Ilford Delta 400 pushed to 1600 with Microphen - Grainy results

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by manuel_zamora_morschhaeuser, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. Hello everybody,

    last week I developed several rolls of Ilford Delta 400 shot at 1600 with Microphen. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure if everything went right, because my results are very grainy, much more than I anticipated from several samples I saw on the 'net. This is my first time pushing film, but I have successfully developed Delta 400 and HP5 with ID-11 several times with quite good results.

    The film is expired (3 years), but was kept refrigerated the whole time; the Microphen was mixed about three months ago, but kept tighly capped at room temperature. I developed it at 20°C for 10.5 minutes using the stock solution. For the next films I adjusted the development time by 10% for every developed roll, as suggested by Ilford - every roll looks approximately the same, at least concerning grain and contrast.

    Here is an example of a whole correctly exposed frame, scanned with a Nikon LS-5000 (processed with curves to mimic a print):

    Here is a 100% crop:


    What I would like to know - is this a result within the normal parameters or did something go wrong? Any clue what my problem could be? Somewhere I read that my Nikon produces scans with huge grain because of its light source, especially with pushed film... but I do not believe that this effect would be *that* severe.

    Thanks for your help!

  2. Three things. First, Microphen is not touted to be a fine grain developer. It's forte is as a speed enhancing developer, which it can do to the tune of perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 stop extra speed. Second, push processing always emphasizes grain. Third, Delta 400 is a fast film. No matter what they say, the faster the film, the more grain you get.
    These shots look pretty good, all things considered.
  3. I concur. The pic looks good to me. Details follow.
    It's a little grainy, but if you want "no grain", pushing to 1600 is not the way to go. There's a trade off; when you choose a higher film speed or push a film, you're going to get "more grain." I think the results are okay.
    Hey, the film was three years overdue. The developer was three months old. The film was pushed two stops. There's nothing in that list of conditions that's going to contribute to reducing the appearance of grain.
    One can get the appearance of grain virtually eliminated from the photo; slow speed film; fresh, fine developer like D-23 or something similar or better; using the film as slowly and as gently as it was designed to be used, instead of pushing or pulling; keep the print size well within the negative format's capabilities, etc. Good luck. J.
  4. Thank you both for the heads up. As I said, I was unsure, because I saw samples of exactly this combination with much smaller and neater grain. I will try again, with fresh film and fresh developer.
    Are there any recommendations you can give me concerning film and developer types at these speeds? As a social shooter I take many candid shots in dim lightening conditions - I need something around ISO 1600. I know that B&W at these speeds comes with grain, and don't get me wrong, I really do like it! I just want to make sure I don't miss anything...
  5. Get some Tri-X and some Diafine developer. Rate the Tri-X at anywhere from 1250 - 1600. Follow the development directions on the package of Diafine. It's a good combination for low light work, but not for fine grain.
  6. I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the age of the film and developer.
    Here are the real factors:
    • You're scanning b&w film. This will always exaggerate grain.
    • You're push processing. This too will always exaggerate grain.
    • Combine the two and you will see greatly exaggerated grain.
    That's it. Frank pretty much covered the relevant factors.
    Scanning b&w film is an entirely separate skill set from traditional darkroom work. Check the archives - there's an entire section devoted to this issue and contains lots of good tips for getting the best results from scanning.
  7. Grain doesn't change with age of film. What happens with expired film is some loss of speed and perhaps contrast.

    Developer doesn't increase grain due to age. What happens is some loss of efficacy, which can be compensated by increased development time.

    Grain is due to choice of developer and push processing.

    For 1600 perhaps you should use tmax 3200 or the ilford equivalent. You'll have much less of a push given the nominal iso of 1000 for these films.
  8. Acufine and Diafine. nuff said
  9. When you compare samples on the net, make sure you're comparing the same size negatives. The low grain samples you found might be medium format or even large format shots, and grain will be much less of an issue. Also, nothing stops people from running noise reduction on their scans, so that may also be a contributing factor to the difference you saw. Of course, nothing stops you from doing the same if you thing the grain here is a little heavy.
  10. FWIW, HP5+ in Microphen was grainier than I'd expected too, even pushed to only 800. But the resolution was very good, as it is in your sample photo. Look at the definition of the eyelashes and tiny capillaries in the eye.
    It's a question of which characteristic is most important to you. And if you plan to scan rather than print conventionally you should gear your materials toward that. I found that TMY at 1600 in Microphen scanned well with reasonable grain and good definition.
  11. Thank you all for your help!
    After some more reading in the archives I tried several different scanning techniques. The best effect had reducing the analog gain of the light source to 0.25 in Vuescan - the Histogram looks better than before, but the grain is just a tiny bit better/smaller and less contrasty. I really do think that the design of the LS-5000 contributes at least somewhat to the coarse grain, but as you all said, there are many different factors to that.
    I also tried using Noise Ninja and GEM, which both produced results not to my liking - too much smearing.
    For the next pictures I will experiment with TMY2/Microphen and Neopan 1600 and try to compare my results to the Delta 400.
    Thanks again,
  12. Today I tried scanning the negatives with Nikon Scan - and voila, I got better results. Somehow, it seems, does Vuescan some sort of sharpening or processes the image data in a way which enhances the grain somewhat. I get more "white dust grain" in the shadows with Vuescan that with Nikon Scan. For the record: I used the positive and the negative mode in Vuescan, with identical results - no sharpening, no roc, no gem no whatever. With Nikonscan I only used the positive mode and converted to black and white using Photoshop (just desaturation, the rgb channels looked quite the same regarding grain and tones) - again, no sharpening or fancypants postprocessing. The overall tones seem to look better, too, regardless of postprocessing of course.

    Here is a new 100% crop (probably not the very best example, but there is a visible difference - not only on 1:1 view):

    And after using a GEM setting of 2 in Nikonscan:

    Enough pixel peeping for today ;-)
  13. Delta Pro 400 is a great film if you want to minimize grain, and you can probably do better with DD-X (Ilford's recommended developer for Delta Pro) or Clayton F76. The times I put film through F76 I got thin negs that scanned very well.
  14. I like it!
    I'd crop out the lady on the left and see how the image would turn out.
  15. This film is grainy under all circumstances, it is a retro film, less sharp and more grainy that the original Tri X of 1954. Almost as grainy as Ilford HPS of 1952.
    Use new TMY, it is the finest grain, sharpest 400 speed film ever made. Stop under exposing film, it sucks and gives lousy shadow detail.

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