Grain and Extended Development
After an absence of many years, I have started using 35mm again. With the medium and large formats I have been using, grain was not really an issue. I donít enlarge to a high degree so the only time that grain was visible was with 400-speed film in the 645 format. I try to keep the croping to a minimum and never print larger than 11x14. I donít mind some grain in a print; after all it is part of the structure of the film and the nature of the analog process. Of course, with 35mm it is much more apparent and if I have to print at a higher contrast, the grain is more visible than at lower contrast (no real surprise). I'm trying to avoid selenium intensification because of the multiple images on a strip of film. I was thinking that I could increase my developing time and not have to print with the higher contrast settings as much. So here is my first question to the group:
Does it seem that the image of the grain is more influenced by increased development or printing at higher contrast?
I use Tri-x or HP5 in Xtol and sometimes need the extra contrast if the light was too soft. Now my second question:
Has anyone tried and liked the results of pushing Plus-X or FP4 two stops? I know there would be some loss in the shadows but this may be acceptable depending on the subject.
I could have performed these tests myself but I thought that with such a resource as this forum is, it would be a waste not to take advantage of it.
Originally Posted by ragnar58
Increased development increases the clumping of the silver grains and makes them more prominent at larger magnifications, especially with small format. At the printing stage, using higher contrast filtration emphasizes that grain that you made more prominent during the development of the film.
IMO, if you are concerned with grain when using small format, then I would learn to shoot the new T-Max 400 film or even T-Max 100 film (these are T-grain films). However, these films do not tolerate inconsistent processing like that of the more traditional films like PX or TX. You must be very consistent with time, temp, and agitation.
People push these films two stops all the time, but ultimately you will have to decide if you like the results. If you like the non-T-grain traditional films, then one option could be to try and keep the contrast range of the roll very similar for pushing just one stop----but then intensify with selenium. Just a thought.
Time, the forgotten factor for grain development
We always talk about sodium sulfite and low pH as contributing to "fine grain." What they really do is first, a low pH extends development time, and then the sulfite has time to work. (The sulfite also contributes to film speed, but that's another issue.)
One of the problems with diluted developers and extended development times is that grain increases.
Conversely, a quick development in a high pH developer doesn't let the grains clump, which is what really contributes to the appearance of grain. In fact, they don't really clump, but it looks that way looking through the emulsion as there is a grain here, then one a micorn below, and one below that, etc. In chaotic distribution, they look like they are clumpting.
The look of the grain will be different in a high pH developer than in say, D-76. Diafine and most two baths use a pH of about 10.5 for bath B, but it is in and out in three minutes. Generally the grain is pretty unobjectionable in Diafine and similar.