How much finer grain to expect using superior lens optics

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by dw|1, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. I will try my best to be specific, since this question could easily dive into a broader topic.
    Here is some useful context, followed by my question at the end.
    I shoot Delta 100 on 4x5, in DDX, for my landscapes. I use the RB67 Sekor-C
    lenses for casual studio work. I have been wanting to consolidate and I've
    been considering the Fujinon GX680, mainly because of the film size and
    camera movements. It, allegedly, also has superior optics to the Sekor-C's.
    I realize grain is subjective to a certain point, but I routinely wet print my landscapes
    up to 16x20 and I simply prefer a less grainy print. I shot and printed a test
    landscape to 16x20, taken with the 90mm Sekor-C (Delta100, DDX). My goal was
    to see if the 6x7 film size would be 'acceptable' enough for me to sell the 4x5
    I have clearly been spoiled by the 4x5 film as the 6x7 grain, even at 8x10 print,
    just wasn't as fine as I expected.
    So, no offense to the 90mm Sekor-C ... but I am wondering how much of the
    grain was an optical limitation, rather than a film size limitation.
    My Question: Would the, allegedly, superior optics of the Fujinon GX680
    lenses give a finer grain compared to the RB67 Sekor-C lenses? I wish I could
    rent a GX680 & Lens for comparison, but they are scarce enough as it is.
  2. Grain originates from the emulsion and its presence would be independent of the glass you choose to use.
  3. Grain "sits" in or on the film. To get less grain from the same emulsion, you need to go to a larger negative so that you need less magnification to reach the desired print size. Lenses cannot physically create any grain all by themselves.
    Wrong kind of horse whip here, sorry.
  4. Ever consider the KL series lenses for the RB?
  5. I have used Delta 100 at ASA/ISO 64 with Rodinal 1:25, 1:50, D76 1:1 and HC110 at. Rodinal was the sharpest followed by D76 and HC110. I find that printed with a fine quality lens and glossy paper grain becomes barely discernable at 18X but the sharpness continues. It is one of my favorite films followed by Plus X Pan and D76 full strength, well over 20X (ISO169) and TMX/Rodinal (ISO 80) at 20X.
  6. Thank you Thomas. I agree that negative grain is purely a function of the emulsion
    and how it is exposed and developed.
    The point I am trying to discern is whether the quality of the optical projection
    (via the lens) onto that emulsion can be so significantly different between the Sekor-C
    and the Fujinon that it would reduce apparent graininess on the print. I mean, the
    Sekor-C is no slouch so perhaps I am encountering max performance for the 6x7 format.
    I am also thinking back to my 35mm days when there was an apparent "grain difference"
    when I upgraded 3rd party glass to the Canon L glass. That was clearly a case of
    increased resolution being projected onto the emulsion.
    Further case in point is, I shot the same landscape on 4x5, using Schneider glass. I
    printed a cropped section from an equivelant surface area to the 6x7 format. The grain
    was minimal compared to the Sekor-C 6x7 full frame. So again, the Schneider's optical
    projected compared to the Sekor-C has me encouraged about the prospect of being
    satisfied by switching to the Fujinon glass on 6x8 format. I don't want to be a grain
    snob. Clearly 4x5 is the way to go for 16x20. If I can get parity at 8x10 or 11x14, I'd
    be content to make the switch for my landscapes.
  7. Gary, the KL glass is fine indeed. The RB67 just doesn't have the movements I prefer
    for my landscape work. Thank you for your suggestion.
  8. The answer still is that the quality of the optical projection does nothing to influence grain.
    So you must look for what could be behind the perceived better grain elsewhere.
    Are you perhaps confusing blur, and the absence thereof, with grain size?
  9. Lynn, thank you. I have found the Delta100 in DDX combo extremely satisfactory on 4x5.
    There are rare cases when I have used Perceptol for max grain performance. HC110-B is
    also great for very low contrast scenes ... really bumps up the values nicely.
  10. QG. Interesting thought. The Sekor-C shots, though perfectly in focus, were certainly
    less sharp. Perhaps another meaningful test would be to shoot a blue sky at infinity
    and print the grain.
    Although I love everything about Delta 100 for landscape, perhaps I'll shoot a roll of
    Efke 25. Again, if I can get to parity at 11x14 I'd make the move. I just don't shoot
    enough to justify my 4x5 field gear anymore, so the GX680 seemed like a nice exit strategy.
  11. With good optics and very good technique, the performance of either 6x7 or 4x5 is going to exceed the capability of film. That given, a 4x5 inch negative requires only half the enlargement of 6x7 to reach a given print size. That means more detail and less grain, if the print is large enough, say 16x20 inches minimum. A smaller print would be a wash - limited by the medium not the source.
  12. If you want finer grain on a 6x7 why not just shoot a finer grained film?
  13. Thanks Mike.
    The original question was not how to get finer grain, rather to discern whether
    better optics could enhance the apparent grain in a print. The consensus appears
    to be that the negative size format is the 'limitation' - not the optics. So my question
    is answered. The secondary question, about minimizing the 6x7 format's grain, means
    using an even finer grained film - like Efke 25. Unfortunately, the specs suggest it
    doesn't have the latitude I like for +2, N-2 so I'm going to stick with 4x5 for landscapes.
  14. Dave,
    I'll probably explain this really badly, but here goes.
    Years ago, when I first used Leica glass, and compared it to my Nikon glass, it seemed that the enlargements from the Leica shots had smaller grain than those from the Nikon shots, even though the enlargements were the same size and all the shots were shot on the same film.
    A friend of mine (who is a professional cinematographer) explained what I was seeing this way. When you have smooth tones, the grain is much more obvious. Because the Leica glass was so much sharper than the Nikon glass, there were many more sharp edges and much less "blur/softness" compared to the Nikon glass. With the softer edges and less "crispness" in the Nikon images, the enlargements appeared to have more grain, because they had more places where the grain showed up better. In the Leica images, because there were less "soft" spots, the grain was not as noticeable on the enlargements.
    Whether that would come into play with what you are shooting, I'm not sure.
  15. I'm not so sure about all of this.
    In Leica's "M-Lenses" brochure , author Erwin Puts writes:
    "[...] A most interesting phenomenon became evident with these side-by-side-shots. The Skopar gives images with a grainier pattern and with grain clumps that are rougher than those in images made with Leica lenses. This is caused by the lower aberration content of the Skopar lens. When aberrations are abundant the light rays emanating from a point source of light do not converge to a point in the image but have a more random pattern around the central core. These more widely spread rays energize more silver grains around the center spot and they do so randomly. The result is a rough clumping. [...]"
    This would suggest that apparent grain indeed depends not only on the type of film, but also on the optics used.
  16. It would suggest that. But it's marketing blurb. Not "science".
    A less sharp lens produces larger blobs of light on film, covering more grains than a sharp pin point. The energy distribution in that blob can vary, from a ring with little in the center, to a blob in the center fading out going out.
    The grain in film will record that. Not as a different type of grain distribution. But as the different type of light distribution the film is presented with.
    And yes: the larger the blob, the more grain is exposed and developed. But graininess, real and apparent, will be the same.
  17. I agree that the nonsense quoted a couple of posts ago is pure marketing hype, and should be largely ignored. Although there is some evidence that the lens point-spread function can have a bearing on whether the image is mainly formed on the surface or in the depth of the film. This in turn determines how well a lens and film combination responds to a given developer. Apparent image sharpness is obviously affected by this, but not the grain structure of the film.
    Sharpness and fine grain should not be confused. Sharpness is influenced primarily by the lens characteristics, and secondarily by the macro and micro contrast of the subject and film/developer combination. Graininess is purely a function of film, developer and exposure parameters.
    While Rodinal gives good apparent sharpness, even its most ardent admirer must admit that it is not the most fine-grain developer. In fact in my experience it gives the coarsest grain of any commercial developer currently available. So if fine grain is your primary concern, use any other developer than Rodinal. D76 and HC-110 give quite "tight" grain with most films. Also overdeveloping and exposure will affect film grain considerably, as will using outdated or badly stored film. IMHO the best film speed versus grain trade-off is got from T-max 100. Ilford's Delta 100 can give even less grain, but it seems to have poorer shadow detail for a given exposure.
  18. If you want less grain, try Fuji Acros and a solvent developer (try undiluted xtol) or a larger format. As others said, the lenses do not affect the grain. Think of it like a slide show -- the grain is the texture of the wall, and the lens is projecting the image on that wall. The projected image on the wall can be as sharp as a tack, but the grain will always be the same as long as you are projecting it on the same wall. If you want less grain, you have three options -- finer grained film, finer grain developer, or larger film format. I have essentially grainless 20x24's from 6x7 and Fuji Acros -- it is the finest grained of all the 100 speed films.
  19. Thanks Stuart. I'm not a Rodinal user, I've standardized on Delta100/DDX for my 4x5.
    The 6x7 tests were using the same combination. DDX is a, generally, fine grain developer
    but I'll give Perceptol a shot. My own experience with Acros a few years ago was that it
    was not finer grained that Delta 100 (all things being equal, of course). I will conduct a
    more structed experiment between the two. If, as you observe, grain is minimal up to
    20x24 then that certainly may be the incentive I need to move from my spoiled 4x5 ways.
  20. Hi Dave -- while Acros does technically have the finest grain available in 100 speed black and white film (it's RMS is officially 7(in's 7.5 in something like Xtol), TMX is 8, and Ilford does not publish that stat, so I am not sure. In real life, I think they are all very similar. Acros does have the advantage that it is quite a tolerant film -- it can be processed very well in a lot of different chemicals. This is a very "fanboy" sort of article, but it has a lot of very good information about Acros and how it relates to TMX and Delta 100:
    Also, if you find grain to be an issue in a 16x20 made with 6x7 and a 100 speed tabular emulsion, you might need to reevaluate your expectations, or at least put down the magnifying glass. At 20x24 it is very slightly visible when you look in clouds and areas of even tone, but only when you put your face right into it. This is with a Mamiya 7 and prints made using a diffusion enlarger. It is also important to note that if you are scanning and you are noticing a lot of grain, that may be more from the scanner and its properties than from the film.
  21. Hi Stuart. I only wet print, no scanning. I know what you mean about grain-peeping, but
    I can honestly state this is not the case here. At 16x20, for my test print, the grain in the
    sky is visible from arms length. I use the Omega D6 XL, with a condensor head, through
    Schneider optics. It's a very contrasty setup, as I rarely go past 1.5 with my contrast filters.
    Anyway, I am going to repeat the tests with Acros and Delta 100 in perceptol. I don't think
    the format (6x7) is the issue here, or the optics.
  22. That is a consideration too -- a condenser enlarger will maximize the appearance of grain (though be very sharp). I think all you can really do is try the Acros and Delta 100 in perceptol again.
  23. The largest format I shoot is 6x6, so keep that in mind when reading my response :)
    I agree with previous posters about the Acros. I've had excellent luck with it, both rated at 100 and at 50. It does seem sharper and less grainy to me than many other films, but that may be the result of the slightly thinner film base making my unamazing enlarger lenses work less hard. It also explains why almost every scratched or dinged negative I have is Acros :(
    I have also had good grain results from Ilford PanF+, especially when shot closer to 25 ISO. The grain is not quite as fine as on some other films, but it does have a tonal range more along the lines of what you're looking for.
    I used to develop both these films in somewhat weak Perceptol. Both (especially the PanF) gave excellent grain and tonal range. Recently I've been doing most of my developing in Rodinal because I prefer the tones, but for fine grain I still get out the Perceptol.

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