This is a Tachihara 4x5 wooden field camera. It's a completely manual camera which uses fixed focal length lenses. Each image is exposed onto a large 4-inch by 5-inch sheet of film, which records an enormous amount of detail. The 4x5 camera also enables a variety of lens movements which contribute to the incredible sharpness of the images.
It takes me about 5 to 10 minutes to set up the camera, compose the scene, focus the image under a dark cloth using a magnifying loupe, calculate the exposure with a light meter, and finally expose the film. The tedious process of taking photos with the large format camera is rewarded by the ability to print the photos at huge sizes with incredible detail.
You can see my gallery of large format photos here.
My main objective of this analysis is to show off the incredible detail offered by 4x5 film, and also to show how the web-sized images displayed throughout this site don't even come close to showing the true resolution of the prints.
The photo used in the following examples was made with a Tachihara 4x5 wooden field camera, with a Schneider APO-Symmar L f5.6 120mm lens, and Fujifilm Provia 100F positive film. The transparency was scanned with a Heidelberg Tango drum scanner in 8-bit color at 300mb file size.
This picture shows the relative image pixel sizes of various digital cameras, compared to a large format 4x5 transparency drum-scanned to 300mb. The 4x5 film obviously captures a much larger amount of data. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.
In addition to the huge size of 4" x 5" film, another reason why large format cameras can produce such sharp photos is because they allow lens movements. By tilting the lens plane and film plane relative to the focal plane, you can achieve optimum optical sharpness from foreground to background, all with the aperature wide open! Then by closing the aperature down to f22 or f32, every ounce of sharpness is squeezed from the lens.
Check out my large format gallery to see all my 4x5 photos.