About The Large Format Camera

camera, resolution, 4x5, drum scan,, photo

Camera Pixel Resolution Comparison

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.

Tachihara large format 4x5 cameraTachihara large format 4x5 camera

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.

pictures within pictures: a 4x5 large format resolution analysis

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.

large format drum scan resolution, photo

I will show detail images from the original 300mb drum scan. The following detail crops are sized visually to the equivalent of viewing a 44" x 55" print (however, prints are 300dpi, whereas web resolution is only 72dpi). They are also the same as viewing the full-size 300dpi image in PhotoShop at 33% size.

Some people have asked why I have not posted 100% detail crops here.  The reason is because in the "real world" nobody will ever see the image zoomed in that close, unless the print was about 120" x 150", which is much larger than I make my prints.  By posting these 33% crops, you are seeing what the detail would look like if you were looking at a 44" x 55" print, which in my opinion is a much more useful and realistic analysis.
. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

large format drum scan detail, photo

The incredible resolution of the 4x5 film captures every little leaf and twig. A large print full of minute detail gives a person more of a sense of being at the scene. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

large format drum scan resolution detail, photo

A large format print can do some justice to the scale of an immense landscape, and begs your eyes to wander around and explore the details throughout the image. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

large format drum scan resolution detail, photo

Pictures within pictures. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

large format drum scan resolution detail, photo

As far as I can tell, the resolution of a sharp 4x5 slide is roughly equivalent to what you can see with your eyes when you're there in person. This photo was taken with a fairly wide lens; a longer zoom lens might capture detail even beyond what you'd be able to notice in real life. 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.