B&W film comparisons & samples

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by adam211, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. adam211

    adam211 Member

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    Hi all,
    I'm aware of the large amount of information in the archives here and elsewhere online on film recommendations. That's great, but I couldn't find good samples, comparisons, or side-by-sides. I've decided to start out with Tri-X and want to continue with it for quite some time before (if ever?) I try out some other films. I saw that advice here on the forums, of picking a film and getting familiar with it. But I'm still curious what other films look like. I hear several different opinions but I'm really curious what these look like in the hands of a capable photographer (since I think at this point in my career it would be unhelpful to buy 5 different films and see which one I like best).

    I'm particularly interested in slower films to complement Tri-X, but I'm just curious if there are any good, characteristic comparison shots. For example, I hear that FP4+, HP5+, and Tri-X are "traditional" films and Acros, Efke, and new Tmax are "modern" films but I have no idea what that means other than that "modern" films seem to have less grain.

    I feel flickr isn't the best place for these due to the amount of post-processing, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Any good comparison sites or links? Descriptions and words are helpful as well, but descriptions backed by samples would be even more so. I'm just looking for some good samples, it'd be great if they were characteristic of each film so I could get a sense.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    I think this information is really hard to find, and even then it would probably be a mess anyway.
    Why?

    Because a film can look very different, depending on what developer is used.
    Also, even developing in a given developer, can yield different results, depending on what developing scheme is used.

    What you _could_ do, is to try a few films in the same developer and see the differece, remembering that these films in a different developer may yield a very different look and grain size etc.
     
  3. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Most serious photographers, and by this I mean those that are actually interested in taking pictures, shoot maybe two films consistantly. To make any comparison valid you really need the same person, using the same chemistry, and the same conditions posting a variety of images and statistics for many films. The chances of this happening is very slim. Most people are not interested in expending the large effort that is required to correctly produce what you want. Still there are a few people that seem to do nothing but test films. I don't know whether I would classify them as capable photographers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2011
  4. adam211

    adam211 Member

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    Thanks for your replies. I wonder how anyone picks a B&W film. It seems it must be half blind, half informed.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    It is called faith. One learns one film and one developer. Once that is well understood, change only one thing at a time.
     
  6. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    It's also a matter of figuring out what you really need/want. For example, do you really need speed? If so, choose TX or HP5 rather than PX or FP4. Do you really want grain, pick TX. Etc. Then pick one and start seeing if it meets your needs and expectations.
     
  7. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    ... and if you want to "punish" Kodak, buy Ilford. And if you want to "Buy American", buy Kodak.
     
  8. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Well said and this is something that Ansel Adams repeated many times. Might I recommend Adam's (book 2 of the series) "The Negative" to the OP.
     
  9. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    You have Tri-X, now pick a slower one. FP4 or TMax 100, are fine choices and will cover all your needs. Curiosity is fine but it usually leads to confusion and endless testing. Get to know two emulsions, with a couple of developers at most, and spend your time having fun shooting and creating. How do you pick a b&w film? By necessity, really. Pick one or two that fit your requirements, whether they may be speed, grain, etc and run with it. Not complicated really. I was talking to a very famous and accomplished photographer/printer two days ago and was admiring some of his prints. It never dawned on me to ask any technical questions, which invariably turn an interesting conversation into a boring one, but, since the collection was quite unique and the prints mind boggling, I fired the question. I was inclined to think it was medium format but it turned out to be 35mm, with the entire series shot on Ilford XP2 (a C41 b&w emulsion). He picked that because it rendered the scenes/exposures the way he wanted them, and mostly considering how he was going to print them. Now, if your goal is scanning, you may want to consider the issue of grain, since scanning usually does poorly in that department.
    What other films look like? I don't know if anyone can really answer that question. You can make almost anything look like something else if you know what you're doing. There are too many variables to consider so, looking at someone else's scans or prints on any given film, will probably confuse one more than help. Are you ultimately printing in a darkroom or scanning for alternative output?

    Max
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    To the OP:

    Yours is a good question, but not one that is simply answered.

    To draw a comparison, have you ever tried to research the purchase of a new car? If you have, most likely you will have had at least some frustration with the myriad of "facts" compared, and opinions offered.

    One thing that may help, however, is to get used to how Tri-X behaves in a developer that you choose, and learn how to describe that behaviour in terms (shadow speed, resolution, accutance, grain, contrast, highlight retention, spectral response, etc.) that are commonly understood by those who like to talk about film :smile:.
     
  11. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I took a ride on the film merry-go-around over the last few years. I tried every single film that is or was available in 120. Why? Because I was curious. I think the number reason photographers switch films all the time is because they are chasing a certain look and are too impatient to stick with a film and learn it to get the look they want. This was me too. I think the main difference in films are either traditional or T-grain emulsions. They do look different. Other than that there's grain and speed but nothing major. I chose to go with FP4 as my slow speed film and Tri-x and HP5 as my fast films. I still haven't decided on which 400 speed film to stick with, I like them both. I prefer the look and grain of traditional films over T-grain films. So I can recommend everyone pick one or two films and one developer and go with it, but I wouldn't know which films work for me hadn't I taken a ride on the film merry go-around to decide for myself.
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    It should be understood is that at least from the big three it is really tough to buy a bad film. FP4, Delta, T-Max, or Acros will all do a fine jobs.

    What differs is only the personality.

    So Adam, the question becomes "how are you trying to change your results?" or "how is Tri-X failing you?"

    Grain?

    Detail?

    Bite?

    Contrast?

    Tones?

    Smoothness?

    ...?
     
  13. adam211

    adam211 Member

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    Ultimately interested in printing in a darkroom, but will probably start off scanning for the next year or two as I start my journey. I guess most photographers have a slower film, but after shooting 400 speed film it's hard to imagine me willingly loading 100 speed film in my camera unless I knew I was going to be shooting the entire roll mid-day on a sunny day. Otherwise I just don't have that flexibility of shooting wide open. I'll stick with Tri-X for a while, but if it fits the bill why even try anything slower?

    I do like and agree with what everyone said about getting to know one particular film, and I intend to do that with Tri-X. Curiousity leads me to wonder more about other emulsions but I'll stick to what I have for now.

    Tri-X isn't failing me. I just started and haven't gotten far enough to know. Per above I'll stick with and fiddle around with Tri-X, I was just hoping to see some examples that characterized the different emulsions, particulalry what the "T grain" emulsions vs the traditional actually looks like. But I suppose those comparison don't exist because that is more complicatated than I thought. I'll be content for now.
     
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  15. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I've tried several films and several developers in the last 2+ years. My experience isn't that long. I have been finding, the difference between films and developers (and combinations) isn't a significant factor in my photography. Initially, I did tests after tests and stressed over many things. If you see my early posts, you'll find how I had fought with XTOL and Tmax400. These days, I'm far more relaxed. I might overexpose a stop and under-develop 20% or so, if I feel it's necessary. I tend to put more of my effort toward printing in darkroom.

    Film wise, I basically settled on Tri-X and Tmax400. They tend to have different mood to it that I like each in their own way. While I do "stock" Plus-X and Tmax100, I rarely use them. I don't know what equipment you use but with my F-100, I can have high shutter speed that allows me to open up a bit. It's rare 400 is too fast. (especially when I over expose by 1 stop) When I use medium format, max shutter speed is 1/400 so it is more of an issue there.

    I know I'm not answering your questions directly. Nevertheless, this is my experience.
     
  16. Crashbox

    Crashbox Subscriber

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    Very well said IMO.

    For the record, I use a number of films because I will often want a certain "look" that a particular film/developer combination will provide, but that's just me. I've either learned the results or am willing to learn it. I'll shut up for now.
     
  17. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    Just as a tip, I read today that it isn't anything wrong in trying out what's out there and then buy more of the film(s) you actually like.

    Start with a general developer, like XTol or HC110, buy an example of most brands and develop them all in that developer.
    See anything you like? Stick with it for a while.

    But now you have an idea of various films in that developer, then you can research the net if you found one film interesting, but not quite what you were after.
    The internet, with flickr and other places, is a tremendous resource to get an idea on how your film can look, even before you test it yourself.

    I've always felt a bit provoked by people claiming to "stick with one film, one developer and learn it". All films are not equal, Ilford delta, Tmax, Foma and Rollei retro all have a very very different looks and you certainly can't do "eveything" with a single film.
    - Also Tri-x 400 in 35mm can be very grainy, why recommend that film? If that was my first film to try in 35mm, I would be very sceptical to the film medium because of the grain, but that's me and my taste...

    Besides, in the days of the internet, information gathering is 100 times faster in the old days, so you can learn a lot in a fraction of the time it took in the olden days.

    Start with ISO 100 films is my tip, at least in 35mm, except if you are after grain and grit. :smile:
     
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  18. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I used to think that.

    It was when I started printing in the darkroom and found my size, 11x14, that I really started "findng" my limits for certain 35mm films.

    What I've now found, and this is just for me, is that HP5's and Tri-X's grain can really start competing with small but important details on a significant number of shots at this size. Delta 400's grain generally doesn't seem to interfere so much.

    Delta 100 though makes a significant improvement in the fine details and I'm finding that I can shoot it just about anywhere and anytime in almost any situation that I used to think I needed a 400 speed film.

    My only real struggle with Delta 100 is the contrast, I know that's a solvable problem, but it is really tough to get excited about that work when that darn old school FP4 shoots so easy and nice. So easy that I just bought another 100 feet plus 10 rolls of 120.

    As you can tell I'm not an adherent to the one film doctrine.

    Many people do very well with one film, and Tri-X is a nice one, but you'll never know how the others might fit until you try.
     
  19. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    I asked questions before or say started thread about using or going with different films and developers, but the posts/replies i've got here and there is to stuck with one film and developer for consistency or whatever, and i think going with different films/developers may take me no where, but my main question is: how can i know if the developed film i did is successful? I mean how can i know that i did an excellent job of developing a film? I don't have an enlarger yet and not sure i can get one any soon for reasons, should i stop shooting film at all then until i can get an enlarger?
     
  20. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

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    If it scans (flatbed, whatever) well then it will print well.

    If it scans poorly, then it may still print well, provided that the negative is not underexposed (too light) or too contrasty (lots of opaque patches on the neg). Overexposure is not a problem in the darkroom.

    You can also look at the neg with the naked eye and check if there is discernible detail in both shadows and highlights.

    Don't judge by the rebates (edge numbering/lettering)- that doesn't mean a thing.
     
  21. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    Actually by scanning i got to have great results with any film if developed fine, i just know how and what to adjust or tweak a bit, i don't do straight no adjustment scan, i have the controls on the the scanning software to learn/discover, at beginning first time using the scanner i wasn't so happy, but later i pushed the scanner to the limits and i was able to get nice decent results, but i am not sure if i start to adjust something, is that mean the developing is not right first place? or it must scan flawlessly direct straight without any adjustment to say/judge that the developing was successful?
     
  22. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    Tareq, that's why I bought an enlarger, well, that and because I wanted to do wet-printing. :smile: I find it much easier to spot errors in the darkroom than during scanning.
    (I never let the scanner decide by the way, I always scan negatives as b&w positives and adjust later, then you are sure to have control and the details you want before you edit the photos.)
     
  23. rince

    rince Subscriber

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    Personally I like shooting TriX 400 and Acros100. Even though I have to say that I have TriX in my camera about 80% of time and while I love the look of Acros quite a lot, but I measured it to be around ASA64 for me and that is quite slow in most everyday settings. If I go for longtime exposures, I love Across for it's low reciprocity failure. TriX400 for me measures to about ASA 250 with my gear and development.

    In the beginning I bought a roll of every ilm I could get a hold of in the ASA100 and ASA400 range, shot the same subject with all rolls and developed the same way and in the same chemicals. After comparing the results I picked two I liked and wasted some time measuring my personal EI and determining my N+1 and N-1 development times.

    I can only recommend Ansel's 'The Negative'. Read about the different types of film and how they react to different spectrums, than pick some representation of your favorites and run a few rolls.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Printing "full size", what ever you may end up defining that as, by whatever means you use, is the real final exam.

    One trap I fell into when I was in your situation was an effort to make pretty negatives. Many of those early negatives are pretty like slides but take three backflips to print.

    What I learned along the way, and why I'm no longer worried about/interested in getting really good at one particular film, is that the directions provided by Ilford and Kodak and Fuji are really, really, really good at getting printable negatives and incident meters are really, really, really good at landing exposures in the right place and the printing materials and tools available make printing very flexible.

    That brings me to a second trap I fell into.

    The basic premise of expansion and contraction development for film, as practiced by say Adams, was/is used to fit a specific scenes SBR to a particular paper/paper grade by adjusting negative contrast.

    Until you define for yourself the particular paper/paper grade you want as a target, you can't define what adjustment to make from normal. And if you mix SBRs on a roll of film the problem is compounded.

    If, like me, someone finds a modern VC paper they like then adjustments to film development away from normal become nearly a moot point. Times have changed, we don't live in a world of graded papers as Adams did.

    This is not to say that adjustments to your norm for a given film won't have value, it just means that until you start printing with an enlarger, simply following the manufactures directions may get you negatives now that are easier to use when you get there.

    Regardless of your printing methods, as long as they are a constant, the basic characteristics/differences of the films should shine through in print.

    Tri-X and HP5 will show their grain relative to Delta 100 and FP4.

    What you will probably find, like I have with FP4 and Delta 400 for me at this moment, is that the pallettes of certain films will "just seem to fit".
     
  25. Grainy

    Grainy Member

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    I've been through a lot of different different films the last year or two, just out of curiosity. But I have used just one developer. For 135 and 120 film I have settled on 4 types of film, very slow, slow, medium fast and fast. On 4x5 I currently use 3 different types, but I do consider to ditch one of them and instead push/pull more. Adding color filters to my shooting kit also gives me more options regarding contrast, so I don't need one contrasty film and one with little contrast.

    However, when doing creative work I do like surprises sometimes. So I do have a lot of different types of film in my fridge for creative work, but when doing serious work where screwing up is not an option I always pick one of my standard films.

    One interesting thing I must mention is how different the grain looks when I scan the negative compared to printing in my darkroom, that really surprised me. The darkroom prints of one negative I tested looked grainy and nice, but the scan turned out extremly grainy and not nice.
     
  26. adam211

    adam211 Member

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    Thanks again for your responses. It's so difficult too because I don't have any equipment yet. This makes it difficult to try numerous emulsions since I'm not even printing yet. I am actually still checking craigslist for some tanks. I don't have room for an enlarger yet--it might be a year or two. I'm patient, I can wait.

    Therefore, I will be shooting and scanning for the next year or two, but will be printing the images I like from this period and thereafter. I don't *think* I mind grain--I don't want this to look like digital, I want it to look filmy, as I'm still a digital shooter too. I think this means not going for the more modern films. Since a number of people seem to encourage less grainy and/or at least slower films, I might also buy some FP4 since it's traditional and seems like a solid option. That should give me a decent variety. Once I'm printing I might just shoot one roll of Acros and Neopan and Tmax just to see how they look.

    Considered Neopan 400 but I think I'll stick with Tri-X and scanning for the next year or two. When I shoot B&W from time to time in 6x6, I'll use Tri-X.