Really basic newbie questions.....

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Doug Morgan, Dec 10, 2006.

  1. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    Hello all:

    I'm trying to do some B&W developing and am not happy with the scanned results. I haven't entered a darkroom since childhood and didn't do much even then. I'm not sure how much of the problem is my own ineptitude, how much is the scanner, and how much is just expectations that are too high.

    This is what I've been using:

    Film: Ilford Delta 100&400 in 35mm format as well as a couple rolls of Ilford HP5 plus 400 in 120 format. I also have some fuji neopan on hand but haven't tried it yet.

    Camera: An old Canon rebel 35mm with some of canon's best lenses as well as an old 6x9 folder. In addition to the internal meter I've been using a Sekonic L358 (the 6x9 doesn't have a meter).

    Chemicals: Kodak DL-76, Kodak pro fixer, Indicator stop bath, and photo-flo 200. I've been using the ilford website for development times, kept all chemicals and tank in a water bath at 20C. I haven't got my filling/emptying down so I might be running a bit long on times. For fixer I've been using 8 minutes.

    The results have been rather poor, low contrast and a lack of sharpness or detail. Very grainy. The 75 year old 6x9 produces better results but that seems to be mostly due to the larger negative.

    Any suggestions? Reading through other posts it seems that using the ilford DD-X might help? If I use Ilford developer should I switch fixers/stop bath as well? More or less development times? More/less agitation? Lower/Raise the exposure?

    Thanks in advance for any help.....
     
  2. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    FWIW, and from another relative newbie, I have many negatives that print just great and won't scan worth a darn on either my Epson 3170-Photo or my Microtek 8x10 negative scanner. IMHO, the real test of the quality of the negatives is going to be a traditional print.

    cheers
     
  3. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Doug -

    The differences you would see by switching to a different developer would be small. If you are relatively new to processing and are getting grossly inadequate results, I think you need to first look at your process before you start switching developers.

    D-76 is a classic developer - essentially identical to Ilford ID-11. So the times/temperatures should be about the same for both.

    Your description of the results "poor, low contrast and a lack of sharpness or detail. Very grainy." suggests a few things. First, lack of sharpness or detail could be an equipment problem, but low contrast and grainy suggests a processing problem. I suggest trying to fix the processing problem first, and then see if there are any other issues that need attention. Also, you need to separate your problems with film exposure and processing from any problems with scanning.

    What are the times and temperatures you are using for development? More importantly, what kind of agitation pattern are you using? Can you show us some examples of the results you are getting?
     
  4. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    It may be overexposed film, it may be old expired film, it may be the scanner settings. How do the prints look? You haven't said anything about the age of the film or of the chemicals.
    The best proof of the film is the print, so if you can get a print made you can then see how good the negative really is. A scanner doesn't always do a good job without being tweaked a bit to respond in a manner similar to the print paper. Also the unsharp mask can make the grain look really awful if it's not set right, needs the radius set to a size bigger than the grain.
     
  5. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    Thanks guys.

    I too have an epson 3170 flatbed scanner but do not have any traditional printing equipment or dedicated film scanner. In addition to the rather crappy epson software I tried various settings in vuescan with little improvement. Printing the scans to an epson 4000 they look better than on screen but still not great -- with a bit of work in photoshop they are still not as good as a one hour photo colour print and no where near the quality of my dSLR.

    The film is all within the expiration dates and went straight from the camera to the tank. The chemicals were freshly mixed each time and are also well within the expiration dates.

    For development times the last roll was an HP5 120 at 7 1/2 minutes, 20C. At the suggestion of the local photo finisher (where I bought the supplies) I was agitating every 30 seconds rather than once per minute. I was using the motion he suggested which was to tip the tank on it's side 3 times and give it a bit of a swish. I was carefull to turn the tank slightly each time I set it down so the next tip would be in a different direction.

    I didn't bracket the 120 film but did for the last roll of 35mm and took this in to account for the 120 roll. The -1 stop exposures were consistently better than the others which suprised me but I still wasn't happy with the results.

    I guess my next step is to trade some negatives with someone with a better scanner and see if I can get a couple printed chemically. My ultimate goal here is a panoramic film camera and scanned negatives but if I can't do at least the black and white developing myself I might be better off looking in to a medium format digital back.

    Doug
     
  6. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Before you go to the expense of a new scanner or a digital back, why not try an enlarger?
     
  7. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    DBP: ultimately I want the image on the PC. Unless are you suggesting printing it and then scanning the print?

    I will try and get a local lab to print a few test shots but there aren't many places around that will deal with B&W.

    Doug
     
  8. mfobrien

    mfobrien Member

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    Stick with it -- it could be a variety of factors as mentioned above, and it's possibly a combination of you getting used to a particular film, developing regime, and then whatever hoops you have to go through with the scan. I have a 3170 as well as a Minolta slide scanner. I have better results with b&w film on the 3170 than with the slide/film scanner. I shoot a variety of films and formats, and the 3170 scans the negs pretty well. A recent example with Tri-X is here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfobrien/318775280/

    Stick with a particular film and developer combo -- HC110 is a favorite of mine, and works well with most films.
     
  9. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    Thanks JBrunner.

    35mm is just a means to an end and I'll probably give away the film rebel once I've gotten to where I want to go --- I have high end digital equipment that adequately covers small format.

    What I'm aiming for is 6x12 & larger panoramas with a view camera. I'm trying to use the 35mm film as a simple (and cheaper) way to get some skills up and test some ideas before wasting a lot of time on this.

    I live in a small town next to a small city so the chances of finding an enlarger for sale locally aren't great. Most of the photographers I know don't shoot film anymore so I'm probably going to have to pay someone to print these and may actually have to send them off to Vancouver or Calgary at a much higher expense.

    I will try shooting a roll at half the iso. The light is really bad this afternoon and all I have on hand is 100 film so I might have to try it tomorrow.

    Thanks
     
  10. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Am I understanding correctly that you are turning the tank on it's side 3 times each 30 seconds? You might want to try turning the tank completely upside down and back (should take about 1 second) for 10 seconds each minute, rotating it slightly each time. Agitation can have an impact on the results and they way I understand you to say you are agitation sounds a bit off.

    You should be able to get good results if you give it a bit of time and work with some of the people here to get these problems worked out - if I can learn to do it, you can!

    - Randy
     
  11. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    Mark: You are definitely getting better shadow detail than I am and though it's hard to tell at the reduced size they look sharper. See below for a link to what I'm seeing.

    Randy: I originally tried the agitation method you describe but the guy at the film lab recommended the other method when I had problems: that wasn't my only problem though for that run. I'll go back to the method you (and pretty much everyone but the film lab guy) recommends.

    I guess the other question is am I expecting to much from the 35mm? Here's what I am seeing with delta 100 film:

    The whole frame reduced in size:
    http://www.pbase.com/douglasjmorgan/image/71480838

    A crop out of the middle:
    http://www.pbase.com/douglasjmorgan/image/71480841

    This is with no special processing on the PC.

    Thanks
    Doug
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2006
  12. reub2000

    reub2000 Member

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    Does your scanner take contrast filters?

    It looks like your problem is post processing. You need to give the scanned file more contrast.
     
  13. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    The scanner is pretty basic: at the time it was the cheapest flatbed that could do much with film scans.

    Playing with the contrast for this particular image helps but at the expense of shadow detail or an increase in graininess in the highlights. I guess I'm expecting more from 100 B&W film to me it's looking more like 800.

    Doug
     
  14. reub2000

    reub2000 Member

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    This is a picture taken with 35mm Delta 100 and scanned. The grain I think comes from the accidental over development. My scanner is a Canon LiDE 500.
     
  15. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    A few points occur.

    I assume you are using the D-75 at stock strength? If so, for the Delta films change to 1+1 which is generally considered better for Delta and Tmax emulsions - dilute the stock developer with the same amount of plain water. Use the times given in the Ilford data sheets for 1+1 dilution.

    Use Ilford's agitation style (ignore all shop assistants until you know them well enough to know if they know what they are talking about). Ilford times = Ilford agitation: they are directly related. Pour the developer in, immediately agitate for 10 seconds then for ten seconds every minute. Agitate by inverting the tank and then righting it again - do this 4 or 5 times during the ten seconds.

    To get more shadow detail, rate the film at a lower ASA. Start by reducing by 1/2 to 2/3rds of a stop (whichever is easier for your camera). Still not enough shadow detail - reduce further. If you end up at much over half the original ASA (Delta 100 below 50ASA or HP5 below 200ASA) you have probably got other problems...

    Once you have the shadow detail you want but the negative is too low in contrast, increase development time by 15% (but watch out for Delta - the newer technology emulsions are more responsive to development time change so try 10% there).

    The other slight problem is that all the B&W people here (99.9% anyway) use a traditional darkroom and only a few scan for a final print and digital subjects are off topic here, so it's all a bit difficult...

    Have a look at APUG's sister site www.HybridPhoto.com which was set up specifically to discuss activity where film is only a part of the process. People will be able to discuss the scanning side more freely there.

    Good luck, Bob.
     
  16. MMfoto

    MMfoto Member

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    I think that having a local lab print a few negative is a great idea. A pro lab for sure, and if you have one in your area, a lab that specializes in Black and White. Insist on an traditional-optical print if they give you the option.

    Also, this would be a good opportunity to take a few sleeved rolls of film and get feedback from the printer as to how they think they look. If they're not helpful, then your probably at the wrong place.

    Good luck!
     
  17. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    One very simple idea that might help - shoot a couple of rolls of Ilford XP2 or other chromogenic film (i.e. a b+w film that processes in C-41 color chemicals at your local mini lab). If you see much better highlight detail from these negs compared with your Delta negs, the problem will be that your scanner cannot handle the maximum density of silver-based film. If you see generally a LOT less grain from XP2 than Delta, this probably indicates that you have overexposed the Delta (Delta does not like overexposure, quality takes a nose-dive). Similarly, if you have too much contrast in your Delta scans compared with XP2, this would indicate overdevelopment.

    Bear in mind that a very rough indication of correct highlight density with negatives is that you can read a printed book in good light with the negatives lying on the print - this is a crude measurement but saves the price of a densitometer! In the same way, a couple of rolls of XP2 are a much cheaper option than tossing out your cameras or scanner!

    Regards,

    David
     
  18. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Doug,

    If you really are not going to print yourself and are only going to PC, I would strongly advise you to take Davids advise and use XP2 Super, it is used extensively for scanning, and if you are not going ' back in the dark' it is very easy to have processed.

    If you would like the 'basics' ILFORD book pm me your address and I will post you one.

    Regards

    Simon: ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  19. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    To add a bit to the chromogenic comment, if you use a scanner with an infrared channel, you can use this feature with your software's matching algorithms (usually called "ICE" with manufacturer-supplied software) to have the software digitally remove dust and scratches. This process is imperfect (after all, the software is basically "guessing" at data it doesn't have), but it's usually better than not using it. IR dust/scratch removal doesn't generally work with conventional B&W negatives. My understanding is that the silver in the negatives interferes with the IR frequencies; in chromogenics, the silver in completely removed and dye clouds take their place. Of course, if your scanner lacks an IR channel, this isn't a big concern unless you think you might want to go back and re-scan some of your negatives in the future with a better scanner.
     
  20. Doug Morgan

    Doug Morgan Member

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    Wow -- thanks for all the input!

    Reub2000: I'm thinking it's not a scanner problem and is a development/exposure issue. Your results are much better and just on specs my scanner should be producing better results.

    Bob F: I'll try lowering the ISO setting or increasing expsoure for the shadows. I've got to fight the tendency to expose for highlights (from digital). On the next roll I'll stick to the agitation methods you describe and use the dilute developer. Thanks.

    MMFoto: I wish I had more choices but there really isn't much selection in my area any more. For B&W the choices are exactly one. For colour there's an additional one hour photo place, using the same machine. I can send it out but then we are talking on the order of a week turn around, which would be ok once I know what I am doing but really puts an onion in the ointment for learning.

    David H: I'm not sure they stock the XP2 here, I've seen the similar Kodak product (bcn?) but was pretty much told not to bother with it. I can have it ordered or I can just shoot a roll of colour film as a test. The other idea is to shoot two rolls of the Delta, develop one myself and have the local shop develop and print the other. I need some light though as it is grey, grey, grey here today.

    Simon: I pm'd you my address, thanks very much for the offer. I need all the help I can get.

    srs5694: I'm not sure if the scanner has the hardware ICE but I've tried it with sharpening/grain reduction/dustremoval collectively and individually on and off without much difference except for the sharpening settings. I'm headed in to town today and am going to see if I can get another photography studio to scan in some samples on their own machine.

    Thanks again everyone, very helpfull, and a bunch of things to try.
    Doug