One film. One developer. One dilemma.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by 36cm2, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    I've reached a point where I clearly see I must settle on one film and developer and master it. For two weeks I've reviewed my options and combed through Internet images to find combos with the "look" that most suits me. My convoluted final thoughts follow. Your input is appreciated.

    - I shoot medium format (Hasselblad, Perkeo, Rolleiflex), 4x5 and 35mm in that order of frequency. Serious stuff on MF and 4x5; travel photos with the missus on 35mm. Ideally, I want a film available in all three formats.

    - I primarily shoot landscapes and am beginning to get into studio portraiture (with a couple of 400 w/s strobes). I'm useless at street shooting and have little interest in it.

    - I'm meticulous in processing (tank and Jobo CPE2).

    - I prefer traditional films to synthetic grain films.

    Here are my combo leanings:

    FP4/Rodinal - Pros: By far my favorite look. Cons: Is it too slow for handheld work and for 4x5 work without powerful lighting? Limited push flexibility? Too grainy in 35mm? Conclusion: My heart says yes, my mind says I'm an idiot because it's too limiting.

    TX400/HC110 and/or Xtol - Pros: Second favorite look. Better speed. So classic; so flexible. Cons: Kodak don't make it in all three formats. Maybe too much grain with HC110. Conclusion: Doesn't cut the mustard if I have to juggle TX400 and TXP320 depending on format. Kodak, you're a tease.

    HP5/HC110 - Pros: Almost Tri-X. Most dependable product source. What I'm primarily using now. Cons: I want to beat the gray out of it. Maybe too much grain in smaller formats.

    HP5/Xtol - See HP5/HC110. Even better speed, less grain issues, but maybe too genteel.

    Acros/Deltas/TMax's - While my mind loves them, my heart says no. If TMY2 could raise my pulse, I'd be there in a minute. Unfortunately, every comparison of t-grain work against traditional film work confirms to me that I strongly prefer traditional emulsions.

    Hope you can help. I've come as far as I can on my own. And I know you can achieve whatever look you want with virtually any combo once you've mastered it. Nonetheless, I'd like to start this long path off on the most right foot.

    Thanks,
    Leo
     
  2. mesh

    mesh Subscriber

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    I love TMY2 but then I can also see the attraction of Tri-X. Certainly if you loved TMAX it would solve your dilemma ;-) I'd go with your heart and 'enjoy' working within it's limitations. Let's face it, if we all really wanted to have 'no limitations' we'd probably be shooting with a D3 or something...
     
  3. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Thanks Mesh. I guess my question is, are the limitations FP4/Rodinal too great to practically use it for all my work and actually enjoy it?
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    My choice for hand-held 5x4 work is HP5, I'd prefer Delta 400 but it's not made in sheet film but I shoot it by choice in 120 in 6x6 and also my 617 camera.

    I used to shoot Tmax 100 & 400 but have problems getting Kodak films (outside Europe & UK) whereas Ilford B&W films are far easier to find as is Foma, also when Kodak films are available they are considerably more expensive.

    As you like HP5 why not use if for handheld work and FP4 for finer garain & small formats etc.

    Ian
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Rather than limit yourself to one film it might be a better idea to give yourself two options depending on the light available and tripod use/hand held. I have settled on using FP4+ and HP5+ and will choose which one to use depending on conditions (weather usually).


    Steve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2010
  6. Laurent

    Laurent Subscriber

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    If I was to settle on only one film/developer combo, I'd stay with HP5+ / X-Tol.

    It has the speed I need (most of the time at least), I like the negs I get with X-Tol (plus X-Tol is somewhat environment friendly !), and I like the look of the prints I make with it.

    When I feel I need more speed, then I use Delta 3200 (in HC110), when I need finer grain then it's Pan-F in X-Tol.
     
  7. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Ian and Steve, I'm using a two film combo now (HP5 and Acros both in HC110). I work a lot and shoot infrequently, so switching between the two is more distracting than if I shot regularly. Plus, if I keep using two films, then I have to change the title of this thread. :wink:

    I'm not a huge fan of HP5's "creaminess", but it's reliable and I trust it won't disappear. I agree with Laurent that HP5/Xtol is probably the most flexible across the board option and will allow me to print 16x20 in the larger formats, which is important to me.

    If I go FP4/rodinal I think I'll be very happy with the MF and LF kits, but the 35 is a conundrum. I guess it's just a matter of compromise.
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    How fast do you rate FP4+ in Rodinal? I've shot a fair amount of the stuff handheld in 35mm while travelling, but that's at box speed (with other developers---I haven't been bitten by the Rodinal bug). If you have to downrate it to ASA 50 or so, that would indeed be pretty limiting (especially if you lose another stop to a yellow filter).

    Also, is there a reason you're not considering the faster films in Rodinal? It seems like a 400-speed film in a speed-losing developer would at least put you in a nice flexible speed range.

    Personally, I like HP5+ in almost anything, but where you see "I want to beat the grey out of it" I see "what a nice rich tonal palette you have", so my taste may not be a good guide for yours. :smile:

    -NT
     
  9. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I understand. I'd suggest two films given what you are doing. FP4 for LF and MF (tripod anyway?) and TX for 35. Develop the FP4 in Rodinal and the TX in HC110 or xtol. You already know you like the look so why compromise. You might try FP4 in xtol if you want to narrow to a single developer. It looks great in it.
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I used to use mainly one film APX100 but your problem is working hand-held with 5x4 requires a faster film.

    It's far better to work with two related films ie FP4/HP5, Tmax 100/400, Delta 100/400 where possible because they have some similarities. It's always a compromise but as soon as you want to work without a tripod you need a choice of medium & fast films.

    If you can tame 35mm HP5to your liking in Xtol then that's an option.

    Ian
     
  11. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I've always been partial to Tri-X 400 and D-76. 120 and 135. If I was stranded on an island I'd be content with them.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i would second the tri x in whatever you want to soup it in.
    i sprint seems to work for me
    ( its kind of like d76 but a little different, and better some say )
    its cheap and no on your list ..
     
  13. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    If you are looking for one combo that works reasonably well in multiple formats, and you prefer a non-tabular grain film, I humbly suggest FP4 with Ilford DDX. DDX is an excellent general purpose developer, easy to use and quite flexible. The tonality is excellent, grain is fine enough for 35mm, and it gives good film speed. When you are using 4x5 where grain is a non-issue issue, you can dilute DDX a bit more than the usual 1+4 if you want a further small increase in speed and a slight increase in sharpness.
     
  14. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Well, here is a challenge for you.

    Buy five rolls each of TMax 400 and Tri-X/HP5.
    Shoot and process both films in the same chemistry and similar contrast lighting.
    Make necessary adjustments to make both films appear with the same contrast in the negatives. This will take some testing.
    Make prints from both types of negatives.
    See how you like TMax 400 now.

    I'm partial to TMax 400, because it's the film I primarily use unless something else falls in my lap. If processed right, I can't really tell that much difference between it and other films in my prints.

    Your results with each film will vary a lot depending on how you use it. I used to like FP4+ / Plus-X a lot, and they are so similar it's hard to tell them apart. After some experimentation with varying how I shoot TMax 400 I could replicate the look of those two films by just changing how I shoot it and then process it. All of this is done with replenished Xtol developer.

    So my recommendation is to not count TMY-2 out, and to try it with replenished Xtol. It is a very flexible combination that will allow you an astounding array of variations in your results with enough blood, sweat, and tears put into it.

    - Thomas
     
  15. Rich Ullsmith

    Rich Ullsmith Subscriber

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    Leo, I quit the solvent developers (with rare exception) because like you, I don't shoot and develop frequently. I like Rodinal and PMK, both of which have long shelf life, so that takes one factor out of the development equation. FP4+ takes pyro stain really well.
     
  16. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    The original poster wants to shoot 4x5 with the same film, though, and was pretty explicit that TX and TXP aren't "same enough".

    -NT
     
  17. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Many helpful suggestions. I agree that handheld 35mm use is hopeless at EI64. FP4/Xtol is definitely something I've considered, but still a compromise. Rodinal in the 400s doesn't suit me grainwise. Tom B. collects TMY2 royalties :wink: (Tom, I've read many of your TMY2 posts and assure you they convinced me to look long and hard at that option.)
    I like the no compromise suggestion. After this morning's post I looked at my signature and thought how hypocritical that I would try to apply one solution to all situations. I guess it's either (a) no compromise: (FP4/Rodinal for MF/LF; TX/Xtol for 35), or (ii) compromise (FP4 or HP5 / xtol all around).

    Guess I'm lucky just to have all the choices. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Leo
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I am partial to Tri-X and HP5+ in XTOL. Excellent fine grain, contrast and sharpness.

    Steve