Black and White Photography

Interesting timing - I spent part of yesterday and this morning reading about and checking out my Leica M3 from the 1950’s. I also read all the things Ken Rockwell wrote about it. Someone in the forum recently posted two black-and-white photos from an old Rollei, and Joanna just posted the following - hope I can copy it here:

In addition to the other things I’m doing, I’m thinking about buying some 35mm b&w film, and seeing how much quality I can get in my images if I do things correctly.

The first question, before asking anything else, is whether PL4 is appropriate for working on scanned images from film (35mm, 2 1/4", 4x5, or whatever)? All the color controls in PL4 would be meaningless, but so many other controls would be awesome!

I know how well Deep Prime does on digital noise - how does it react with film grain? The better people working in b&w way back when, said when you’re in the darkroom, using your enlarger, maybe with a magnifying device, to focus specifically on the film grain - as that “grain” (unlike digital noise) actually WAS the picture. Anything that degraded film grain would make the resulting print less sharp. Does this apply when the image, grain and all, has been scanned, digitizing it?

Then there is “quality”. Ansel Adams used many cameras, including an 8x10 view camera shooting on 8" x 10" film. This was what, 70 years ago? How closely can a 35mm film camera come to approaching that quality? Is 4" x 5" film (which I think Joanna uses) better in today’s world, than the gear Ansel used?

I’m aware that Ansel Adams was a genius, and created such awe inspiring prints - could someone with the same talent create similar quality with the hardware available today?

As a test, I plan to buy a few rolls of 35mm film, hopefully 24 exposure fine grain b&w film, put my Leica M3 on a tripod, and see if I can match the quality of one of Ken Rockwell’s photos:

If so, I’m wondering how close I can come to this (or beyond this) with one of my digital cameras.

…but I’m getting ahead of myself. The first question I want to ask here, is whether PL4 is “as good as it gets” for editing digital images shot as black-and-white (film or digital)?

I believe that PL4 along with DXO’s FilmPack 5 Elite and the Nik Collection’s Silver Efex Pro module will give you all the tools you need to get the best from Black & White.


What in the world is FilmPack 5 Elite? What does it do, or allow me to do? I guess I should go look it up. I do know about the Nik tools, from back when I downloaded Nik Collection from Google. I understand how they are useful, but does this Film Pack thing activate additional functions in PL4 ?

Yikes - if I read this correctly, why would I want it?

## Analog and creative film rendering software
Rediscover the style, the colors, and the grain of legendary analog films, faithfully thanks to DxO’s exclusive calibration process. Combine many original renderings with filter, vignetting, blur, texture, frame, or light leak effects to give your photos a unique look.

What I see, is for $80 I can make my images look like they were taken with a film camera. I guess that could be useful, but what I want is something that works with my REAL images taken from a REAL film camera (but scanned into digital). All those things they mention, would or could already be there, from when I captured the image. Unless I’m reading this incorrectly, the software will make my images look like they came from a film camera, but they already WILL come from a film camera.

Hi folks and a happy and healthy new year with a lot of good light, situations and so on

Here are my answers for this thread with a little rest of alcohol and a smile for 2021 :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
2.Yes with the right settings and tools
3.similar but not equal
4.not exactly
5.can’t see… hotlinking is prohibited
6.not sooo close
7.or first …good enough for the most people

See you next week :innocent:

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FilmPack 5 Elite adds a significant number of additional tools to Photolab as well as 82 color and black & white film emulations. It adds a fine contrast slider as well as separate fine contrast slider control over highlights, midtones, and shadows. It also adds creative vignetting, a grain feature, and several other very desirable tools all of which work directly on raw files. I’ve also created 82 presets for each of the film emulations which I have made available.

DXO now owns the Nik Collection. I’m not sure if you are aware of that. The current version is the Nik Collection 3. Silver Efex Pro is one of the best pieces of software available for working on black & white images


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First, you indicated in the post that I quoted that you want the assistance with both digital and film black and white images, not just film. Second, you can use all the tools in FilmPack 5 without selecting any of the film emulations.

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Let’s start with a few facts about film sizes.

A single frame of 35mm film is 36mm x 24mm = 864

The exposable area of a sheet of 5" x 4" film is 84mm x 114mm = 522,576mm

Thus the area of an image on 5" x 4" film is 11 times that of a single frame of 35mm

In digital terms, if you took an image on a DX frame camera (24mm x 16mm), that is rated at 24Mpx, the equivalent 5" x 4" film area would yield an image size of 598Mpx!!!

If you take a sheet of 10" x 8" film at the same resolution, you are talking about an image size of around 2.4Gigapixels!!!

Bearing in mind that you can contact print a 10" x 8" negative, whereas you would need to enlarge a 35mm negative by about 16x to fill the same area, straightaway, you are losing image quality.

If the Ken Rockwell image was scanned from a 35mm negative, it was scanned at 1200ppi, but I regularly scan film at 2400ppi, which would give you a possible print size of 24cm x 36cm (10" x 12" approx) when printed at 240ppi. Going much larger than this would then start to lose detail.

Scanning a 10" x 8" negative at the same resolution would yield a print of 100" x 80" when printed at 240ppi.

Here is a portrait image, taken on 5" x 4" film (Fuji Neopan Acros 100). The original scanned TIFF file weighs in at 1.83GB. The jpeg version here has roughly the same pixel dimensions as a 36 Mpx full frame DSLR and bears no resemblance, quality-wise to the full resolution TIFF image.

In two words, nowhere near! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

However, I use a 36Mpx Nikon D810 and can easily print up to 16" x 24" without interpolation. Even your D750 will print up to 10" x 16" without interpolation.

Personally, the smallest film format I would consider is 6cm x 7cm medium format. But since I can get almost the same definition from my D810, I’m not sure it worth all the extra effort of having to develop and scan the film.

Why not just use your D750? In my experience, you will get better results provided you know how to use PhotoLab to its best.

I certainly find it more than adequate…

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Sorry if I sounded grumpy, I didn’t mean to. I apologize if it came out wrong.

Back to today, yes, I know about Nik Collection, and I own both the one from DxO and also the version from when Google distributed it for free. My computer for doing the PL4 editing has the version from DxO, and all my computers without the DxO version have the original (free) one from Google.

Yes, I do want to process b&w images from both digital and film, but I would have zero interest in making my digital images look like they were shot on film. For now, I don’t see the need to buy this.

I’m lost about the last thing you wrote. What does a film emulation do - make a digital image appear similar to how it would have appeared on one of those 82 films that you’ve emulated. I’m much too ignorant about any of this stuff - all I know about the differences in b&w films was the ASA speed, and for every bit of additional ASA speed, worse grain. I guess I would score zero on my knowledge of all these films from the past.

I just bought three rolls of B&W 24 exposure film from Amazon. Should be here this coming week.

Since you seem to know more about this than any person I have discussed it with in maybe 40 years, maybe you can help me with something. I have always assumed that with digital cameras, I can take the normal exposure, capturing a color image, and then change it to B&W. Is there any good reason to change a camera to B&W mode before taking the picture?

Also, if I’m going to edit a B&W image in PL4, and I select the B&W Preset before importing the image to PL4, is this useful? …and if PL4 realizes I’m editing in B&W, do the color related settings remain on my editing menu, or are they perhaps grayed out?

Again, sorry if I sounded “grumpy”. Too many other things are happening today, and I can’t get them off my mind. None of them have anything to do with photography, and by tomorrow I hope they are done and over with…

I didn’t realize this until just now - so YOU are one of the people who made this software? Amazing. Over the past four weeks, the best thing that has happened to me has been my involvement in PL4, and all the struggles to either fit it to me, or vice versa. The more I use it, and the more I discuss things with people here, the more I enjoy it.

My goal, is to create images that are as similar as I can make them, to the images I see from Ansel Adams, and I do mean “images”, not “prints”. Maybe prints will come later, which is a whole new can of works, and probably very costly. But for now, I now want to go back in time 50 or so years in my life, when I was taking and printing B&W photographs up to 16" x 20", the size of my trays.

You and the rest of your team have created a product that excites me far more than photoshop and lightroom and all the others ever did. You have all these “hidden doors” that Joanna and others are showing me how to open, and it’s getting more and more difficult to turn the computer off so I get enough sleep. Thank you!!

Oops - I didn’t realize I couldn’t link to a photo stored somewhere on the internet. If it’s prohibited, I certainly won’t do that again. I can’t copy the photo here, as it’s not my photo. No big deal, it’s just a wonderful scenery photo with rocks, water, sky, and all sorts of stuff shown in such high detail, much more than I used to think a 35mm negative was capable of.

Enjoy the weekend/holiday. Next week maybe someone can tell me how PL4 deals with “film grain”, which isn’t “noise” added to an image, the grain actually IS the image.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, productive new year to you, and everyone else here in the forum! :slight_smile:

No Mike, I am not one of the people that made this software. I am just a customer and end user of DXO products like yourself. FilmPack 5 as delivered comes with a stand-alone version and also unhides the features within PhotoLab. The stand-alone version comes with 82 filmtype presets that are not compatible with Photolab. The FilmPack 5 emulations within Photolab do not include filmtype presets but allows you to view the effects of those filmtypes differently.

Some people here wanted presets for those filmtypes for use in PhotoLab as well. I created 82 partial presets for my own purposes as well as for others that wanted them.


Filmpack is for me much more about the additional tools you get in DPL - this in itself is worth to have a look. Just download the trial version of Filmpack and activate it within DPL.

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For me the 82 presets are like presets for LR, useless and pure marketing. What is interesting for me with Filmpack is having the functionality of silver pro integrated in PL and the contrast controls. Is it worth the cost…that may be debatable.

I did not get the impression you were grumpy and no apology is necessary.

Yes, the film type emulations within FilmPack 5 Elite are intended to give digital images the look of a variety of different films. However FilmPack 5 has a significant number of other tools that can be used with or without the film emulations.

I have no clue as to why you might think that I have more knowledge than anyone else you’ve spoken to on this subject in 40 years. I can assure you that any knowledge I have is no greater then many, or perhaps most of the other people posting here. And, some folks here have knowledge significantly greater than my own. Having said that, it is generally preferable to shoot in color and convert to monochrome in post-processing where you have better control over the conversion.


Hi Mike,

sorry for the word prohibted…that wasn’t the right word and not my intention.
But clicking the link you get

Error 1011

Ray ID: 60b682baaefd4a85 • 2021-01-02 18:23:20 UTC

Access denied

What happened?

The owner of this website ( does not allow hotlinking to that resource (/trips/2014-05-yosemite/16/70050007-1200.jpg).


And the best way is to download the 30 days trial of Filmpack adn take a deeper look in the possibilities. Then you can decide if it fit’s your need and if yes buy it.

Have a lot of fun with

best regards


I doubt if most people I know, unless they’re old, even know what b&w refers to. :slight_smile:

…and if you asked them to send you a photo in b&w, perhaps they might look for a “b&w” app on their phone.

As for me, b&w more or less vanished between the 1960’s and 1980’s. Seeing those photos taken with a Rollei camera a week or so ago, was like a breath of fresh air. They still discuss b&w in the Leica forum, and Leica actually makes new cameras today that can’t capture color - but none of the new Leica cameras are as good as the old M3. (I can post the reason why I say that, if anyone is interested.)

You wrote:

it is generally preferable to shoot in color and convert to monochrome in post-processing where you have better control over the conversion.

Thanks - that answers my question. If I shoot B&W digital, I will capture the images as color, and then can either use the black&white preset when I import those images into PL, or change them into b&w afterwards.

Be aware that you won’t be able to use DeepPRIME with scanned images, because in most cases they won’t be RAW files (usually TIF or JPG, etc.). Of course, you could use a digital camera to image file negatives/slides and use DeepPRIME that way. There’s a whole community of people who digitize their film with digital cameras, but it does require a stable camera platform and a good light source. As far as interacting with film grain, I have no idea.

Aha! OK, understood. For anyone stubborn enough to still want to see this image, point your browser to and scroll down.

Dear Mike,

to become an idea what is possible with RAW files and converting them to B&W with Nik Collection (for Example) please take a look at
Robin Whalley dxo nik black - YouTube
Anthony Morganti dxo nik black - YouTube
(there is also a tutorial for Zone system ) Mastering the Nik Collection - 7: Silver Efex Pro 2 Zone Mapping - YouTube

and here is what one forum member does with an old, badly scanned jpeg from a friend of mine

Ans as I see…the photo of the falls by Ken was processed by an professional photo studio and implemented with split toning and,and, and … lot of work :wink: