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a question about grain


cheewai_m6

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well i shot a few rolls of cn400 while i was in thailand and hong kong. mostly using a 35mm summicron. i don't have a great deal of knowledge about different films and because my strike rate is actually getting a nice shot is pretty low, about 3 or 4 per roll, i use cn400. it's a lot cheaper to develop and print.

 

so my question is. why is it some photos come back have really nice contrast, and NO grain? but some photos have a lot of grain. the grainy ones are the under exposed ones.

 

so should i over expose by 1/3 of a stop? or make sure i don't under expose? also is it to with printing from minilabs where they don't adjust the printing for each individual frame? thanks

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JBA has good advise. You are better off to error on the side of over exposure than under exposure with negative film. Be aware that your camera meter can be fooled by overly bright or dark subjects. For example if you have a bride in a bright white dress that takes up most of the frame it would be a good idea to add an extra stop or two to the metered exposure. If you are metering a black cat in a coal cellar, subtract a couple of stops from the metered exposure.

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thanks guys. i've been into photography for a long time, it's just ever since i got my leica, i really started to explore different films. discovering what film works well with the style i shoot is relatively new to me. do any of you, or anyone else have similar advice for fuji neopan cn400? that's the next film i am going to try out.

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I use XP2 mainly, and some Kodak cn400. Both films produce ideal negatives when exposed at 200 ASA. This produces optimum density in deep shadows, and highlights won't blow out. You can get printable negatives shooting anywhere from 50 to 800 ASA - but 200 is optimal. Negatives print and scan superbly.

 

Both film's sense of grain changes depending on over/under exposure - so your experience is to be expected. The more exposure, the less grain. At 800, thesefilms remind me of Tri-X in Rodinal - grainy but sharp. For scanning, however, more exposure (thick negatives) causes a grainy appearance that is not present on paper prints - this is a scanning issue, not a film issue.

 

After long experience and tests, my recommendation is expose for 200 ASA and understand the basics of what your meter is telling you.

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Back in college I worked in a minilab with a Noritsu. All we did was C-41 film all day long. Properly-exposed frames were beautiful. As the images got underexposed, the machine's logic tried to lighten the frame to get info out of the negative. The result? Washed out, grainy pictures.

 

With C-41 film (BW400CN or XP2), try to nail the exposure. Box ISO seems just fine to me. If you have any images that you shot which were purposefully underexposed (sunsets, etc) make sure the printer prints for the blacks...nice and dark, the way you saw it in your eye.

 

Here is an example of a good BW400CN print job (actually, Walgreens prints from the scan, so it's all the same):

 

3831819582_4584637d8a_o.jpg

 

Here is an underexposed frame, scanned or printed properly:

 

3923875536_79d9bbe282_b.jpg

 

Usually, a minilab machine will try to "lighten" this frame up, making it very washed-out and grainy. If they mess it up, just have them re-print those frames. The darkness is your fault then, either by design or underexposure.

 

See how it works.

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Just a suggestion, but maybe it's time to starting learning (if not already familiar) or working with the zone system.

 

The only way to really know and understand how to use a particular film is to test it well and have 100% reliably consistent processing. The only films that have ever consistently worked for me have been the ones that I've taken the time to test with the zone system.

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"The only way to really know and understand how to use a particular film is to test it well and have 100% reliably consistent processing. The only films that have ever consistently worked for me have been the ones that I've taken the time to test with the zone system."

 

I agree with this wholeheartedly. And then get a spot meter or camera with one in it.

I wish I took my own advice...

Jim.

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The only way to really know and understand how to use a particular film is to test it well and have 100% reliably consistent processing. The only films that have ever consistently worked for me have been the ones that I've taken the time to test with the zone system.

 

I echo that advice. Spot on. And I like spot meters - they give control of the negative quality.

 

This doesn't mean wild calculations, and forgeting pictures in favour of technique. It does mean knowing for sure what you are doing. When you understand how the scene in front of you will translate into densities on the negative, then you are in control. You will only know when you have performed a few very simple one-time tests.

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  • 1 year later...
"The only way to really know and understand how to use a particular film is to test it well and have 100% reliably consistent processing. The only films that have ever consistently worked for me have been the ones that I've taken the time to test with the zone system."

 

I agree with this wholeheartedly. And then get a spot meter or camera with one in it.

I wish I took my own advice...

Jim.

 

Why? So you can make that one spot any zone of your choosing? However because we mostly work with roll film, the whole roll has to be developed at the same time.

 

 

How would your suggestion work with a whole roll of film that has to be developed at the same time?

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Hi

 

We keep introducing topics, in this thread and I may do the same, hope it is not too confusing.

 

Mini lab 'robot' prints are pretty poor, even if you get the exposure optimal. Yes you can get them to try a 2nd time but the risk is your negative is scratched (more)or damaged on other ways...

 

If you want to improve your learning rate you need a cheap flat bed scanner that will do negatives and a cheap photo quality bubble jet, get them cheap from 'Mr.Toad'.

 

A mini lab CD is a useful proof, again more risk though.

 

This allows to print a nice shot 10 times until the printing is spot on, tweaking with photo shop between prints.

 

That may be good enough otherwise you

 

(either) need to find all the wet print kit, all should be free, you might need to wet print more than 10 times to get a result you liked, i.e. enlarger etc.

 

But for wet printing desirably you need to use Ilford XP2 (or Fuji 41 mono)for their neutral base color, as the Kodak orange is a pain to wet print. (I only use Ilford, donno which of the other two is neutral, Ilford is easier to get here, think it is fuji that is neutral.)

 

(Or) a get a better scanner and printer, if you are happy with digital prints.

 

A reasonable wet print is well impressive and if you tone it archival for a century or so, most people realize that they are different instantly.

 

The last option you have is to go to the silver negative film rather than the dye monochrome film, then you will get real grain, which you may like or dislike. But a mini lab won't process this film you need a pro lab or next paragraph.

 

You can home process your own film, kit should be free, only chemicals $, dark room is not difficult, soft water is desirable.

 

You need books from library and mentor

 

Noel

Edited by Xmas
archaical to archival
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Why? So you can make that one spot any zone of your choosing? However because we mostly work with roll film, the whole roll has to be developed at the same time.

 

 

How would your suggestion work with a whole roll of film that has to be developed at the same time?

 

Hi

 

correct but all you can do is reduce the dev time and photo shop or use VC paper.

 

NOEL

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"How would your suggestion work with a whole roll of film that has to be developed at the same time?"

 

Hello Thebarnman. I assume you're aware of the zone system and how, with a standard development regime in place, one can know where elements of the image will more or less fall on the neg/print for every frame. The whole point of exposing with some information from a bit of spot-metering around the subject is to standardise the exposures so that all the negs are roughly where you want them after development. Judicious use of a spot meter is no less useful for rollfilm than it is for sheet film I would have thought. Indeed it's a way of somewhat overcoming having to develop a rollfull of images at a time.

Use of a spot meter doesn't overcome wishing one could up the contrast or push development or hold back development image by image, but if one's regime (I expose more and develop less to a (kind of) N-1 degree and manage to get most of what I want down during the process) is accomodating enough then life's not too bad.

I only use B+W neg film, but the way.

Jim.

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Just a suggestion, but maybe it's time to starting learning (if not already familiar) or working with the zone system.

 

The only way to really know and understand how to use a particular film is to test it well and have 100% reliably consistent processing. The only films that have ever consistently worked for me have been the ones that I've taken the time to test with the zone system.

 

Zone System, my eye. The interpretation of the Zone System seems to have been generally corrupted over the past several years.

 

CN400 uses C-41 processing, and the OP is using a consumer lab to develop it.

 

If the OP studies the original and real Zone System from, for example, Ansel Adams, he will find that it includes altered development which is not feasible with a typical consumer-level C-41 processing outfit.

 

OP - what they mean is that it is helpful to learn how the film renders given the existing range of light in important parts of the frame/subject. You decide which parts are important and expose accordingly. It's a compromise. It always is.

 

Don't go overboard by getting a densitometer, and all that. Not for 35mm. IMHO.

Edited by pico
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Hi cheewai_m6

 

With XP2 I don't bother with a meter the film has so much latitude.

 

For the Zone system e.g. if you have a shadow you just want detail in (zone 1) you point the meter at that and give five stops less exposure, this is easier to work out if you have a Weston meter - which are calibrated for the zone system. There is even a zone sticker, for the meters calculator, if you cant recall the zone numbers.

 

I might have the numbers wrong cause I don't look at my meter...

 

Noel

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Hi cheewai_m6

 

With XP2 I don't bother with a meter the film has so much latitude.

 

For the Zone system e.g. if you have a shadow you just want detail in (zone 1) you point the meter at that and give five stops less exposure, this is easier to work out if you have a Weston meter - which are calibrated for the zone system. There is even a zone sticker, for the meters calculator, if you cant recall the zone numbers.

 

I might have the numbers wrong cause I don't look at my meter...

 

You have the numbers wrong. This entire Zone System part of the thread is just so wrong.

 

In any event, OP - your got the best answers early in this thread: grainy means you underexposed. The guidance given in the particular posts of mention are excellent.

Edited by pico
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