Comprehensive Study of Current C-41, B&W, E-6, & RA-4 Products
I am interested in putting together a scientific study of all current film products, and perhaps some Agfa, Efke, Konica, and other defunct companies' products that are still available.
I intend to test and determine films' actual ISO values, underexposure latitudes, overexposure latitudes, and behaviors pushed and pulled several stops. I also wish to test these films in portrait and fine-art applications as well as the usual boring chart tests. In other words, I wish to extensively test films in real-world situations as well as in laboratory conditions that no one but scientists used anyway.
Now I am presented with five problems in conducting this test for B&W: finding ALL B&W film products currently available, determining which developers out of the enormous multitude available to use, determining which methods of processing to use, figuring out which film format(s?) to use for my testing, and figuring out if anyone is interested in purchasing the results, as I am sure this project will cost a great deal of time and money which I can hopefully recoup.
There's Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, (Agfa), (Efke), Ferrania & (Konica) (only color?), Foma, (Bergger), (Forte), Adox, and Rollei/Maco. I've heard Orwo might still make film and a few others. Did I miss anything?
Where do I start with developers? Obviously D-76 is a must, as is HC-110, as well as Rodinal, but which others? PMK? I like Perfection Super Speed, although it isn't available commercially anymore. Are there any other commonly-used developers? I am pretty much all HC-110 and D-76 myself, so forgive my ignorance.
I do all spiral-reel processing at the moment, metal if anyone's interested, but as there are variations in processing technique, I am thinking of going to something more standard, and as I have a high-speed B&W film processor now, I was thinking of using that for more consistant results. It isn't that my technique is bad, I am pretty much an adherent to the Ansel Adams technique, but I want to try to eliminate any variables. Does anyone who develops black and white with different processing techniques feel that there is a need to test results with each method in my study?
Finally, I have found that the 120 format seems to be the most economical for testing. Would using a specific camera (Mamiya RB) and a specific F/stop throughout each segment of testing mar results for other formats and F/stops, or is it possible to draw results from one format and extrapolate relationships with others?
The amount of work for this product will be immense, and the material will be pretty expensive, but I feel the results are worth having in B&W (pun intended). Does anyone feel they'd be interested in this data if I charged money for it? I wouldn't charge $100, but maybe something reasonable, like $35 for a comprehensive study.
I'm just curious if anyone is interested. Charts and 1.6:1 & 1000:1 resolution graphs are fine for scientists, but I am a visual person, and as such would like to SHOW sided-by-side comparisons.
Thanks for your replies!
Sounds to me like an interesting concept. In the end I'd probably pay to see the results ($35, not $100), but would be more interested in the results if the study was done by an acknowledged scientific lab using proven standardized methods. Perhaps I'm being a bit rigid in my interpretation of your characterization of the effort as a "scientific study" rather than a "comprehensive study" (you use both terms).
I always like the notion of real-world examples in addition to lab study... in fact, I prefer the real-world side-by-side comparisons, even given the probability of differences that might negate a comparative study if scrutinized against pure scientific control... maybe you ought to think about a less rigourous methodology to make the study more achievable.
Have you thought of seeking corporate sponsorship to offset costs... you're right about the maginitude or effort and cost associated with your idea.
You might include image stabilty in your list.
I hope you realize that this is a big job. I have done just what you describe and have the results in a box here. It is a rather large box of film strips and slides. Unfortunately it is years out of date, but it is far more complex than you think.
I have done a recent test with Portra film and have shown the scans here on APUG and on Photo Net.
There are soooo many variables. I have an interest in this sort of thing and have been doing it with my favorite materials my whole career and I still feel like I am not sure what is going on except in some very controlled situations like studio portraits or a couple of permanent testing set ups.
I would not be interested in buying your results. However I would be interested in a project involving several photographers sort of taking on assignments of a particular film and developer and use it in different ways and make prints and then post the results and describe their results in unavoidable subjective language. Then keeping all the results together on line and continually adding to it. Perhaps a list of film developer combos could be created and people could choose which they like and work it out on their own.
Then there is the variable of printing paper and developer to add in the mix.
My problem with researching the conversations that have already gone on in APUG regarding film developer combos is that the type of descriptions used are usually emotional and personal and of no use. Then there is very little clearly demonstrative imagery posted for consideration. And there needs to be some type of monitor calibration to agree on. I know my monitor is contrastier and darker than a lot of others.
In no way am I trying to dissuade you from this endeavour, but I might suggest that your proposal is less a comprehensive one and more a comprehensive one for you. By that I mean that in any experiment that attempts to come to definitive answers, there are always bottlenecks and your plan has several n=1 factors that limit its usefulness to others. It’s your water diluting chemicals that you mixed up processing film through your machine that was shot with your lighting. That’s four n=1s alone, and while those are unavoidable, those parameters tell me nothing about how film X is going to react in my water (or Jim’s or Jane’s) with my processing method.
Perhaps even more important, the characteristics of light passing through Mamiya 67 glass are not the same as it passing through Leica glass, or Pentax or Canon or Nikon glass. Or at least so we are led to believe by both the manufacturers and the impassioned reverence of the converted. How many times have you heard “I like (dislike) this lens because it’s contrasty/soft/crisp/got great (lousy) bokeh”? If, as you suggest, you shoot your tests through one lens at one aperture, what have you got?
What you plan to do might be useful to some, but it’s not comprehensive, except for you. If I really wanted to know if I like the latitude of X developed in Y 1:4 and printed on Z VC fibre, I’d probably be better off spending $35 on some film, chemistry, and paper and putting it though my cameras, metering it my way, and printing through my enlarger, with all of my flaws.
That said, I hope you do it, mostly because it seem like you’re excited by the project, and there’s no substitute for genuine passion.
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There are differences related to glass and camera, but these proposed tests can show relative differences between films, papers and developers. Relative difference is all that can be gained as a meaningful measure that can be shared in a test such as described in the OP. This is NOT a test of any specific camera or lens, and as such can be totally reliable.
I remember seeing a website a long time ago with info like that. It shows many color and B&W films' exposure lattitudes, sharpness and grain behavior. Anyone remember seeing that or have a link since I don't remember the website address.
Now that you mention it, I recall something similar. The one I'm thinking of was tests done by a Russian photography magazine, IIRC. That might give enough of a clue to do a Web search or to jog somebody else's memory. Unfortunately, I don't recall the URL.
Originally Posted by film_guy
I saw this study too. This "professional study" didn't even get the film-speeds right (there's no ISO 650). A lot of people called it into question (including me), it didn't have push or pull process characteristics, and it was by no means comprehensive. There were plenty of films not on the list.
Guys, if you are all going to be this negative and not contribute any useful information whatsoever, just criticism, I'll take the fucking thread down and go elsewhere
How long do you think it will take you to do this study and when do you expect the finshed article to be ready?