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), July 30, 2001.

Well, that argument could also be made for why so people still use large format film. For the tonality of the print of course. Although modern 35mm films are excellent, you still cannont get the long tonal scale of medium or large format films when enlarging.

I always get flamed from the 35mm crowd for my opinion, but it's true. The medium and large format have that extra tonal "oomph" that 35mm doesn't have. And yes, I USE ALL FORMAT SIZES. I never regret the 11x14's made from medium or large format. However, I think an 8x10 print from 35mm is barely acceptable.

You always hear ludicrous claims like "I can blow my 35mm to 11x14 or 16x20 inches and it looks as good as medium or large format." Uh-huh, right. You never hear how medium or large format users try to make their prints look like a 35mm print.

But use what makes you happy.


-- floren (flcpge@yahoo.com), July 30, 2001.

If you look at the lens and film specs and test data, it seems possible to produce excellent 11x14 images from 35mm format APX25 or TMX exposed with very good metering skill, with optimum lens setting, by a camera sitting on a tripod, processed very carefully, and printed very carefully. One also needs to pay much attention to preserve sufficient sharpness and good granularity, and all these leave little room for obtaining pleasing tonality and other qualities.

On the other hand, 6x4.5 or a larger format allows me to be a bit more sloppy about technical aspects and still produces excellent result, with some room to play with tonality, etc. In other words, overall, I get more usable results more frequently. It would give me more freedom if I used 4x5 or larger, but my enlarger can't handle LF so I live with MF.

It's just like a very carefully frugal person can live with $10 a day, or with a 35mm format. I need $15 a day, and 6x6 format.

I even feel like selling most of my 35mm equipment.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (rsuzuki@rs.cncdsl.com), July 30, 2001.

It depends how careful you are. It's possible to get quality from 35mm that's not too far from MF, but MF will always be better. Those same advances in film are available across all formats, remember, and MF now gives 5x4 a very close run. Why not hire or borrow an MF camera, and see for yourself the difference you get with your level of technique?

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), July 30, 2001.

I agree with Floren, look, once you have seen a contact print from an 8x10 negative you will agree size does matter! :-)) The funny thing is this, I am a LF photographer, and I have 4x5 negs printed to 16x20 that show no grain, but even those cannot compare to an 8x10 contact print. So if image quality is what you want, being that 6x6 is about 6 times the area of a 35 mm, you will find better quality in a 6x6. Now I have heard the claims of 35 mm users telling me that with tech pan they can produce grainless 16x20 prints, that might be so, I was a 35 mm user when I first started and I could never acheive this feat! but my answer to that is I can make 60x80 grainless prints with my tech pan 4x5 negative...lol.Another curious item I have been recently noticing, if you are a digital shooter, then you are really in hot water, from what I understand it seems digital requires very fine apo lenses and you need flawless technique to approach the quality of print film. Any way I am rambling here, look, use what better suits your style and print size.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm@worldnet.att.net), July 30, 2001.


Invest a couple of hundred bucks in a Seagull 120, 4 element lens, Chinese TLR, load it with T MAx 400, expose a wide-range subject properly, develop it properly in T MAX, then make a 16x16 print. Notice the glowing blacks, the shimmering highlights and the infinite greys in between.

The try finding a same-size print from a 35 mm neg that looks as good- even one from my Leica M6 with a Summicron lens. You will find VERY few if any. And the Seagull is the least impressive 6x6. Try a new Rollei or Bronica, Contax or Hassy or Mamiya RZ and ask again.

Then take another equal step up to 4x5, then look at a well done 8x10 contact print.

I rest my case, but I will not sell my 35s. I ( and others like HCB and Salgado) get truly great shots with a 35 because they are small light and inconspicuous. Both the 2 seat Lotus Elise and the Mercedes S600 have their place on the road, and I wish I could afford either. (Come to think of it, if I had all the $$ I spent of cameras, I could probably have both.).


-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (richardjx@hotmail.com), July 30, 2001.

I think the "long tonal scale" argument is a bit misleading. From Minox to Deardorff (sp?), they all go from black to white. It's how they handle tonal separation in between that's important. I shoot mostly 35mm, but still do the occasional TLR and 4x5. With the fussiest technique, any film you want to name, and any darkroom magic that can be applied, I can't get 35mm to separate delicate tones like large or medium format. Some blame it on microcontrast, but I think there are a host of factors. I just visited the George Eastman House a couple nights ago to see the Ansel Adams exhibit and prints from the Westons and others- 35mm just isn't going to compete with the tonal quality of those 4x5 and 8x10 negs. It isn't just a matter of sharpness and resolution, as (IMHO) many of the older prints weren't any sharper than modern 35mm technology would produce. (of course, many were far better!)

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), July 30, 2001.

There is a great deal more to good photography than the physical perfection of the negative. It is not the size of the film, but the configuration of the camera and the attitude of the photographer which determine whether an approach is valid. With his 8x10 view camera Nicholas Nixon makes incredible pictures typical of 35mm workers. Sebastiao Salgado makes pictures with a 35mm which are displayed in huge sizes, much larger than most VC photographers would even dream of. Ansel Adams and Brett Weston both switched to 6x6 SLRs in their final years, producing pictures which are virtually indistinguishable from their earlier work. To paraphrase Mae West (or Gloria Swanson, or one of those gals), "It ain't the size that matters."

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), July 30, 2001.

I have an original Ansel Adams 8x10 print made from the 6x6 (Hassy I think). It looks pretty good compared to the exhibitions I have seen of his larger prints made with the 8x10 view camera. However, I doubt if Adams printed beyond 8x10 or 11x14 with the 6x6 negatives. And I believe he used Panatomic-x for most of his 6x6 (for the young folks, Panatomic-X was a Kodak film similar to Ilford Pan-F). Since Brett Weston usually made 8x10 or 11x14 contacts from his view camera negs, I doubt that he would print larger than that with his 6x6.

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), July 30, 2001.

The 35mm vs. MF difference in B&W prints of the same size is still there in the smoother midtone gradation of MF. To me, this is more evident in the "microcontrast" of small objects than in big areas. Not sure about color, though. BTW, why are we worried about this anyway? Seems like format size is as much determined by your photographic style and subject as by your expectations of the final print quality.

-- Tim Nelson (timothy.nelson@yale.edu), July 30, 2001.

WOW. I did not expect so much feed back. The question was a little tongue in cheek as I have both 35mm & 6X6 cameras. The answers to the question are however quite interesting. I was surprised & happy to see that no one went the "buy better lenses or camera route". I have however an observation & some additional information that may or may not keep this subject open. Over the last year I have changed the film I use plus the film developer I use. The change is for the better so I continued to experiment by increasing the dilution of the developer with yet further improvements. It have also changed my camera. The new camera is capable of making 1/4 step adjustments to the shutter speed.So I have have to ask myself; Is the improvement to my negatives/prints because of the film/developer combination or is it because of better exposure accuracy? or both? Cartier Bresson (who used 35mm) is quoted as saying. A good photo is made above all by the correct exposure. Ansel Adams (L.F) went to great effort to refine his exposure techniques. Years ago I read an article by Howard Bond (LF) in a magazine & scoffed at his use of using f32 Plus 1/3 to make an exposure. Why plus 1/3 I asked myself! I think I now have the answer, It does make quite a difference. As to how close can we get with 35mm to 4X5? If yet another old darkroom magazine is to be believed then we can be very close. The article used some slow films,Tech Pan,PanF etc at EI,s of 12 or so & the results were very close to using 4x5 Tri X. They did however say that to achieve such results then we must work much as we would using LF such as "presise exposure" & carefull processing.

-- Melvin Bramley (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), July 30, 2001.

You're just trolling us now, aren't you Melvin?
Well, here's some troll bait in return: Anyone who says they can't see any difference between 35mm tech pan (or whatever), and 5x4 needs to trade in their camera equipment for a white stick and a dog.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), July 31, 2001.

Then we must ask ourselves, Where on the tonal scale do we place the white stick? so it still shows detail?? Can 4X5 (5x4 to the Brit)Provide more detail of a white stick than 35mm? Thanks everyone... This thread is know dead....Finished... Where did I put that instamatic!!

-- Melvin Bramley (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), July 31, 2001.

This is an interesting question, and one that has been ongoing since I first entered the field 30 years ago. Here're my two cents:

I apprenticed with a fellow named Pete Turner. Pete is as devoted a 35mm proponent as you will ever find. His assertion for years has been, for commercial work, 35mm was just as good as a Hasselblad because he could shoot Kodachrome vs. Ektachrome in the Hassy (this was before Kodachrome was available in 120 and before Velvia and Provia, etc). (Incidentally, he did keep a Hassy in the safe, but it seldom saw daylight!)

Pete made a reasonable argument--Kodachrome was that much better than Ektachrome. But that was color. The only reason Pete had a Hassy was the very occassional client who wanted him to shoot b&w. On those rare occassions, he would relent and we'd drag out the Hassy. Meanwhile, the assistant staff would be looking at each other saying, "Do you know how to load this thing?"

All things being equal, a larger negative will always beat a smaller one. But IMHO I don't think the jump from 35mm to 2-1/4 is big enough. Yes, it is better, but not enough. I think if you want real control and quality in b&w, go all the way and use a view camera.

Is precise exposure important? In 35mm is it critical in order to maximize quality. Any errors in exposure, processing, handling and printing will be revealed by the degree of enlargement necessary. But with due attention to detail, 35mm can produce remarkably good images.

With that said, 4x5 is astounding better in resolving fine detail and in micro tonality. There is simply no comparison. And this is coming from one who loves the convenience of 35mm.

Do I love using a view camera? Not exactly. At least I don't like getting it to the places I shoot. However, I do it because when I pull a print from a 4x5 negative, I am so often stunned by the image quality.

A few of the reasons 4x5 blows away 35mm and 6x6: 1. Individual sheet EI and development 2. Switch films sheet to sheet 3. Big polaroid (mostly for commerial work, but it can be useful for personal work) 4. Exposure latitude: you can overexpose a 4x5 neg to bring a value up from Zone 2, say, to Zone 3 or even 4. You can do this with smaller formats, too, but you must compensate in processing. With 4x5 you don't *have* to compensate if you don't want to. Let's say you want to hold midtone separation, which would be compressed by compensation development. With 4x5 you can overexpose and burn the middle and high values down without fear of excesssive grain and loss of sharpness. 5. Lastly, the controls of a view camera are an incredibly useful tool. Yes, there are tilt-shift lenses for smaller formats, but they do not have the range of control a view camera offers.

In sum, if you want to go bigger than 35, go much bigger. Don't 1/2 step it.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), August 01, 2001.

Hi there ! donīt mind my mistakes, i speak spanish. listen i mostly shoot landsacapes with my 40 years old leica m3 and agfapan 100, one film i considers extramly accurate. i own a bronica sq too and for me is far inconvinient to take out but sometime i do give it a try and take it out for a hike. once i shot the same landscape with both cameras. leica with agfapan 100 and bronica with delta 400. grain was about the same and tonality was better in the agfa 100 shot . jenuary 2002.

-- ANTONIO CHAGIN (tonino1@cantv.net), January 29, 2002.

I have some apples and oranges. Which do you prefer and why?

Amoeba! Ken

-- Kenneth Bruno (salmon70@hotmail.com), February 13, 2002.

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