Film Testing Methods
What is 'your' best method for testing film? Please share the exact details.
Which films have you tested so far?
Did you test for specific environments and subjects, or generic? If so, what were they?
Were you happy with the test results?
What were the results? Do you have a couple of images you'd like to share?
Did the tests have any influence on your subsequent work?
Thank you very much for sharing.
I'm sure other members of this forum have done a far better and more scientific job testing film as far as keep the variables at a minimum (yes i know thats the way its done haha) Anyway a while back I shot a lot of trix and tmax and plusx (like i mentioned in other post the highschool and college in my area where slaves to kodak) After i started working at a photostore I decided to try some others. I took some shots i liked at the beach one summer so i went back and duplicated some of the shots with different film (to test it, and to correct some mistakes i had made the first time and in some instances i loved the film and visa verca....
i'm sure this won't help too much, but i'm also sure other people here can suggest more exact methods, i just reshoot some of mine to compare results.
"The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance." ~Ansel Adams
I normally start with the 35mm if it's availalbe.
Load up the camera and photograph a grey card in Zone I. First at 1/2 the ISO speed [one stop under] then going up in 1/3 stops until I hit twice the ISO speed. I'll also add a few Zone VIII frames at the ISO and below. Add in some blank ones with the lenscap on.
Process it using my best guess time. Find the Zone I frame that is right using the densitometer. Need an excuse to justify the space it's wasting. Then check the Zone VIII frame. If I'm REAL lucky it'll be spot on . But normally I'll have to run a second [or third] test to get the development time right.
Then load up a MF camera and expose Zone I and VIII the way the 35mm test showed. Blank frame. Use the rest of the roll to take some average shots. Stuff around the house. Maybe go for a drive. Try to get a variety.
Process and hope the Zone I and VIII come out okay.
Then move on to the 4x5 and do the Zone I and VIII and do some sample shots.
Having figured out EI and development time then just load the camera and see if it really works. Only good test is to take photos then try and make prints. At least that's my feeling.
Originally Posted by Nicole Boenig-McGrade
I wish I could say my testing methods were totally objective and scientifically rigorous; alas not so. Partly this is because I'm not totally objective and scientifically rigorous (not to put to fine a point on it, I get easily bored). But partly, it's because no camera or lens shutter is the same as any other, nor are development processes always exactly consistent (variations in temperature, agitation, etc.).
So, the best I have been able to manage (without spending my hard-earned bucks on expensive things like densitometers) is this:
1. Buy a .10 Wratten neutral density filter.
2. Select the film and load my camera--in my case four different MF cameras and one view camera with three lenses (lots of room for variables like shutter speeds to affect results).
3. Shoot a blank, non-textured surface outdoors preferably in open shade so the lighting is even with lens focused at infinity to prevent any texture from showing up on the neg. Start at manufacturer's recommended ISO and bracket in half stops up and down at 4 stops (Zone 1) under the meter reading. E.g. if meter reading of the blank surface is f/4 at 1/60th, that's Zone V. Stop down to f/16 (Zone 1) and begin shooting in half-stop increments up and down from there. Leave at least one frame blank. If you have space on the roll, take a few general shots of general scenes that contain light and dark tones.
4. Develop at the manufacturer's recommended time/temp or make your best guess with your own home-brew.
5. Take the blank neg, put it on a light box, and read it with a spotmeter placed right on top of it. Note the number on the EV scale that you get. This is your film-base-plus-fog for that particular film.
6. Now place your .10 ND filter over the blank frame and read it and note the number on the EV scale. This is your Zone I reading.
7. Then find the frame of the non-textured surface you shot that most closely matches that Zone I reading. See which frame in your bracketed sequence it was, e.g. half stop under the recommded iso. Eg. If you were shooting at iso 100, and your Zone I frame is the one you shot at iso 64, then that's your film speed for that camera/shutter combination.
8. Now go shoot another most of a roll (or three of four sheets) of your non-textured surface, at that ISO, but this time at three stops over your meter reading to get Zone VIII (barely textured highlight). Also shoot a few shots of a general scene.
9. Cut off a piece of the roll or use one sheet and develop at manufacturer's time or your best guess.
10. Make a stepped test print with a blank neg in the enlarger to find your minimum exposure time to get maximum black. E.g. 20 sec. at f/8.
11. Then put in your Zone VIII neg and on a test strip, cover half of the strip while exposing the other half at your min/max time.
12. If there is more than a very slight difference between the unexposed part of the strip and the exposed part, you'll need to develop another piece of the roll or another sheet at a longer or shorter time, depending on whether your test strip was too dark or too light.
13. This will be your normal film speed and development time for that film.
14. But then you're going to shoot that same film in a variety of cameras and will probably get somewhat different results with each, which you will either adjust accordingly if you're obsessive, or ignore and work around with paper grades if you're not, and learn to be happy.
If all this sounds too, too boring, just pick an evenly lit scene on a high-overcast day, as well as one on a bright sunny day, and shoot at a variety of exposures and pick the one that gives you the best textured blacks. That's your film speed. If your highlights are too dull, you need to increase your development time. If they're blown out, decrease your development time.
Rule of thumb: if you're going to err, err on the side of over-exposure and under-development.
Rule of thumb #2: Don't spend all your time testing. Take pictures and learn from your mistakes.
Ah, the "film test".
Not to over-parse the topic, but I think it's essential to first define the objectives for the test. Am I simply exploring the characteristics of the particular film/developer combination? Am I trying to determine the film/developer combination's suitability for a particular project? Am I trying to zero in on my personal rating and processing time/temp for the combo?
Once I've defined what I want the "test" to accomplish, I can establish the "proper" procedure to get there - at least the procedure that fits reasonably with my testing capabilities. For example, I don't have a densitometer, so my "tests" are somewhat unscientific as a result. I can use the densitometer mode of my RH Designs ZoneMaster II enlarging meter to come up with an approximate contrast index for the processed negs, but that's not really "calibrated". Nor do I have constant, in-line temperature controls, or the ability to test the chemical composition of the water I'm using. So, my test results are always somewhat anecdotal as a result.
Regardless of the objectives for a specific test, I try to eliminate (or at least control) as many variables as I can. For example, while "the print" is the ultimate goal, printing introduces another set of variables that can cloud the true film test results. Fluctuations in line voltage during printing, for example, might mislead me to an erroneous conclusion.
Similarly, if I'm testing a film's suitability for a specific project, I first try to define the image-quality parameters I'm looking for. What sort of grain structure and size is appropriate? What sort of tonal rendition? How much of the final result relates to film characteristics, as opposed to those imparted by the qualities of the taking lens? Whatever the requirements are, I then try to shoot something similar - again, trying to control or eliminate unrelated variables.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
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With 35mm I bulk roll so I rolled a ~12 exposure roll and shot it at the recommended ASA of 400. This was underexposed to my eye so I made another roll and shot it at 250 and this looks really good
Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!
I've used Les Meehan's method on a few occasions and am very happy with the results I achieved.
His very thorough method is here: Zone 2 Tone
Bruce Barlow has an excellent procedure, too, which takes a slightly different track insofar as he splits up the EI test and the development test. He also does a proof test. Furthermore, his test does not necessitate the use of a light meter, it uses a 0.1ND filter.
After some real troubles with getting FP4 and Rodinal 1+50 sorted out, I used both methods (Meehan's and Barlow's) side by side and came up with identical results. I have also used the two methods to refine my EI and dev time for D-400 with both ID-11 and Rodinal.
Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!
Nicole - There's no need to use a 0.10 ND filter in Maine-iac's testing scheme. To find your Zone I reading, read your blank frame with your spot meter, and simply add 1/3 EV (stop) to the reading. Save yourself some time and money by not getting the ND filter.
Originally Posted by Maine-iac
Kirk - www.keyesphoto.com
There's ultimately two ways to do this - the "eyeball-it" methods, and the more precise, analytical methods. You may find you prefer an eyeball-it method, or you may want/desire/need something that will be more precise. It's up to you to decide.
I wanted a more precise method, so I use a testing scheme that is very similar to what can be found in the "Beyond the Zone System" book by Phil Davis. I don't use his software, but I wrote up a spreadsheet to do the calculations. It's kind of complicated at first when you read the book, but once you get the concepts, it really all kind of falls into place. The BTZS method also includes an incident metering system - I don't use it, but lots of people here like it.
The BTZS system uses a reflection and transmission densitometer, your enlarger, and a step wedge to make a wide range of exposures onto a single piece of film. It can be done with sheet or roll film. It's pretty quick an easy once you get used to it.
If you don't have access to densitometers or don't want to try using your spotmeter, you can get the measurements made at http://www.viewcamerastore.com/
Yup, there's that too. I bought the ND filter after first reading Fred Picker's Zone VI book, and before I figured out that I didn't need it. I don't know if all films give a zone 1 reading at 1/3 stop more than FBF, but I assume it's "close enough for government work," as Gainer is fond of saying.
Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes