Poor (very grainy) results in low light with Fuji Pro 800Z

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by ted_smith, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    I think the answer to this question is film age, but I will ask nonetheless.

    I bought some Fuji Pro 800Z several years ago for the first time and got some pretty good results with it and bought some more. For various reasons though, I didn't use it much and suffice to say some rolls I bought back in 2010 or thereabouts I use from time to time when light is low. The film has always been in the fridge but its expiry date is March 2012. So it'sa year out. That said, I used one of the rolls back in 2010 and had the same problem I am aout to tell you.

    Basically, 800Z is a fast film, so, naturally I use it when light is low or flash not generally acceptable. However, what I have found every time is that any shots taken without flash in even fairly low light or dark light produces stupidly grainy prints and scans. Yet, if I use the film in "normal" light where you can get 1\60th of a sec at f8, the prints look OK.

    Now, my question is, if 800Z was a famed grainy film like Delta 3200 (which 800Z is not famed for being), surely all prints from a roll would be grainy - not just the ones where the light was very dark?

    So how come the shots where I use it in light where its speed is not actually needed and I could have used 400H or 160S are acceptable, whereas the occasions where I could only use 800Z and the other films would fail produce such grainy unusable results? I have attached two shots shot in the early morning, indoors, in a caravan (sunlight coming in via opposite window) and another taken at midday in the same caravan. As you can see, the two low light shots are very grainy compared to the one shot a few hours later. The prints are obviously not AS grainy, but they are comparatively the same - the two low lights very grainy compraed to the brighter light.

    Shot using Nikon F5, 35mm at box speed of ISO800

    I only ask because TBH, I will probably get rid of my 3 remaining rolls - it lets me down like this every time, or I am using it wrong.
     

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  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    They're underexposed. That grainy look with the empty shadows that look too light without detail is what you get when you underexpose any color neg film. I suspect that bright window behind the kids fooled the camera's meter into underexposing.
     
  3. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    There simply is no good color film for low light work. Digital blows everything away. I think your "error" is that the images were exposed for the highlights and yet printed (or scanned) for the shadow.
     
  4. LunoLuno

    LunoLuno Member

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    The first two shots look obviously underexposed. To be more precise, red and green light may be properly exposed but blue light is underexposed. Even when you shoot print films, there are some occasions you have to consider the color temperature of light on deciding the exposure seting in order to get good color balance in your print. You'd better open up at least 2/3 of a stop from the meter's reading when shooting under the early morning sunlight, at least one full stop recommended under the artificial light conditions (tungsten, flourscent etc). This rule doesn't apply to those films with immese latitude, though (like latest Portra series films which have wider latitude on the under exposure side than the conventional print films). If I were you, I would open up 1~4/3 stop from the reading of the meter considering the existance of blight colored wall behind her.

    Luno
     
  5. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Yeah, I'm thinking underexposure too. Betting it is more of a metering issue, been bit by my F5 (F100, N90s, FM2...) the same way. My incident meter doesn't give me the same problem.
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Well there no arguing that the girl shots are grainier than the lad's by a mile, Ted. Are these prints that have been scanned and if so do the actual prints have the same difference in graininess?

    If they are underexposed then you'd expect the shot of the lad which has more of the window in it to be more underexposed than the girl's shots, I think.Maybe the lad's underexposure is somehow "neutralised" by the fact that overall the light is much brighter at midday?

    Anyone care to comment on the above comment?

    pentaxuser
     
  7. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    We'd need to know more about the metering. Spot, center weighted, matrix? Which focus indicator was in use, what was it centered on? Was compensation applied to the meter or manually from the point measured? ...

    The F5's meter is very nice and very sophisticated, but far from un-foolable.
     
  8. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Fast film loses some speed relatively quickly, or develops very grainy fog. If you want to ensure really good results in low light and underexposed shots, don't use outdated film, even if you would be perfectly satisfied with the same film when properly exposed.

    In other words, give a fast film that's over its expiry date +1 stop compared to box speed. Shoot the 800Z at 400. Or buy new film.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The two problem shots are underexposed.

    When the light is low, there is a natural tendency to make exposure choices that are right at the margins.

    In situations like that, I would use an incident meter, or take a close-up reading off of a forehead and open up 1.5 - 2 stops.
     
  10. LunoLuno

    LunoLuno Member

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    That's because the light of the third shot is "neutralized to daylight" at midday. The underexposure under the neutral daylight is not such a big issue for a print film unless it's too excessive.

    Luno
     
  11. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I think 800Z looks better rated at 640, especially in low light.

    For what it's worth, I think the two grainy shots look great; a really nice 'peppery' texture to them. I wonder if a soft filter would have added to the feel.

    I'll take your remaining 800Z off your hands, Ted, if you do decide to get rid of them. 800 speed film is my favourite, but I never shoot in low light.
     
  12. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    OK, cool. I didn't realise I was underexposing so badly.

    Yeah, the metering was centre-weighted. They were just quick snapshots while on holiday so I didn't use my light meter.

    I always use the film at its box speed, so it looks like the rule of thumb for this film is use it at box speed if the light is "standard daylight" but set it to EI400 or 640 if low light (or switch to manual but for quick work like this, changing the EI seems like a good solution to me). Thanks all.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Ted:

    Don't change the film speed as the level of light changes. If the light in and on the scene is even, and doesn't have a strong colour cast (such as from tungsten lights), then you should meter as usual.

    If the light in and on the scene is uneven, you need to be extra careful with your metering (to exclude the effects of things like windows in the background).

    And if your light source is different then daylight, you may want to add some exposure, but you may not - it is a subjective decision.
     
  14. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Ted,

    I assume these are machine prints; machines often produce flat, grainy results like this from thin negs because they try to print detail that isn't there. Printed properly, the images should have dark shadows and proper highlights. I've done some jiggery-pokery in GIMP to illustrate; you'd get better results from scanning the negs, getting them hand-printed or printing them yourself.

    Cheers,
    kevs
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2013
  15. albada

    albada Member

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    I've seen shadows like that many times. Blackish but with blue grains. As others have said, the film was underexposed. If you're scanning, you can fix this with curve-adjustments and noise-reduction in software, but that's a hassle. I prefer to rate Fuji 800 at EI 400 whenever possible. With a 50mm f/2 lens wide open shooting at 1/30 or 1/15, EI 400 should handle about everything indoors.

    Mark Overton