enlargement from prime vs. telephoto

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by drs, Oct 4, 2004.

  1. drs

    drs Guest

    This is highly subjective but suppose I want to enlarge a portion of a
    photo taken with a premium-quality 50mm lens to equal that of an image
    area taken with a premium-quality 80mm lens. Approximately 50 percent
    enlargement. Is the image with the 50 just 5/8s as clean as the same
    image taken with the 80? What I'm getting at is this: how much do I
    lose in final print quality by enlarging from a 50 as opposed to using
    an 80? I'm sure brands make a difference and not all premium lenses at
    given focal lengths are equal to other. But is there a rough rule of
    thumb beyond the obvious fraction?
    drs, Oct 4, 2004
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  2. Your calculation is close enough. The differences in film and lenses
    also play in the real world results as does even the subject and lighting.
    Joseph Meehan, Oct 4, 2004
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  3. You'll lose more than 50% quality:
    At the film/sensor level, grain/pixels will be 50% bigger, resolution
    50% less, partially SUMMED to a 50% reduction in lens resolution...

    There are a lot of truly great short teles out there (even used): It
    would be a pity to lose what they can offer!

    Chris Loffredo, Oct 4, 2004
  4. drs

    Roger Guest

    Many years ago, I went the enlargement route. IMO the loss is
    significant for routine use. The technique is used frequently when
    lens choice or composition restrictions/errors require "cropping". But
    the result is usually a great loss in fine detail. It's the "area" of
    the grain and it's edges that impacts the final quality. When the
    grain size begins to effect the (roughness or smoothness of) shape
    boundaries or size of details (e.g. eyelash width) the details get

    There is also the loss of time and increase in effort that goes with
    the process (or increase in cost and/or waste of materials).

    Any chance you are talking about documenting an office practice some
    near Gary/Clear Lake.

    Roger, Oct 4, 2004
  5. drs

    Alan Browne Guest

    If your image contained detail at the maximum resolution of lens and film (and
    enlarger for that matter), then yes your fraction above is a reasonable quality
    indicator. If the original contains less detail than that maximum, then there
    should be less loss of sharpness perceived. Of course in nearly any image there
    is some detail at the maximum res of the taking lens and film.

    The middle section of the 80mm shot will be the sharpest. If your enlargement
    takes from the edges/corners then those areas will be a bit softer.

    Alan Browne, Oct 4, 2004
  6. Maybe, but remember he will, I hope, be using the center area of the
    image. The center area of the image is usually the sharpest, least distored
    part of the image a lens can make. So in practice, that does reduce the
    actural real life loss.

    There are so many possible issues, I suggset the user, just give it a
    try and see if he likes it. All the formulas and theories are nothing
    compaired to the real thing. :)
    Joseph Meehan, Oct 4, 2004
  7. drs

    Alan Browne Guest

    ooops ...meant 50mm obviously.

    Alan Browne, Oct 4, 2004
  8. I think there are other variables. While they all can be eliminated, on a
    practical level I think nobody actually would. For a few examples, I think
    most people would handhold the camera with both a 50 and an 80. (I had an
    old Nikon rangefinder with an 8.5cm lens on it -- I never used a tripod.) I
    also think most people would use full automatic exposure, and that the
    camera would use different settings for the two lenses. If I were using the
    two lenses on my FM2 and were unaware I were making a test shot, there's no
    guarantee I'd use the same aperture and shutter speed. Given the different
    lenses, I suspect I'd take too many things into account -- blurring the
    background, using a faster shutter on the 80 to take into account the
    longer lens -- to be able to judge whether the differences were the lens
    or me.

    I've read the answer to this, but I can't remember it: If I enlarge a
    segment of an image taken with a 50mm lens to match the unenlarged image
    from an 80mm, is the depth of field affected? I get confused about
    perspective and whatever else changes. If DOF isn't changed, I think
    determining whether the image quality is the same becomes more judgmental.
    Phil Stripling, Oct 4, 2004
  9. drs

    Jeremy Guest

    All things being equal, how can an enlargement be as good as a
    "premium-quality 80mm lens?"

    The enlargement will be 80% more than it would have been otherwise. Grain
    and tonality have to suffer.
    Jeremy, Oct 4, 2004
  10. drs

    drs Guest

    Thanks to all for your comments. I suffer from a very common problem:
    not being able to afford the gear I really want. And I'm trying to
    figure out where to get the best bang for the buck. I've been a
    life-long birder and have taken many trips to the Central and South
    American tropics to see them. I've never attempted to photograph them
    because the gear required for the kind of images I'd want is too heavy
    to lug around. And expensive. But now I'm planning a birding trip to
    Africa for next year and since I doubt I'll ever get there again, I'm
    rethinking my choice of a camera to carry. I know I don't want to buy
    or lug a 600mm lens and I'm not sure I even want to carry a camera
    that weighs 3 lbs. So I've ruled out the long premium lenses, leaving
    me with choices about normal or short telephotos. I'm not going to try
    bird photos per se. Just want excellent images with some ability to
    enlarge certain photos with good resolution. I'm used to the
    resolution from my MF camera, so I already figure I'm going to
    compromise on print detail. I'm considering buying a new/used Canon
    10D or Nikon D70 but I'm not sure about the lens. A premium prime lens
    has its appeal since I wouldn't be bothered changing lenses, and
    that's a very important feature for my style of thrashing through the
    puckerbrush. I don't want to lug a lot of gear and I don't want to be
    changing lenses. Then there's the 28-70 zoom. Canon's and Nikon's are
    both quite good apparently, but they're also expensive and fairly
    heavy. Are they better (for my purposes) than their 80mm primes? All
    subjective, I know. Bottom line is that the best gear in the world
    isn't worth much if I can't afford it or if it's so awkward that I
    wouldn't tote it with me. Again, thanks for all your comments. And I
    know this can't be answered by anyone but me.
    drs, Oct 4, 2004
  11. drs

    Jeremy Guest

    Thanks to all for your comments. I suffer from a very common problem:

    Good used equipment can fill the vacuum for you. You might consider medium
    format, specifically a Yashica or Minolta Autocord Twin Lens Reflex. Built
    very similar to the Rolleiflex, and can be had on eBay for under $100.00.
    Not much to break, no reflex lens to worry about, big negatives. Some
    people think that the permanently-mounted normal lens is a limiting factor,
    but there are other benefits that might completely offset that trade-off.
    See the following Rolleiflex link, for a good overview of the TLR's pros and


    If you are seeking maximum image quality for the least cost, this is
    probably the best solution. If you can go a bit higher, the Rolleicord or
    its more expensive sibling, the Rolleiflex, have a reputation for excellent
    optics, primarily Carl Zeiss and Josef Schneider, and can give excellent
    results. (I would start off with either the Autocord or a Yashica Model D,
    as they are dirt-cheap and you can get a feel for whether you like MF
    without risking any real money).

    If you want to stay with 35mm, you really should check out two orphaned
    camera systems, the Pentax screw mount and the Canon breech mount systems.
    Excellent optics, inexpensive prices, good reliability.

    I am partial to the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lenses that were marketed by
    Pentax in the early 70s. For an introduction to their optical qualities,
    have a look at the following link:

    Jeremy, Oct 4, 2004
  12. I think you've got some good ideas, and the last comment I'm quoting is
    apt. You mention medium format, so let me suggest dropping by the MF
    newsgroup and asking there about telephoto. If you're going to be enlarging
    images, enlarge from a 6x6 (or whatever your MF format is) instead of the
    relatively puny 35mm frame. Used gear, converters -- you may not be able to
    get what you want, but you may end up with what you need. (Rolling Stones,
    Phil Stripling, Oct 4, 2004
  13. Cheap but good suggestions for long teles (all used), most available in
    mM42 (Pentax screw mount):

    Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 (old version)
    Meyer Telemegor 400mm f/5.5
    Meyer Telemegor 300mm f/4.5
    Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f/2.8
    Zeiss Jena Sonnar 300mm f/4.0 (P6 mount, but adaptors exist for many
    other mounts)

    All these will give excellent results and are available cheaply. If you
    lack a M42 body, a Pentax Spotmatic can be picked up cheaply and is a
    great camera.

    Of course some here will tell you that it is impossible to take pictures
    without autofocus, auto-exposure and many frames-per-second built in
    motor (one wonders how photography even existed before about 1985).

    Find our own way...
    Chris Loffredo, Oct 4, 2004
  14. Or you could move three steps closer with the 50.

    street shooter, Oct 4, 2004
  15. Neither always possible nor desirable in Africa.
    Phil Stripling, Oct 5, 2004
  16. drs

    drs Guest

    You're right. In Africa, taking 3 steps forward might violate my
    puckerbrush rule of always trying to keep someone else closer to nasty
    critters than I am. Back to photography, I take a look at photos from
    my medium format and then look at the prices of digital slrs that have
    some chance of producing very clean prints, and I'm thinking I simply
    can't afford the gear I want. This might sound like heresy to this
    newsgroup but I'm beginning to think I might be just as well off
    buying something like the new Nikon Coolpix 8800 (ED glass, image
    stabilization, 10X optical zoom and 8mp). The price of that wouldn't
    get me even close to the dslr camera and lens I'd like. And the heft
    of the camera would be suchthat I'd actually tote it along. And I'd be
    unlikely to misplace the lens, not that I've ever done anything like
    drs, Oct 5, 2004
  17. One of my favorite lawyer jokes: A lawyer takes a client on a photo safari
    to Africa, and they're charged by a lion. As the lawyer drops his pack and
    starts to run, the client says, "Do you actually think you can outrun a
    lion?" Answer: "I don't have to outrun it; I only have to outrun you."
    My wife used a Sony Mavica for years and years. The kind that writes to
    floppies. She'd print her photos on 8x10 paper and if people didn't know it
    was from the Sony, they'd assume is was a regular photographic print.
    Nobody ever saw anything on the print that clued them in it was from a
    digital camera. If the Coolpix suits your various needs, then go for it. As
    you correctly point out, not all needs are photographic. Louise has a
    little shirt-pocket sized digital camera that she uses more than her
    digital Rebel because she actually carries the little one and it's all
    automatic -- just point and shoot (to coin a phrase).

    I would suggest a back up camera of some kind. I know you've budgeted your
    trip, but my budgeting process differs from others. The trip is the most
    expensive part, not the camera, not the film. If the photos are important,
    saving money on an inexpensive camera that fails and leaves you cameraless
    is what I'd call false economy. YMMV, of course.
    Phil Stripling, Oct 5, 2004
  18. From what you say, consider the Canon 28-135 IS USM - assuming you
    settle on the 10D of course. I use one with my 10D (and my 1n); it is an
    ideal single lens - for me - for use with the 1n. With the 10D it lacks
    at the wide end, but if birds are you thing you should find the
    normal-to-tele quite useful. The IS will also help you a lot in dim
    light as well, though not of course if the bird moves. Still think you
    would be restricting yourself a lot without a 20-35 for landscapes

    For a once-in-a-lifetime trip and a serious passion, I would though look
    to beg, borrow or otherwise acquire a longer lens. I know you said you
    ruled it out, but... A 70-200L IS + 2x TC would be good, or a 100-400L
    IS (much cheaper but lacking the wide aperture of the 70-200 used
    alone). Buy a good second hand one and resell it on eBay when you get
    back if you must....

    David Littlewood, Oct 5, 2004
  19. drs

    drs Guest

    Funny you should mention an inexpensive camera. For almost every trip
    I've made into tropical rainforests I've carried an Olympus Stylus,
    the cheap one without the zoom lens. I've taken about 30 rolls of film
    on each trip. Never had to replace the battery. Camera worked all the
    time. And I got adequate snapshots. Good enough to make into 4X6
    prints that I gave to the others on the trip. Good enough to trigger
    all the necessary memories. I once got within about 3 feet from a very
    small flycatcher and took a couple shots of it. Photos showed
    something but no one would know what bird it was. But that wasn't the
    point. The point was that I carried the camera all the time. It fit in
    my shirt pocket and was smaller than a cell phone. Don't think even
    the P/S cameras that I'll be considering will be that small but they
    might be small enough take. It's tricky carrying binoculars and a
    camera because the binos have to be ready at a moment's notice. For
    me, the camera will only be used after I've seen the critters with
    binos. An interesting thing occurs with many people who take high-end
    photo gear on wildlife expeditions, at least from my observations.
    They often miss the bird entirely because they prioritize a photo
    instead of an observation. But their photos are often wonderful. Can't
    have everything, I guess. Thanks for your comments.
    drs, Oct 5, 2004
  20. drs

    Bandicoot Guest

    If you remain at the same distance from your subject, in this case the DoF
    _on the print_ will be the same. DoF relates to aperture and degree of
    enlargement, so with the same aperture and distance but two different lenses
    the DoF is less on the longer lens, but blow up part of the shot taken with
    the shorter lens to get the same end image size and you also blow up the
    circles of confusion: end result, same DoF _on the print_.

    Any effect of camera shake due to handholding will be magnified in exactly
    the same way too: in effect the impact of shake relates to the degree of
    image enlargement too.

    Bandicoot, Oct 8, 2004
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