View Full Version : film processing 101 in a digital world

Bob McCarthy
5-Jul-2006, 13:24
A few more questions while I get my feet on the ground. These have to do with film processing

color processing - The number of places that one can get sheet film processed (or even dropped off) has dried up to where I have an 80 mile round trip to process color film. I am not prepared to process color myself amd wonder what you all did. Are there mail order film dev labs that you could recommend. Do they provide mailers to expedite

B&W - I am going to rebuild a film only darkroom in my new (to me anyway) house. I
would adjust DR of the negative to the enlarger I expected to use. MF and LF on a cold light equipped enlarger and 35mm on a condensor equipped enlarger. Does it make sense to adjust the DR of the negative to the capabilities of ones scanner?



Bruce Watson
5-Jul-2006, 13:45
Does it make sense to adjust the DR of the negative to the capabilities of ones scanner?
With color film that is developed in a lab it's probably a moot point. It's often difficult to do non-standard things like pushing and pulling with a lab. And really most scanners today should have little problem with color film that is optimized for darkroom printing.

For B&W, if you are ever going to print in the darkroom, you should probably optimize for the darkroom. If you are only going to scan and never print in the darkroom, you might want to pull development some. I've found that developing to about N-1.5 works really well with my scanner. That decrease in density helps because it decreases the Callier Effect. It also decreases graininess which is related to density. All good things.

You'll have to do some experiementation to find what development give you your best scans with your equipement.

Bob McCarthy
5-Jul-2006, 14:00
My sense is the negative needs to fit the scanner with less attention to toe's and shoulders as curves and levels are available to work the data. With the fairly sophisticated sharpening software out there (I use PK sharpner), would you speculate a fine grain (microdol,d23) developer or an accutance developer would be more appropriate?


David A. Goldfarb
5-Jul-2006, 14:03
For color processing, I've been using Duggal in New York of late. They do plenty of volume for professional clients, so the quality is consistent. Check their website (www.duggal.com) for info on processing by mail.

I've also used A&I in L.A. for rollfilm processing, and they've done a fine job, and their rollfilm mailers are cheaper than pro labs in major cities, including their own over the counter services. Of course the tradeoff is slower turnaround. They don't have mailers for sheet film, but they do process by mail. Info at www.aandi.com.

Bruce Watson
5-Jul-2006, 16:07
would you speculate a fine grain (microdol,d23) developer or an accutance developer would be more appropriate?
Speculate is the operative word here ;-)

I speculate that it may be difficult for you to see the differences between developers unless you are enlarging more than about 12x, and with a drum scanner to boot. I speculate that this is so due to the nature of scanning.

Scanning is a deterministic process. It lays down a well defined virtual grid over the film. The information in the film, however, is stochastic. The end result is that the extreme detail is lost. IOW, the scanner can capture some of the information (like the density) but not all the information (like the textures at the edges of the grain clumps). Some of the extreme detail lost in scanning is what different developers do in creating somewhat differently sized and shaped grain clumps. And this means that differences between various developers becomes more difficult to see when you scan.

I can also make the case that it's difficult to see these difference when you optically enlarge in the darkroom too. In this case it's from the inefficiencies in the enlarging workflow (the normal light source, light scatter, negative flatness, enlarger lens, alignment, and focus issues, and the paper's abiltity to capture that extreme level of detail from the film).

This begs the bigger question: does this matter to the actual image detail? It takes a fair amount of grain to generate image detail in film after all. In my unscientific testing done just to statisfy my own curiosity I have found that for me, it really doesn't matter. I speculate that one passes by the image detail on the way to looking at the grain clumps. And clearly, both digital and wet darkroom prints are capable of outstanding levels of image detail.

What I did with these ideas, speculations, and estimations was to settle on a developer that gives me moderate grain and good sharpness and speed. That, for me, is XTOL at 1:3. Works excellently on 5x4 Tri-X, and does a good job letting me pull development and decrease my Dmax and thus decrease contrast. It's clearly not for everyone though as YMMV.

5-Jul-2006, 17:04
You don't really need much of a darkroom to process negative film yourself (either color or B&W). If you're gonna scan it, forget the darkroom unless you're gonna do it in commercial quantities. Color trannies is a different story -- I did it for years, and it just ain't worth it, either economically or emotionally -- prepare to pay through the nose and send it out via UPS or FedEx. Just noticed that you're from Texas -- don't even think about taking it out of the freezer until November.