Recommended film, paper and developers for B&W newbie.
I have done color darkroom work for a long time. I now want to start doing some B&W in 35mm and 4x5. Which film, paper and developers would you recommend. I think I would use my color head for variable contrast paper.
I'd just buy Ilford film, chems and paper. Good quality. Another advice, although this is personal: glossy paper.
Let us know how you are faring,
Digital is best taken with a grain of silver.
Why not start with some old standbys?
35mm: Tri-X (TX) 400 in D76 or HC110 4x5: Tri-X (TXP) 320
Ilford paper is widely available. You may want to start with RC before moving on to fiber.
Dektol is a standard paper developer. Also, Ethol's LPD is superb and has great shelf/storage life.
You can use water as a stop bath for prints, and the Formulary's TF-4 alkaline fixer.
Have fun with B&W in your darkroom!
try fp4, or plus x as meduim speed films
try hp5 or tri x as high speed
Standard developer - start with id-11/d-76 one shot, try 1:1 to start, and use one shot.
Ilford MGIV RC - I like pearl, others, glossy. Dev in MG liquid conc. or Dektol.
Once you have these products under control, then dabble in the thousands of other ways to do B&W.
Since you're just starting out, I'd say it's hard to go too far wrong so long as you stick to fairly ordinary products -- that is, avoid infrared films or developers designed to produce exotic results.
For film, every film available today has its fans. The suggestions so far in this thread are for some of the more popular films. Part of the problem with making recommendations is that the differences in image quality are matters of personal preference, they're hard to describe, and you may not even know what you'll eventually prefer until you've tried a few options. (You should probably stick with just one or two films to start with, though, so that you can learn how to use them.)
For paper, similar comments apply as for film -- there are lots of products available, and every one of them has people who like it. Pick one and stick with it for at least a couple hundred sheets. Variable contrast (VC; aka polycontrast, multi-grade, or other terms) paper is convenient, particularly when you're just starting out, since you don't need to buy several boxes to get a full range of contrasts. Resin-coated (RC) paper is easier to handle than fiber-based (FB) paper, and RC paper also dries wrinkle-free. (AFAIK, all current color papers are RC papers, so you're probably familiar with the RC characteristics.) Some people prefer FB papers for final and/or high-quality prints, so you may want to sample them eventually, but I'd start with a VC RC paper.
For developers, I'd stick with something mainstream to begin with. For film, Kodak D-76 (Ilford's ID-11 is almost identical), Kodak HC-110, and Kodak XTOL all spring to mind, although there are others that qualify. For paper, Kodak Dektol and the Agfa Neutol line (there are several variants) are popular. Ilford and others make popular print developers, too, but I'm not familiar with Ilford's print developer line.
Overall, then, I'd say you should probably buy based on convenience (what local stores or preferred mail-order vendors stock), price, and perhaps any general brand preferences you have.
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As others have said, buy something standard such as Ilford FP4 or HP5, or Kodak Plus X or Tri-X. I'd recommend Tmax-400, but that is in a state of transition as some folks have gotten the old emulsion and others the new. The idea is to buy something that you will be able to use for a year or two while you are learning about it. The same with developers and paper. Buy one brand of each and stick with it while you learn yourself. After you've learned about yourself and your photography, you'll be able to make intelligent decisions about where you want to go.
Don't waste your time chasing magic bullets.