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  1. #1

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    Is there a wallet-friendly way to test for film speed and development time?

    I am beginning explorations in to the zone system and am excited by the possibility of improving on my current level improperly exposed and developed film. One aspect I am having a hard time getting my head around is that all the ways I have read to test for film speed and development time require about 25 sheets of 4x5 film. One problem is that I do not have that many holders (although reloading is not a problem) the other is that 25 sheets and the chemicals to develop them are not cheap. If I absolutely must I am sure it will be money well spent, but is there a less wasteful way to test these factors?

    One related question is if the emulsion batch matters. I use mostly Ilford and occasionally Kodak films, but I am wanting to try Efke PL50 despite their reputation for occasionally inadequate quality control. Will I have to make sure I order a lot of film from the same emulsion batch, and then retest with every new batch?

    As always, thanks for the help!

    - Justin

  2. #2

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    25 sheets? I start with roll film. Nail that down and use the results to start your sheet film testing.

    I tend to order batches of film. When I was in Canada the cost of shipping from say Freestyle made stocking the fridge with a yearly or at least six month order a good idea. I expect to do the same thing here. I'd then do shorten test to see if things were similar. I'd use the old number to start with and work from there.

  3. #3

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    I would but I only have 4x5 cameras aside from a 35mm P&S :P

  4. #4

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    Got a rollfilm back for the 4x5?

  5. #5
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    How exact are you trying to be? Can you tell a good neg by looking at it? I should think you can get really close with 3 sheets of film, and one film holder. I'm waiting to give you my advice (or not at all) because I know there are folks here who are much smarter than I am (especially about b&w) and can give you a better process to follow.

    *

  6. #6

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    No roll-film back for the 4x5, unfortunately. I want to be as exact as I need to be in order to consistently print well on a single grade of a single paper along with contrast expansion and contraction. I'd like to be able to consistently give myself the best chance to make the best print that I can, rather than wasting paper trying to correct for deficiencies in the negative before turning to the creative printing. I'd like to know that when I get a bad negative it was because of poor planning, a silly mistake, or mechanical failure rather than the guesstimation I do now (such as rating FP4+ at 100 because I have a tendency to underexpose and developing for 7 minutes because I got really nice highlights in a negative of a scene who's brightness range I don't remember).

    If by "Can you tell a good neg by looking at it?" you mean that I can tell underexposed from underdeveloped and overexposed from overdeveloped along with making sure that everything I'd wanted to be there was there, then yes. I'd have a hard time telling you is contrast was too low, just right, or too high, except for extreme examples. Sometimes (like when working out bellows extension factors) I just confuse myself...

    - Justin

  7. #7
    david b's Avatar
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    I would stick with one film. FP4+ is a great film and worth the money over Efke.

    You don't mention what developer you are using. I've used xtol, rodinal, and ID-11 all with very good results. I've just started using xtol 1+2 and the results have been even better.

    I would think you should be able to get the film speed and developing time in less than 25 sheets.

    So, what developer?

  8. #8
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    While I'm no ZS espert, I think common sense can help.
    ---- One variable at a time!
    I would find the film speed while keeping the processing consistent. That is decide on a film, developer and developing routine and keep it.
    Shoot a certain scene, where all zones are present, most importantly the shadows and shoot 3 sheets
    +1, 0 , -1
    Develop in whatever developer/time/agitation combo you chose and observe shadow and highlight in all your sheets.
    After that see what is best and use that as your speed inidcator
    Mama took my APX away.....

  9. #9
    mmcclellan's Avatar
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    It should not take anywhere near 25 sheets of film. 3-4 sheets for the film speed test (develop them all the same after exposing for Zone I and then see which one is .1 abov FB+F), then another 4-6 sheets, all shot at that tested EI and exposed to Zone VIII, to nail down your development time, and you're done. This is, of course, testing one film for one developer, but the same film speed will pretty much work with all developers so you're only doing a few more sheets for each subsequent devleoper.

    It's well worth the time and money to "waste" 8-10 sheets of film as you will then have predictable results and your shooting will be much more efficient.
    Michael McClellan
    Documentary Photographer
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    http://www.MichaelMcClellan.com

  10. #10

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    "---is there a less wasteful way to test these factors?" You might consider taking very detailed notes (E.I.,meter readings-place and fall) as you make your normal photographs. An inexpensive digital voice recorder can speed this process in the field. Using this negative feedback approach you are likely to reach the same end result as the more sophisticated methods but have photographs to show for your time and effort. Two like exposures with the second held for fine tuning would likely speed the process. Aiming to print on a particular paper grade is fine but, in practice, I wonder how many of us actually end up printing on the grade we initially planned?

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