Portra 400 excessive Grain - What am I doing wrong?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Thomas Keidan, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Hi all,
    I recently went on holiday and shot a roll of portra 400 through my Olympus 35 RC. I've got the scans back and I am not sure if the grain i'm seeing on this film is in line with what I have read about it. I have attached three pictures all shot at F2.8 125 shutter speed. The weather was fairly overcast but certainly not deserving of anything higher than a 400 ISO film. Any advice would be much appreciated. Should I have used a slower shutter speed or different focal length? Or is it a cause of something different altogether? Or am I imagining things? Thanks :smile:
    000044660015.jpg 000044660016.jpg 000044660019.jpg
     
  2. MattKing

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    That is equivalent to seven stops more exposure than would normally be used for sunny weather around here.
    I would expect to be using something like f/8 at 1/250 or maybe a stop more in the conditions you describe.
    You might be seeing the results of fairly severe over-exposure, which often results in scanners struggling and producing more artifacts that look like grain.
    Can we see backlit photos of the negatives themselves (including the edge printing and sprockets)?
     
  3. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Hi, thanks for replying. I haven’t received the negatives back from the lab yet but will post pictures once I have them. Should I have been following the sunny 16 rule more closely then I take it?
     
  4. Sirius Glass

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    Or use a light meter.
     
  5. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    I think I better given how much I misjudged :sad:
     
  6. Richard Man

    Richard Man Member

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    Yes, cloudy but still light days, which is what it looks like here, is "Sunny 8", so 1/250 at F8 would be closer for sue.
     
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Thanks Richard, I’m going to study manual focusing a lot more and maybe invest in a Sekonic light meter just to make things easier!
     
  8. pentaxuser

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    Apart from possible overexposure, how are you judging excess grain? The scans do not look excessively grainy to me

    pentaxuser
     
  9. Svenedin

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    Ah Edinburgh......a long way North. Definitely ISO 400 territory at this time of the year sunny or not.
     
  10. Svenedin

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    Difficult light too. Very directional, sun low in the sky. Exposure may well be about right. I lived in Edinburgh for 6 years. Took a lot of photos there at all times of the year.
     
  11. shutterfinger

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    Don't judge the exposure/processing/grain based on a lab scan.
    Wait until you get the negatives and evaluate them.
    If the lab does not return the negatives find one that does.

    As stated in post #2 I also believe its scanner noise/gain being too high that you are seeing as grain.
    Color films use dye clouds, not silver grains.
     
  12. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member
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    First, ISO for ISO, digital has less apparent grain then film. So if you're pixel peeping, you will clearly see it. This is compounded by the method of extracting the info from the film (scanning) and adjustments made to it (particularly if underexposed as well as sharpening and JPEG artifacting) can exacerbate the difference even further.

    Most people use minilabs (film processing and scanning) and these automatically apply "enhancements" that amplify perceived grain. The "grain" is usually smoothed out in print but exaggerated on-screen. Example below of Fuji 100 color negative scanned by minilab Noritsu machine compared to my Coolscans.

    [​IMG]
    Full res version -> http://www.fototime.com/A2F77BA75998ED4/orig.jpg

    Kodal Portra films (160, 400 and 800) are low contrast films and best known for their ultra wide latitude particularly when compared to digitals. They especially have a wide tolerance for overexposure as shown below.

    [​IMG]

    This can be used to your advantage when taking a shot of a scene with very wide contrast by exposing for the dark areas you want to retain and it will take care of not blowing out the highlights - or at least be able to recover them in scan and post as shown below.

    [​IMG]

    If you prefer a less grainy alternative, it is available in 160 speed to as shown below.

    [​IMG]
    Full res version -> http://www.fototime.com/F5B749941344EA4/orig.jpg

    Kodak Ektar 100 is very fine grained but is more contrasty and have less latitude then the Portras.

    [​IMG]
    Full res version -> http://www.fototime.com/EEA4F124C726025/orig.jpg

    And if that still isn't smooth enough then you might consider Fuji Velvia at ISO 50. Loose quite a bit more latitude but gain much more sharpness, resolution and definitely color saturation.

    [​IMG]
    Full res version -> http://www.fototime.com/6CA7C7F232A7D18/orig.jpg

    Kodak is re-releasing Ektachrome in the near future so we will have yet another slide film to try!
     
  13. WilmarcoImaging

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    Images seem ok in general. Scanning could use higher resolution.

    Possibly seeing some camera movement creating softness. The portrait of the chap seems a bit underexposed.

    Several things seem off by small degrees. I see no major flaws.
     
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  15. blockend

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    The light suggests late afternoon, so your exposure may not be too far off. I use Sunny 16 much of the time but have learned not to second guess exposure as the sun begins to set. Your eyes compensate for brightness, and the angle of the sun means exposure can vary by a number of f-stops in minutes. I'm in northern England so the light is near enough Edinburgh quality as makes no difference. Using consumer 200 ASA colour film for an evenly illuminated scene I base my exposure on:

    Bright day two hours either side of midday, 1/250 at f8.
    100 or 125 ASA B&W film, 1/250 at f5.6. 400 ASA film, f8 at 1/500.
    Slight overcast or modest shade, add one stop.
    Add an additional stop for heavy shade.
    Compensate for bright subjects against dark backgrounds, and vice versa.
    Alter exposure ratio depending on subject.
    As dusk encroaches use a light meter, or guess and prepared to be wrong!

    Regarding your shots, grain is more obvious in flat lighting. I assume f2.8 is at or near maximum aperture, meaning your image is soft which also draws attention to grain. Perceived sharpness depends on lighting as well as lens sharpness. Acute angled lighting emphasises texture which suggests sharpness, flat "soft" lighting does the opposite. Under or very overexposed film shows more grain, correctly exposed film, less.

    Scanning can also add its own "grain", especially at lower resolutions. This is sometimes used to add perceived sharpness to out of focus images. To conclude, there are many variables but experience and guesswork suggests you were about 1 stop over exposed, maybe 2. Your aperture wasn't doing the lens any favours, and softness has emphasised grain. Lighting was completely flat, compounded by Edinburgh architecture. A tough combination even for the experienced.
     
  16. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Hi pentaxuser, judging excessive grain in comparison to what i've heard about Kodak Portra 400 in general as well as what I have seen online. When I got the scans back I was hoping to have a relatively fine grain structure in comparison to other 400 ISO films I have used previously.
     
  17. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    I think a light meter would help... I hope!
     
  18. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    My lab returns negatives so I will let you know when they arrive. I use filmdev in the UK who have very good reviews!
     
  19. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Thank you for the feedback!
     
  20. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Thank you for the in depth feedback. I need to learn to balance aperture and shutter speed. Shooting wide open for things other than portraits in regular light is silly I know. I'm also in North England by the way... Yorkshire.
     
  21. GLS

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    Wow, that lab scan is very overexposed. I would have asked for my money back...
     
  22. Ste_S

    Ste_S Member

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    I was going to ask if you used filmdev. Problem is with the scans, and I had something similar - making Ektar more grainy than it should be
    They had an engineer fiddle with their Nortisu and apparently changed some of the settings which they didn't pick up on, chiefly I believe changing one of the contrast settings to max.
    Filmdev have been pretty good about it, If you ring them up and explain what happened they should offer to re-scan for you.
     
  23. OP
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    Thomas Keidan

    Thomas Keidan Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. How do I know if it’s their fault though and not just errors on my part? Thanks
     
  24. macfred

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    It's always others who are to blame ... :wink:

    Try it again, meter the scene (more) accurate, do not use maximum aperture and give your lab a second chance. Repetitio est mater studiorum!
     
  25. trendland

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    That excess grain the OP mentioned is in concern of his own feeling (and that is in regards of digital)
    pls. let's not forget that a full generation of people grow up with digital photography.
    So from their individual perspective Kodak Gold 200 is a "damned grainy Film":wink:

    with regards
     
  26. trendland

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    Thomas - if I were you I would not waste such money for a seconic at this time.
    Better buy some additional Films and proceed with your workflow because it is fine (to me it is fine others may agree)

    with regards

    PS : Simple rule concerning all of today's color Films (do not use it with slide Film)
    Overexposure up to 3,5 stops is OK , but underexposure up to max. 1,5 stops is allways a limit.
    (so you have full 5stops tolerance) if you have highest amitions you should hear following recomandation from a professional : Tolerance of 3 stops is a professional workflow today.
    But don't mix it up : you may not underexposure c41 with 3stops = 2,5 stops overexposuring is ok and
    0,5 stop underexposure of c41 has no impact on grain structures any more !!!! Belive me !
     
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