Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2006/05/27

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Subject: [Leica] RE: lens quality in a digital age
From: hoppyman at (G Hopkinson)
Date: Sat May 27 18:09:58 2006

Thanks Robert for a well reasoned and objective contribution.

Regarding film limitations, Erwin Puts is worth a read regarding light
scatter in the emulsion on projection/enlargement.

Of course using a Leica is not just about the most efficient tool, is it?
The company would be long extinct.

Just for my two cents on the original topic, one advantage of film, IMO is
the ease of archiving and non-dependence on this or that codec, proprietary
software or whatever. In short you can't DRM a neg or transparency. All of
my workflow is digital after capture on film, I'm not a Luddite, ... really.
Of course I am just an amateur enthusiast. Everyone's requirements and
priorities will differ, most especially professionals.

New guy


Message: 33
Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 19:18:38 -0400
From: Robert Schneider <>
Subject: Re: [Leica] Lens Quality in the Digital Age
To: Leica Users Group <>
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; delsp=yes; format=flowed

As someone who has been shooting film with my Leicas a lot lately,  
I'll gladly throw some gasoline on this fire. . .

When discussing the presumed superior resolution of silver-gelatin  
prints vis-a-vis digital inkjet, you're ignoring a basic  (and  
important) difference.  Prints from 35mm negatives require two  
optical stages.  Forgetting about the noise (grain) limitations  
inherent in film, prints from 35mm negatives can only be as good as  
the optics used throughout the production chain.  Superlative optics,  
carefully focussed, can draw a high-resolution image on a piece of  
film.  That piece of film then has to have evenly-distributed, often  
diffused, light passed through it and then through a superlative,  
carefully focussed enlarging lens, stopped down to its "sweet spot,"  
to produce the highest resolution final print.

Clearly there are a number places in this sequence where "operator  
error" can rear its head.  Then there are the issues of optical  
quality in both the production and post-production stages.  While  
focussing error can be as big a problem in digital as it is with  
film, only one optical stage (the taking lens) is required to produce  
a print from a digitally-captured image.  Printing from digital  
strikes me as much closer to projecting a transparency than it does  
to enlarging and printing a negative.  If the digital capture is made  
through superlative optics, precisely focused, onto a high-resolution  
imaging chip and printed at a sufficiently high dpi on a high-quality  
inkjet printer, it will definitely have higher-resolution and "more  
detail" than an equivalent enlargement from a 35mm negative.  The  
latest high-megapixel large chip "35mm" digital cameras when used at  
common ISO settings (100 to 3200, let's say) surpass the image  
quality of equivalent 35mm film hands down.

It is fair and legitimate to claim a preference for the look of a  
silver print from a film negative.  Some claim a "clinical"  
perfection to digitally captured images (as with digitally recorded  
music) that they dislike.  But to claim that this particular level of  
connoisseurship, or empirical evidence, your choice, equates with  
quantifiable fact is false.  Carefully produced digital images are  
verifiably superior to any equivalent print from 35mm film.  The  
evidence is overwhelming.

If you're comparing a print from an 8X10 negative to an 8X  
enlargement from a 13 megapixel digital capture, OK, you win. But  
that's comparing apples to Buicks.  You would equally correct in  
making that comparison to an 8X enlargement from 35mm film.

I love working with my Leicas.  But I'd rather be shooting digital  
than film.


Replies: Reply from schneiderpix at (Robert Schneider) ([Leica] RE: lens quality in a digital age)