Difference btw "Traditional" grain and all the rest???

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by fmajor, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. fmajor

    fmajor Member

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    Hi all,

    As i'm getting into developing b&w all on my own like a big boy, i'm learning there are different "grain" type b&w films. Some giving better contrast/'sharpness'/etc than others....

    I've searched about this, but simply can't locate a succinct answer. I can find lotsa heavy chemi-garble (which i can't decipher....), but nothing that makes sense..

    I'm using Xtol developer as it's the only one i have/can get, but really like contrasty images....

    Help!!!
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  3. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    This is quite a vague request, but I'll attempt an answer!

    Emulsions were steadily improved with many inovations over the years until around the 1980/1990s when they reached a limit with the technology available. Then Kodak made a big innovative step with 'T-Grain' emulsons, T-Max. Ilford, Fuji, Agfa and the rest followed soon after. Many people seemed unsure about the new style emulsions so stuck with the 'traditional' ones, so they didn't die out or get replaced (at least not yet). In eastern block countries and places like China they still made films using earlier technology emulsions from the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these disappeared when the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet union dissolved, but you can still get some, such as Efke / Adox.

    That means there are basically three classes of film available:

    Old technology emulsions from the 1960s: EFKE / Adox CMS for example
    Traditional emulsions from the 1990s. Kodak Tri-X, Ilford HP5+ FP4+ etc. (I couldn't think of a good way to describe these, 'Traditional 1990s' is the best I could think of...)
    T-Grain emulsions. Kodak T-Max, Ilford Delta, Fuji Across.

    In each group you have slow film (ISO 25 or 50) Medium Film (ISO 50 to 200) and Fast Film. For the Old technology films fast means 100 ISO. For the traditional 1990s films it means 400 ISO and for T-Grain types it can mean 400 up to 3200 ISO.

    Slower films are inherantly more contrasty and finer grained than faster ones,

    For a given film speed the grain is usually finer for T-Max than trad 1990s and these are usually finer than the old tech 1960s.

    T-Max films have very fine grain and a smoothness than not everone likes. The Trad 1990s films are the easiest to handle and process, the best to start with and usually look sharper than the T-Grain.

    Some people like the look of the old tech films and they work well with old developing techniques. Best as toys for the experienced to play with.

    Any film can give contrasy results, this is controlled with development time. More time = more contrast.

    I'd try Ilford FP4+ or something similar in XTOL as a good starting point.

    8 mins in stock at 20 deg C seems like the recommended time for 125 ISO.

    I hope that is what you wanted to know?
     
  4. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I think the OP is talking abouthe difference between the so called trad/old technology films like FP4+, HP5+ and the newer T grain films like Kodak TMax, the Ilford Delta range and Fuji Acros.

    Each film has different characteristics but the newer T grain films have a more uniform grain which negative size for negative size gives finer grained negs

    Xtol will work fine with the whole range of films. There really aren't any magic combos or developers that were specifically made for certain films and only work well with those films

    Contrasty negs to give contrasty images is a function of different things but not really related to a specific developer. Instead it relies on how you do the rest of the taking and developing.

    pentaxuser
     
  5. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I'll offer my most non-technical version.

    The traditional-grain films tend to give higher edge contrast, meaning that tonal boundaries are more pronounced, sometimes tending to give an appearance of greater detail. But... the appearance of the grain is also a bit more obvious with the traditional films, especially in large enlargements of smaller format film.

    The newer tabular/epitaxial-grain films tend to deliver smoother transitions across tone boundaries, and less grain. By the book, these newer films actually deliver more detail, but they can actually give the opposite impression because the edge contrast is often softer, giving less distinctive edges.

    Sometimes people describe the edge contrast of the traditional grain films as "bite" or "edginess"... and I think that's a pretty good way to describe it. Words like "dreamy" come to mind with the newer films. These are merely casual generalizations, of course.

    Without delving into the technical definitions of acutance, sharpness, micro contrast etc, that's pretty much it. And you either like the look for your subject matter or you don't. And developing practices do play a role, of course. But for the most part, the difference is about edge contrast, not about overall contrast. When people speak of contrast, you have to ask yourself over what length scale? And that's as far as we get without getting technical.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It may help you understand where the differences come from if you realize that when we talk about "grain" we aren't really talking about individual tiny bits of silver. Instead, what we see is how the individual grains clump together to give us what is actually visible to the user.

    The different shapes and composition of the "traditional" vs. "modern" vs "tabular/epitaxial-grain" grains themselves (combined with how the films are exposed and developed) are what determines how those clumps appear.

    Shoot some 35mm 400 ISO modern and tabular/epitaxial-grain films together, under the same conditions, and print some enlarged portions of the negatives, and you will start to get a feeling for the difference.
     
  7. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    It must always be remembered that traditional BW photography is a two step process with both a negative and a positive print. What most people think about as grain when they see a print is not actually silver grains but the spaces between the silver particles in the negative.

    Some photographers like Max Waldman have actually embraced grain and made it an integral element of their style. I suggest you look at this photographer's work and in particular his photograph of the actor Robert Lloyd. You will find many examples of Waldman's work on the web.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 29, 2011
  8. fmajor

    fmajor Member

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    Thanks everyone!!!!

    The film grain descriptions/definitions are/were *very* helpful - just what i was hoping to learn. Additionally, the description of what 'contrast' is, prior to a more technical discussion, is at the heart of what i'm trying to achieve/learn - realized through the appropriate film/developer/development combination.

    I'm using Acros 100, but have a roll of Delta 100 currently loaded. I still have a few rolls of Kodak Plus-X 120 (now no longer produced) and some 400 Tri-X so i'll be able to see some of the 'traditional' grain films.

    These days I'm shooting 120 pretty much exclusively and developing/scanning (*hybrid warning*). I'm finding that Acros 100 is really fantastic, but need to increase contrast with it. I'm developing with the Xtol @ the recommended 8 minutes in 20C, but maybe i can add a bit more time to that..... I've also read that more *vigorous* agitation/inversions would increase (edge) 'contrast'. I must not be *vigorous* enough.....

    Unfortunately, i don't have space for a darkroom so wet-printing is outta the question (no darkroom-for-lease to found here either).

    Thanks again!!
     
  9. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    LOL! It was this image that sent me off on my dalliance with Kodak 2475 Recording Film. Quite a surprise to see it again after all this time. (Fifteen glorious years! Fifteen glorious years! Years of peace, years of war, each year greater than the year before, fifteen glorious, glorious, glorious ye...) :laugh:

    thanks,

    s-a
     
  10. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Cheers up for getting into developing B&W films!! :D
    Xtol dissolves the grain, so You might wanna try Rodinal, Neofin Blue and other developers that will keep the film's native grain more than Xtol does.
    Most emulsions on the market are heavily tweaked, some do it to cut costs, other do it for other reasons.
    Despite all that, these days we have the chance to buy the most refined films.

    Steven, probably You meant Adox CHS.
    Adox CMS is more like a hybrid emulsion.
    Kodak Tri-X passed so many reincarnations, hence its not traditional, You might find more tradition in Kodak's movie film lineages but given Kodak history, seriously, there is hardly an evidence that Kodak cares about tradition...
    The Efke / Adox CHS lineage of emulsions are the closest to the traditional ones from the 50's.
     
  11. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I did, just a typo...

    I was using 'traditional' to mean 'Not T-Max' in this sense. The Ilford films such as HP5+ are also quite 'high tech' compared to CHS in their use of dye sensitisation and the like. At least Ilford tweak the name when they tweak the emulsion ;-)
    Maybe 'Conventional' might have been a better description? Or maybe not...
     
  12. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Steve, absolutely, HP5+ is in a different league., compared to CHS.