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  1. #1
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    What's missing from "what's the best?"

    Picked up "the Theory of the Photographic Process" 4th Ed a week or two ago.

    Read something real interesting in there yesterday regarding optimum print quality. Page 556 re Figures 19.15 & 19.16.

    The assumed situation is a studio portrait. Admittedly a different subject, say landscape, may get different results.

    Their finding was that when striving for the best quality print, long toe film curves with a higher gamma (steeper straight line) could produce the best quality prints (the 100% level) over the widest range of camera exposures. (That is not to suggest that there is an unlimited range.)

    When the print quality standard is lowered to 90% of best, the short toe - lower gamma film curve had the latitude advantage.

    Both curve styles could produce prints in the best quality range but the short toe films only reached that "best" level within a very narrow camera exposure range. The author's words "This range is so narrow that it would be difficult in practice to keep camera exposures within it."

    TXP seems to prove this point to me regularly even for my landscapes and FP4 has displaced my use of Delta 100 and I'm thinking that the shape of the film response curve is the reason. TXP and FP4 simply seem to provide me more high quality prints than say Delta or TMax 100 do.

    Similarly understanding that this long toe/higher gamma effect can be practical in real life pictures suggests to me that HC-110 or it's equivalents might be a really good option for me, and many others who havent considered them, given their tendency to produce an upswept curve. In the past I had avoided HC-110 because of the speed and grain thing vs say XTol, I didn't know any better. In essence as I came into film photography I got distracted from mid-tone quality into a world of more finicky film curves with better shadows and less grain.

    This brings me back to the title question.

    Anybody else had similar epiphanies?
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  2. #2

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    I'm surprised to hear you describe FP4+ as having a different curve than Delta 100. Once upon a time it would have, but I have found current FP4 to have nearly the same curve as Delta. While FP4 is somewhat of a hybrid between cubic and tabular grain at this point (as are almost all the so-called traditional emulsions in Kodak's and Ilford's lineups), it is still less tabular than Delta 100. Some photographers find with tabular films it is more difficult to render delicate highlight separations in the print versus "traditional" emulsions, due to slightly higher micro-contrast. Having used a lot of FP4, Delta 100 and even TMX 100 (the most tabular of them all), I have not really found this to be true. But perhaps this phenomenon is what you are seeing, rather than a difference in characteristic curves (ie macro contrast). This pertains to FP4 vs Delta. With TXP 320 the story might be different since that film is reputed to still have a longeer toe, more upswept curve than other current films, most of which have relatively homogeneous curves.

  3. #3
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Michael,

    I don't actually plot curves, that's why I said "I think". All I can say for sure is that keeper prints seem to come more easily and more often for me from TXP and FP4 than from Delta 100 for me.

    I have though found that since starting (very recently) to use WD2D+ with Delta 100 that my satisfaction with Delta 100 has gone up considerably. By that I mean it's easier for me to get good prints from Delta 100 in WD2D+ than my Delta 100 negs that were done in XTol or DD-X.

    I really wanted to stick with the Deltas and actually started there. I only really considered and played with FP4 because I got some free. Now I've only got a few rolls of Delta 100 left and it's hard for me to get exited about buying more given how easy and reliable FP4 is in use.

    While I have played with plus and minus exposure and development, my norm now is typically boringly standard and by the book for both. Going "back" to this generic method of shooting and developing has actually eliminated a lot of self induced problems based on my guesses and chasing what I saw as magic bullets.

    I'm surprised that you find the toe of FP4 the same toe as Delta 100's so I will ask this, are your subjects typically mid-tone priority like portraits and are you using developement processes that encourage similar curves?
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  4. #4

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    FP4 has a slightly longer toe in my experience, but when I say slightly I really mean slightly. It depends on the developer too. I'll say this though - I'm not surprised you like FP4. It is my all time favourite film. I think it's simply one of the best films ever made.

    I don't shoot portraiture. I'm a landscape/urban/architecture guy and I do alot of night work. My preference is for full scale tonality throughout. Lows mids and highs. So I typically go for the longest, straightest curve I can. Over the years I did tons of work on minus development, compensating procedures etc etc ad nauseum. And I'm actually I little like you in the sense more recently I've backed off the more extreme procedures. What I have found is the better you are at printing, the less you need to go crazy with extreme development procedures, and the prints are better. Beyond relatively mild contractions and expansions, extreme procedures exact penalties. Regardless of what anyone tells you about their special two-bath pyro stand development whatever, those are ways of making printing easier, not better, and based on everything I've seen the final results are nearly always inferior to the results that can come from combining less extreme negative procedures with hard work and control under the enlarger.

  5. #5
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Yeah FP4 is as close as I've ever come to finding a magic bullet.

    The free stuff I got was long expired and kept in a closet and beautiful from the first shot. No adjustments required.

    In today's vernacular, truly plug-n-play.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  6. #6
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    I also really like FP4+, and also Shanghai GP3, have you tried that? FP4+ has quite the shoulder rounding off though, not an upswept curve into the highlights.

    I've been thinking about this for a long time, and have picked up T-Max Developer and HC-110 to give this a whirl with.

    Have a look at the curves for T-MAx 100 in T-Max Developer on Kodak's site, that is something you may wish to try.


    Also Pan F+ has long a toe and straight line, so may even be more so in HC-110 etc etc.



    In any case, I've found some of my most pleasing landscape images to be done with Delta 400 (Extended red sensitivity, only Delta 3200 shares this in Ilford's line up apart from the IR films) shot at EI 100, and pulled in Replenished Xtol @ 24 celsius (short processing time) but with very very very minimal agitation, just one or two very gentle inversions per cycle of which there are only a couple with the short developing time.

    I have found the tonality is completely different, and not simply contraction/lower CI etc, as Delta 400 @ 400, with the same method just didn't 'shine' in the same way, and looked like it was a completely different film.



    So then I've given thought to high activity developers and upswept curves, I've made an extremely high contrast developer once, where I managed to expand negative contrast many many fold. So I figured I want to compare something like this combined with extreme compensation against upswept developers.

    As I figure something like an extreme contrast split-bath developer may do the trick for the look I am looking for.

  7. #7
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    I've tried the GP3 and I'm not real impressed, part of not being impressed is because of it's physical handling characteristics in processing.

    I know FP4 isn't upswept but have yet to have FP4's shoulder be a problem in my work. Just my style and subjects maybe.

    Pan F is a film that I want to play with. I've been transitioning to slower films and want to experiment more that way. It's been several months since shooting a frame of 400 speed film. Was out on a walk today and all I had to reload my F100 with was a roll of Superia 400 and had to reset my thought processes, 400 is too darn fast.

    it's a darn good thing the camera can get to 1/8000th.

    Part of what I'm trying to get at in this thread is that when I was a newbie I was trying to start in the right place to get great results fast. In that quest I got distracted by the constant noise about getting more shadow detail and less grain and getting important stuff on the straight line. Like most well trained American consumers I wanted more range, more straight line, more shadow, more highlight, more... Whether I needed it or not.

    The Deltas really captured my imagination, and TMax was right there too. I really wanted them to work and for me to be using the "newest and best".

    What I found though was that it was easier and more regular for me to get good results with more traditional films like TXP and FP4.

    I'm beginning to think that part of the reason for that is the shape of the curve, could be partly the response to color in the scene. I don't fully know.

    What I do know is that I like whatever "it" is. Now when people say "older emulsions are more forgiving", I think that means, "it's easier to get great results" instead of "it's for newbies and slackers who can't handle the new fancy films".

    My thoughts here about HC-110 specifically don't necessarily include rushing out to try it, just that if I had tried it, or the WD2D+ I now use with Delta 100, before finding FP4, the specifics of my current photographic preferences might be really different.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin



 

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