If there was film "grain" why so much worry about noise?

Started Apr 11, 2012 | Discussions thread
Doug Pardee
Doug Pardee Veteran Member • Posts: 8,841
An attempt at serious answers

Starshot wrote:

why was film so revered? Is digital "colder" in comparison? Did different films create a look that wasn't as accurate as digital but more artistic?

I think you're asking why so some of us digital photographers strive for a film look... sometimes to the extent of paying $250 for Alien Skin Exposure.

I'm sure different people have different reasons. Some may have had a favorite film that they used for years, and the "look" became sort of a signature for them. Some probably do enjoy the look of some films; I'm somewhat partial to Tri-X. Others, including myself, are experiencing a growing disinterest in the uniform, sterile look that characterizes most of today's digital photos.

If people even use filters to recreate the film look, grain included, and if people over many years have been used to film grain, why is there such issue/worry with noise?

Those are usually different groups. Again, different people like different things.

Ignoring the film issue... some of the other responders already have hit on the things that I think make a lot of people get over-obsessed about noise: pixel-peeping and large prints. I can set my ancient Rebel XT/350D at ISO 1600 and produce beautiful 4x6s with no hint of noise. But if I print larger, I'll see a bit of noise if I don't apply some light noise reduction. If I pixel-peep, it's a disaster of Titanic proportions [I've heard it's important to fit the word Titanic in wherever possible this month] that can't be fixed with noise reduction except by blurring out all of the detail.

As for film grain vs. digital noise: I think it depends, and I think one of the things it depends a lot on is chroma noise. Grain didn't give you red speckles all over a blue sky. My XT/350D turns out quite a bit of chroma noise. Fortunately, that's fairly easy to squash.

If people stuck Kodak Gold 400 in their cameras with no problem.. why not go around shooting with ISO 400?

I did use Kodak Gold (and Ektachrome) 400 for about 25 years. The thing is, with film you don't get to set the ISO for each photo, so unless you had multiple cameras or would cut off a roll in order to load film with a different ISO, you loaded the highest ISO that worked for you.

We don't need to do that with digital. We can select a different ISO for each photo.

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