New Cameras, Image Noise, and Film

2001_031_01.jpgHad a couple of interesting email conversations about my current existensial/camera acquisition crisis that meandered into a discussion regarding image noise and some comments I made a few posts ago on why image noise is not a huge priority for me. I have never owned a specialized noise reduction tool and to be blunt I can probably count the number of times that I have used noise reduction on an image. I am not at all disparaging those that use or depend on it. I just haven't experienced making or viewing a lot of images where "noise" was the make or break factor. Don't get me wrong, I would never put myself into a situation where noise/grain was completely inappropriate for a given subject or project. I wouldn't choose a camera or a film a format (ISO setting) that would compromise what I was trying to do and rarely find myself needing super high ISO/film speeds in situations where I really really care about image noise.

Maybe I am a bit old fashioned but even my very first digital body looked fantastic at ISO 200 compared to film of a similar format at similar enlargement sizes. At ISO 1600 it sort of looked like 800 speed film at similar format and enlargement sizes. I was much more interested in how well it differentiated tones and color rendition and handling. Maybe that is why I never really chimed in and ranted and raved about noise. Maybe that is why I really liked the Nikon D2H.

Anyway for those that have not shot film and never care to I thought I would give you just a little bit of perspective. The shot at the top of the post was on 35mm TMZ, TMAX 3200P for you non-film people, shot at ISO 1600 developed in XTOL 1+2. The scan has no image sharpening and a real quick levels adjustment to get it to display like a print on grade 2 Ilford Gallarie (the only print of that neg I have laying around). The scan was 4000 dpi on a Nikon 8000ED scanner. As a note real black and white film is not the best stuff to scan in the world and you are looking at a completely neutral 8bit JPG, meaning you can only see 256 tones in this image. That doesn't even come close to the tonality of a real print of this negative. What you can see is the image noise.

Here is a 100% crop to give you a better idea of what 35mm ISO 1600 film looks like:


Here is another one to give you a better sense of it:


Does the "noise" have anything to do with wheather this is a good image?


Ps. Yes I did actually shoot a couple of weddings in my day.

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