There were some lovely Japanese Magnolias blooming in my yard so I clipped off a couple today and took it to the VSU lighting studio to experiment with the lighting equipment and shoot a couple sheets of E6. Flower photos are cliche I know but they still make pretty subjects and are fun to shoot, so whatever.
First, here is the Provia 100f 4x5 sheet, shot with a 210mm Symmar-S, slightly cropped on the sides:
And here is the D800E shot with a 55mm Micro:
Now here is a 100% crop of the 4x5 image, with the D800E file up-rezzed to match the size:
Now, the D800E here is at a disadvantage. For one, I shot this at f/16 so diffraction was dulling the finest details (of course, the Provia shot was at f/22, but the large sheet of film mitigates that). Also, upsizing the D800E file also puts it at a disadvantage, but I think it is fairer than downsizing the 4x5 shot.
I think despite the odds stacked against it, the D800E has ever so slightly more fine detail (see the striations in what I think are the "anther"), but the Provia seems sharper due to the grain. So which is better? Matter of taste I suppose. I should have shot a sheet of Velvia 50 for the super-saturated color, as that film would impart more of a "look" than the middle-of-the-road Provia.
That being said, the Provia did show some characteristics, and not necessarily good. The cup and water were noticeably blue before I did some selective color correction. I've noticed before that Provia gets very blue in the shadows. The natural color balance of digital makes it so easy to work with. Truly, color film is not easy to get perfect colors with, but if you are printing digitally anyway it hardly matters.
Thought I'd post the b&w version I took, with T-Max 100 film developed in Rodinal:
For those wondering...this shot isn't really any higher resolution than the Provia. It is slightly grainier. I can attribute that to the Rodinal. If I used T-Max RS developer it might actually be a bit more detailed, sharper, and lower grain than the Provia.
I won't make any qualitative statements about the ultimate resolution of film, but considering these photos, and how the D800E was at a disadvantage, I would have to say that 4x5 film, or at least a good chrome, is not really any better in simple resolution than the digital - when scanned with a consumer scanner. I'm using a Microtek M1, and the scans are certainly good, but nothing compared to a drum scan. That is something to consider when shooting film - the cost of a really good scan if you want to print something digitally very large.