Announcing New Black and White Film Profiles

Great News!

Simple Film Lab is offering three new Black and White film tonal distribution profiles for black and white film sent in for processing and scanning.

The new tonal profiles are meant to be applicable to black and white film sent in for processing to normal contrast and is meant to provide a look similar to what you can get if you were to do an analog darkroom print using a split grade printing technique to punch in the shadows and blacks with a grade 5 filter and also control the rolloff of the highlights using a grade 0 or 00 filter.

So, let’s take a look. As a frame of reference, first a frame of Ilford HP5 in 120 format exposed (with an incident meter) to ISO 400 and developed to ISO standard 0.615 contrast and scanned in with a matching tone profile to make the straight line part of the characteristic curve land on Gamma 1.0.

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Contrast wise, it’s pretty much what I’d expect of a linear black and white digital image, and is basically what you’d expect to see if you just did a straight print at grade 2.5 in a darkroom.

There isn’t anything special about it, and in all honesty, the floating point DNG that you get from Simple Film Lab is insanely malleable and can have a huge amount of dynamic range that you could recover any number of ways in either Adobe ACR or Adobe Lightroom.

Profile BWSG1

So the first profile is called BWSG1, which is short for “Black and White Simple Grade 1”.

This tone curve starts with the standard normal contrast curve of the image above, but includes the equivalent of adding a couple of extra seconds of exposure at grade 5 if this where being printed onto paper in a darkroom.

This is what it looks like:
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Just like with adding a couple of seconds at grade 5 in the darkroom, the mid-tones and highlights are largely unaffected, but the blacks and shadows punch down a bit and make for a significantly more punchy looking image while still retaining the same contrast in the rest of the image.

Profile BWSG2

The second profile is called BWSG2, and is a progression of BWSG1. In this tonal distribution profile, we keep the same look of BWSG1, but include the equivalent of a grade 0 rolloff on the extreme highlights. The effect here in this image is very subtle, but in images where there are lights in the frame or very high contrast specular highlights, it provides the same effect of burning in the highlights at the lowest possible contrast so that you retain as much detail in the highlight areas as possible when printing in the dark room.

This is what it looks like:

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The difference in this image is admittedly extremely subtle, however, if you look closely, the cloud cover is not the same luminance level as the BWSG1 image because it is just at the bottom part of the grade 0 rolloff. So everything brighter than the cloud cover (i.e. light sources etc) would have a nice gentle rolloff to pure white.

Profile BWSG3

The third profile is called BWSG3 and is a progression of BWSG2. In this tone profile, we start with BWSG2, and add the equivalent of even more exposure time at grade 5 so the increased contrast amount moves a bit up the tonal scale and starts to effect what would be zones 4 and 5 if this were printed on paper in a dark room. Likewise, on the highlight side, we move the grade 0 exposure down the tonal scale ever so slightly and introduce an equivalent of a grade 00 exposure at the extreme top of the characteristic curve.

This is what it looks like:

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Again, the mid-tones are mostly intact, but the image is rendered in a significantly more punchy manner while still retaining very legible details in the important parts of the image.

Caveats

It should be noted that if you want maximum post processing flexibility, these three tone curves may not be for you, as they bake in a specific look that is meant to look similar to what you would get with a well rendered analog darkroom print.

These tonal distribution profiles also are not as good of a fit for films that don’t have particularly flat characteristic curves. For example, JCH StreetPan has a very S-Curve shaped characteristic curve, and so these profiles won’t necessarily render the same way.

These tonal characteristic curves are also meant for films that are developed to “normal contrast” (i.e. ISO standard 0.615 contrast), and therefore won’t have the same visual effect with films that are normally push processed like Kodak TMAX P3200 or Ilford Delta 3200.

Pricing

Since these are specifically developed looks, they are not available for free because every frame needs to be individually looked at and adjusted to provide the best rendering into the selected tonal profile, just like with doing an analog dark room print, where you have to adjust for every frame to best fit it onto the paper while still providing nice punchy blacks and lovely highlight rolloff to white.

So with that being said, I also want to provide affordable pricing, so if you’d like your black and white film that you send in for processing and scanning to have this look applied, it’s not a huge additional expense, so the pricing is an additional $5 per roll, and can be added to the straight scan through the deluxe scan options. I’ll be updating the downloadable order form to reflect the new profiles in the coming days, but if you want these looks sooner than that, just send me an email and request it and we’ll work out payment at that time.

In the future I’ll be adding a handful of new tone profiles that will provide a few more variations on what has been released so far, and to better address film developed to other contrast levels.

Till next time!

Updated Fomapan 200 and 400 Film Tech Sheets

I’ve updated the tech sheet for Fomapan 200 and added an official tech sheet for Fomapan 400. Both films now are developed with replenished XTOL to the ISO standard contrast 0.62, so check out the available tech sheets if sending film in to Simple Film Lab for exposure guidance and sample DNG files so you’ll know what to expect if sending film in to be processed.

It should be noted that the tech sheets are just films that we’ve officially looked at. We develop all black and white and C-41 films, so if you’ve shot film that we don’t have listed, that’s not a problem. We can still develop it and scan it in for you, we just don’t have an official position on how to expose it and such because we haven’t officially looked at it.

Japan Camera Hunter StreetPan 400 Film Review Published

Just a quick heads up: I’ve published the tech sheet for Japan Camera Hunter StreetPan 400 film in the Film Review/Tech Sheets section.

You can find it here.

If you send your StreetPan film in to Simple Film Lab, please refer to the tech sheet so you’ll know what to expect. It includes sample images along with downloadable DNG files to look at.

Enjoy!

Simple Film Lab Order Form Updated

Our Order Form has been updated.

There have been a couple of refinements and some additions, detailed below:

Payment Options

You can now pay via credit card, or you can pay via PayPal. Just put your PayPal address in the same spot as the credit card number, and send payment when you drop your film in the mail. I’ll correlate the payment with the email address. You can alternatively just wait for me to receive your film and send you a PayPal payment request.

Push/Pull Processing

This option has been refined to reflect a change in time (which affects film speed and contrast) in 60 second increments. If you want finer grained control over that, then you can still specify a custom time in the custom film development section.

Scanning

The default option here has been changed to develop only. If you want scans, you will have to select something. This is to reduce the amount of confusion about what type of scan you’ll be receiving. Please refer to the scan types available to see what you get with each one.

Developers

You can now request that your film be developed with a number of Ilford’s line of developers, namely, DD-X, Ilfosol S, Microphen, and Perceptol. We may add HC/LC29 in the future, but for now, this is a pretty significant increase in choice.

Lab Notes

This section is for us to communicate to you! When we send your film back to you, we also send your order form back to you. What you can expect to see here is the twin check(s) of the film you sent in, and detailed notes of your development session for future reference. This way, as you send more film in, you have a frame of reference and can request changes or tweaks from there.

Enjoy!

Ilford HP5+ Film Profile Updated

I’ve updated the Ilford HP5+ film review and moved it to its own tech page along with all the other films I’ve generated tech pages for.

Just as a reminder, if you want to use Simple Film Lab to get your film processed and scanned, please consult the published tech sheets so that you’ll know what to expect for results.

Next Up: JCH Streetpan 400

Ilford FP4+ Film Review Published

Just a quick note, I’ve completed and published the tech sheet for Ilford FP4+ Film.

If you send your film in to Simple Film Lab, you can now see what you’ll get if you shoot Ilford FP4+ film and send it in to us to process and scan in. Check the review out here. I’ve included a characteristic curve, a slideshow of sample images, and downloadable sample Adobe Digital Negatives of what you could get if your film was handled by us.

Enjoy!

Updated Film Tech Sheets

Just a quick update:

Kodak T-MAX 100, T-MAX 400, and TRI-X tech sheets have been updated to reflect development with replenished Kodak XTOL developer with Rotary agitation at 24 degrees C and scanning at 0.56 Contrast Index.

The tech sheets are located at:

I’ll be uploading new sample images and making sample DNG files available over the next few days. Any film sent in to Simple Film Lab will be developed as described in the tech sheet unless requested otherwise on the development order form.

If there’s any specific films anybody would like to see tech sheets generated for, please let me know and I’ll bump it up in the queue of films to do.

Enjoy!

2018 Changes For Simple Film Lab

2018 is going to be a great year!

We’ve updated or are in the process of updating the pages for Simple Film Lab and the new updated order form should be online and available within the next couple of days.

Here are the highlights:

Standardization

We’ve introduced a new standardized film development regime based on XTOL and standardized our scanning protocol so that film you send in to us can easily be either printed onto photo sensitive paper in a darkroom, or can be scanned in using standard contrast indexes that correlate to black and white paper grades. This makes things much simpler and leads to other things listed below.

All Black and White Negative Films

We can now develop and scan in all commonly available black and white negative films in 135, 120, and 4×5 sheet formats, so send them in and get them processed! This is huge for us and we couldn’t have been able to realistically do it without standardizing our development environment.

Custom Film Development

Yep, we do that too. In addition to XTOL, you can request that your film be developed with D76, HC110, and Rodinal with custom dilutions, development temperatures, development agitation scheme, and development times. You can pretty much go nuts, though be aware that doing so can lead to unpredictable results.

Custom Film Scanning

Want your film scanned in with the equivalent of a grade 3 paper instead of the standard grade 2? No problem. We have a range of available contrast indexes that you can have your film scanned in at. It’s the digital equivalent of printing on said paper in the darkroom except you get a Digital Negative file instead. Combined with custom film development and you can get really creative if you want to.

Other File Formats

Don’t like Digital Negatives? No Problem. You can now request other formats without actually going the custom scan route.

There’s more than this, so check the Lab pages as we’ll be getting those pages updated with whats going on for 2018!

The Myth of Film Push Processing

“I shot it at 1600 and pushed it 2 stops! It looks great!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this. It’s largely a myth. All films are within a third of a stop of the manufacturer’s published ISO rating in most developers.

This is extremely true of C-41 color films because the processing is standardized and the films are manufactured to conform to that processing environment. Given that, we’re not going to talk about color films. If it’s rated for ISO 100, shoot it at 100. If it’s a 400 speed film, shoot it at 400. Any lab that is worth anything can give you a wonderful scan of that film.

For black and white films, this is also largely true based on how the ISO standard prescribes determining the speed of the film which is explained very simply:

Film speeds are based on the exposure required to give a log density of 0.10 above film base plus fog (fb+f).

Keeping it simple

Terminology aside, we can say the speed of the film is determined by the amount of exposure needed to get a certain fixed amount of density above film base plus fog. For the ISO standard, that fixed density is 0.10 log density above film base plus fog. You can use a different fixed density level and you can use a different density scale and that’s totally valid except that it’s not to the ISO standard.

Where the confusion comes in is film density in the shadows or minimum density areas of the emulsion develops at different rates depending on the film developer used. The developer used along with developer temperature and time spent developing affects how much density is developed.

Push that film!

Not so fast. You see, depending on the size of the silver grains in the emulsion, you do in fact need a minimum amount of light to hit each grain so that it will develop anything at all. Believe it or not, that minimum amount of light is amazingly close to the ISO rating of the film.

So what does push processing actually do?

Simply put, push processing develops more density for the silver crystals that did get enough light to develop anything. What this does is make the density difference large enough that you can see it and gives the impression that the film is more sensitive than it actually is. In Adobe Lightroom speak, it’s the equivalent of going into the Develop Module and pulling the shadows up without changing the black level.

It does not make the film more sensitive. Once you go below that minimum exposure level, no amount of processing is going to bring more density into the emulsion. All you’ll do is develop more film fog.

So how come some films still look great pushed?

That’s because normally exposed and developed film typically has its film base plus fog at 6 stops below middle grey. That makes for some awesome blacks. If you switched over to the Exposure Index method of exposing, and under exposed the film by a stop, the film base plus fog effectively moves up by one stop to 5 stops below middle grey. This still results in totally acceptable blacks for most exposures. If you under expose by 2 stops (exposing a 400 speed film at EI 1600) the film base plus fog moves up to 4 stops below middle grey. This results in your blacks starting to look dark grey and a little muddy. This is where the push processing come in. More development time adds more density to what shadows you do have which makes the shadow areas have more contrast which to a degree counteracts the raised film base plus fog. There is a point of diminishing returns because once again, there is a minimum amount of light you need in order to develop anything above film base plus fog.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Pushing film is a myth. If you switch to a different exposure standard (like Exposure Index), then you can get a little more performance out of your film, but at the end of the day, the worst thing you can do is under expose your film.