There is something about using a 4x5 camera and shooting real film that I haven't been able to let go of in this digital world. I've always assumed 4x5 film would be better than any digital that I could afford, just as I assumed traditional silver printing would always be better than inkjet printing. After years of making carbon inkjet prints alongside silver gelatin prints, I found there are times where the digital carbon inkjet print was clearly better than the silver gelatin print I made. So what about my film vs. digital question?
Today I ran an informal test with 4x5 Atomic X film vs. the Sony a7RII.
- Sony a7Rii with 16-35mm Zeiss Vario-Tessar, set at 35mm f/22, 1/8 second, 100 ISO (the Sony lens is a bit wider than the 4x5.)
- 4x5 - Schneider Symar-S 150mm, f/22, 1/8 second, Atomic-X film shot at 100 ISO, 7.5 min in Rodinal 1:25. Scanned at 160 dpi on Epson 2450.
- (The film was unintentionally slightly under exposed since the film's actual rating doesn't seem to be 100 ISO like the company claims.)
- The scan and Sony file were converted to B&W in Silver Efex with minor adjustments.
In my test, the Sony a7RII won. When viewing the files side-by-side, the image from the Sony was noticeably sharper. I can't really comment on the dynamic range since the film ended up slightly underexposed, but in general I've read the Sony has a dynamic range of about 14 stops, which a B&W film is usually around 7 stops. If I wasn't comparing the images side-by-side I'd probably think the 4x5 scan was pretty sharp, but side-by-side I could see the difference.
I still love 4x5 and have a ton of film to use up, but for the bulk of my work I plan to use the a7RII. It is a great camera and produces stunning image quality.