Unable to focus on grain? Scanning with Fujifilm

I’m using my X Pro 3 with a Canon FD 50 3.5 Macro as my set up and I’m having some issues. I’m using focus peaking and focus check to zoom in, but I’m not seeing the grain coming into focus as I’ve seen described. I see objects in the frame peaking and the sprockets/text but not actual grain or anything that isn’t the main focus of the negative. I’ve changed the color, changed from highs to low, and nothing is seeming to lock it in. As shown in the example below my scans are far inferior in comparison to the scan from my lab.


Is there something obvious I’m missing setting wise as far as my camera? Testing at f5.6-8. Excuse the messy an uneven NLP image I’ve just been tweaking and exporting a lot of different versions to test.

Also I’m using a remote trigger to avoid any camera shake.

Lenses can shift focus when the aperture is changed. To see if your lens does that, try to set focus without changing the aperture after focusing.

Grain is more pronounced in B&W films than in colour film, which makes focusing harder with colour images.

Try to focus in the center and near a corner to find out if a) the lens has some field curvature and b) the negative bulges slightly. If both should be the case, you can shoot the negative from the substrate side (not the emulsion side) and the two effects might be canceled at least partially.

Have you tried just using auto-focus? this is how I’ve always done it.

Hi, I use autofocus on a 60mm Nikkor macro @f8 on a Z7which seems to yield good results. I have had problems holding the negative flat but the Nikon ES2 adaptor seems to work best for me me. The setup needs to be rock solid to avoid movement.

I don’t know if this makes a difference, but your negative is facedown. I always scan face up, not that I look for grain necessarily in my own scans.

If you are trying to focus at maximum aperture, then it’s possible that the lens just isn’t resolving enough detail to see the grain at its maximum aperture.
Conversely, trying to focus at a small aperture, especially if your light source isn’t that bright, could make the grain hard to see due to excessive noise in live view. If you go beyond f/11, then diffraction becomes substantial and could also make grain hard to see.
So basically, I would vary your aperture a bit and see if it makes a difference. You should really be able to focus on the grain without peaking - I’ve never had any trouble with setups I have used.

I use a Fujifilm X-T30 with a 7Artisans 60mm macro lens. I position the negative so that the cut edge is centered and focus on that edge using the focus aid in the camera to zoom in. Then I reposition the negative to correctly frame the image. I keep the lens stopped down to f5.6 to f8.

If we’re talking colour negatives, we are not focusing on grain, we are focusing on dye clouds. It’s not necessarily the best way to obtain maximum sharpness (cf. paper by T.J. Vitale on this subject and others). I have the camera tethered to a computer with a high-res display, I magnify the image from the camera on the display, then darken it using shutter speed so the contrast is exaggerated and manually focus on fine edges that have considerable contrast, then revert the shutter speed to the correct exposure. Lens aperture is set where it should be for a copy lens. Always works well.

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Please add a link to the paper. Thanks.

Such a good and amusing point. Searching for non-existent grain can be so frustrating :slight_smile:

The depth of field at f5.6 is deeper than the thickness of the film. If the grain is in focus and the lens is stopped down a bit, we are probably in good shape. Maybe I’m an imperfectionist. All of the negatives I scan are from manually focused film cameras. Between the original image focus, the focus of the negative scan, and the resolution of the digital image we do the best we can. And then I clean my reading glasses or get out the magnifying glass.

Yes, there are several microns-worth DoF using a copy lens at f/5.6, so that’s not the whole issue about whether to focus on the dye clouds. The main thing is that they aren’t easy to focus on, and it’s really the sharpness of fine edges in the photo that will impress viewers as to whether or not the photo looks sharp.