A Question of Grain

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by malcolm_myers, Jul 12, 2012.

  1. I took two photos a couple of years apart on similar (but different) films and developed them slightly differently. However, I am surprised at how much difference there is in the grain. Can anyone help me understand what is going on please?
    The first shot is of my wife in a hat. Kodak Tri-X rated at 400. Developed in D-76 stock for five and a half minutes at 22 Celsius.
    The second is of my wife and son. Ilford HP5 rated at 400. Developed in D-76 1:1 for eleven minutes at 20 Celsius.
    Both had similar agitation: two inversions every 30 seconds. Both were taken in low light with an Olympus 35 RC.
    I would normally expect more grain from the Tri-X but it is clearly more finely grained here and I prefer it. Can anyone shed any light on the differences? Thanks![​IMG]
  2. Can't see your pictures. Can you upload them in the uploader that shows up *after* you confirm your post or give us links?
  3. Well without seeing the pictures it it is hard to say anything. Tri-X though is finer grained than HP5+ to my eyes no matter what developer I use. What you are calling grain may not even be grain.
  4. There are instructions in the photo.net FAQ on how to upload pictures so that they appear inline. I'll also say that Tri-X
    changed some years ago and the later stuff is more fine grained. Different processing instructions too. Not sure if diluting
    it vs not diluting it has an impact. This discussion is interesting.

  5. D-76 undiluted is much more of a solvent developer than it is when diluted 1:1. This will result in noticeably finer grain with the side effect of there being some sharpness loss. (Sharp grain means sharper images, alas.)

    For portraits you might find the softness flattering. For gritty work where sharpness is more important, diluted D-76 will do a better job.

    Incidentally there are non-solvent developers like PMK and Pyrocat-HD that will give you tremendous sharpness but not exaggerate the grain. They are worth trying.
  6. And then there are times where you want grain and sharpness.
  7. There are some good reasons for the differences you saw:
    • Several years ago Kodak changed Tri-X - it's now a finer grain film. While we weren't privy to the details, the revised film more closely resembled T-Max 400 than old Tri-X. There appeared to be more sensitizing dye and the telltale purplish residual tint in the base.
    • D-76 stock solution is a very fine grain developer, so you'd see even finer grain with it and Tri-X now.
    • HP5+ remains closer to the original look, including a flexible response to the effects of development. At EI 200 in ID-11 stock solution it produces very fine grain, good enough for virtually grainless 11x14 prints from my 35mm negatives. At EI 800 in Microphen the grain is very pronounced, while it retains reasonable shadow detail and snappy but not excessive contrast.
    • You used the 1+1 dilution for D-76 with HP5+, which enhanced the acutance and grain.
    • You developed for 11 minutes, which will boost contrast and apparent grain. Try around 9 to 10 minutes. You should see a marked difference in contrast and grain.
    Tri-X and HP5+ used to be very similar films but they're more different than similar now. I still like both and use both. Tri-X still works better with Diafine. And I still prefer HP5+ between EI 200-400 for a classic b&w look.
  8. If you like the look though of the older Tri-X I suggest ORWO N74+. I rediscovered my true love of B&W with this film. A close second is New Lucky 400. If the ORWO came in 120 I would be a very happy camper.
  9. Larry, where do you get your Lucky film?
  10. Grain size is fixed during manufacture. During the developing step, exposed silver salts are reduced to metallic silver flakes. These flakes are microscopic therefore the grain you see is actually a clumping of numerous such flakes. During manufacture, silver salts are grown. Slow films consists of smaller crystals of silver salts while fast films have larger crystals. A larger crystal has more mass and therefore more likely to be hit by a photon during exposure. Fine grain developers contain a silver solvent that whittles away, reducing the size of the silver flake after it forms. As a silver salt crystal is reduced, there is an adjacency effect that causes nearby crystals to also be reduce regardless of whether they are exposed or not. This is the stuff of grain. Now the silver flakes materialize in a gelatin binder, a glue that holds the crystals and the metallic flakes in place. Gelatin is chosen because it is permeable; fluids can percolate within the structure. The fluids of the process are mainly water and wet gelatin swells. The swelling causes the silver flakes to "dance" about and this action causes them to aggregate. As the gelatin dries is shrinks, temperature and wet time affect aggregation. Temperature differences between solutions accelerate the "dance". Pre-hardened film emulsion retards the "dance". Modern films are "doped" with impurities that change the electrical charge of the crystal by braking up its uniform lattes structure. The result is higher sensitivity and the shape of the crystal is altered. This is the stuff of "T" grain a flat crystals shaped like stepping stone. These have less mass but a larger surface area to capture photons, thus a finer grain structure. Now this and maybe umpteen more things is the stuff of grain. Likely, a better description is more gobbledygook from Alan Marcus.
  11. I get Lucky from dealers on ebay Hong Kong.
    That is all and nice as I think 99% of us know this here. The thing is different films of the same speed respond differently with development and agitation. If all was equal and true all films of the same speed would have the same development times no matter who made them.
  12. I get as fine of grain from Tri-x as I do Tmax 400. HP5 for me is a bit grainier. Though it can be controlled it is usually the film I go to and abuse when I want exaggerated grain.
  13. Firstly, my apologies for messing up the uploading of my photos. I had actually thought I'd cancelled the post completely, and it was only when I looked in today that I found I hadn't! Despite that, some very helpful responses so far so thank you. I will now try and upload the pictures
  14. And now the second photo
  15. Looks pretty much as I'd expect, given the differences between the films, developer strength and times.
  16. Michael, you got a problem in your development scheme: TMY-2 is WAY smoother than NewTri-X and HP5+ only a bit grainier than NewTri-X.
    Maybe you should do a series of A3 (or thereabouts) _wet_ prints.
    Except for carefully made drum scans, b+w film scans only give testimony of the scan-ability of the particular type of film on your particular consumer flatbed/film scanner. Which is where Ilford almost generally lags behind Kodak/Fuji. Except for PanF+, funny enough.
  17. Yup, you'll see fairly significant differences between scanned negatives and optical enlargements. Even negatives from Tri-X and HP5+ that appear to have fine grain (let's say, EI 200 in ID-11 stock solution or Perceptol) in optical enlargements will still show some grain when scanned, while normally exposed and developed TMY tends to scan with less visible grain. I've usually found it easier to get the same results, including apparent grain, from scanning and optical enlargements when using T-Max 100 and 400.
  18. During my short time at Brooks Institute of Photography 40 years ago, I learned that the key to fine grain, no matter the film or the developer IS WET TIME. That is, the total time immersed in developer through washing. The shorter time, the finer grain. Develop in high strength solutions at higher temps, skip the stop bath, use rapid fix as briefly as possible, hypo clearing agent, and short wash... we were processing in under 10 minutes wet time, and producing really nice 16x20 prints from Tri-X that you would swear were made with the old Plus-X film... TRUST ME. This is true.

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