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Realistic Maximum Enlargment from 35mm

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Iloca, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member


    what size do you consider to be a realistic maximum enlargement from a 35mm negative. I know it's a bit of a grey area but rather than a theroretical answer I'm thinking more of your personal experience.

    Thanks, Richard
  2. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    In a conventional darkroom, I find 17x (the largest I could do until recently) from a good fine-grained film like Velvia still gives beautifully smooth tone and excellent detail. That amounts to 24"x16", if you were to print the full frame. (20"x16" is the biggest paper size I can cope with, so it's a cropped format for me.) I have used the same enlargement factor on films as coarse as HP5, pushed to ISO800, as well, but in such a case obviously you have to be willing to accept very obvious grain.

    And there's the rub - it's ultimately down to what the individual finds acceptable or not. HP5 is my favourite B&W film, and I accept graininess in 35mm shots. When I want grain-free negs I generally go up in format. But if I have a great picture on a coarse-grained 35mm film, I certainly don't feel the need to limit my print size just to avoid visible grain.

    I recently acquired a 28mm Schneider Componon, which I reckon will allow me to double that enlargement factor for when I want to crop heavily and still have big prints. I'll be interested to see how things look at 34x, but I haven't tried it yet.
  3. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Well-Known Member

    I would agree with this: sometimes grain is part of the desired feel of a picture, so you cannot always just say that the finer grained the film, the bigger you can print it. I'd also agree that the quality of the enlarger (and camera) lens makes quite a difference and it is worth noting that the likely distance from which the picture will be looked at is also important.
  4. jkphoto

    jkphoto Well-Known Member

    Grain apart. I have done bigger enlargements, but up to 12x16 is about what I feel can be considered a general maximum. After that, the edges begin to really visibly blur and the image breaks down quicker than you get with grain.

    OK purists will say they can go bigger, and I have seem magnificent 20x16's but they are in the minority.
    Apart from that 12x16 is the largest I can go at the moment, my developing dishes don't get any bigger!
  5. pilliwinks

    pilliwinks Well-Known Member

    I'm the odd one out here. My maximum size would be 10x8.

    But, I don't like like grain.
  6. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    And Roger Hicks's maximum would be 6"x4". But that's just the point - there is no objective criterion for determining a universal 'realistic maximum' - it's entirely a matter of personal preference.
  7. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Oddly no one seems to have considered slides... These are often projected to sizes several feet across and yet you rarely get comments about grain even with 400ASA film. Of course the important factor is that the picture is being viewed from an appropriate distance. Doubtless viewed at nose-to-projector screen distance these would be awful in terms of grain but viewed properly they are fine in which case I would have thought the same applies to a print regardless of the degree of enlargement.

    I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that the ideal viewing distance for any image is one whereby the print/screen image appears the siame size as a 6x4 en-print viewed at half arms length. Something of a vague definition I'll agree but it seemed to be a reasonable guideline.
  8. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    Hi, my Nikonite/Canonite Friends ;)

    thanks for the replies, I was thinking in terms of full frame enlargement but 16x12 should be acceptable given a good negative in any case. That would be about A3 wouldn't it?

    Cheers, Richard
  9. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    More or less....... :)

    'S funny..........could've sworn I nailed the Olympus room door shut on me way out........... :D
  10. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    :D :D

    Hope I can get back in :eek:

  11. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Well I think there are a couple of point to make there - firstly the nature of slide projection is such that it can't actually be viewed all that close - you get in the way of the projection! :) Also projection screens have dimpled surfaces intended to increase the light scattering so they can be seen reasonably well from all directions. However these surfaces would play havoc with really fine detail resolution. And finally, projection lenses tend not to be all that sohisticated, because they don't need to be (for the above reasons), and are always used at 'full aperture'. It's just not really a high definition viewing medium. (In addition, the nature of transparency film is such that its 'grain' is naturally less visible than the grain of B&W negative films, for instance.)

    OTOH, a print doesn't have these limitations, and because it can generally be viewed close, people often like to look closer. The attention may be grabbed by some detail in the picture, for example, and then if the print is large enough the viewer may well wish to take a closer look.

    Someone on another forum made an analogy to building design (he was an architect by profession) - he said 'I like my buildings to look good on the skyline, look good from across the street, and look good when you're walking through the entrance hall'. I (like him) tend to have the same approach to my prints - I want them to look good from a distance, look good from arm's length, and look good close up. Though as indicated above, my personal definition of 'look good' doesn't necessarily exclude visible grain.
  12. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Well, 16"x12" is certainly my most commonly used 'big' enlargement size for 35mm B&W negatives. I love HP5 enlarged to that size, but certainly you have to be willing to accept the grain.

    But as I keep saying, what is acceptable to one person is wholly unacceptable to another. Roger Hicks's stated preference is for nothing more than 3-4x enlargement, which gives you about a 6"x4" enprint from 35mm. But then his criterion of acceptabilty is the contact print look, and he reckons that 3-4x is the most you can get away with before you lose that. Some people think any enlargement at all is noticeable, and prefer to print only by contact - needless to say, they generally shoot much larger formats than 35mm! :) That's one extreme. I'm personally much closer to the other extreme. You have to find out where you are. :)
  13. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Precisely. I love the look of HP5 or even SFX and sometimes Delta 3200 grain at a decent size, but it's not suitable for everything - sometimes the only 35mm film that will get the look is Pan F - it's then often easier to shoot on a larger format. Personally, I'm happy with 645 or 6x6 for virtually anything, but my natural bias is in favour of lots of grain.
  14. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    I like that, Cheers. :cool:

  15. AJUK

    AJUK Well-Known Member

    Detail maxout?

    I suppose it does differ from person to person, An objectional way of stating the maximum enlagement is the size in which if you went any bigger no more detail could be picked up by the human eye that couldn't been seen in the smaller enlagement without a loop?
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Re: Detail maxout?

    I think you meant objective - I don't find it objectional in the least, although I'm not sure I agree with it.

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