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  1. #1
    Pavel+'s Avatar
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    Help Narrow film choices

    Hi. I'm not new to B&W film, but I'm new to B&W film. What I mean is that I used to shoot the stuff by the buckets but I did not do it with a studied frame of mind and so sometimes things worked - other times they did not.
    I now want to get higher end results, results that at the end will, hopefully, be closer to what I have pre-visualised.

    I've been a member here almost a year and have experimented with a broad range of film. I don't feel that works for me. Its fun, sure, but I am back again at the point that it feels like a lucky stab in the dark. I feel spread too thin to learn. So with an eye towards the style I like and the realistic limitations of how I shoot I would now like to limit my film choices to two or perhaps three - hoping that over a year or two I can develop (don't ya love puns) a better eye and see if my choices work or not. I want predictability first before I get promiscuous with those little seductive 35 canisters again.

    So its off to Black and White only and furthermore only high speed film as well. Feel sorry for me. I love some of the rich tones, with smooth gradations that I see on some of the best work here. I know, low iso film should be the choice. But I've been paying attention to what and how I shoot with B&W and they tend to always be low light narrow dof kinds of portraits or snaps where I feel cramped by iso 400 film as it is. I know I can't have it all (even in America????) so I'm not expecting miracles - just simply a guide to films, and one or two developers that minimize that rough texture and large grain as best as can be expected.
    I've seen many tri-x shots here that are wonderful and more than I hope for.

    So first, if I were to chose two films and film speeds only, with the idea of having as much versatility as can be from only two - which B&W films would be a good start.
    I keep wondering about for example tri-x versus a 400 t-grain film. I thought that Tmax400 would give less grain but be less versatile as far as pushing it to 800 or a bit more. Is that correct?
    If I get 400 tri-x or HP5+ am I off my rocker if I am thinking of using it from 200 to 1600? What can I expect the differences to be if one roll is shot at 200, the next at 400 and a third at say 1000? Any tips on how to shoot and develop differently this one (picked only as an example) film.

    In looking at many photos here over the last six months I've come to the conclusion that I like contrast but not completely blocked up shadows. I actually like moderate to strong grain in a shot but that seems to be easy - the opposite for when you need it is the tough part so I'd like to learn.

    Any tips then for films - and developers? Is my strategy a good one do you think?

    Oh and which film/developer combo would be a good starting set for iso 3200 shooting?

    Thanks! This place is great.

    BTW ... if it makes any difference - I plan to scan my negs. I live in a small apartment nowadays and don't want to deal with a wet-darkroom.
    To find the answers .... Question them!

  2. #2
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Obviously, everyone's tastes are different.

    Apart from occasional experimentation, I use Ilford PAN F (ISO 50) and Ilford HP5+ (ISO 400 but I use it at EI 200).

    I develop both using Ilford LC29.

    I think it is a good idea to try quite a few combinations of film and developer then settle on the two or three which you like.

    As for ISO 3200, There is Ilford Delta 3200. I have some but I have not tried it yet.


    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  3. #3

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    Dear Pavel,

    If you get 10 photographers replying to this you'll probably have at least 30 recommendations. Here are my four...

    NO small-format conventional mono film scans as well as Ilford XP2 Super (because XP2 is a dye image, not silver grain, hence no grain aliasing and Callier effect) but that limits you to 400, though you can underexpose by a stop (EI 800) and get away with it.

    If you insist on conventional film, many prefer traditional films such as HP5 (my own choice) or Tri-X (my wife's), and you can get a true ISO of about 650 out of either (HP5 probably a fraction faster) in Ilford DD-X. Pushing to 1000 or even 1600 is not a major problem.

    But at 1600 and beyond, you'll get more shadow detail and better tonality out of Delta 3200, true ISO in DD-X about 1250 but very good up to 2000 or so and more than usable to 10,000 and above. Kodak's equivalent, TMZ, is fractionally slower, less grainy, and (in my view) tonally quite a bit inferior. The other fast film, Fuji 1600, is less grainy still but only a whisker faster than HP5 Plus (1/3 stop at the outside).

    Now wait for the next reply which will probably make COMPLETELY different recommendations. You might want to look at
    http://www.rogerandfrances.com/blackwhite.html for further general thoughts on mono, scanning and more.

    Edit: I'll second Steve's suggestion to try a fair range of films, rather than limiting yourself unnecessarily. A roll of every candidate, in DDX for maximum true ISO speed, still won't take long and as soon as you see the 'magic' -- which you should, in the first roll of the film that's right for you -- then your search is over.

    Cheers,

    Roger

  4. #4
    Pavel+'s Avatar
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    Thanks gents. I am kind of in sync with your recommendations Roger and am appreciative of your experience in the subtleties. I only hesitate with the XPsuper because in the last year I've had two rolls of chromes disappear already and one had valuable stuff on it. I keep thinking on one hand that having someone else develop it might be nice and effortless but half the attraction is in doing it myself - and then if a roll disappears I only have my aging memory to blame. Does one have to ask for special processing if XP2 is exposed at 800 ? How about 1600 - is that a ruined roll?

    So you are basically saying that for iso 1600 the fuji has little benefit compared to Tri-X or HP5, but best yet if one has delta 3200 (which I have twenty or so more rolls of right now - but its comparatively expensive) that it is the better choice, right? How remarkable a difference is it to shoot HP5+ at 1600 versus Delta 3200 at the same speed? I'm really interested in the details on that question.

    Also how would you sum up the differences between Delta 400 and HP5+?

    Thank you once again for the help. I had gotten a subscription to your site last year and read it often. It is fantastic help.

    ... Oh ... and .... I have been using a wide variety of films all this year. That is how, slowly, I've arrived at the decision that I will now shoot almost exclusively B&W and that is how I noticed how cramped iso 100 has been for me. Every time I load a roll of slower film I wind up wishing I could change the iso part way through. So iso 400 and up now ... so I can refine my knowledge.
    To find the answers .... Question them!

  5. #5

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    As mentioned above, the best b&w film for scanning is XP2. You should give at least one roll a try and see if you like it. I use it a lot but only in 120. For traditional silver emulsions at high ISO, I've always liked Tri-X the best for the look of its grain, but HP5 is good too. Good luck.

  6. #6

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    I personally shoot a lot of Tri-X. When the need arises, I might shoot an occasional roll of Plus-X or PanF+ or TMZ. I've been happy with it. I know everybody says stick with one film and developer, which I've kind of been doing, but I haven't quite gotten to the point of tweaking development times and things. Whenever I end up shooting one of the other films, they always come out pretty nice and printable... I use XTOL by the way.

  7. #7

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    When you ask this question, as you did, you are going to get a whole lot of different opinions and you must recognize that involved with those opinions are individual preferences. Now opinions are fine, if you know the guy or gal, they are your brother or sister, and you know how they think, what they like, and how they work.

    Unfortunately I am an orphan, I don't like my siblings, and I don't trust anyone with something as important as my work...I don't give a darn if they claim to be producing grain free 32X40 images from iSo 1600 35 mm film pushed to 16,000. That they further claim to be the second coming of Christ and the best thing since sliced bread. I want to see the work...I don't believe anyone on this stuff. Not Roger Hicks, not John Sexton, not Bruce Burnbaum, and I sure as hell would not believe that character named Donald Miller.

    So look at what some people who can hang prints on the wall are shooting. If you like what they do, then you might...notice I said might be able to someday replicate their results...if you work long and hard and diligently and don't hook up with the wrong person's evaluation, recommendation, strongly held characterization or for that matter opinion (no matter how strongly expressed). In other words opinions are like lower body orifices and simply that...everyone has them.

    So I won't waste your time or my time in trying to tell you what to use.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  8. #8
    Alex Bishop-Thorpe's Avatar
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    My preference is Pan F+ and HP5+ for me, with Xtol for developing.
    When I cant afford that, Pan F+ and Agfapan APX 400.
    When I cant afford that, ERA Pan 100 and APX 400...
    And when I cant afford that I just use ERA Pan 100 and I live with 100ISO.
    The advantage of testing a variety of film is you can have a first and secondary preference, which in my case has helped me in not always having enough to buy the film I want. Like Roger mentioned, it's one of the most individual parts of photography - I use slower speeds more often than higher speeds, but last year it was the exact opposite.
    I used XP2Super exclusively for ages and never had any problems with it - find a good local 1 hour lab and it's a breeze. It does scan noticeably better than traditional films, Pan F+ even ends up kinda blurry on my scanner.

    Hey, anyone remember when 400ISO was high speed, instead of 3200? I have an old magazine outlining techniques for city night photography with miraculous new 400ISO colour film.
    Last edited by Alex Bishop-Thorpe; 07-20-2007 at 07:49 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    The Analogue Laboratory, or 'so you built a darkroom in an old factory in the industrial zone'.
    Blog thing!.

    Worry less. Photograph more.

  9. #9

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    Dear Pavel,

    Does one have to ask for special processing if XP2 is exposed at 800 ? How about 1600 - is that a ruined roll?

    No in both cases -- but the 1600 will be pretty marginal. A lot will depend on the subject and the metering.

    How remarkable a difference is it to shoot HP5+ at 1600 versus Delta 3200 at the same speed? I'm really interested in the details on that question.

    The HP5 is pushed 1-2/3 stops from ISO 650 in DD-X, and the Delta 3200 is pushed 1/3 stop from ISO 1250, so it's LOTS more shadow detail.

    Also how would you sum up the differences between Delta 400 and HP5+?

    Tonality. My favourite description of HP5, courtesy of someone whose name I have unforgivably forgotten, is 'Like Casablanca. The film, not the place.'

    Thank you once again for the help. I had gotten a subscription to your site last year and read it often. It is fantastic help.

    Thanks for the kind words -- and for subscribing!

    ... Oh ... and .... I have been using a wide variety of films all this year. That is how, slowly, I've arrived at the decision that I will now shoot almost exclusively B&W and that is how I noticed how cramped iso 100 has been for me. Every time I load a roll of slower film I wind up wishing I could change the iso part way through. So iso 400 and up now ... so I can refine my knowledge.

    Have you considered faster lenses? I regularly use f/1.4 and f/1.5, though I find f/1,2 and f/1 a bit too fast for many applications (zero depth of field).

    I'll heartily second Don's advice not to place undue faith in anyone; the advice above is given on the basis that you have to start somewhere. I'd add, too, that it's usually a good idea to start as near the mainstream as possible. Beware of those who swear by film coated by Romanian virgins at full moon, and processed in a mixture of adder venom and humming-bird blood, because a lot of the time, they're getting good results despite their materials, not because of them. This is one reason why I might disagree with him about looking at what people have 'on the wall', at least on line. Another is that by the time it's been scanned and shown on a monitor, many a good picture loses its charm, and many an indifferent picture looks undeservedly good.

    One more thing: a good local minilab will very seldom lose your films: I assume your problems were with mail order. BUT, most minilabs use a stabilizer, not a water wash, so the stability of the negs will be compromised unless you request your films uncut and re-wash at home. Then again, it's amazingly easy to process C41 yourself with a CPE-2 (silly-cheap second hand), and with chromogenics you can also give a slight push if you feel like it.

    Cheers,

    Roger

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleath View Post
    Hey, anyone remember when 400ISO was high speed, instead of 3200? I have an old magazine outlining techniques for city night photography with miraculous new 400ISO colour film.
    Well, when High Speed Ektachrome (160 ASA) was a speed king, available only in 20-exposure rolls because 36-exposure would cost too much, yep... And I remember an article in Popular or Modern where they had pushed 2475 Recording Film to EI 10,000, just to show it could be done...

    On the other hand I also remember when you could buy true ISO 1000 colour slide film from Agfa: no push processing required (Ferrania/Scotch/3M 1000D and 640T were earlier, but much inferior for most applications, though tremendous fun when they worked). I forget who made the ISO 3200 print film -- Konica, I think -- but I got a few decent images from it at EI 2000-2500.

    Cheers,

    Roger

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