Acutance and Scanned B&W Film

Discussion in 'APUG.ORG's "Gray" Area Subforum -NOW HYBRIDPHOTO.C' started by scottmcl, May 6, 2005.

  1. scottmcl

    scottmcl Member

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    I have an odd question. With scanned B&W negatives, one has good digital control over micro-contrast with judicious use of USM (unsharp mask).

    So is acutance at the film development stage as important a consideration? Or is it perhaps wiser to develop for finer grain and address acutance issues digitally?

    Just a theoretical question, so I thought I'd consult the experts.

    Thanks.

    Scott
     
  2. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Well it wouldn't help you a bit with your analog printing, unless you intended to create a digital internegative.

    Since we traffic in all things analog here, and are not a digital forum, I think that's where things will remain.

    If you want to explore the variety of options to try using Photoshop, consider starting a thread on www.photo.net.

    I would just bet our group would love to discuss the various ways to do unsharp masking in an analog darkroom, which is a fascinating subject. You don't need Photoshop to do unsharp masking. In fact, you can have great analog control over micro-contrast with judicial use of unsharp masking under a real enlarger in a real darkroom, and this is the place to talk about that.
     
  3. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Far better, IMHO, to control micro-contrast and acutance with your choice of developer/development technique and film.

    Of course, I contact print on Azo most of the time.
     
  4. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I'm not sure about the "expert" appellation ... I've never really known any who could really fit ...

    However... The scanned image I've posted and is seen here, or anywhere else, is NOT my work - I'll use the "Magritte - 'This Is Not a Pipe' defense".
    It is a rough approximation of the finished work that I will frame and exhibit.

    As far as I'm concerned, it has but one purpose - to act as a collector so that I might be able to ascertain something a of a rough approximation of the fairly astute photographers' reactions here. "Fine" evaluations of grain, tonality, acutance, color balance, and a host of other attributes really cannot be made - and so are meaningless. Note carefully that adjective "Fine".
    The "rough" technical comments are still very much of interest ... and the aesthetics, comments of composition, emotional content, the "being-connection" which are really NOT dependent on "technicals" are, as always, really valuable.

    Is acutance at the film development stage important? It is to me, along with a number of other characteristics. They affect the wet-chemical print that is "my work".
     
  5. mark

    mark Member

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    If you are going to print in a darkroom on enlarging paper and use wet chemicals yes you should probably worry about all that stuff in the development. If you are going to scan the stuff for digital manipulation and then digital printing you will get better info over on photo.net.
     
  6. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Scott, this is not the place to find experts on digital manipulation: some individuals are, but the forum isn't...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  7. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I might add one more note to my previous, that since you are a 35mm shooter, doing unsharp masking of a 35mm negative might be a truly royal pain in the butt. So your first step, of course, is to start shooting medium or large format... :wink:
     
  8. jarred_mccaffrey

    jarred_mccaffrey Member

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    Hi Scott--

    You seem to be asking a reasonable question for those who have taken advantage of the tools of the digital age in their workflow. I'm always a bit disappointed when a post is quickly dismissed because someone said the word "digital".

    Under the alternative process forum here you'll find many photographers who scan their conventional negatives to make digital negatives for contact printing. The digital contact printers have not yet been burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft, but they do seem to raise quite the controversy here from time to time for using the D-word. At APUG the D-word is accepted in the "gray area" subforum of the alt process forum. As long as you are talking about digital as part of a natural workflow your question should fit right in. Unnatural digital manipulation discussions are best elsewhere. Your acutance and scanning question may generate a lively discussion.

    Photo.net is a fine place as well, but generally I find APUG to have the highest calibre of participants available on the web.

    Best of luck!
     
  9. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I think you'll find that most folks here do *not* have a knee jerk reaction to the word "digital". Most who respond have sufficient experience on the forum to understand what is relevant *to this forum* and what is not.

    To respond specifically to the original poster's question, yes, one could have less concern regarding accutance. But by the same token, one could have less concern about contrast, lighting, filtering, etc. etc. if digital processes are in the workflow. In fact, many digital folks recommend avoiding B&W film altogether if you have a digital process - shoot color, and convert to B&W in Photoshop.

    But *all* this is outside the scope of this forum, while central and perhaps even fascinating in other forums.

    Because so many of the internet forums have "gone digital", Sean wisely chose to create a sanctuary for those of us who are concentrating on analog and wish to preserve, promote, and *advance* the art and craft.

    It is the advancement of the analog craft that moves us to respond with indifference to folks who want to talk about replacing accutance concern with a Photoshop filter.
     
  10. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Chuck well said...
     
  11. BradS

    BradS Member

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    This thread is yet another example of why I really love APUG...and the people here.
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Scott, as you have no doubt noticed you are really asking the wrong people here...

    But since I find the topic interesting, I'll answer anyway:

    Digital USM simulates the effect of an unsharp mask, which serves to increase visual sharpness by heightening local contrast.

    Acutance developers increase visual sharpness by heightening local contrast.

    Actutance developers also tend to increase grain, which can also contribute to the visual sharpness.

    So I would say that it would be foolish to use acutance developers if the negatives are only to be scanned anyway. I might also say that using B&W film for scanning is foolish, since you can't reproduce the grain structure anyway. If my workflow were digital, I would use C-41 films - colour or XP-2.
     
  13. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    I agree with Ole in almost everything, but if you scan a silver negative at a very high resolution, you will reproduce the grain structure. If you scan a Tri X neg. at 2400 ppi or more, you'll see the grain before you see the pixels.

    Daniel.
     
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  15. gonzalo

    gonzalo Member

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    the problem is with this part of the post....

    " So is acutance at the film development stage as important a consideration? "
     
  16. scottmcl

    scottmcl Member

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    Thanks all.

    I'll keep my straight development oriented questions directed toward this forum in the future. I always seem to have lots of questions about good ol' souping of B&W film.

    As for accutance developers, I do like the look of FP4+ in Rodinal. Results always seem pretty consistent as well. I'm just about to give Acutol a try, perhaps this evening. I switched to HC110 dilution (H) with my trusty HP5+ at both 320 and 800 and really like the results, consistency and "look." That combo is a definite keeper for me.

    The big Q for me right now regards films like Delta 100 or Acros. I guess I'll be clipping up rolls of film and trying different soups to see what works best and what I like (not always the same thing).

    As for workflow, I like B&W film. I get different "looks" from different films and different developers, dilutions, times and so on. I enjoy this aspect of the process as much as I enjoy using different lenses, exposure strategies and the like.

    At 4000 DPI on a Coolscan, I guess I'm capturing grain structure.
     
  17. Jordan

    Jordan Member

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    Scott, I have generally found that when scanning negatives I get the best results if the negatives have been developed in a fine- to moderately-fine grain developer. HC-110, Perceptol, your usual "third-party" PQ-type developers with moderate to high sulfite work well. Rodinal (in my experience) does not work as well. I have had good specific luck with Delta 100 in HC-110. Send me "PM" if you need more details.
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Good point. For good results use a fine to moderately-fine grain developer. And for best results, combine this with a fine to moderately-fine grain film.

    In general I would agree with a previous message that suggested that if a digital workflow was envisioned the best approach would be to use a color negative C-41 type film. However, best in this sense for me simply means that the use of a color negative film would allow interpretative decisions down the road that could lead to either color or monochrome prints. If the issue is simply to make monochrome prints, it would be very difficult to beat a fine grain film such as TMAX-100, which scans beautifully.

    As for the original question about accutance and USM, this may be more complicated than previous messages suggest. While it is true that both accutance developers and USM utilize micro contrast to enhance sharpness, the mechanism by which they do this is not *identical.* Simply put, if you begin with a negative with a lot of accutance, you will need much less USM down the road.

    Sandy
     
  19. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    I think the first question that should have been asked of Scott is what type of scanner he is using. There is a huge difference between those consumer flatbed scanners which accept film to a dedicated film scanner like a Nikon Coolscan to a drum scanner which would easily pick up the effects of grain. I own a Nikon Coolscan and I am totally dissatisfied with how it scans B&W negatives. I see pixels before I see pronounced grain, but there is a suggestion of grain. This makes it extremely difficult for me to use Unsharp Mask because it sharpens the effect of the grain, but not necessarily the image. Don't get me wrong, C-41 and E6 looks great scanned with the Nikon, but B&W was never intended for anything other than printing on B&W paper through an enlarger. After spending $600 on that scanner I can honestly say that I will continue using it for color, but I'll eventually be getting an enlarger for printing B&W.
    Ara
     
  20. Jordan

    Jordan Member

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    I agree that B&W neg scans look horrible if unsharp mask is applied indiscriminately. I use an "Edge Sharpening" workflow in Photoshop that provides a sharpening "effect" without affecting the appearance of the grain. I can't find the page that describes it, but if you use Photoshop and are interested, let me know.
     
  21. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    I'm interested (but don't tell the analog purists, I'll get kicked out of the club house).
     
  22. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I am interested also, and I think it would be ok to post the information in this sub-forum so long as it involves a work flow that produces a digital negative for making a print by some form of traditional processing.



    Sandy
     
  23. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Okay, I'm interested also.

    Thanks,

    Don Bryant
     
  24. B-3

    B-3 Member

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    Me too!
     
  25. philsweeney

    philsweeney Member

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  26. thomas_m

    thomas_m Member

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    I would disagree with this statement. I am getting very good results from scanning 120 B&W films both for web display and archival inkjet prints. I tried very hard in both time and $$ terms to use a digital camera for B&W but came back to film because I could not get the look I had in my head via digital image capture and Photoshop conversion. I'm sure some people can but for me film was easier. Plus, I like using my rangefinders more than digital SLRs.

    Caveat - I am scanning with an Imacon Flextight so there was a significant investment but I also got acceptable workprints from my previous scanner, an Epson 3200.

    Efke r25 in Rodinal example

    Tri-X in XTOL example

    Fomapan 100 in Rodinal example

    T.