35mm TMax400 Olympus OM1-n, no midrange tones!

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by 10speeduk, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. 10speeduk

    10speeduk Subscriber

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    Hi all,

    I have run 2x TMax400 though my Olympus OM1 with the Zuiko 50mm 1.8. I self dev. The 1st roll I used Ilfosol-3 and the 2nd roll I used Xtol. I scan my negs.

    The pics all seem to have massive contrast, so black blacks, bright highlights and lights. But the midtones appear to have little variation. The bulk of what I like to shoot is portraits so I was hoping for subtle changes in midtone to emphasize skin tone. What I appear to get is flat grey here. I have attached some of the best ones. Am I expecting too much? I have trawled though flickr galleries on TMax400 and this looks like a trend to me. I have some Tri X400 coming to see if that helps me.

    Any thoughts ideas?

    Thanks

    Paul

    img192.jpg
     

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  2. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    chicago_0088.jpg those look pretty good to me. If you want something kinder to mid-tones i would avoid faster film, go to something slower like pan f or fp4, but the best I ever got using a rolleiflex was with Ilford XP2 -- that stuff is amazing with a tonal range that ansel adams would envy. This was shot on 35mm xp2 with a leica cl in chicago i think with my 25mm canon lens.
     
  3. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The tonality of any film is determined by its characteristic curve (H&D curve). Traditionally Tri-X has been used by professional photographers for portraits. You don't say whether your observations are based on actual silver prints or from scans. Unless you use a quality scanner correctly you will see many types of artifacts that are not in the negatives.

    A film manufacturer like Kodak optimizes their films toward their developers. I would suggest that you try Tri-X in either HC-110 or D-76. You don't want to use slow films since they emphasise every blemish of the subject. They also tend to be contrasty which again does not flatter.
     
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  4. 10speeduk

    10speeduk Subscriber

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    Thanks guys, I have some TriX400 coming, maybe I will see if I can find something slower too. Will keep you all updated.
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    My impression of Tmax400 is that it IS a contrasty film. For portraits, I under develop it by about 15% per timing chart. If you want a gentler look, you might want to try Tri-X. I'm not sure if it's my faulty memory or what, but comparing to films I used to get 30 years ago, even Tri-X seems little contrastier these days; yet conventional film rather than T-grain film will look little softer.

    Looking at the catch light and the intensity of it, it looks like you had a strong point source light coming from her left. If that is the case, your contrast issue is coming more from lighting technique than film.

    Lastly, it is little harder to judge tonality via scanned image. If you have a capability to produce wet prints, you might want to try that first before start tweaking stuff.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Stop in the tracks! The final contrast of a negative is determined by exposure and development technique. Sure, the film and the developer will matter, but if you're not getting enough midtone separation with that film and those developers, you are actually DOING something wrong. Sorry, but it's not a problem with your materials.
    Go back to the drawing board and re-think this. Add more exposure when you shoot the film, and develop the film with much gentler agitation, like 10s every three minutes. Use Xtol diluted 1:1 or 1:2 and practice. The extra exposure will raise the deepest shadows, and the gentle agitation will mellow your highlights, all while providing more of a focus on your midtones.
    I will tell you that shooting TMax 400 for a few years, and Tri-X for many years prior to that, with proper technique you should be able to achieve almost identical tonality between the two. Technique, technique, technique. Work with it until you have the results you want. This is true for any film.
     
  7. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Check the contrast setting on your scanner, faster speed film usually have flatter contrast not more contrast. Also the blown highlights look like a problem with the scanner to me. Do you use a dedicated film scanner or a flatbed scanner with backlight unit. The later, even the Epson V series, isn't the best choice for 35mm film. The midtone separation of Tmax 400 is usually quiet good imho

    Good Luck
    Dominik
     
  8. pstake

    pstake Member

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    FWIW, my impression of TMax 400 is good. It has great tonality when exposed at box speed and developed properly (properly, of course, is subjective — there are many "proper" ways to do it —*depending on developer, your desired look and, like Thomas said, your technique.) I have had great results with it stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for one hour.

    As ever, pushed film is more prone to contrast and my experience has been that Tmax 400 is especially prone to more contrast when pushed, at least when compared to Tri-X ...

    Whilst opining, I'll add this: if you want to eek out detail in the shadows by overexposing to some degree, you'll want to adjust development accordingly. Or stand develop.
     
  9. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I agree with Thomas. I must add also to print not scan your negatives. Printing allows you to control contrast along with proper processing. You should expose film and develope with a specific contrast in mind and then be able to print at the desired grade. If you are still too contrasty, go to a lower grade, if too flat raise up a grade.
     
  10. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Here's my suggestion.

    It's little different from "buy one film and stick with it" advise. While there aren't THAT much difference between films, there are differences both in how it will react to light and how it will react to developing chemicals. My suggestion, based on my own experience is to buy two films, say Tmax 400 and Tri-X 400 and use enough of them each. At one point, you will find either you don't see enough difference between them, or you'll develop a liking to one or the other. Then pick THAT.

    It's not that films aren't flexible and you could just about do anything you want if you know how - but that takes skill you'll develop over the years. Everybody has to start somewhere and enjoy the result as well. You might find, one will be more to your liking than the other and gets you the result easier than the other.

    That's what happened to me. Strangely enough though, I went back to the one I didn't like for a while as my skills developed further.

    I would suggest, NOT trying any more than 2 or 3 films. It will get awfully confusing and counter productive if you do. You didn't ask this question but I settled on D-76. Seems to get me the result I want - consistently.
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I really don't want to get into scanning specific topics but using scanner at default setting often get you really flat results. Most scanner software will try to get as much dynamic range as possible and the end result is, a flat mid tone....
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I don't necessarily disagree with you. There are differences between films. To me, however, you are not really going to solve much by switching films. The user will not learn anything that helps them actually get better at what they do.
    The root of the problem, poor midtone contrast, is NOT a problem of the TMax film. If you can't get good contrast in midtones using it, you need to learn how to become a better worker, and those lessons do you much more good than switching films.
     
  13. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I don't necessary disagree with your views either, Thomas.

    It certainly isn't Tmax's fault if OP cannot get a good mid-tone. It is entirely possible to get a good mid-tone with Tmax. I like the mid tone on Tmax myself.... To me, the image lacks contrast, rather than having excessive contrast. Muddy skin tone (OP said flat gray) tells me so. But it's hard to tell from scanned images.

    My point really is this. Tmax and Tri-X have different look. Forget the technical.... they LOOK different. I'm suggesting OP to start from one that closely resembles his liking and go from there and learn to get more out of THAT film.

    True, becoming an expert darkroom worker and getting any film to do anything one want is great but if another film gets you there easier, why not?

    These days, I am trying NOT to be so technically oriented in my approach to photography. Start from artistic expression and deploy technicality to support my artistic expression - not the other way around. Being an engineer by trade I love technicals but my goal as a photographer is to put my ideas on paper. If a film gets me closer to what I want consistently and easier, that's a better film.
     
  14. clayne

    clayne Member

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    These shots look pretty normal to me. I dont think you have a problem here.
     
  15. ooze

    ooze Member

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  16. pstake

    pstake Member

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    +1, true that, etc.

    And from what I can tell, Thomas lives by this philosophy as much if not more than anyone on here.




    Also, as was mentioned, those images don't look too far off either. At least not for 35mm.
     
  17. 250swb

    250swb Member

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    I would look closely at your scanning and post processing technique first, and the film and developer charcteristics second. Sort one thing out at a time, and given you have a film to scan, that is your datum point. Now think about what in your scanning workflow could be causing the problem. Usually a fairly flat scan is best, although it may look ugly, but it does provide all the tones, just not in the right order. Then you move it into Photoshop or Lightroom etc and that is where you work the magic, not with crude scanning software.

    Steve
     
  18. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    I actually think your issue has more to do with lighting than materials or processing technique. All of these are very soft, diffused light, so the contrast will be lower and separation between tones will be lessened.
     
  19. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    This is typical of a window light portrait. Or soft broad large source light with fill reflector. First "problem" if you don`t like it. Changing film will not significantly change this.

    Scanning or digital photography, both are the same, produces a straight line curve. Use photoshop or similar program to change to a S curve where the midtones will have more contrast and it looks more like a printed photo. You will need to do this with almost every scanned image or digital photo. Scanning is not the same as printing on photo paper which does get the S curve you need. Photoshop has a preset middle contrast curve or you can create your own and save it.

    Different films will get different shaped S curves or H & D curve. Tri X professional in larger format is not the same as 35 mm tri x regarding curve shape. 35 mm tends to be flat so it will pick up greater range. You may not be happy with tri x because it will tend to do what you have here.
     
  20. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Sample of what I curve adjusted. Standard medium contrast curve and I dodged the shadows 35%.
     

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  21. BrendanCarlson

    BrendanCarlson Member

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    IMHO their are quite a few ways to get different results, it isn't necessarily about which film you are shooting. Sometimes when I want a different look I switch developers, their is a different look to film developed in Rodinal, D76, and XTOL, in fact their is a difference between dilutions and dev times.

    What I mean by all that is just play around with a few rolls of whatever you have and a couple developers until you find the look you are going for.
    (I personally like D76 at 1+3 for 15 minutes for street stuff, which is what I shoot most.)
     
  22. clayne

    clayne Member

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    The originals look perfectly fine and well balanced. Seriously, you don't need to do anything with these and I'd stick with whatever routine you have now.

    It seems what you're asking for is not about "too much contrast" but that you'd like more contrast or separation in the midtones. For that I'd choose different lighting or a different film.
     
  23. 10speeduk

    10speeduk Subscriber

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    Hi All, processed my 1st Tri-X 400 yesterday. Def. more greys and midtones and less bright whites and dark blacks. Not just the image attached, but the whole roll taken under a range of lighting conditions. Anyway am going to stick with it for a while. More grain, but worth it. img350.jpg