Why does Slower B&W Film Have a Darker Look?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, May 17, 2010.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I was comparing prints of Pan F Plus 50 with those of Delta 100 and 400. While the Pan F 50 prints seem a bit sharper, they also have a darker tonal character. I do not think my hand-held light meter is defective, but I will know for sure when I get some more prints back. I doubt the meter is faulty. Anyway, is this the true character of Pan F Plus 50 and other slower b&w films? The Delta 100 and 400 seem brighter, and perhaps more realistic in this respect. Does one need to slightly overexpose slower b&w film?
     
  2. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

    Messages:
    1,935
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    Best/The Net
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Maybe the way you develop the pan F+ compared to the delta film is different.

    Could be that the pan film should be overexposed or that the development period should be longer.... Maybe a test with a gray card can get you further.
     
  3. kauffman v36

    kauffman v36 Member

    Messages:
    279
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Location:
    Miami
    Shooter:
    35mm
    ive eperienced the same results as the OP, someone once suggested rating it at 25 or 32 and developing normal in order to get it a little brighter but ive never tried.
     
  4. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Indeed, the film seems dark to me, and I am glad someone else has noticed this. People seem to love this film, but I have gotten only "film noir" prints from it.

    Rollei Superpan 200 is also a bit darkish, but not nearly as dark as Pan F. With the Rollei film, the slighly dark quality helps skies (which are often too white in b&w), but hurts other aspects. With Pan F, the "film noir" tone spoils everything.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2010
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,520
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    Location:
    northern Pa.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It mearly means you have to find the optimal speed for your particular camers.
     
  6. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

    Messages:
    1,255
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I had the same problem with Pan F+. Super, super high contrast and I usually shoot HP5+ and D3200 which has just the opposite effect with me. I know it's something I am not doing right for the film and camera which also leads me to believe it's the exposure. I have seen others get incredible results with Pan F+.
     
  7. marcmarc

    marcmarc Member

    Messages:
    331
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I've used Pan F+ for years with great results. It's a contrasty film which is often the case with slow films. Shooting in the LA sun as I do, I find that by rating the film at iso 25 and developing in Rodinal 1+100 with gentle agitation gives me great easy-to-print negs. Pan F requires a bit more patients and work to get it they way you want, but when you do it's a great film.
     
  8. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    To me it has nothing to do with the camera, and only a bit, perhaps, to do with being patient. The fact of the matter is that the film is clearly slower than the box speed of 50. My lab has produced consistent results with numerous other films, and only rolls of Pan F Plus have been obviously dark. I have two or three rolls of this film left, and do not know what to do with it. I am hesitant to shoot it, as I put a fair amount of effort into my shots and processing is expensive. I suppose I might ask: would anyone like to trade for some Delta 100?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2010
  9. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

    Messages:
    1,255
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I know I shot mine at box speed and from what others have been recommending on this thread and others is 25 or less, 18. Will have to give it a whirl. I have had much better luck with rating Ilford films then shooting at box speed, as a relative newbie to film, these tips have been very helpful.
     
  10. ulysses

    ulysses Subscriber

    Messages:
    159
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Your later comment of "processing is expensive" may contain a clue. When I worked in a B&W lab many years ago, we ran all of the film though Microdol-X at the same time, regardless of the film type. We even offered "push" processing, also in Microdol-X. Now I know that Microdol-X on a good day gives about 80% of the rated film speed. I tried hard to get the management to use D-76, at least for pushing, but they would have none of it. I couldn't even get them to let me sort the film by development time and run multiple batches (this was a 3-gal sink line, not really high tech.) Somebody from Kodak told them that Microdol-X was the "best" developer, and that was that. My guess is that your B&W film, if you send it to a lab, gets tossed in the soup with all of the other B&W film for some "average" amount of time. In that case, you really will have to find an EI for Pan-F that works for you, and the results will probably be far from optimal.

    For the record, I've used Pan-F for years, mostly developing it in D-76/ID-11 but also in other developers. It's always been my go-to for fine grain, and gives beautiful tones when handled properly. If you aren't going to develop it yourself, though, your best bet is to figure out which films your labs processing is calibrated for and stick with those. From what you've said, it sounds like they are more geared toward T-grain films (Delta and T-Max) than older emulsions, but you probably should ask them. If they'll tell you the time/temp/developer they use, you should be able to pretty easily pick a set of films that are well matched to their processing.

    Good luck!
    Ulysses
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What kind of meter do you have? How are you using it? In what sort of light are you shooting? A high contrast (i.e. difficult) film and a less-than-ideally-used meter always make for an "interesting" result.

    I know exactly what you mean. The issue is that Pan F, and most slow films, have higher contrast and less exposure latitude than medium and high speed films.

    This means two things:

    1. Slight exposure variations will likely have extreme effects on the look of the picture. This is true of all high-contrast media, but especially when shot in contrasty light (i.e. a sunny day, when a disproportionate number of pictures seem to be taken). As such, excellent metering technique is extremely important with these films.

    2. When shot in high contrast light (i.e the sunny weather in which many people tend to shoot very often), and printed to look "normal" in Zones V-VII (which IME are what the average photographer tends to print for), the print indeed looks rather dark. This is because with a high contrast film that has been properly exposed for the mids, the shadows on the negative are thinner than normal (normal being a medium or fast speed film) and the highlights are denser than normal, so when the printer prints down the highlights, the already darker-than-normal low tones become even darker.

    The answer is not as simple as that your film is the "wrong ISO speed" (There is no such thing.) and needs to be rerated. The answer is that you must learn its contrast limits, and treat it different ways in different light in order to get what you want. As always, the answer basically comes down to knowing light, and knowing your materials: developing an eye for contrast in a composition, and learning how your materials will render that amount of contrast when treated in different ways.

    Pan F is definitely a difficult film for most people at first, but IMO it is worth the time and effort to learn how to use it. It is simply a shame that it is not available in sheet sizes.
     
  12. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,387
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Slower films seem to have always been that way. Dad and I used a lot of Panatomic-X years ago and it was kind of dark. Dad always used Microdol-X and got good results. In face, I've still got several packages of Microdol-X that he had, and that's been 35 years.
     
  13. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I appreciate the additional commentary. Ulysses makes an excellent point in regard to developing. I have thought (many times) of developing my own b&w, but I have barely enough time to take pictures, let alone develop them.

    In terms of metering technique, I use that which I read years ago in the Sekonic instruction book. I hold the meter out (trying not to shade the meter), keep it parallel to the ground (not tilted upward or downward), and keep it on the same plane (or level) as the lens. I usually take more than one measurement, and it will be in the area in which I will shoot, which is not necessarily where the camera is.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2010
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. BobD

    BobD Member

    Messages:
    444
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2006
    Location:
    California,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    To get the most from traditional B&W materials you really must process it and
    print it yourself. For example, there are dozens of B&W developers (hundreds
    really, if you mix your own) and each has its own characteristics which
    have an effect on the final image. Labs toss them all into whatever their
    house B&W developer happens to be and hope for the best. If you use a
    forgiving B&W film, you can get acceptable results but if you use a film that
    is not so forgiving you will likely be disappointed with the results.

    B&W materials are quite different from color materials in that respect. C-41 is
    C-41 and E6 is E6 but D76 is not Rodinal or Xtol or Microdol-X or Pyro
    etc., etc.

    Getting the most from slow or high speed B&W films requires experimentation
    and tweaking, something you can't do very well with a lab.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2010
  16. ulysses

    ulysses Subscriber

    Messages:
    159
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The investment required to develop the film is minimal, both in cost and time. A SS tank and a couple of reels, a couple of clips, D-76, fixer, some LFN. The first time you unreel a roll of *perfect* negs, you'll be hooked (and if you follow the simple directions, that could well be the first roll you process.) Printing is another matter. I don't currently have a darkroom, but I scan each roll and have a good lab print the keepers. The real time investment comes in printing, but you'll never get good prints unless the film is properly developed, and you can develop black and white film better than any commercial lab.

    Have fun!
    Ulysses
     
  17. fschifano

    fschifano Member

    Messages:
    3,216
    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Location:
    Valley Strea
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And that's the truth. It takes a little practice, and you need to pay attention to what you're doing in terms of exposure and development, but it's not hard. In fact, it's dead easy and very inexpensive compared to having it done at a commercial lab.
     
  18. Xmas

    Xmas Member

    Messages:
    6,456
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Hi

    PanF is high contrast film, and unless it is a 100% cloudy day you will get a very high contrast negative.

    If you want to use it on sunny days you may need to use a soft working dev e.g. D-23 or POTA, you may have to bracket exposure to nail the effect you want.

    If you want a 20x26 wet print use a tripod, monopod or don't drink any coffee... PanF is as unforgiving as Kodachrome 25. But if you like 20x16 wet prints...


    Noel
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2010
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,356
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When you expose and process your film, you as the user of any film control the final outcome and look of the print.

    If your pictures are darker than with other films, either exposure or processing is not done correctly, or a combination thereof.

    Slower films have higher contrast, so you have to compensate for it (or use it if you like that look). If you shoot Tri-X it's relatively easy to find a tonality you like and can be compared to a stroll on the sidewalk. Pan-F+ takes more care to give exactly the results you want and can be likened to walking on a high-wire.

    Hard work, practice, and an understanding of what affects the outcome of your print will get you most any result you want. Basically, it's up to you how far you wish to take it. The hard truth is that the film itself will not produce darker pictures - but how you treat it will.

    - Thomas

    .
     
  20. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    According to what has been stated, it seems that home developing is necessary for good results in b&w. I gather this does not hold true for color prints? I know that folks are making factual comments here, and are trying to encourage me to develop my own b&w film, but I doubt I (or anyone) would get it right on the first roll, and I also doubt that it will be easy or quick. Developing will take time, and I simply do not have it. I will probably avoid the slower films or perhaps give up b&w altogether.
     
  21. dasBlute

    dasBlute Subscriber

    Messages:
    265
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    when I first started out, man I wanted that pan-f look! jumped in, took a bunch of
    rolls - most of which failed: underexposed, too dark, too contrasty, too much like
    a wild horse. I put it down, went back to hp5, fp4 and tri-x. At the time, I thought
    they were easier to work with, but frankly my technique in exposure and developement
    is what improved most of all, just by iterating the process, and noting my obvious
    failures, writing things down in a notebook. Later when I went back to pan-f, it seemed
    like magic, suddenly, I could could work and explore the film without a lot of grief.
    I did some testing to get a personal EI of 32, since then, I've used D-76, pmk, and
    now mostly rodinal [1:100]. All of which work extremely well.

    Nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. Give up on it for awhile if you feel you must,
    but hone your craft, find what works for you. If you find you need the control of home
    development to get the results you want, *nothing* else will work.

    Most of this work was in pretty harsh light:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stormiticus/tags/panf
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,356
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don't give up. If you can't process your film yourself, work with the lab you're using to see if they will adjust processing for you, (or find one that will).
    You control half of the process - the exposure. If you shoot a roll of Pan-F+ and expose it three different ways on each scene, say EI 25, 40, and 50, you will see a difference in the outcome of your prints.
    In very rough terms you control the shadow density with exposure and the highlight density with processing, and the mid-tones 'slide along', wedged in between the shadows and highlights.
    So you can lower contrast by over-exposing and then instructing your lab to reduce development. The trick is to know how much, and you do need to shoot a few rolls to get a good compromise.

    You still have a lot of control, but go have some fun, shoot a few rolls in varying lighting conditions, and then work your way, with your lab, towards a good compromise. But please don't give up on b&w negative film. It is such a beautiful medium.

    - Thomas

     
  23. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I agree: b&w negative is a beautiful medium.
     
  24. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member

    Messages:
    441
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I don't know about darker, but slower films usually have a bit more contrast.

    [​IMG]
     
  25. philosomatographer

    philosomatographer Member

    Messages:
    240
    Joined:
    May 12, 2009
    Location:
    Johannesburg
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    This is so much less daunting than what you are making it out to be! The hard truth is that developing your own B&W film is guaranteed to take less time than having it developed, even if you lived right next to a lab. If you have a small film developing tank, a couple of metal reels, and the chemicals (I used D-76 in powdered form), it will take you 30mins tops for the entire process of loading and developing two films (you can do two at once in a small - e.g. 500ml Nikor - tank, or do up to four in a bigger, flask-sized tank), not to mention save you an incredible amount of money, and give you the control that everybody is urging you to take.

    I started two years ago as a complete B&W film newbie, and my very first roll came out perfectly developed (D76 1+1 in my case). The very first one I did myself was better than any B&W film I ever had developed by a lab.

    Go on, your profile name "FilmOnly" deserves that you give this is a shot. This analogue print is from the first roll of Pan F I ever developed. This was expired (by 10 years, and poorly stored) film, which surely had lost a lot of speed by then, but even it was not too dark.

    [​IMG]
    (Olympus OM-1, 135/3.5 at f/5.6, Pan F @ ISO32, 8x10in hand print)

    Just to repeat, this was from my first roll of Pan F, and I had no idea what I was doing with the stuff. I just developed it according to what I have read. Future rolls came out much better.

    Same thing hapened last week, when I first tried out Fomapan 100. I just "gave it a shot" (of D76 1+1) and printed some of the negatives, and they came out fine:

    [​IMG]
    (Olympus OM-1, 90/2.0 at f/2.0, Fomapan 100 @ ISO64, 8x10in hand print)

    I think, in this day and age, if you're going to be using B&W film, do it "all the way" yourself, as an artist, or perhaps re-think your usage of the medium as a whole.

    Have fun!
     
  26. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Okay, philosomatograhpher, you (and others) have convinced me. The above shots are, indeed, better than what I have been seeing from my lab (at least with Pan F). If you do not mind, please provide a detailed list of what I will need (be as specific as possible). I will do Pan F, but also Delta 100 and 400. I gather I could buy all of what I will need from Freestyle? I have dealt with them, and they seem like a good outfit. Before I forget: I gather I will need a good film scanner, too?