Sharpness and grain in 6x7 - developers?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by mrtoml, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    I have just started using a Mamiya 7ii and some of the negatives (although with great detail) appear to be slightly lacking in something. I think it is either one of two things.

    First off my enlarger lens has some fungus growing in it. I have ordered a new lens today. I don't think this is the explanation though. I think it is perhaps a problem of the developer I am using.

    I have been using Aculux (a fine grain + slight speed enhancing developer). I have been using this with good results in 35mm (generally with TriX and HP5). Now I have moved seriously up the film format stakes I find that this developer produces fine looking negs, but the prints don't look quite sharp enough. The results look OK with Delta 3200 even though I can hardly see any grain at 11x14, but the HP5 I took (and some Acros especially) seem to be a bit soulless. It is difficult to describe in words, but I think it is the edge definition that is not hard enough. It might simply be because I am more used to 35mm with a bit of grain.

    I understand that aculux would suffer in the sharpness stakes because of its speed enhancing and fine grain. I want to try dilute Perceptol as recommended by Barry Thornton in Edge of Darkness. Ie a developer that still reduces grain, but enhances acutance with a slight loss of speed. Does anyone else have an opinion on this or am I just going mad? Any experiences with other developers also welcome. I fear I may be suffering from the 'search for the elusive magic bullet' syndrome.
     
  2. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    The only way to be sure is to change only one variable at a time. I would fist check out the new lens your've ordered, that could be the difference. I hope you ordered a good lens!

    Souless? If I read you right, you may need to bump up the contrast a bit; either thru longer dev time, or thru printing. I've never used Aculux, but it's probably a fine dev and all you need to do it to tweek something with it. Don't do wholesale changes. It can take awhile to find what clicks for you.
     
  3. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    Thanks. I have ordered a Rodagon which I assume will be OK. I am then going to reprint some of the shots. I don't think it is a contrast issue because I printed negs from delta 3200 and hp5 on the same paper at the same time of similar subjects taken on the same day.

    This morning I put the prints out in order of what I thought were the best looking ones. I had forgotten which prints were from which films. The best batch were all delta 3200. Middle were all HP5 and worst were Acros.

    The delta 3200 look OK to me. It's not that the HP5 prints are bad. I just think they could be better so I think a tweak is all that is required. I also have been reading Thornton's book which has probably got me thinking too much about sharpness :rolleyes: I will also try bumping up the contrast just to make sure.
     
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  4. bwakel

    bwakel Subscriber

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    Hand held?

    From your choice of film do I divine that you're shooting hand held? If you are then you're going to notice the softening effect of relative movement much more readily with medium format. The fact that the Delta 3200 gave the best results could be because the shutter speed was faster and so you've got less relative movement.

    I use a Mamiya 7II and find that PanF+ in Tetenal Neofin Blue produces images with real bite and excellent tonality but being a slow film you'll need to use a tripod.

    Barry
     
  5. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    That's a good point I hadn't considered. I was shooting handheld with 80mm lens in bright conditions. I recall that I mostly used 1/60 or 1/125 and was probably stopping down the delta 3200 (which was rated at 1600) but I cannot recall exactly. This was my first outing with the camera and I was just getting a feel for it and the metering system. You are right I should do some tests with a tripod.
     
  6. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I shoot Fuji Acros and TMax 100 in my Mamiya 7II (always on a tripod). I develop Semi-Stand in Pyrocat-MC (excellent tonality and acutance). I usually contact print the negs.
     
  7. mcfactor

    mcfactor Member

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    I find that with the mamiya, I can shoot really slow films, like pan f and efke 25 without a tripod as long as im in direct sunlight. Since there is no mirror to move, the shutter is exceptionally vibration-free. I doubt that lack of sharpness due to vibration would be your problem. Try slower film with different developers.
     
  8. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    I'm glad you said that. I bought the M7 because it was a rangefinder with no mirror slap partly so that I could use it hand held. I don't mind using a tripod, but sometimes it's nice just to take the camera for a stroll.
     
  9. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I want to try dilute Perceptol as recommended by Barry Thornton in Edge of Darkness. Ie a developer that still reduces grain, but enhances acutance with a slight loss of speed. Does anyone else have an opinion on this or am I just going mad? Any experiences with other developers also welcome. I fear I may be suffering from the 'search for the elusive magic bullet' syndrome.[/QUOTE]

    Perceptol and Microdol X can be diluted 1:2 or 1:3, it is a good blance of sharpness and fine gain but due to longish development times can produce increased base fog. For a 6X7 negative you may also want to try DK50 or Rodinal.
     
  10. domaz

    domaz Member

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    Re-align your rangefinder? I remember coming across quite a lot of information of aligning rangefinders in Mamiya 7's when I was reseraching them a while back. Here's an example. Maybe they go out of alignment easily?
     
  11. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    If I want a fine grain result, I use a fine grain fillm.

    As I said earlier in this thread, I shoot TMax 100 and Acros on a tripod and develop in Pyrocat-MC.

    If I'm shooting my Mamiya 7 II hand held, I shoot Kodak TMY 400 or Fuji Neopan 400 and develop it in Pyrocat-MC. The acutance is high, the tonality is great and the grain is not super fine, but is acceptable to me.

    Crawley's FX-2 works well with Efke 25 (but then, so does Pyrocat-MC and Pyrocat -HD).
     
  12. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    I hope the rangefinder alignment isn't out. The camera is brand new.

    On the subject of grain. I don't mind a little grain and didn't expect to see much with a 400 speed film on 6x7 anyway at 11x14. I just stuck with my previous (fine grain) developer which I like in 400ISO/35mm and wondered whether this might be the reason the prints from the 400 speed film in the M7 don't appear to my eyes to be fantastically sharp. A little grain sometimes gives the appearance of sharpness, does it not? I am thinking that maybe I don't need a fine grain developer like aculux for MF and maybe a high definition film developer might be better for my tastes (like perceptol).
     
  13. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I am thinking that maybe I don't need a fine grain developer like aculux for MF and maybe a high definition film developer might be better for my tastes (like perceptol).[/QUOTE]

    Perceptol or Microdol X are not high definition developers, when used at stock solution they are fine gain developers, but when the sulfide is diluted the grain desloving aspect is reduced which gives somewhat higher definiton. But they are not true high definition developers. I think Illford sells Perceptol in quart kits. You also may want to try Dixactol Thortons 2 bath developer, I found it to be very sharp, but somewhat gainey for my tast, at least in 35mm.
     
  14. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    I once resurrected a darkroom in a local high school. The equipment was all decent (Beseler 45's with various heads and good, 6 element German optics). Initial results left me underwhelmed with flat, dull prints and in tracing the problem, I found that an almost imperceptible haze in all of the lenses were the cause. It surprised me how little hazing it took to degrade the image. I brought some optics from home and this perked up the prints. You may find a similar result and change with your new enlarger lens. Hopefully, it can be that simple!
     
  15. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    Thanks for all your replies. I have developed a new set of hp5 negs in a different developer for comparison. My new enlarger lens is arriving tomorrow so I can also compare that. Hopefully this will at least eliminate some variables even if it is not solved.
     
  16. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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    Hi, Mark. Try Rodinal with your Tri-X. 1:50 dilution with minimal agitation should make bitingly sharp negs with crisp grain.

    John.
     
  17. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    Hello Mark,

    I have tried a variety of films and developers over the years and am currently using HP5+ in 35mm and 120, and have recentlly hit on a developer that is as sharp as Rodinal but with finer grain, lovely tonality and great control over highlights. I am really pleased with this developer/ film combination - bitingly sharp prints with a hint of grit from 120 negatives, and sharp prints with visible but not obtrusive grain from 35mm negatives.
    The name of this magic bullet? ID11 1+3, believe it or not.

    Film taken in bright but no sun conditions gets 20 minutes. Film exposed in full sun (yes we do get it in Yorkshire) gets 15 minutes.At 20 degrees C . Film rated at 200 This yields negatives that are very easy to print, usually on grade 2.

    Alan Clark
     
  18. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    It was the developer I think

    I think I have solved the issue. I developed another 2 rolls of HP5 and 1 roll of Delta 3200 in a more middle of the road developer (LC29, it's all I had to hand). The prints are now nice and sharp to my eyes and I am very pleased with them. They have that extra pop that I feel MF prints should have, but are still pretty grain free. So I think I will stick to Aculux for the 35mm negatives and maybe the 120 Delta 3200 and use LC29 for other MF negatives.