Is continuous tone with 'process' film feasible?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by David Lyga, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    A few years ago a local historical society was changing their archiving into digital and offered, for free on Craigslist.org, twelve 100 foot rolls of 35mm Kodak ImageLink microfilm (NOT perforated!). I was the lucky 'buyer' and I gave them $10 for their bounty.

    Since then I have tried to get continuous tone. I have succeeded only partially. With this film, if you overexpose, you get both highlights and mid-tones blocked. If you try to compensate with dilution or truncated development, you get (lighter) blocked mid-tones and highlights. You simply cannot overexpose this film as from mid-tone upwards, the 'shoulder' gets crammed and melds into one tone.

    If you underexpose this film you get delightful highlights and usable mid-tones. But shadows are totally blank. The film is so contrasty that NOTHING seems to be a compromise. Folks, for low contrast subjects, NOTHING is better for tonal rendition. It is sensational. But any normal or high-contrast scene is either a technical disaster or becomes a special picture that, (for 'esoteric', aesthetic reasons only) is either under or over exposed.

    Sometimes I wish to get as complete a record of a scene as I can and I overexpose (EI 4) to 'get it all'. As a result, my highlights become recorded at about the same value as do my mid-tones, but there is some shadow detail. Other times, I like a more stark, poster effect with completely black shadows and brilliant mid-tones and highlights.

    Is there a way to force everything onto this film? Or is this simply not possible with process films of this type? I usually use a standard developer with baking soda added in order to reduce its activity, as this film attains density much faster than 'normal' films. - David Lyga
     
  2. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I don't know if it would work... have you tried Technidol?
     
  3. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Spur Modular UR is the most capable developer for such films, some reach 12 to 14 stops.
     
  4. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    There are several mix yourself developers to develop this film as a continuous tone negative. Examples are the POTA, Burton, Collins, and H&W Control formulas. I have tried to use Imagelink and other similar films but have never really gotten a useful contrast with them - always a bit too contrasty. Good luck as it may involve a bit on tinkering.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2012
  5. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser

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    I think that's your answer right there: use it for what it does well. "Never try to teach a pig to sing: it wastes your time; it annoys the pig."
     
  6. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    It may help the discussion to illustrate what David is referring to, since it also pertains to the other thread about shadow detail and Bill's interest in distorted contrast for midtone placements with maximum expansion.

    Attached is a no/low flare characteristic curve for CMS 20 (another document/micro film). Note Tech Pan was a little easier to "tame" than some current microfilms. This particular curve was part of an attempt to establish some baseline characteristics to which I could compare the results with low contrast developers and alternate dilutions of compensating developers. This was a while ago so I will have to look for the other charts.

    As for getting a more useable tonality overall, and slightly more speed, I found TD-3 (a Catechol developer) gave the best result. Interestingly that developer also worked quite well with Tech Pan - and I believe it was originally formulated specifically for Tech Pan. Certainly it worked better than POTA and Adox's Adotech when it comes to uniformity. I wanted to try dilute FX2 but never got around to completing the tests on this film because I knew I wouldn't use it anyway. I was just curious.

    Low contrast developers flatten the curve but also limit the maximum densities so while you can get continous tones out of them, you will never have as long an exposure scale as a general purpose film. That is the point to keep in mind. So, assuming you want to use one of these films for its resolution and lack of grain, I would suggest the following:

    1. If you want shadow and highlight detail, use for relatively short scale subjects with a low contrast developer and/or low contrast development technique.
    2. If you want maximum expansion of a short or very short scale subject, use with a range of developers from compensating to general purpose.

    In my opinion, big time expansions or distorted tonality without golf ball grain are the reasons to use these films. Although many would disagree with me, I don't think they are very useful in general photography for making prints from small/medium format negatives look like they were made from large format negatives. To my eyes that simply doesn't work. You get fine grain but that's all. And you sacrifice much in the way of tonality. Put simply I have never seen a print from a microfilm negative that didn't look exactly like it was made from a microfilm negative. Film speed is another potential issue. Tech Pan actually had a semi-workable film speed depending on how you developed it. But its spectral response was rather odd and speed could vary substantially depending on the lighting.

    Anyhow, just some thoughts. If I can locate the other curves I'll post if there is interest.

    Michael
     

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  7. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Yes, thanks all, especially Michael R 1974:"big time expansions or distorted tonality without golf ball grain are the reasons to use these films".

    Yes, this film excels in the 'expansion' you state, Michael, and is right at home with low exposure (E.I 32?) and Dektol (1:1). The fact that you simply cannot get a contrasty scene all into this film is a fact of life. Some developers might help but not succeed in getting a 'Tri-X' tonality.

    georg16nik: I will look up the 'spur modular UR' but will not hold my breath in anticipation of complete success.

    Bill Burk: no I have not tried Technidol. But I can say, without equivocation, that Tech Pan is not all that difficult to process in standard developers in order to obtain FULL scale negatives. All you do is either dilute and/or add sodium bicarbonate to the developer to get truly magnificent negatives. Much needs to be said as to why Tech Pan became 'in vogue' only AFTER it was discontinued for lack of interest! The film was/is sensational because it did not block up if developed with care. In fact, why, how, for what reason was the ImageLink even MADE since Tech Pan 'does it all', and without compromise?

    Gerald Koch: Since you have never seen a truly satisfying negative with ImageLink maybe I, therefore, rest my case. Thanks all. - David Lyga
     
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  8. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Correct, while you can get a grey scale out of these films with low contrast developers, you will never get the exposure range of a Tri-X (or any other current general purpose film). It just ain't gonna happen. Even with Tech Pan, while I found TD-3 worked better than Technidol (a POTA variant) the total exposure range was still quite limited in comparison to general purpose films. Regarding POTA and similar Phenidone-based low contrast developers, it is tricky to use and is very prone to uneven development and streaking. One must remember when Levy formulated it, it was for photographing nuclear tests. The idea was to get as wide an exposure range as possible from film (not Tech Pan), and not much else mattered. Mottle, unevenness etc would not have been major concerns given the intended purpose.

    A big reason for the popularity of Tech Pan, and why people were bent on trying to make it work with dilute Rodinal etc, was the notion propagated in magazine articles etc (I have several of them) that you could make prints from 35mm negatives look like medium format, and make prints from medium format negatives look like 4x5. That was based on the extremely fine grain and high potential resolution of the film. In practice I have never seen this work. I have an article from an issue of Photo Techniques (part of a survey of B&W films available at the time) that summarized the situation quite well.

    This is not to say people haven't done interesting work with Tech Pan (and other such films), but the most success comes from playing to a given material's strengths rather than trying to make it behave like something entirely different.

    Best,
    Michael
     
  9. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Zeiss Camera Lens Division and some of us APUG members are achieving full tonal scale and excellent resolution, fine grain etc out of such films..

    Agfa Copex-Rapid 135 in Spur Modular UR (new) reaches ISO 40 and full 14 stops range and ~ 200 lp/mm, the 120 format is faster - ISO 50.
    in 2006, Zeiss Camera Lens Division reached 400 lp/mm @ ƒ/4 - the diffraction limit of white light using Zeiss Biogon T * 2,8 / 25 ZM and Spur Orthopan UR film (Adox CMS 20).

    Zeiss stated several times that they use photographic techniques similar to normal pictorial photography.
    Some of us already been there, done that. We are talking about real world photography.

    Kodak Imakelink is quite capable film, when developed properly and in appropriate developer.
    Spur used to offer a developer specifically for this film to utilize ISO 20, it was called Spur Imagespeed. I am not sure if its available in US.
    Spur Modular UR (new) probably is available in US.
     
  10. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I might mention that the best examples with microfilm were found on the Spur website. IIRC their developers were a bit pricey and then there was the added expense of shipping. There is an addtional developer that could be tried and that is Perfection XR-1. From the patent are the two following formulas.

    Formula A

    Distilled water (50°C) …………………………………………… 750 ml
    Metol ………………………………………………………………………………………… 0.25 g
    Sodium sulfite (anhy) ……………………………………………… 30.0 g
    Phenidone ……………………………………………………………………………… 1.5 g
    Hydroquinone ……………………………………………………………………… 0.5 g
    Borax ………………………………………………………………………………………… 0.75 g
    Distilled water to make ………………………………………… 1.0 l

    Formula B

    Distilled water (50°C) …………………………………………… 750 ml
    Metol ………………………………………………………………………………………… 0.25 g
    Sodium sulfite (anhy) ……………………………………………… 30.0 g
    Phenidone ……………………………………………………………………………… 1.75 g
    Hydroquinone ……………………………………………………………………… 0.25 g
    Borax ………………………………………………………………………………………… 0.5 g
    Distilled water to make ………………………………………… 1.0 l

    The XR-1 instruction sheet says that the concentrate has a pH of 7.7.

    Usage

    Usual dilution is 1+3.

    I have a bunch of 16mm Agfa Copex sitting in my freezer. While I tried several of the developers that I previously mentioned I never tried the XR-1 developer. I would be interested if anyone would get a good result with either one.
     
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  11. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    I have not used Copex Rapid, but I highly doubt the 14 stop claim. Same for CMS20 etc.

    Data please. Not lines/mm. H&D curves are required. I have still never seen an example that did not show abrupt losses of contrast in highlights and shadows.
     
  12. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    OK, Gerald, but, essentially, your formulae are similar to standard MQ developers, with the exception of the addition of Phenidone (I don't think that that addition really matters with tone, as phenidone apes metol).

    So I have tried straight metol and then diluted MQ developers and have gotten the same results. With ImageLink HQ it's really not possible to 'get it all in' with contrasty scenes because the highlights and mid-tones meld into one when sufficient exposure is given in order to render shadows properly. For low contrast scenes the film is sensational. - David Lyga

    NOTE: one interesting thing with this film: If you expose for FULL shadow detail and you develop for an EXTREMELY truncated period (maybe 1/8th the time), you will 'get it all in' but your negative will be so thin (because of the greatly inadequate development time) that you cannot make a decent print.
     
  13. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    The data was published several times by Henning Serger here on APUG and on aphog.de as well.
    You might do a search here, just recently in his Photokina 2012 report Henning repeated what was already know about Copex Rapid.

    At Carl Zeiss AG, Oberkochen lenses are tested with those super films.
    Zeiss published their data in several Camera Lens Newsletters during the last decade.
     
  14. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Hi Georg16nik - I remember seeing Henning Serger's recent report but if I remember correctly these were resolution tests, not characteristic curves.

    Gerald, David, when I experimented with XR-1B I found the curve I got with Tech Pan was similar to Technidol. I have not tested Copex Rapid.
     
  15. desertrat

    desertrat Subscriber

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    I've had good results with ortho litho sheet film and a simple metol/sodium sulfite developer:

    1 liter water
    a pinch of sulfite
    0.5 grams metol
    8 grams sodium sulfite.

    I expose the film at roughly EI 0.5, or 2 seconds at f16 under sunny conditions and develop 4 to 6 minutes continuous agitation in an oversize tray. Tonal range is not as good as a standard film like Tri-X, but contrast is near normal. Tonality, for lack of a better term, is not quite like standard film. Uneven development is sometimes a problem, but usually not too bad.
     
  16. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    David, Phenidone does not just mimic the properties of Metol but has some unique properties of its own. Its use in the two Perfection formulas is to increase film speed and latitude. For example, the POTA formula (which uses only Phenidone as the developing agent) was developed by Marilyn Levy for the Photo Optics Technical Area (POTA) division of the U.S. Arms Electronics Command to be used to record atomic testing which needed a film/developer combination capable of recording a very large contrast range. This formula will give an 18 stop tonal range with most panchromatic emulsions. Ordinary film/developer combinations can only handle a range of 5 stops.

    With high contrast films, such as Kodak Technical Pan film and document copy films, this developer produces a negative which preserves the normal pictorial contrast while retaining the film's extremely fine grain.
     
  17. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser

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    To throw another developer into the fray:

    Soemarko LC-1 "improved":

    750ml distilled water at 125F
    4 g Metol
    80 g Sodium sulfite
    4 g Hydroquinone
    20 g Sodium bisulfite
    Distilled water to make 1l

    For use, dilute 1:5 to 1:10...5 to 10 minutes at 75F

    I've used it with Arista lith sheet film and it sorta-mostly works. Sorta-mostly is as good as I have ever gotten these microfilm/lith wunderkind developers to work.
     
  18. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Sometimes, using special developers, depending on the film. The results are usually still pretty contrasty, but they are usable and are very good for some subjects. (These films usually have a more uniform grain size and are built especially for very high contrast. A low contrast developer will get what it can out of them, but the film just isn't made to respond with even gradation to a wide range of light values.) The special developers are low contrast types, often called document film developers. Some examples are shown above. Most microfilms and some litho films work reasonably well with these, but you will have to experiment to find out and to get the right exposure and development combination. A couple more developer examples:

    Delagi-8

    Sodium sulfite 25 g
    Phenidone 1.4 g
    Borax (decahydrate) 2 g
    Benzotriazole 0.2% 15 ml

    Substitute sodium metaborate for borax to get higher speed and contrast.
    Note:
    Benzotriazole may not be active at low pH and could be eliminated. Potassium
    bromide or iodide might also be substituted.

    LC-1B low contrast developer:

    Distilled water (125F) 750 ml
    Metol 4 g
    Sodium sulfite 80 g
    Hydroquinone 4 g
    Sodium bisulfite 20 g
    Distilled water to make 1 l

    This variation was designed for Arista APH film for both interpositives and negatives. It is similar to LC-1 diluted 2:3:5, but with more sulfite and bisulfite. Dilute between 1:5 and 1:10. Develop 5 to 10 minutes at 75F.

    Ref: Siegel, J, “Post-Factory Photography Journal”
    James, C, “The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes”
     
  19. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Thanks Gerald for the info on Phenidone, but we all have to admit that there is a mighty difference between Tech Pan and ImageLink. Tech Pan 'gets it all in' and the other does NOT. With Tech Pan all you have to be careful with is development. Most of the other formulae presented are really standard MQ types having both metal and HQ.

    I do not (obviously) have the definitive answer here and maybe that definitive answer is in the negitive. I have YET to see this ImageLink presented 'getting everyting in' for a contrasty scene . - David Lyga
     
  20. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser

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    Another low contrast developer candidate is C-41 color developer.

    Cheap enough to buy, no need to make your own. Formula is:

    Water 800 ml
    Potassium carbonate 38 g
    Sodium sulfite 4.7 g
    Potassium bromide 1.5 g
    Kodak anti-cal (optional) 1 g
    Hydroxylamine sulfate 3.9 g
    CD4 5.9 g
    Potassium iodide 1 mg
    Acetic Acid to pH 10.00
    Water to make 1 liter

    Well, at least it's not YAMQ.

    --
    Source: Francis A. Mitner, rec.photo.film+labs, 2002; attributed to Photo Techniques magazine
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    David, try XTOL replenish and compare that to the other recommendations. A big plus is that XTOL is cheap.
     
  22. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Well, I have not tried the XTOL yet but I do find that standard BW developers work quite adequately if (and only if) you do not expect all the shadows and you are prepared to give short development without risk of unevenness. You do this buy developing in an open tank and, at the end of development, immediately lifting the reel and putting it into the stop quickly. Agitate frequently. WARNING, excessive dilution does not 'solve the time problem' as it will provide less separation between highlight and midtones I found. - David Lyga
     
  23. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I can get great shadow details and smooth continuous tone ranges with XTOL replenished by using standard development techniques and without any extra effort. That is why I made the recommendation to try it in post #21.