You could compare the grain of 160S/NS (a box of which I have bought off eBay) with Fuji's not-portrait-suitable Velvia 50 or 100F: the grain is similar at large print sizes but you would have to be unreasonably (inexplicably...) close to the print and this isn't how you (or others!) are meant to view a portrait, which is typically viewed from 1.2m away. Softly rendered grain together with a neutral colour palette is a hallmark of many beautiful portraiture prints — far removed from the ultra-sharp warts-n-all rendering of d*****. Film has grain; I think you know this. And unless you are into reticulation or pushing film until it falls into a quagmire of grain, there isn't anything to get all bothered about.
Why do you speak of this portraiture film in past tense e.g. I would imagine the Pro 160S or the Kodak Portra NC160 was one of the main films for portrait photographers. Film hasn't gone anywhere. Where I live, and doubtless up there in the big US of A, film-based portraiture is still sparking and beautiful work is being carved out of it. I know this from an exhibitiion of candid child portraits that I attended last Saturday afternoon: all Hasselblad/160 shots with her husband producing similar work on a Linhof Master Tek.
Film has grain the size can be measured that's not the whole issue though the surface of the film emulsion also has an inherrent surface structure that can amplify the grain cusing greater graininess in prints but more so with scans. With poor processing this is exagerated, at it's worst it;s known as surface or micro reticulation,
Over recent yeras with a switch to scanning in labs rather than optical printing a great deal has been done by all the major companies to minimise and almost eliminate this problem. Kopdak, Fuji etc have Patents related to this, it can affect the surface of prints as well giving a dull sheen to a glossy surface.
So when you see Kofdak press releases saying they've made films more scanner friendly this is what they mean.
Ctein wet mounted his negative for enlarging, a techique used back in 1928 (maybe earlier) to get the finest grain from the then 35mm films and this is why many wet-scan for the highest quality.
Armed with this knowledge I noticed recently that dry scanning LF negs going back over 25 years (for publication) the differences between brands of film and the surface of the emulsions does have a major impact on the apparent graininess, despite the fact that large optical prints show now apparent differance.
If you are seeing a lot of grain on your scans from this film, there is a good chance that you are actually seeing a combination of grain and grain aliasing rather than grain itself.
Originally Posted by rayonline_nz
The last generation of 160 ISO "people" films were/are really fine grained when printed optically. They usually scanned well as well.
The current 160 ISO "people" films are even finer grained, and appear to scan more easily as well.
All assuming proper exposure and correct development of course.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
By now, since Kodak is three generations ahead of Fuji in portrait films, Kodak has obviously finer grain than the Fuji films. That might explain why Fuji discontinued 160S, they could not compete on quality.
The grain will depend a lot on the exposure. Underexposure will make the grain worse. Expired film has probably also lost some film speed.
Skies are the place where the grain can be very obvious with all these portrait films. I've seen big improvements in the grain levels in the sky as Kodak went from Portra 400NC to 400NC-2 to 400NC-3 to the current 400. Properly exposed Portra 160 should be close to "grain proof" in the skies.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I and many other photographers spent a lot of time and effort trying to minimize grain because it used to be considered an undesirable artifact valued only by a few who saw it as a creative effect. Grain was tolerated as the inevitable penalty for using fast film and/or rapid developers. Consider how much effort has been expended over many years devising fine grain film and developers; it is unlikely that this would have happened if grain was generally viewed as a desirable thing. Upgrading one's camera to a larger format was usually done in the interests of better overall image quality and grain reduction was high on the list of improvements sought. Grain is increasingly being quoted as a point of differentiation versus digital - if it is readily visible at the proper viewing distance for print size I think it is just as objectionable as noise is in the other medium. OzJohn
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
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Just to comment on this. My maximum print size is 10"x8" and at that size (35mm) 160S grain really can't be seen and in that regard it's very similar to Reala. 400H isn't much worse, unless your nose touches the paper. None of these films show grain at 10"x8" at a comfortable viewing distance. Are you making prints bigger than this?
Originally Posted by rayonline_nz
I tend to make A3 prints. It's also the size that my camera club tend to require. A few friends at times may want some gigantic sizes like 30x40 or something .. That's inches.
I wasn't really comparing the grain. I think the answer is that at most print sizes the grain won't be seen.
From my slide scans and from my 160S scans on the computer at least there is a bit of a difference.
When people use these portrait film, are the colours more/less muted for NC160 or 160S? How would a wedding or a commercial photographer use this film? Do they add more oomph at the lab prior to print? Or did quite a bit of portrait was shot with maybe 160C or VC160 ... those wedding shots with the fresh pink skin, the wedding couple with the sunset in the background etc ...
PS. I probably use past tense b/c over here where I am film are very expensive. In my city there might be only 3x places where I can get pro film. Many amateurs I know import the film from overseas. A roll of neg film here is like $10US or $28US for a roll of slides. Processing is $4US for C41 or $25US for E6 or in between for b/w. Prints not included. I myself get my C41 done here but I export them to the USA for processing and get them ship back here. I don't know any portrait photographers here who shoot colour film anymore unless you make a special request.
Exactly! I was hoping to stimulate a little bit of discussion with my question.
Originally Posted by OzJohn
There are many different films with many different characteristics, and if grain is something objectionable it might be best to consider other alternatives, like Portra 160, Ektar, or ISO 100 E6 film.
But if we isolate the discussion around the Fuji 160S film, one could argue that most people using it would be familiar with all of its characteristics, including its grain size. Based on that you could also argue that perhaps those who liked it, for whatever reason, the grain size was probably already taken into account.
I do agree with you, however, that the arguments for and against grain are interesting, and that it is one of the distinguishing factors in the choice of whether to shoot film or not. I personally started out fighting grain, but eventually came to terms with it and now view it as something that compliments the prints I make, but isn't really a deal-maker/breaker aspect of it. Just a preference.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Hmmm. How'd you post 135 images here? Telling people to go to DPUG<<crickets chirping>> is telling them to get lost. Judging from this thread, there's plenty of technical experience scanning film here. One of these days...
Originally Posted by wildbill
Last edited by CGW; 05-03-2012 at 08:39 AM. Click to view previous post history.
i'm a pro and i just use it like any other film.
shoot it box speed (and bracket ) and then drop it off at the pro lab and have them process it normally.
the whole grainless images thing is a waste of time. film has grain
(unless you shoot techpan ) ... if you don't want grain, ... make contact prints
or just use a different medium ...