Poor exposures from 400 speed negative film

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. Hello,

    I use a lab at a photography chain store near my home in Tokyo. It's
    reasonably priced, and the staff are nice, but I have a couple issues
    that I'm trying to figure out if it's my error (probably the case), or
    the lab's, or "that's just the way it is".

    I use a mix of Konica-Minolta Centuria Super 400 and Kodak Super Gold
    400. The photography store apparently sends the film out to be
    developed by the vendor (Fuji for Fuji, Kodak for Kodak, etc.)
    However, since Konica-Minolta got out the film business, the film is
    sent (by my choice) to either Fuji or Kodak for processing.

    I know it's all C-41, so it shouldn't make that much of a difference I
    guess, but since I've been sending the film to Kodak labs I'm a little
    disappointed with the quality of the exposures I get, primarily
    shadowed areas are underexposed, and bright areas have little or no
    detail (this happens with both brands of film that I use). Things
    seem to be coming out a lot grainier recently as well. I could be
    messing all of this up recently and not be aware of it, but I used to
    routinely get shots like this:


    but now most of the negatives after scanning end up looking like this:


    I feel like the range of f-stops I'm getting out of the film has
    shrunk, or the metering on my camera (Canon A-1) has gone way downhill
    in the past few months. Does anyone have an idea what I'm doing
    wrong? 400 color negative isn't all the same obviously,
    responsiveness to chemicals, hues, light, etc. all varies from one
    roll of film to the next.

    Would a slower speed film have better chance of capturing a smoother
    range of contrasting tones? Do I have no other choice than bracketing
    multiple exposures to the same negative?

    Thanks for advice anyone can offer.
    HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 8, 2007
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  3. HeroOfSpielburg

    Mark² Guest

    An overly grainy image is usually due to under-exposure in-camera...
    Mark², Apr 8, 2007
  4. HeroOfSpielburg

    Alan Browne Guest

    You may have been vicitim to poor negative developing (cool temperature
    or un-refreshed chemicals).

    Slower, finer grain, higher quality negative film might help, esp. for
    scanning. Some negative and slide film just does not scan well (grain
    aliasing being one problem).

    As Mark points out, the underexposed areas of a shot (same colors but
    areas with lesser light) will develop larger grain.

    For scanning negatives, I really like Kodak Portra 160NC. ... if you
    can find it which is increasingly difficult. You can always order it.

    Expose it as ISO 100 for nice saturation and high detail in dark colors.

    160VC is a "vivid" version of the same film (deeper color/higher contrast).

    Alan Browne, Apr 8, 2007
  5. HeroOfSpielburg

    Alan Browne Guest

    Alan Browne, Apr 8, 2007
  6. HeroOfSpielburg

    Pudentame Guest

    I run a mini-lab. C-41 film is almost universally underexposed in the
    camera. Damn near every roll I get is at least one stop under and most
    are 2 or more stops under. I think that's what you're getting here.

    Trying to get a good scan/print from an underexposed negative will cause
    an increase in noise that mimics increased grain, especially in the
    shadow areas. That's what I'm seeing in your images.

    Makes it hell trying to give the customer a decent print.

    You could try a different lab, in fact it won't matter if you have the
    Fuji lab process your Kodak film (or vice versa), but I think the
    problem is in your camera, maybe it just needs fresh batteries,
    especially if you're getting the same kind of results from two different

    My experience it at not all lab personnel care that much about doing a
    good job, but actual film processing is so completely automated, they
    shouldn't be able to screw it up even if they want to.

    Another thing to consider is the film itself. I don't know when
    Konica-Minolta actually stopped production, so the film may itself be
    getting outdated.

    Out of date film can be still usable, but you do have to take a little
    extra care storing it.

    But I think you're just under-exposing your film.
    Pudentame, Apr 8, 2007
  7. I've noticed that since "film died" (cough), it's been harder to get quality
    processing. Labs that used to be ok seem to have gone downhill. I was having
    a chat to one of my mates at Fuji about it the other day. It is not some
    great conspiracy to switch everyone to digital, but a side-effect of people
    using less film. What seems to be happening is that a C41 minilab needs to
    process a certain amount to keep the chemistry properly in balance. The
    chemicals require constant replenishment (which happens everytime a roll
    goes through the machine). When a machine only does a few rolls in a day,
    the chemistry sits at high temp oxidising, without getting the constant
    replenishment that it would have got in years gone by. The solution would be
    for a lab to "batch run" ie, book in all the films for the day, then warm
    the machine up, process it all, then let the machine cool down again, as the
    chemistry doesn't go off as bad if it is at the low temperature of a
    turned-off lab. Doing this though would play hell with the "1 hour photo"
    concept that most labs operate to. The net result of what happens to the
    chemistry, is under-exposure and poor colour saturation. The other option is
    to find a lab that is still processing a lot of film (which is nigh on
    impossible for me since I live in a country town), or to do it yourself with
    one-shot chemistry (if you can find it). My Fuji mate actually suggested
    that I might be better to use one of the 48 hour services, where your film
    gets sent off to a capital city processor, because these places do work with
    the batch run system, and are working to higher volumes. The downside is the
    risk of scratches becomes greater - aargghhh... where can I get some
    one-shot C41 chem in Australia????
    Graham Fountain, Apr 8, 2007
  8. Out of date film can be still usable, but you do have to take a little
    Yeah, I'm refridgerating most of my film, though it's still less than
    a year old.
    I've read in several places that it's better to overexpose than under,
    since you have more leverage there to correct and adjust the levels to
    bring detail that's simply bright. As a result, recently I've started
    setting the EV adjustment on my camera to +0.5-1.0. Would this help,
    in theory?

    Thanks so much for the advice. I appreciate you taking the time to
    look at my test shots.
    HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 9, 2007
  9. An overly grainy image is usually due to under-exposure in-camera...

    I was wondering about that. I think I'm going to try and err on the
    side of over-exposure and apply a positive EV shift. Thank you!
    HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 9, 2007
  10. You may have been vicitim to poor negative developing (cool temperature
    Yes, I'm sure it's mostly me, but just in case, I think I should try
    to find some local photo enthusiasts and poll for a possible lab
    replacement. It's not just a hobby, I really want to get it right.
    Thanks for the advice.
    HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 9, 2007
  11. HeroOfSpielburg

    Scott W Guest

    If your camera allows you to set the ISO you could also set for ISO
    200 with the 400 film loaded, this would be the same has putting in a
    EV of +1.

    Scott W, Apr 9, 2007
  12. HeroOfSpielburg

    Scott W Guest

    It is a pretty common thing to do, shoot at a different ISO then what
    the film is labled at.

    Scott W, Apr 9, 2007
  13. HeroOfSpielburg

    That_Rich Guest

    If you are scanning your film I would agree.
    From my experience of scanning film I have found that overexposing by
    up to one stop is good. 90% of the shots I take are exposed + 1 to +
    1.5. Any corrections in levels and saturation can be done with photo
    editing software. I've found (in scanning) that once the shadows are
    lost they are impossible to recover. I use a very low end film scanner
    which I am happy with (HP S-10 with VueScan) so your mileage may vary.
    Have heard that more expensive, newer film scanners don't have these

    That_Rich, Apr 9, 2007
  14. HeroOfSpielburg

    That_Rich Guest

    Wow... another epiphany.

    That_Rich, Apr 9, 2007
  15. HeroOfSpielburg

    That_Rich Guest


    That_Rich, Apr 9, 2007
  16. HeroOfSpielburg

    Mark² Guest

    That's part of what prompted me toward digital, actually...the fact that I
    would then have *absolute* control...from shutter...to print. I was sick of
    relying on others to *maybe* get it right in the lab. -Even if they knew
    what they wre doing, they couldn't know my intent for the image...so they
    were very often "off" in some way. Even slides (which I turned to, followed
    by film-scanning at home) were still at their mercy for basic development

    With negative film: if you under-expose...and they try and push developer
    exposure to compensate..., it ends up unveiling serious grain, even from
    film that isn't normally particularly grainy...
    Mark², Apr 9, 2007
  17. HeroOfSpielburg

    Mark² Guest

    Which is just like pushing film... Shoot as though it's 800, but develop for
    Mark², Apr 9, 2007
  18. I shoot a lot of slides, with Sensia mostly, and I routinely set my EV to
    +.7 This seems to put them in a range where I can get the most out of them
    in Photoshop. (I seldom project them anymore....Just look at them on a
    computer screen)
    William Graham, Apr 9, 2007
  19. So, the general consensus seems to be to shoot around roughly +1.0 EV,
    or just set the ASA for one stop slower film.

    This seems like it will work with scanning. However, now that we're
    talking about scanning, I have a further question.

    I do art shows several times a year (one coming up next month,
    actually) and at that point of course I print, in the area of 8x10" or
    11x14" (entertaining the idea of going larger). The professional lab
    I go to for printing has two ways of printing (maybe these are

    The first is traditional "manual printing" where they take the
    negative/slide, make minimal corrections for exposure manually, and
    print from that the standard way.

    The second is to scan the negative there on a professional grade
    scanner, make exposure and color corrections in software, and then run
    a high quality image out of a printer. This costs about two to three
    times as much as the first method, but they recommend it because they
    can, "correct for problems in the exposure and give me a print that's
    more like what I intended."

    If I can help it, I try to print the manual (traditional) way because
    it saves a ton of money for the number of prints that I make.
    However, if I routinely start taking my shots at +0.7-1.0 EV, will
    this ruin any chance I had of getting a standard print out of the
    negative/slide? I'm worried they might say "all of your shots were
    overexposed, and there's only so much we can do when printing

    I guess you can't expect to have it both ways, but if anyone has
    advice on this, I'd be much obliged. I think I'll go to the lab next
    weekend and run some small proofs for the show.
    HeroOfSpielburg, Apr 9, 2007
  20. HeroOfSpielburg

    bob hickey Guest

    Figure the first thing to do is admit that it's all a mystery. Like
    handicapping a race without a program. The first thing I do is figure that
    there is no such thing as 400 film, just companies that charge more for it.I
    shoot it at 200 for starters. Second, Kodak is a scratch: Film, chemicals,
    developing, lens cleaning tissue.Out of the race. Next the lab; give them
    the first roll on Monday, the second on Tues; like that. at some point
    they'll prolly get grainy and too blue. That's the day the chemicals are
    shot. My bet would be Fuji film/lab/overexpose/Mon. Bob Hickey
    bob hickey, Apr 23, 2007
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