Which film has a good latitude for indoor window light portraits?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by sterioma, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. sterioma

    sterioma Member

    Messages:
    259
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hi everybody,

    I am about to explore indoor window light portraits. I need your suggestion for a black and white film which, in my (beginner's) mind should have the following characteristics:
    1. A good latitude to handle the high contrast light
    2. Has a good rendering of skin tones
    3. Possibly, it's not too difficult to scan (I will evaluate the negatives scanning them into my PC)
    There might be other properties of the film which are not coming to my mind right now, and I will appreciate any indication that you might find useful.

    I shoot Nikon MF 35mm and will most probably be using a Nikkor 105/2.5 (maybe also a 50/2).
     
  2. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Location:
    Århus, Denma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I like Tri-X for this type of shots because it's got good tones and is good latitude.
    About scanning this film is ok, but if you plan to print the negs traditionally evaluationg the negs exclusively on the PC isn't good enough though. You need to "read" the negative directly.
    Another good film is HP5 from Ilford.

    Greetings Morten
     
  3. sparx

    sparx Member

    Messages:
    376
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2004
    Location:
    Norfolk UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have just started trying portraits by natural light. So far i have used FP4 if the light is quite bright which i am very pleased with, HP5 and TMax 400 for handheld . Out of the two 400 films i much prefered the HP5, the tmax being too soft and grainy, this might have something to do with the developer (ID-11) though i'm not sure.
     
  4. sterioma

    sterioma Member

    Messages:
    259
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Modafoto, Sparx: thank you for your quick answers (and links).

    In my initial post I forgot to mention that I don't to my own BW development, therefore I have no control on the developer (unfortunately!).

    Since I don't expect to have a very bright light, I think 400 makes sense. I haven't tried TriX and HP5, will buy a few rolls and start experimenting. What about the 320 TriX flavour? Is the rating the only difference between the 320 and the 400?


    You mean I should get a table light and a loupe? Or is there any other way to evaluate the negative before scanning/printing?
     
  5. gma

    gma Member

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My personal favorite is Tri-X rated at 250 and developed in Microdol diluted 1:3.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I vote for tri-x for b&W, Reala, and portra 160nc for colour. I like tri-x in microdol-x or d76 both at 3:1 dilutions.
     
  7. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Maybe you should try Ilford's XP2. It has ton's of latitude, great skin tones, scans fairly easily, and can be developed consistently by a lab of your choice. See some of Cheryl Jacob's work for examples of XP2 in natural light.
     
  8. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Location:
    Århus, Denma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    XP2 has the drawback that it is made to be printed on B&W paper. Try Kodak Portra BW400 which has a base that prints good on colour paper. Therefore you'll get black & white prints with the convenience of colour. XP2 is made for people who needs fast development on high street but wants to make their own prints.
     
  9. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

    Messages:
    1,717
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, Colo
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I do like XP2 with natural light (and it can be printed on B&W paper just like any true B&W film with beautiful results -- just as well as Portra). However, I do also LOVE Tri-X for this same purpose -- and for an added benefit: if your light is low and you need a faster shutter speed, you can push it with excellent results. This can be a great advantage, and it's why I keep several rolls in my camera bag for every session.
     
  10. erickson

    erickson Member

    Messages:
    81
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Location:
    Colorado
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I second the Tri-X and HP5 suggestions. With decently fast lenses and/or a tripod, Plus-X and FP4 may be good alternatives with smaller grain. I really don't like T grain films (T-Max, Delta) for people subjects.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2004
  11. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Which, I believe, is what he's after. I've heard that the Portra film does scan better though.
     
  12. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Location:
    Århus, Denma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Then XP2 is the choice
     
  13. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Location:
    Århus, Denma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I use a light box (about 8x10 inches) and a loupe for my negs. Cost about $60.
     
  14. sterioma

    sterioma Member

    Messages:
    259
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks again from all your inputs!

    My options for printing are either
    1. Digital print from an online service from high rest scans
    2. Print from the negative by a lab, after rough evaluation from low res scans
    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the Portra BW film here in Italy (yet?). Only T400CN (which I take is discontinued by now) and XP2. On the other side, having traditional BW films developed is not an issue since my lab does that at a reasonable price (less than 2 euro for a 36 exp roll).

    After all these suggestions, I guess I will try both XP2 and TriX/HP5 and find out which one I like most (both in traditional printing and in digital scans).
     
  15. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

    Messages:
    1,717
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, Colo
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Unfortunately, Portra BW has been discontinued. I really prefer it over XP2, as the skin tones it yields are simply amazing. I used XP2 far more frequently, though, because Portra costs fully twice as much. Kodak has discontinued both the Portra and the TCN (which I personally will not miss) which leaves XP2. Kodak's "replacement" film is nasty -- I find it to be flat and dimensionless, and actually is NOT recommended for B&W traditional printing. Go figure. A "B&W" film not intended for traditional printing. That's so backwards.
     
  16. Helen B

    Helen B Member

    Messages:
    1,557
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hell's Kitch
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've started to use Maco Cube 400 instead of HP5 for indoor portraits under tungsten light when I want conventional 35 mm B&W film. It has better red sensitivity.

    As all my work goes though a digital intermediate stage, I also use C-41 colour films for B&W. Their graininess is similar to, or less than, the graininess of the B&W C-41 films and there is the added advantage of being able to control tones using the channel mixer in Photoshop. Try Fuji NPZ or Portra 800. By the way, I suspect that this is one of the reasons Kodak reduced their line of B&W C-41 films.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  17. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,439
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2003
    Location:
    New Jersey,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    T400CN scans very well and should do nicely if you can't find Portra 400. The C41 route is really your best bet if you're not processing yourself as it removes a lot of variables from the equation.
     
  18. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

    Messages:
    750
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Just north o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The only problem with XP2, is that the LABS sometimes aren't bright enough to realize that they need to take it over to the B/W machine after processing!

    No kidding. The big "Pro lab" in town is incapable of doing that. The smaller actually-a-pro-lab in town has no problem with XP2. It is a nice film.
     
  19. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

    Messages:
    3,042
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My vote for what you've asked would be XP2. As has already been suggested rate it at 250. It scans easily and prints very well on B&W paper.
     
  20. sterioma

    sterioma Member

    Messages:
    259
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    A lot of response, thanks everybody. I have ordered 4 rolls of XP2, and 3 each of TriX and HP5. I hope to be able to post some test here soon and get some feedback from you :smile:
     
  21. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Location:
    Århus, Denma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have a friend who is not shooting that much B&W and therefore not developing himself (and I don't have the time to develop the films for him). He uses this film, and is quite pleased with the convenience of colour film.