Is there a wallet-friendly way to test for film speed and development time?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Removed Account, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

    Messages:
    907
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nanaimo, Bri
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I am beginning explorations in to the zone system and am excited by the possibility of improving on my current level improperly exposed and developed film. One aspect I am having a hard time getting my head around is that all the ways I have read to test for film speed and development time require about 25 sheets of 4x5 film. One problem is that I do not have that many holders (although reloading is not a problem) the other is that 25 sheets and the chemicals to develop them are not cheap. If I absolutely must I am sure it will be money well spent, but is there a less wasteful way to test these factors?

    One related question is if the emulsion batch matters. I use mostly Ilford and occasionally Kodak films, but I am wanting to try Efke PL50 despite their reputation for occasionally inadequate quality control. Will I have to make sure I order a lot of film from the same emulsion batch, and then retest with every new batch?

    As always, thanks for the help!

    - Justin
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,677
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    25 sheets? I start with roll film. Nail that down and use the results to start your sheet film testing.

    I tend to order batches of film. When I was in Canada the cost of shipping from say Freestyle made stocking the fridge with a yearly or at least six month order a good idea. I expect to do the same thing here. I'd then do shorten test to see if things were similar. I'd use the old number to start with and work from there.
     
  3. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

    Messages:
    907
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nanaimo, Bri
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I would but I only have 4x5 cameras aside from a 35mm P&S :tongue:
     
  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,677
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Got a rollfilm back for the 4x5?
     
  5. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    How exact are you trying to be? Can you tell a good neg by looking at it? I should think you can get really close with 3 sheets of film, and one film holder. I'm waiting to give you my advice (or not at all) because I know there are folks here who are much smarter than I am (especially about b&w) and can give you a better process to follow.
     
  6. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

    Messages:
    907
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nanaimo, Bri
    Shooter:
    35mm
    No roll-film back for the 4x5, unfortunately. I want to be as exact as I need to be in order to consistently print well on a single grade of a single paper along with contrast expansion and contraction. I'd like to be able to consistently give myself the best chance to make the best print that I can, rather than wasting paper trying to correct for deficiencies in the negative before turning to the creative printing. I'd like to know that when I get a bad negative it was because of poor planning, a silly mistake, or mechanical failure rather than the guesstimation I do now (such as rating FP4+ at 100 because I have a tendency to underexpose and developing for 7 minutes because I got really nice highlights in a negative of a scene who's brightness range I don't remember).

    If by "Can you tell a good neg by looking at it?" you mean that I can tell underexposed from underdeveloped and overexposed from overdeveloped along with making sure that everything I'd wanted to be there was there, then yes. I'd have a hard time telling you is contrast was too low, just right, or too high, except for extreme examples. Sometimes (like when working out bellows extension factors) I just confuse myself...

    - Justin
     
  7. david b

    david b Member

    Messages:
    4,031
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    None of your
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I would stick with one film. FP4+ is a great film and worth the money over Efke.

    You don't mention what developer you are using. I've used xtol, rodinal, and ID-11 all with very good results. I've just started using xtol 1+2 and the results have been even better.

    I would think you should be able to get the film speed and developing time in less than 25 sheets.

    So, what developer?
     
  8. titrisol

    titrisol Member

    Messages:
    1,671
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    Rotterdam
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    While I'm no ZS espert, I think common sense can help.
    ---- One variable at a time!
    I would find the film speed while keeping the processing consistent. That is decide on a film, developer and developing routine and keep it.
    Shoot a certain scene, where all zones are present, most importantly the shadows and shoot 3 sheets
    +1, 0 , -1
    Develop in whatever developer/time/agitation combo you chose and observe shadow and highlight in all your sheets.
    After that see what is best and use that as your speed inidcator
     
  9. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, M
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    It should not take anywhere near 25 sheets of film. 3-4 sheets for the film speed test (develop them all the same after exposing for Zone I and then see which one is .1 abov FB+F), then another 4-6 sheets, all shot at that tested EI and exposed to Zone VIII, to nail down your development time, and you're done. This is, of course, testing one film for one developer, but the same film speed will pretty much work with all developers so you're only doing a few more sheets for each subsequent devleoper.

    It's well worth the time and money to "waste" 8-10 sheets of film as you will then have predictable results and your shooting will be much more efficient.
     
  10. Rick Jones

    Rick Jones Member

    Messages:
    117
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Location:
    Maryland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "---is there a less wasteful way to test these factors?" You might consider taking very detailed notes (E.I.,meter readings-place and fall) as you make your normal photographs. An inexpensive digital voice recorder can speed this process in the field. Using this negative feedback approach you are likely to reach the same end result as the more sophisticated methods but have photographs to show for your time and effort. Two like exposures with the second held for fine tuning would likely speed the process. Aiming to print on a particular paper grade is fine but, in practice, I wonder how many of us actually end up printing on the grade we initially planned?
     
  11. snallan

    snallan Member

    Messages:
    523
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I sacrificed the dark slides from a couple of really ratty film holders I had to make a set of masks, allowing me to make eight separate exposures on one sheet of film. Each has a ¾" hole drilled in it, offset to one side of the holder. Using each in turn, and swapping them around in the holder allows the eight individual exposures.

    I use one sheet for determining EI, including a zone VIII exposure, to see how close my standard development time using the selected developer is to the required time (if it is way out I will use another sheet for EI/zone VIII). Then a couple of sheets for -2/+2 development times, and interpolate for my -1/+1 times.

    If I am evaluating the negs by eye, I shoot a textured surface, if I am using a densitometer, I shoot a plain surface.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2008
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    If you want to determine the full range from -2 to +2 (presuming the film you are testing is capable of that much expansion, and you may discover that it isn't, which is useful to know), I could see using around 25 sheets. That's one speed test and five development tests, and maybe more if you decide to try a different developer for -2 or -3 or maybe run another speed test for +2 or if you can't get +2 run a test for selenium intensification, etc. That said, I don't test every film under all conditions.

    snallan's method with the darkslide masks is a good one for saving some film. I've also seen a single darkslide mask with 8 holes covered with tape, which is another approach, if you don't have so many spare darkslides.

    Another method is to cut up a sheet of film for development tests. Just make sure you've got relevant detail or a Zone VIII patch to read on a densitometer in all the strips.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,264
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There is an alternative - and I know some people are going to start twitching their nostrils but how about developing by inspection?
    It basically takes two sheets to calibrate. Shoot a negative with a normal range of tones and use the manufacturer's recommendation of development time. At about 75% of that development time you turn on your (magically appearing) dark green safelight. You look on the film base side (Tmax 100 & 400 won't work by the way) and you take a look at the highlights. When they start really coming through, starting to look dense it's time to pull the neg. If they seem to need more, give it another minute and inspect for a few seconds again. It's time consuming, and a bit laborious, but it has that element of control that is wonderful to have. There is a wonderful piece of reading on it on Michael Smith's and Paula Chamlee's web site.
    - Thomas
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

    Messages:
    1,020
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern, Aus
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    what the!

    just expose and develop one sheet as per the manufacturer recommends after taking a reading from a mid tone, LOOK at the result, if a little thin decrease ISO or vice versa

    it don't got to be overly technical, you is all kidding yourselves with this constant need to test
     
  16. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,264
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yeah, I am forced to agree with that one. I got a bit sick of it too and bought a tank and don't worry about it anymore. Negs come out fine anyway.

     
  17. snallan

    snallan Member

    Messages:
    523
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No constant testing at all. I test any new film/developer combo once, and would only retest if I got markedly different results to those I would expect from it. I performed three tests last year, because I started using Pyrocat-HD, but they were the first in about four years.
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I don't test that often either, but if someone is learning about it for the first time, one can learn a lot from a full range of tests. After that, you have a much better idea about what to expect and how to control contrast for uncontrollable lighting conditions.
     
  19. sanking

    sanking Member

    Messages:
    4,813
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2003
    Location:
    Greenville,
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    There are many ways to test for film speed. I recommend two methods.

    1. The old Fred Picker method, as outlined in his book The Fine Print in Black & White Photography, is a simple test that works well, but that involves exposing a fair amount of film. You can get a modern version of this testing method from Richard Ritter at www.lg4mat.net. Go to his page and click on Film Speed Test.
    2. The method that I use is BTZS methodology, developed and promoted by the late Phil Davis. You can read about this method at http://www.btzs.org/, or buy Beyond the Zone System by Davis. This method requires use of a densitometer (but stop meters can be calibrated to be used as densitometer) and, for most efficient results, a curve plotting program called WinPlotter. BTZS is by far the most efficient method of film testing there is. It takes me about two hours to run a full BTZS test of a new film and developer combination, including exposure, development, reading of the densities with a densitometer, and plotting.

    Both methods are fairly mainstream and there are quite a number of folks on APUG who can help you with methodology and terminology if you have problems.


    Sandy King
     
  20. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,077
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    You can make incremental exposures on one sheet of film by pulling the dark slide out in increments.
     
  21. Paul

    Paul Member

    Messages:
    93
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    Location:
    Massachusett
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I would add this to Sandy's comments on the BTZS testing: once you undertand the basic principles of BTZS and how to meter, you can "borrow" someone else's data (exposure and development times) and use it very effectively without ever doing your own testing. I did this because I do not have a densitometer, a means of accurately exposing the film for the test, or the plotting software. Sandy King and others on this site are very generous with their BTZS testing data. Since I started using this system I have made a huge improvement in the quality of my negatives. If you keep careful notes you can tweak the details as you go along.

    The other approach I have taken with roll film is to expose at the manufacturer's rating (more or less) and develop for the recommended time. This works too!

    -Paul
     
  22. Xmas

    Xmas Member

    Messages:
    6,455
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Yep
    One sheet, check trusty Weston meter is accurately zeroed, and you have metered on the zone you want.
    Standard dev.
    Spend ages looking at neg and test print.
    That is how the master worked.
    Noel
    P.S. read the book first...
     
  23. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,677
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think he wants to do a full Zone test.

    So IIRC

    1) Zone III at ISO -1 stop
    2) Zone III At ISO -2/3
    3 Zone III at ISO -1/3
    4) Zone III at ISO
    5) Zone III at ISO +1/3
    6) Zone III at ISO +2/3
    7) Zone III at ISO +1 stop
    8) unexposed for FB but most would use the film rebate for this I bet
    A bunch at Zone VIII but most would wait to do this until Zone III is figure out. FWIW I think most would ignore box speed and above also.

    I'm sure I'm missing something.
     
  24. rwyoung

    rwyoung Member

    Messages:
    704
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
    Location:
    Lawrence, KS
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Beat me! You can easily get three exposure tests on a single sheet of 4x5 that are nice and large areas. Just take good notes while doing this so you don't just create a pile of crap.

    For a developing test, you could cut your 4x5 sheet in half, I wouldn't do thirds. That saves you a bit of time and some money on the materials.

    If you were doing 8x10 testing, I'd suggest just getting a box of the same stuff in 4x5 and testing on that with a conversion back or hell, just tape them into the 8x10 holder.

    Testing for 4x5 by substituting roll film could be a disaster if there are any kind of formulation differences in the emulsion when they switch support materials.

    Forgot to add, Steve Simon's article in the free downloads at ViewCamera.com is a nice, simple distillation of film testing. And as a bonus, to do it you also do some basic printing time testing to get "maximum black". You will also need to know that for your single grade of paper and its developer too.
     
  25. keeds

    keeds Member

    Messages:
    360
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2005
    Location:
    Suffolk, Eng
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Fomapan 100 5x4 and 10x8 are on different bases (thickness), presumably the emulsion is the same but I don't know if affects anything else?
     
  26. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,165
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I use the drilled dark slides in conjunction with a modification of the "Nine Negative Test" when I find it necessary to re-test. One sheet of film gives me the EI, and no more than three others are required to determine development time.