Low-grain 100/125 ISO film choice

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by luckycharms, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. luckycharms

    luckycharms Member

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    After my frustrations with having my negatives commercially scanned (a print darkroom is not an option right now), I'm trying to find ways to work with my limitations rather than against them. I've discovered that pushing film (whether one or two stops) is a bad bad bad idea when the negatives will be scanned at the drugstore, and even my regular 400 ISO negatives have a tendency to come out excessively grainy and awful. From what little I've read about scanners, they are happiest with low contrast and tight grain, so I am going to try a slower film to see if I can get better results. I have a roll of expired TMX 100 in the fridge, but I'd like to see if there's a cheaper film that will give me a smoother less grainy exposure. I'm running a little low on Clearfix, and Freestyle's minimum is $25, so right now I'm considering:

    Plus-X 125 (in Freestyle guise- probably not what I'm looking for)
    Neopan 100 SS (don't know too much about this one- is it recently discontinued?)
    Fomapan 100 (in Freestyle guise- sounds like a good option)
    Fortepan 100 (not too sure, but doesn't seem like the best choice)

    because all are readily available on the cheap. I've heard great things about all of these (except the Fortepan, but I'm sure it has its own pluses), but there's plenty of contradictory information out there regarding characteristics. I'll be developing in F76+, probably at 1+19 to drop the contrast a little. I recall people complaining that some of these films were "soulless" due to their smoothness and low apparent grain, but after going the "traditional" way with films like TX 400 I can say that those are not working for me.
     
  2. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, Luckycharms,

    I'm unfamiliar with Neopan, but I seriously doubt that you'll find any of the other three films listed superior to T-Max 100, which has just about the finest grain going. I don't have any experience with scanning of negatives, but, with proper development, T-100 should be more than satisfactory for almost any purpose.

    Konical
     
  3. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    Plus-X is an exceptional film.

    It is generaly underrated in my opinion, however, if you process by a drugstore, why don't you use XP2? It will give you great results scanned, it is fine grained and will print properly if you get a darkroom.

    If you don't like the look of old emulsions, go with TMAX of Delta.

    Kris
     
  4. 3Dfan

    3Dfan Member

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    I should point out that Fomapan 200 is said to really be an ASA 125 film on par with Plus X or FP4+. You may find that you like it, as it can have a beautiful look.

    Neopan SS has been replaced with a more modern film in most markets, but I think it is still produced. I never tried it, but most comments seem to indicate that it's grainy.
     
  5. luckycharms

    luckycharms Member

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    I tried 400CN, which gave me great results, but I enjoy developing my own negatives. I just can't print them, hence the need to scan. 400CN did scan fairly well though. The problem is (apparently) that commercial negative scanners do not react well to black and white in the first place, but it seems lower grain and contrast would improve my results. From what I hear, XP2 is similar but with slightly more favorable results in most conditions. If I'm ever in the situation to shoot C-41 black and white again (and if I can find it), I will definitely give it a shot.
     
  6. rusty71

    rusty71 Member

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    Plus-X is a very good film. If it is the same as Arista Premium, then that's a very good deal. Fortepan is out of production, so if you like it you won't be able to find it again.
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    There are many great ISO 100 films.
    Finest grain are probably Fuji Acros 100, Kodak Tmax 100, and Ilford Delta 100. All fantastic films.
    Traditional grain films, like Kodak Plus-X (prints better than it scans in my opinion), Ilford FP4+, Foma 100, Efke KB100 - all exceptional films that may not be as fine grained as the other films. It's a matter of taste what you like the most.

    I'll also second Ilford XP2, just because it's an ISO 400 film with grain similar to an ISO 100 film and prints really well in digital labs.

    - Thomas
     
  8. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    I recently scanned and printed (at home) some TMAX 100 and 400 I shot in an old Olympus XA2 I was trying out. I think you will be surprised at how well either would scan and print at a good lab.
     
  9. mhanc

    mhanc Member

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    i have just got back this past weekend a roll of plus-x 125 that was scanned by my local camera store. the digital pictures were quite grainy as you describe. when i looked at the file information i see that the pixel size is roughly 1,000 x 1500 which equates to a 1.5 megapixel image -- less resolution that many camera phones. check the image size of your scans. i suspect that your drug store did the same type of scan and that the grain you see is more the result of a very poor scan and associated issues rather than anything related to the film or the scanning process in general.

    i have recently returned to analogue photography and don't yet have the darkroom that i used to have - so i feel your pain. but for what it is worth the results i have gotten from negative to scan to print are still FAR more pleasing to me than an all digital process. there is just more life (for lack of a better term) in a film image. the final print however still lacks the qualities of a traditional silver print... all in good time.
     
  10. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    No, there isn't. Neither cheaper nor more expensive. Well, you can buy Tech Pan and Technidol on ebay for $$$$, but I think you mean regular-ole-retail-availability.

    Develop in Microdol-X for the ultimate in low grain, though Xtol or D-76 work fine also.
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    It is very hard to beat 100 tmax...Acros 100 and Delta 100 are also wonderful choices. If I were looking for a 100 speed film it would be one of those three and I do not believe that I would be disappointed. Pick one and stick with it.
     
  12. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    If you are stuck with a scanner that does a lousy job of scanning silver grain then you may be better off sticking with the C-41 films.

    You can do your own C-41 processing. If you are not doing C-41 in color then you don't have to worry about 0.1 degree color developer temperature tolerances and 3 second timing errors - B&W C-41 yields acceptable results with black and white processing tolerances.

    There are room temperature C-41 kits available.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2008
  13. BrianPhotog

    BrianPhotog Member

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    With lab scans I've always gotten best results with Tri-X in Diafine (which tends to be low-contrast) and PanF in anything (I use HC-110B for 4:30 @20C).

    My "normal" Tri-X in HC-110b for 6:30 @20C come back contrasty with no shadow detail and horrible, horrible highlights. :sad:
     
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  15. nickrapak

    nickrapak Member

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    Be aware that the grain in TMAX films turns to mush in Microdol-X, at least in my experience.
     
  16. CuS

    CuS Member

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    Plus-X from freestyle - heck, but a bulk roll - you'll get 18-20 rolls from a 100' roll (which run about $48).

    I love this film, especially with rodinal 1:25, 6:30 at 20C
     
  17. kodachrome64

    kodachrome64 Member

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    Another vote for Plus-X, it's great stuff. Good in Rodinal, HC-110, D-76, etc. It's a lower-grain Tri-X.

    I'm surprised that Tri-X is too grainy for you. If you are using a reasonably fine-grained developer like D-76 or HC-110 it should be fine. Tri-X and Rodinal is a grainy mix, at least in 35mm. If you otherwise like the look of Tri-X, you should like Plus-X with less grain.

    T-Max 100 would fit your bill though, extremely fine grain and low contrast in all developers I've tried.
     
  18. luckycharms

    luckycharms Member

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    Thank you (as always) for all of the advice. I just remembered that I had a roll of TMX 100 that expired thirteen months ago in the fridge (I bought it a few weeks ago on a whim), and so I pulled out my TMX 400 roll (which has now been loaded and unloaded no less than four times) and popped it in. My first reaction is that 100 ISO is more miserable than I could ever have imagined, but I guess outdoors at noon and f/2 I just might be able to get something (maybe). I plan on developing this in 1+19 F76+, and if slow slightly-expired film and dilute developer isn't enough to make a commercially scannable neg, well, I need to go in another direction.

    On a side note, how bad of an investment is a $75 Epson film-enabled scanner? I mean, I know it won't be perfect, but at least I'd be able to turn off image correction and get scans without blobs and blotches right? Or am I better off taking my $75, collecting it in a pile, and burning it?
     
  19. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Good luck with the $75 scanner. If it's a flatbed, you can bet you will get miserable results from 35mm negatives. Even a $750 Epson will give marginal results from 35mm. Save your money. If you have a good negative, spend the money on a good scan from a professional lab.

    Peter Gomena
     
  20. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I'd suggest you try two films and see which you prefer. Try a C41 BW film (Ilford or Kodak) and expose frames at the box speed, one stop over (EI200) and 2 stops over (100). C41 films look really nasty in the shadows when underexposed and it really doesn't seem too bothered by over exposure. When I used it, I exposed at 200. I'd also try a roll of Fuji Acros or Ilford Delta 100 exposed at the box speed or maybe a little lower and develop it in your favorite developer. I suspect you will prefer the C41 film if you are scanning.
    I wouldn't waste your money on a cheap flatbed......better to get some wet darkroom equipment or get a used Minolta/Canon/Nikon film scanner.....an enlarger is a whole lot more fun though :smile:
     
  21. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Last time I replied I didn't pay attention to that line. I concur with previous statements - it doesn't get any less grainy with the films available today, unless you use specialty film.
    You could also try Ilford Pan-F+, (which is an ISO 50 film), but I doubt it has any advantage in grain over Tmax 100.

    Basically, a good negative with proper exposure and well developed will yield fantastic results even if grainy. But I understand, not everybody likes grain and with scanning (unless done on really high end scanners) tends to over-emphasize the grain.

    Any ISO 100 film should give you good results, and if I may suggest to focus more on tonality and sharpness than grain, I think you may come out ahead. The only ISO 100 film I've never liked is Fuji Neopan 100 SS. It's cheap, but has weird tonality. It's also quite possibly the grainiest ISO 100 film I've ever tried. I can get less grain with Tri-X. Now, I like grain, so for me it's perfect from that standpoint...

    What I'm trying to say is that grain is your friend. Embrace it, don't fight it. It will always be there. :smile:

    - Thomas
     
  22. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    I develop TMX in Kodak Microdol-X 1:3 with no 'oatmeal grain'. Grain is as fine as post-1989 TechPan with a nice salt & pepper sharpness.

    Recently I had a large number of engineering-type-stuff-pictures to process, and because I am cheap I have been using generic microdol (and using it full-strength (my balance isn't that accurate at very low weights (and I have this 5 lb jar of Metol I need to use before it turns to tar))). The resulting negatives have suprised me with as fine a defined grain as 1:3 produces and no speed loss. It has been a song to my Scottish genome.

    This same generic microdol formula works really badly with Ilford HP-5/120: lots of both dichroic and regular fogging, fair warning.

    Generic microdol:

    • pinch EDTA
    • 1.25 g Metol
    • 25 g S. Sulfite
    • 7.5 g S. Chloride
    • 8 oz distilled water

    The EDTA is there on historical grounds - originally to combat Cleveland, Ohio tapwater, I kept it in even though am now using distilled water. I don't know if it serves any purpose. When the developer is made with tap water the EDTA keeps the developer from depositing calcium salts. I use "Morton Canning and Pickling salt" for the S. Chloride. It seems to be the only salt that is salt and nothing but salt. Stay away from "Kosher Salt", it contains P. Ferricyanide, and minute quantaties of P. Ferri in the developer will wreck havoc. Ditto "Iodized Salt".
     
  23. luckycharms

    luckycharms Member

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    I appreciate the advice, but if you're suggesting that I shoot C-41 and have it developed, I'd just as soon give up on analog altogether (sorry guys, just the way it is). The reason I'm doing this is for the experimentation inherent in the developing process, I just can't take it all the way to prints. I only have the capacity (literally the space) to develop negatives. If I'm having the film developed and scanned by someone else and the only steps I control are the original exposure and the digital editing, it's like shooting digital but with lower output quality and about $14 per roll ($6 film, $6 developing, $2 CD). I'll get the digital SLR back out from its corner if it ever gets that bad.

    Like I've said, I've tried C-41, and I know it scans better. It just isn't any fun. And it's really expensive- right now ripping through a roll in an hour costs me, including film, developing, and scanning, around $3. If that jumped to $16, i would have to shoot less. I don't want that.


    Oh I know, and I do embrace it. It's an integral part of this whole analog thing for me. But when Barry White said (sang):

    It doesn't seem to me like it's enough
    There's just not enough of it
    There's just not enough
    Oh oh, babe


    he was not singing about my relationship with grain. The grain in my negatives gets exponentially multiplied by bad scans until I end up with frames that are either insanely grainy in an interesting way or just unusable. Every once in a while something comes out right, but the forgiveness just isn't there. It's not the inherent grain that bothers me, it's the exponential amplification along every step of my processing process. To try to isolate this and get to a point where I can make analog photography feasible given my limitations (as in no analog printing and no decent scanning), I need to minimize my grain and see if I can get results that are consistent enough to be okay with me. If this doesn't work, I have some things to think about.
     
  24. mhanc

    mhanc Member

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    take your negs to a camera store that does scanning on site. preferably negs that you have also had scanned by the drugstore. describe what you are trying to accomplish and ask for high resolution scans -- higher resolution scans do not cost them anything other than a little extra time. most consumer film scanners now scan at 4800 dpi, so if you can get that resolution you will see what you could do yourself if you were to buy one. this should cost about $8 for a roll of film.

    now you can compare the two types of scans and see if this is indeed the problem, which i think it is. after that you can then get back to experimenting with different film types and having fun.

    cheers
     
  25. luckycharms

    luckycharms Member

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    Interestingly enough, I once had a Target and "professional" shop (not Ritz) scan back-to-back and while the Target scan needed a little bit more correction (spots and black point), after fifteen seconds it looked better than the "pro" scan ever would. I wish I could get into Lightroom so I could show you what I mean. I liked the 200 for $2 scan better than one $4 scan.
     
  26. mhanc

    mhanc Member

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    it would be interesting to know what the file size or pixel dimensions of the Target and the pro shop scans are so as to see if there is any resolution difference between the two?