What sensor size and resolution to equal 4x5"?

My question comes from seeing the work of Edward Burtynsnky and Mitch Epstein, to name just two great photographers that use large-format 4x5" film to get incredible detail in their photos, which is an essential characteristic in their work.

Today's sensors have come a long way in resolution and dynamic range, so I'm wondering: is a state-of-the-art 24x36mm sensor able to capture the same amount of detail as a 4x5" negative or slide (whichever does better)? I'm not talking about color rendition, tonal scale etc., purely about resolution and noise/grain. And if a 24x36mm sensor doesn't cut it, what sensor size would be comparable to 4x5" film?
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Apr 2, 2018
Finland
A tough one to be sure. :)

There's constant debate about state-of-the-art 35 mm sensors pitted against MF sensors and often the 35mm sensor comes ahead for whatever reason.

If there's a match in 35mm out there, alongside with the best of the best glass, I'd look into the L mount cameras, namely Panasonic S1R and Leica SL2. In their respective fan forums these cameras with native lenses best the mirrorless Hasselblad quite easily...

If they prove to be insufficient then I think Fuji GFX100 is our only hope...

4x5" is just so big. It's humongous. Love the idea that a 90 mm is an ultrawide and a 200mm is a normal lens.
 
A tough one to be sure. :)

There's constant debate about state-of-the-art 35 mm sensors pitted against MF sensors and often the 35mm sensor comes ahead for whatever reason.

If there's a match in 35mm out there, alongside with the best of the best glass, I'd look into the L mount cameras, namely Panasonic S1R and Leica SL2.

If they prove to be insufficient then I think Fuji GFX100 is our only hope...

4x5" is just so big. It's humongous. Love the idea that a 90 mm is an ultrawide and a 200mm is a normal lens.
I know from experience that a Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85 is capable of creating beautifully detailed files on the Sony A7R4, lenses like the Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 50mm or 65mm will probably do the same. Question still is: how does that compare to 4x5" film? I'd love to see a straight comparison between the two media.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Apr 2, 2018
Finland
The only youtubing large-format shooter I know, Ben Horne, actually gave it a try.

Divide by 4 to get your tiny 4x5" estimates ;)


Since 709 / 4 is about 177 megapixels, which is close to how large the latest high-rez small format cameras do a 187-megapixel sensor shift composite, who knows, maybe there's a decent platform to really put things to test.

At the same time, there's no beating laws of physics. A film plane that's 20+x the size of a 35mm sensor is bound to benefit from the optical designs the larger image circle allows.
 
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akuiper

Regular
Dec 6, 2019
How about the Leica monochrome camera's? Having no Bayer filter improves the resolution; and the new one has such a very high pixel count that should come a little bit in the 20x direction.
I remember having seen large-frame (e.g. 3.5x5 to 4x6 cm) camera's, that really should fix the gap, if available for monochrome.
A large color sensor like the Fuji should be divided in two or three compared to a monochrome solution.
 
How about the Leica monochrome camera's? Having no Bayer filter improves the resolution; and the new one has such a very high pixel count that should come a little bit in the 20x direction.
I remember having seen large-frame (e.g. 3.5x5 to 4x6 cm) camera's, that really should fix the gap, if available for monochrome.
A large color sensor like the Fuji should be divided in two or three compared to a monochrome solution.
I'm mainly interested in just how great the difference is between 4x5" film and a state-of-the-art FF sensor. Depending on the film stock, film seems to have lower resolution than a sensor with the same surface, but just how much larger should the film surface be to be comparable to a FF sensor? I haven't been able to find a direct comparison so far. Of course monochrome offers an advantage over color with a Bayer filter, but not over a Foveon sensor.
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
bart
How about the Leica monochrome camera's? Having no Bayer filter improves the resolution; and the new one has such a very high pixel count that should come a little bit in the 20x direction.
I remember having seen large-frame (e.g. 3.5x5 to 4x6 cm) camera's, that really should fix the gap, if available for monochrome.
A large color sensor like the Fuji should be divided in two or three compared to a monochrome solution.
The color filter array doesnt reduce the acuity by 50 percent or anywhere near that. It affects noise performance (by filtering out most of the color spectrum and therefore photons) and color accuracy (by requiring interpolation), but the luminosity in most scenes is enough to allow for very decent resolution. The Leica M Monochrom had optimal raw resolution somewhere inbetween the 24mp Bayer filtered regular M240, and the 36mp Sony a7R, so let's say 30mp worth (25% increase):

As for Ad's question: Good low ASA / ISO color film at 35mm has about the same resolution as a 6 - 10mp digital color image (Velvia could top this in circumstances with astrophotography-like contrast ratios and reach 20ish megapixels, but let's not go there for now).

Extrapolating 35mm film's 36mm on the long side to 125mm (5") for the film you mentioned, that's 3.5 times the length. 3.5 x 3.5 (length x width) makes about 12.3; so the 4x5" film, not taking into account aspect ratio differences, has about 12.3 times the surface area of 35mm film. Multiplying that by the 6-10mp of low ISO color film, you end up with somewhere between 74 and 123 megapixels worth of resolution.

Sony's a7R IV's 60mp comes close to the lower end of that range; the upper end will require a 100mp Fuji GFX 100 (44x33mm) or one of the 55x41mm medium format sensors that can provide 150 megapixels
 
The color filter array doesnt reduce the acuity by 50 percent or anywhere near that. It affects noise performance (by filtering out most of the color spectrum and therefore photons) and color accuracy (by requiring interpolation), but the luminosity in most scenes is enough to allow for very decent resolution. The Leica M Monochrom had optimal raw resolution somewhere inbetween the 24mp Bayer filtered regular M240, and the 36mp Sony a7R, so let's say 30mp worth (25% increase):

As for Ad's question: Good low ASA / ISO color film at 35mm has about the same resolution as a 6 - 10mp digital color image (Velvia could top this in circumstances with astrophotography-like contrast ratios and reach 20ish megapixels, but let's not go there for now).

Extrapolating 35mm film's 36mm on the long side to 125mm (5") for the film you mentioned, that's 3.5 times the length. 3.5 x 3.5 (length x width) makes about 12.3; so the 4x5" film, not taking into account aspect ratio differences, has about 12.3 times the surface area of 35mm film. Multiplying that by the 6-10mp of low ISO color film, you end up with somewhere between 74 and 123 megapixels worth of resolution.

Sony's a7R IV's 60mp comes close to the lower end of that range; the upper end will require a 100mp Fuji GFX 100 (44x33mm) or one of the 55x41mm medium format sensors that can provide 150 megapixels
Ah, that makes sense. My gut feeling was that the Sony A7R4 wouldn't be too far off from 4x5", although I fully appreciate that the experience will be vastly different apart from resolution differences.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Apr 2, 2018
Finland
The art of demosaic algorithms these days, I'm betting the advantage of a monochrome sensor is 10 % or below.

For example, as much as the 18 MP Leica M9 Monochrom and the 24-megapixel Leica M246 Monochrome were hyped, many considered the 24-megapixel CFA Leica M10 to be stupendous, close enough to these older tech (but CFA-less) sensors.
 

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