More speed, less grain

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ymc226, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. ymc226

    ymc226 Member

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    I enlarge to 8x10 or 11x14 from 35mm negatives. Using Tri-X with Xtol 1:1, there is more grain than I would like on an 11x14 print that I really coned down on from the negative.

    I have done 11x14 before where most of the negative was used and I found the grain acceptable using Tri X or Neopan 400 shot at 320 and developed in D-76 1:1

    I plan on shooting indoors without a flash and want a B&W print film (35mm)/developer combo that can be enlarged to 11x14 with not too much grain (very subjective, I know).

    I've read of Diafine with Tri-X rated at 1250 is a good pair. Is that the "best" combo or is Neopan 1600 rated at box speed or less with X tol or Delta 3200 with whatever developer better for less grain?
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It depends how much perceived sharpness you are willing to trade away for the lower grain.

    For low grain, I think my money would be on the neopan 1600 in wd2d+ or another pyro. I think xtol/perceptol etc. would likely give more grain than you want... more apparent resolution too, but that's the tradeoff. Some will rightly assert that xtol and neopan 1600 is a very nice combo, but if you are feeling a bit too sensitive to the grain, well...

    Experiment, experiment!

    Delta 3200 is a 1600 speed film, no question about it. But since you are shooting 35mm, personally, I'd go with the neopan. It is superior in many respects, in my opinion.

    IMHO the very best thing you can do to lower grain while retaining speed is to hop up to a larger format; 645 can give you the same lens speed but the grain will be more along the lines of what you'd get in 35mm a half stop slower; for a really rough approximation see my blog on the subject of format advantage.
     
  3. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    Perhaps TMAX 400 with a speed-increasing developer would satisfy you. That's what I would try. DD_X or Microphen developers. Emphasis on the "try". Experiments are the key to finding what I like. TMAX400 can be exposed at 800 with no change in development, hinting that it might be pushed another stop with success.
     
  4. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I use Kodak Tmax 400 (TMY-2) with Xtol replenished. From 35mm I have very fine grain in an 8x10 enlargement.

    I think you'll find it difficult to find a developer that gives you finer grain than Xtol replenished and looks sharp to the same degree.
     
  5. ymc226

    ymc226 Member

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    Thanks for your suggestions. How do you replenish X tol as I use it diluted 1:1 one shot. What changes in development times are there once you replenish? Does X tol replenished give fine grain with all films such as Neopan 400 or Tri X in addition to Tmax 400. I just want to limit my films and work with Tri X or Neopan 400 which I have loads of.
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Have to agree with Thomas, Tmax 400 (new or old) is superb in replenished Xtol. It's worth noting that once seasoned a replenished developer gives better results with all film than the same developer used fresh, finer, grain, better tonality & sharpness.

    Ian
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Replenished Xtol is basically stock solution, and each roll that you process will require you to replenish with about 70-100ml fresh stock per roll.

    That's it. Then you have to do some basic testing to find processing times that suit you. Neopan 400 is more temperamental than Tri-X with a pronounced shoulder. Xtol keeps that in check pretty well, but you want to be more careful with your exposures. If I were you I'd use Neo 400 in flat lighting and Tri-X for everything else.
    Tmax 400 gives a substantial improvement in grain compared to both those films, but both films you're using are not exactly fine grained films to begin with. If I were you I'd settle on one film instead of two, which will help you understand better what happens during processing, and how to tweak your processing so that you can increase or decrease contrast to suit your needs in printing.

    - Thomas

     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    A decent starting time for an exposure index of 400 for Neo 400 is about 8 minutes, with constant gentle agitation for the first 30 seconds. I would agitate 10s at the 3m and 6m mark, so two more agitations. But that's how I like to use it.
    Tri-X could use a minute more for normal scenes.
     
  9. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I fully agree with Thomas about TMY-2. That film is just about, if not the finest grained 400 speed B&W film on the market right now, considerably less grainy than Tri-X, and has a very nice tonal range to boot. Does it look like Tri-X? Not exactly, but I think you'll find it agreeable. Kodak hit a home run when they developed this laterst version of the film.

    I use XTOL 1+1 almost exclusively with this film and don't find grain to be a problem. Of course, it is a fast film and 11 x 14 is an awfully big enlargement to make from a 35 mm negative, so I do expect to see some grain. That is unavoidable. For prints with no apparent grain, a larger negative is the key. That's the bottom line.

    Replenishment is not hard to do, but can be problematic if you don't run a lot of film. It works great in labs that run a lot of film because everything is turned over regularly and the system reaches a point of stable equilibrium. For the occasional user, the developer can sit around oxidizing for days, sometimes weeks, between uses, so you can't count on consistency. Kodak gives very explicit instructions on the practice on page 4 of this publication In any case, I've used fresh stock solution XTOL and fresh XTOL 1+1 and the differences between the two modes of use are slight. The tradeoff in the slightly lower grain to be had by using straight stock solution is offset the consistency I get by using fresh dilute developer.
     
  10. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    One other option... Ilford XP2.

    It's not a true black-and-white film (you develop it in C41 chemicals; well, when I shoot it I have someone else develop it in C41 chemicals, but you get my point). However, because it's dye-based the apparent grain is smaller.

    Give a roll a try and see if it fits your application. It can be printed much as any other black-and-white negative since it has no orange mask like other C41 films have.
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Example print

    This is a fairly low resolution scan of an 8x10 print (negative cropped in the long dimension to fit a 6x8" aspect ratio).
    It's possibly not perfectly indicative of what grain looks like, but it gives you an idea.
    Shot with a Pentax 35mm system and a 55mm f/2 lens wide open. Film is the old Tmax 400 (TMY) processed in Xtol replenished. Print is on glossy Ilford MGWT, developed in Ethol LPD (replenished) and split toned in sepia/selenium.

    - Thomas
     

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  12. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Diafine with Tri-X rated at 1250 is something I use a lot, and it's significantly grainier than a normally-exposed Tri-X in D76. It's not an ugly grain and the tonality is good, but it is definitely grainy.

    I also recommend TMY if you want fine grain in a high-speed film.
     
  13. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Why stick with 400 speed film at all? Why not a 100 speed film, which will take care of the grain issue easily.
     
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  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Oh I thought you wanted 1250-1600, that's what the original post led me to blieve.

    Hell, if you want low grain then there are plenty of better options than any 400 speed film...
     
  16. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Because the OP needs the speed for the work he wants to do.
     
  17. ymc226

    ymc226 Member

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    Thanks for all of the suggestions . . . so quickly offered too!

    Yes, my desire is for high speed film as I want to take "street" shots of my kids indoors using a wide angle 21mm lens on a rangefinder but want to enlarge up to 11x14 (8x10 as well). I never had luck with flash. I use a Nikon F6 with its SB flash and it always looked obvious a flash was used. I don't like that kind of look and have never used a negative of a flash taken picture to enlarge.

    I agree that a larger negative would be better and do have a MF camera that takes marvelous pictures that I have enlarged and framed. Alas, it is too bulky and difficult to focus for candid shots.

    Having read all of the replies, I ordered some TMY from B&H to try over the weekend. It only takes a day to get here from NYC. I will use Xtol either straight or 1:1.

    According to some posts, TMY is more finicky to process compared to Tri X and Fuji Neopan. I have a bathroom as a darkroom and don't have any temperature control. When it is hot outside as it is these days, the cold water gets down to about 70 degrees at it's lowest. Is there enough latitude in the film that I can use the usual published times for 68 degrees?

    Also, to get the skin tones right on my kids, I usually rate Tri-X at 200 and develop accordingly getting what I consider adequate results. With TMY, when shooting people (indoors or outdoors/shade or sunlight) and developing in X tol, how fast do you rate TMY to get skin tones you are satisfied with?
     
  18. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    If you water is warmer than spec, just drop an ice cube in it until it cools down to 20C or a degree or two below to account for warming. If you don't have a thermometer, you can buy a digital food thermometer at Target or whatever for about ten bucks.

    I measure out 250mL of D76 and about 200mL of distilled water in a container, then use ice until it gets to 19.5C, then I fish out the ice cubes and top it off to a total of 500mL if needed.

    I use distilled water that I store in a closet and it gets to near 30*C. I just grab some ice cubes from the fridge; I think doing all my developing at 20C rather than correcting my time for varying temperature has helped my consistency.
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    TMY isn't really finicky to process at all. I think it's easier to control well than Neopan 400. TMY is a robust film that tolerates both under and overexposure.

    I agree with BetterSense that it's best to keep the chemistry temperature constant, and you can do that easily by keeping your film developing tank in a bath that you continue to feed ice cubes and keep the bath at 68*F. The digital food thermometer is probably as accurate as a photo thermometer. And accuracy is not as important as consistency anyway.

    Regarding skin tones. I use TMY at box speed. And get satisfying skin tones. I don't feel like I need to overexpose at all. But I meter for the shadows to begin with, I suspect your Nikon meter is on 'average' or matrix, and I don't know how that works by comparison in different lighting situations.
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "I plan on shooting indoors without a flash and want a B&W print film (35mm)/developer combo that can be enlarged to 11x14 with not too much grain (very subjective, I know)."

    I am going to refer you to Jagger/Richard for this one. Spin side two of Let It Bleed; last song. :D

    Seriously, I think HP5 and Tri-X look good in 8-10x linear enlargements, even pushed a stop. Assuming you are printing full frame onto 11x14 paper (which is always what I assume when people say they are making 11x14s from 35mm), you are making a 9x13-1/2 at most. That is a 9x linear enlargement.

    If it isn't good enough for you for some reason, and you have time and money to invest, get a Mamiya 645 with the 80mm 1.9 lens. Your full frame print onto 11x14 paper is under 7x linear enlargement that way. They are not expensive.

    Also, regardless of format, there are other films to look at, such as Delta, T-Max, and Neopan.
     
  21. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    If you are looking for the finest possible grain, you might have a little better luck with Xtol at full strength instead of diluted.
     
  22. c.w.

    c.w. Member

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    I shoot in dark conditons without flash a lot, so i've tried a few fast films in my day.

    Obviously, testing is going to be important, but from what i've experienced, if you're happy with tri-x at 11x14 you'll be happy with neopan 1600 at 1600. I'm not sure about X-tol vs D-76 since i use mostly hc110, but in my experience neopan 1600 looks amazing. It can be a little contrasty, but it tones down if you use a little less vigorous agitation. I really really wish i could get it in 120.

    Ilford 3200 i've only used in 120 for 645, but to me it's almost silly how big the grain is at 3200 (never used it at a different speed). Even 4x6s were grainier than my 11x14s from tri-x in 35mm! I can't image what it looks like in 35mm.

    The other thing i like to do if i'm worried about grain on a big print from 35mm is to use a larger border than i would on an 8x10. A 1 inch border brings you down to 10x13, and sometimes i print the full frame w/ borders, which is more like 9x13.

    I've got some T-Max 3200 in the fridge i need to try out, so that's one i can't give you any advice on yet - (i'm still looking for some myself) but if it happens in the next week or so i'll post again.
     
  23. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Yes, Kodak's TMax films are a bit more finicky to process because they tend to build contrast more quickly with extended development than more "conventional" emulsions, but it's not that big of a deal. All you need to do is be a little more careful with your time, temperature, and agitation. Kodak's tech sheet is very good, and I urge you to read it. Find it here. In it you'll find recommended times for processing at various temperatures; and if your temperature falls between two listed values, extrapolating between the two closest values will be fine. You can easily shoot this film at box speed with confidence.
     
  24. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Enlarging a 36mm wide negative to 14" is about 10x enlargement. With Tri-X you should be seeing some grain about then. If you want a little less graininess, use the XTOL straight. If that's not enough for you then you might want to try TMY-2. If you want to stick with Tri-X you might want to move to a developer with more solvent characteristics. But this will cost you some real film speed and a little sharpness too.

    This is perhaps true. D-76 will cost you some film speed. Maybe 1/2 to 2/3 stop. If you didn't compensate for this, then your overall exposure was less and your developed density would therefore also be less (compared to XTOL 1:1 which will give you somewhat higher film speed and therefore correspondingly higher density for an identical exposure).

    Graininess is directly related to density. It's the metallic silver that makes up the films' density that also makes up the films' graininess.

    I'm just saying that one explanation for what you are seeing comparing D-76 and XTOL is the differences in the real film speed and the resulting image density. When I've compared film developed with D-76, HC-110, and XTOL and compensated for the real film speed and developed to the same contrast index (as well as I could without access to a lab) I've seen very little difference between them. The XTOL was perhaps just a bit sharper and perhaps just a bit less grainy. But at 10x enlargement it's not much of a difference.

    In that case you'll probably be more interested in reciprocity failure in your shadows. Another reason to think about TMY-2 maybe.

    Diafine will give you a boost in real film speed. But the cost is serious graininess. I doubt you'll like it at 10x, if you don't like Tri-X at 10x already.

    You may perhaps want to read up on the various capabilities of film developers. I like Anchell and Troops' The Film Developing Cookbook for this myself. Pretty readable and it gives a good and fairly clear explanation of what the various developers do and don't do. More knowledge you can use to find the right tools to do the job you want done.
     
  25. wogster

    wogster Member

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    There are 6 ways to lower the amount of perceived grain.

    1) Increase the viewing distance.
    2) Use a slower film.
    3) Use a tabular grain film
    4) Use a fine grain developer (at the expense of sharpness)
    5) Use a larger negative
    6) combine two or more of the above.
     
  26. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Put the ice in a ziploc bag and the water will not dilute the chemicals.

    Steve