Choosing Film Format

Choosing Film Format

  • Each type of camera has its virtues and limitations, so choosing one depend on the functions that are to be performed.

  • Many articles have been published in support of the larger film sizes on the premise that they afford better quality. Basically, this is correct. A larger film requires less subsequent enlargement to yield a print of a given size. Therefore, there will be less degradation of image quality due to the enlargement of film grain structure, and minor faults in focusing and camera handling will be less obvious in the final print. However, many of the authors of these articles have used the area method of calculating magnification-which has more to do with the computer-related notion of packing "bits" of information into a given area than with photographic magnification.

  • The area of a frame of 35 mm film (1 x 1 .5 inches) is 1.5 square inches, whereas that of 2.25 x 2.25 inch film is a little more than 5 square inches; that of 4 x 5 inch film is 20 square inches and that of 8 x 10 is 80. Thus, in reference to area magnification, 2.25 x 2.25 inch film yields a frame that is 3.5 times as large as that of 35 mm film, 4 x 5 inch film yields an area that is 13.5 times as large, and so forth.

  • However, in reference to linear magnification, which is what affects the visibility of grain structure and other image artifacts, 2.25 x 2.25 film is only 1.5 times as large as the long dimension of 35 mm film. Even the long dimension of 4 x 5 inch film is only 3.5 times as large, and that of 8 x 10 inch film is 6.5 times as large rather than the 53 times that is calculated using the area method. It can be argued that it is not worthwhile to change to a larger film size solely for reasons of quality unless linear magnification can be at least doubled. Further, the handling ease of a smaller camera may be more important than image quality in many uses.

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