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Is iso 400 really grainy?


TPF Noob!
Sep 2, 2010
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i just developed some iso 400 b&w and WHAO is it grainy, i thought at first that its because i messed up the chemistry but i was looking at a developed version of iso 400 color film that i didnt develop and its very very grainy as well. On my dslr at iso 400 there are very very few specs of grain but on film its crazy how much grain there is. So is iso 400 normally really grainy compared to iso 400 on a dslr? also would iso 100 be ALOT less grainy? because on dslr going from 200 (thats the neutral setting on my d5000) to 400 is not much of a difference.
You can lessen the grain in b&w film somewhat with a fine grain developer, but if it bothers you that much, stick with digital.
What 400 ASA film was it, and how did you develop it? What are you using for your comparison? I used to routinely print HP5 to 8x10 without any significant degradation from grain.
...would iso 100 be ALOT less grainy?

Yes. You'll see a marked difference in grain.

There are several things that affect grain. As Early said, you can use a different developer. I think exposure will be your best first concern. Overexposure will exaggerate grain. A properly exposed negative will yield the best results. And of course, maintain tight tolerances in processing... in chemistry temperature, development time and agitation.

That's where I'd start.

Good luck!

If grain is a concern and you wish to shoot ISO 400 film I suggest using either
Kodak T-Max or Ilford Delta films, expose at box speed (or under) and develop
with XTOL or TMax developers.
Welcome to film!

35mm is pretty much always grainy, regardless of film speed when printed 8x10 or larger.

If you want really fine grain, you have to shoot medium format or large format.
shooting 35mm, iam guessing its grainy because i got a short date from some lomo site just to mess around with. Also i didn't truly monitor the developer temperature, i think for the next batch iam going to try and get the developer to the proper temperature and then develop. I feel its my inexperience that caused the film to be really grainy, it may be grainy on its own but a scanned version looks like it was shot at 3200 iso on dslr
i used to use Kodak Tmax 400 a lot and the grain is very fine. Yes... the quality of the processing plays a very important role. I once screwed up a role of T-max ISO 3200 and the grain was so bad you could barely make out the photo... Done correctly even the ISO 3200 can be beautiful.
Lets start with your terminology. There is NO grain with your digital camera, none, zip, nada. Grain is the actual silver crystals on the film. No film, no silver, no grain. You are probably comparing digital NOISE to grain, which while they act and look similar, are two completely different things.

Next, there are several things that can affect how the grain looks. First is the type (quality) of film you are using. I love Ilford, even where there is grain, it is well structured. Delta 400 is good, HP5 is great although it does show it's grain a bit more, it is beautiful grain.

Exposure is the primary concern. Incorrect exposure can cause emphasized grain, make sure you nail it.

Next, developer. I tend to use Ilford DDX. While not a fine grain developer it does promote wonderful tones and great structure. Not to mention it is fast and easy to work with.

Then we come to the development. You have to mix exactly right, keep your temps exact, and use a digital timer if you can. Follow the directions exactly and if nothing else at least you can adjust other aspects and know that the development will be consistent.

Now to answer your question about different ISOs, yes, dropping down to Ilford Delta 100 will show a dramatic decrease in visible grain. Personally I prefer the look of Ilford FP4 at iso 125. Pan F at 50 iso is nice and pretty grain free although I don't like the tones as much as FP4.


PS. Also, when scanning in and processing B&W film, be VERY careful of sharpening. Unlike digital where you can cover up a not-so-sharp image to some degree with Photoshop sharpening, if you do that to a film image you will sharpen and amplify the grain!
Yes 400 iso is almost always quite grainy, similar to the noise levels at 1600iso with a aps sensor DSLR.

However grain doesn't look as bad as noise, so it's more acceptable.

If you want to shoot 400 iso film and get low grain, shot t-max and move up to medium format.
Sounds like ("I didnt monitor the developer temp") your developer was too warm (hotter developer reacts faster ) effectively pushing or over developing your film. correct me if I am wrong I know in the print part of the process this would give you a lot of grain I havn't played with it with the negatives to see if it would do this. Film is cheap try some different films, monitor your temps and times accurately and if your results arent what you want then try some 100 speed film. thats what Id say.
I was given a roll of cheapo Kodak 800 speed and I had some grain but not a terrible amount.

The Portra I like to shoot so much produces images that rival my digital. Seriously quality stuff, worth the 10 bucks a roll I pay for it (although now I get a massive discount for being a college student)

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