In my dabbling with B&W film I found myself hooked on Polaroid 667 (Fuji FP- 3000B) film. As an ISO 3200 film, it was great for low light ambient shots. Its large format size avoided many of the grain issues I had with enlargements from Delta or TMax at 3200 speed in their 120 or 35mm sizes. Also, it gave instant results which is fun.
Scanning these prints offered great quality in my opinion. The downside was that the cameras that could shoot it didn't have the flexibility of 35mm (small, lightweight, fast lenses, etc).
Long story short, I started dabbling with my Digital Rebel XT and found that I could get very acceptable shots in extremely low light with some standardized post processing. Here are some examples:
ISO 6400 by setting camera to ISO 1600, exposure compensation at -2 stops.
ISO 25,600 by setting camera to ISO 1600, exposure compensation at -2 stops, taking a light meter reading, changing the camera to manual and dialing in 2 additional stops of reduction via shutter speed increase.
ISO 51,200 by setting camera to ISO 1600, exposure compensation at -2 stops, taking a light meter reading, changing the camera to manual and dialing in 3 additional stops of reduction via shutter speed increase.
These pictures are shown here at 25% of full resolution.
All of these pictures were brought into Photoshop as RAW images and exposure was set using the RAW converter. The image was copied onto a new layer and Neat Image was run with standard settings to remove noise. The blue channel was dropped from the noisy and noise free layers using the channel mixer and the image thus converted to greyscale. The noisy and noise-free layers were blended to taste. Finally dust & scratches was run to remove stray clipped pixels.
I didn't do any of the things that can make a great image: additional time on levels, curves, burn/dodge, noise filter settings, etc. These can make a real difference in the final image quality.
What I found was that I could get very acceptable images if I limited the maximum print size in relation to the ISO speed. Note that this camera is 8.2MP. Larger prints might be acceptable without a sharp eye and close inspection. Smaller prints will look smoother and better. Here are my ratings:
|ISO||Max Print Size|
|1600||8 x 12|
|3200||8 x 12|
|6400||8 x 12|
|12,800||6 x 9|
|25,600||4 x 6|
|51,200||2 x 3|
In this scenario an EOS-1Ds Mark II or 5D could really shine due to the higher megapixel count and lower noise level overall. The same problem that exists with high-speed film processing also exists with digital: you lose shadow detail and the image's contrast increases. Still, I didn't find it to be a problem until ISO 51,200.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and perhaps some tips for even better results.