I took some pictures using Ilford FP4 Plus 125 on my Canon Eos 3. Can't remember the lens, but it's probably a sigma 50mm 1.4. The developing and scanning was done in Samy's. The result looks flat, which I can remedy by adjusting levels in darktable. But the whole picture looks very soft, which isn't what I expected from this film. Is there something wrong with the scanning, or anything else? Every other picture in the same roll looks somewhat like this. Thanks.

the scan after the adjust in darktable

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered taking the film and scans back to Samy's to ask them what's wrong with their scans? They may have to rescan with different settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Dec 30, 2019 at 11:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "soft"? Usually I understand soft to mean "out of focus". Are you confident that you exposed everything well? Your sample looks to be an indoor picture. With ISO 125 film, if the scene metered around EV5 - EV6 (a guess), you would be looking at an exposure of about 1/20 to 1/40 second at f/1.4. Is that round about right? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Dec 30, 2019 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try asking them. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2019 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @osullic What I mean by soft is that I'd expected outlines of objects that are in focus to be quite clean, which isn't the case for most of the scans. As I said I don't remember the setting for the original photo. I experimented a bit under similar lighting conditions, and I found that I had to use 1/40 second(as you guessed) to get the right exposure. It is possible that I underexposed by using a higher shutter speed, or maybe the built-in meter is simply not accurate. Do you suggest this lack of clean outlines might be due to improper exposure? Thanks for the response! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2019 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm still not 100% sure what you mean by "clean" outlines. If you mean "sharp" outlines, well, it might be that your focus is actually a bit off, or possibly more likely, it could be down to the lens just generally not performing at its best at f/1.4. Lenses generally exhibit a little softness when used wide-open; you need to stop down by a stop or two to get the best performance from a lens. Also, an exposure of 1/40 second is a little bit slow for hand-holding - you could be seeing some slight effects of camera shake as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Dec 31, 2019 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


You need to look at your negatives. Scans mean nothing. Your film should have rich blacks and film base clear areas. If the whole image is 'thin' (meaning under-exposed) then the scans will be made in such a way to try and capture as much detail without blowing them out.

Basically, you need the source material, not the end result.

If you want to post a photo of your negative against a light box or a monitor, taken with a cell phone, that would give a better idea of what where they are in the exposure scale. The blackest part of the image should be darker than the film imprint near the sprockets.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, here's a photo of my negative. (imgur.com/a/ja0CjKu) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2020 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ From your description, it seems like the shot I asked about in the original question(the rightmost one) is under-exposed, and the scanning is somehow trying to recover the detail? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2020 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer btw! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2020 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The image on the right is too under exposed, and I'd hazard to guess the film is slightly under-developed as well. I base that on the density of the Ilford FP4 text, as that usually is quite dark, but here appears thin. That means the scan tried to compensate. You can tweak things, obviously, but without a good start it'll be hard to bring out details. I'd recommend reshooting with more light (obviously) and another scan couldn't hurt as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – J.Hirsch
    Jan 4, 2020 at 3:28

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