I like grain

I resisted the digital camera for a long time. Since I knew how to make film do what I wanted it to do, digital cameras just didn’t seem worth it. And the resolution seemed too low and there was the whole question of format. I never seriously used an SLR, and all of the digital cameras were of that style. So I stuck with film, T-Max 100 and Tri-X in my Rolleiflex or 4×5.

But about two years ago, Canon produced the 5Dsr with a 50MP sensor and I was tempted. I wanted to do some closeup work and I wanted to use a ring light which would be possible with this camera and not with my existing cameras. I rented one to try and then bought one. It’s the heaviest camera I have ever owned, but I like it. With a ring light attached, it’s like going to the gym and doing a weight workout.

I’m shooting the Legs images, the new Line images, and the new Torso images with it.

The camera has a few annoying features, beginning with having way too many buttons. What do all of these things do? I have no idea. And I am constantly changing the lens aperture because the thumb wheel is placed in a manner that I somehow move accidentally. Maybe with my nose? There’s probably a button that fixes that, but I still haven’t figured out where it might be.

But it’s biggest problem, is the lack of film grain. I shot the new Line and Torso images with this camera and I didn’t like the appearance of the fine detail. Yuck! Skin texture just doesn’t look good. I’m not talking about age wrinkles but the really fine cross hatching that appears all over the skin that you don’t normally see because it’s so small. Suddenly that was all over. And it was annoying me.

Software to the rescue. I tried two grain producing plugins for Photoshop. First I searched the Internet for reviews and that was worthless. Fake reviews, misinformation, and just plain junk. Fortunately, trial copies are available. I downloaded Imagenomic RealGrain and DxO Nik Collection. Here is my review. Unbiased and unpaid by either company. Just the opinion of a cranky old man.

DxO Nik Collection. I couldn’t get this product to work. It’s installed and it runs, I think. But I couldn’t get it to do anything useful. Probably, it’s my fault, but really, if it’s that hard, I don’t need it. Scratch that one.

Imagenomic RealGrain. This one’s menus abort frequently. Make sure you save your files before applying grain. The menus are also too small. It resets option values inconsistently between uses. And it tries to do too much. With the default settings it alters things that have nothing to do with grain (such as image tones). But after some trial and error, I figured out how to turn those things off and I figured out which options controlled which aspect of the produced grain. I have now set most options to values that have no affect, a few options to the values that produce pleasing grain, and I use one option to control the size of the grain depending on the image resolution.

So the final review: it is an annoying product, but I am using it to produce pleasing grain. Of the Tri-X variety. This product also claims to produce T-Max grain by lowering the opacity of the same filter it uses for Tri-X grain. That’s silly, the two films don’t look anything alike. But since no one likes the look of T-Max grain, that’s no big loss.

(Note to Imagenomic: When your product aborts when a user sets a menu option, you should be embarrassed, very embarrassed. And you should fix it! Right away! Like now! Oh, and send me a check for testing it for you.)

Here’s a new Torso Image, with grain. Same model, 33 years later.

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