Opinions on some Eastern European films and papers.
I love getting the Freestyle catalog. Since I work alone and rarely even spend time on photographer's forums, it seems at times that I am the last analog photographer on earth! I really should visit APUG more often!
The reason I love the Freestyle catalogs so much is that they feature so many films and papers that I have never tried. The Freestyle catalog reminds me of catalogs of old. I still use products by the big names that I have used for decades - films by Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji, and papers by Ilford, Forte, Oriental, Zone VI, and even some Kodak that I still have on hand.
But I am very curious about some or the products listed in the Freestyle catalog and would like to hear about any that you have had excellent results with or find to be outstanding in some way. (I know that I should search the archives and I will do that but, for now, I would like to know of any products whose quality really stands out to APUG members who have experience with them. To narrow it down, I generally use classic, neutral/cold tone, double-weight, fiber-based VC papers.
I would like to hear opinions on papers such as Arista, Kentmere, Foma, Slavich, Fotokemika, Bergger, etc., and films by Arista, Fomapan, Kentmere, Efke, Adox. Also, I have never used Fuji Acros but have heard that it is an excellent film. Which, if any, should I avoid and which are exceptional products?
It's exciting to see all these films and papers and the specialty products should bring back some plain old fun to photography.
Anyway, do any of these products really stand out for you?
From Freestyle I prefer to experiment with different papers, but I keep film selection the same.
Most of the papers they carry are either of exceptional quality, or have interesting characteristics, or both. But it's all based on my opinion.
The best neutral tone paper I have ever used from them is probably Kentmere Bromide fixed grade paper. It's really crisp with fantastic blacks and very handsome whites. If you like a high impact print with lots of richly defined detail, these papers are phenomenal.
From the variable contrast world I really like the Ilford MGIV, fiber glossy. I've never gotten paper I didn't like after working with it a bit.
I listened to some very profound words of wisdom a few days ago, and it reminded me of something important. Your paper is the base of your photography and the most important aspect of it. After you choose your paper and you know its characteristics you make negatives that suit it. And then you choose a camera that can handle that process for you.
I've made the mistake of switching around too much when it comes to papers, and believe (at least for straight black & white printing) that it's best to work from one type of paper and work the negative and the printing until you have something you like.
This teaches you the entire process from the ground up and captures the synergies that lie within that acquired skill.
Then of course it's good to step out of the known once in a while to experiment. That keeps the fun factor high, and gives birth to new ideas.
Anyway, just some thoughts. If you already know all of this, perhaps somebody else can benefit from it.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Yes, I already know all of that! In fact, I know everything!!
Seriously, though, I've been shooting for about 40 years and I do stick to what works for me. In fact, it's my stubbornness for sticking with things that work for me that makes me stay with film - that and the fact that I am a large format photographer and I see no practical digital alternative to achieve the level of quality that I seek. Also, I still simply love the analog process. I am like that in many ways, not just photography. I don't jump on new things just because they are new. For example, I am also a woodworker who builds "period" furniture and I use tools that are 100-200 years old when they do the job best. Heck! I don't even have a cell phone! I may be the last person on earth who doesn't have one but I have absolutely no need for one and would probably only use it a couple times a year if I had one! Besides, I don't like being "connected" to the world all the time. My point is that I am the last person to change just for the sake of change.
My primary films, developers, and papers have remained the same for many years. I am DEFINITELY not one to be jumping around from product to product. My last big film change was to TMAX100 when it was introduced and it's still my primary film. But changing from one product to another without really learning their potential is a classic problem with many new photographers as they search for the "perfect" product and your advice has always been about the most frequently given advice given to new analog photographers - and for good reason! I have given that advice myself many times.
On the other hand, it is fun to try something new every once in a while and, as you (and I) mentioned, it can bring some fun to photography. For example, I am interested in the ortho films offered by Freestyle. Years ago, I used to shoot Kodak high-speed ortho film occasionally and I really liked the effect it produced with portraits of males. It's nice to see that ortho film is still available. Freestyle's versions are very slow but detail and sharpness should be outstanding which is exactly what I want for the purposes I would use them. It will be a bit of a challenge shooting portraits with it in 8x10", though, because of their slow speed.
With changes in the availability of analog photography materials being the name of the game lately, it's nice to know that there are other (some new) products available in case our long-time favorites vanish from the market. With the current economic downturn, there is a strong possibility that some of our favorite films and papers may be discontinued sooner than would have been the case otherwise.
Thanks for your paper recommendation. I'll give it a try. I pretty much stopped using graded papers about ten years ago but I still use them occasionally. As VC papers improved, I found the advantages to be compelling.
Like you, I have (almost) never found a paper that I really didn't like once I adapted to it. But some papers really do stand out. For example, (for me) the old Kodak Elite papers had a richness that I haven't found in another paper. They were unique, IMO. The blacks were incredibly deep and rich and the whites glowed, producing a 3D effect with the right negative.
Anyway, if anyone else has found any of the films or papers that Freestyle carries to be exceptional or have unusual qualities, please let me know about them.
I use the Foma products regularly, the Arista.edu.ultra (note the Ultra), is Foma product. Kentmere is now a brand of Ilford, in England. Bergger paper is also made by Ilford now. Efke film and paper is well liked by a lot of people, and most (if not all) of the Efke product is also sold under the Adox brand. Legacy.pro film is sourced from Fuji (most people say), and the Arista Premium (brand)35mm film is sourced from Kodak.
Roelli films are sourced from Agfa/Gevaert in Belgium and Filmotec in Germany. Slavich photo paper is from Russia, and is very good. I like it a lot.
I hope the noobies have read what Tom B and Zone III have written about how to begin the trek to learning how to make prints which truly express one's photographic vision; rather than playing around with the mechanics of traditional photography and accepting the generally mediocre result of slopping around in the dark with the mantra of "this expresses ME."
I know I am a dinosaur; and I know full well that in the first years of my photographic march I did what every noobie generally does. How well I remember the advice of two really mentors: "You think you are being creative, when all you're doing is making a mess." And (from a cigar-chomping, grizzled old darkroom rat: "If ya have to shit glass to get a good print, your exposure and development are wrong."
On the other hand, messing about with the stuff is great fun: and the more things the noobies try, the better it shall be for the remaining producers of film and paper.
It is no help to the struggling industry that some older farts like myself still have secret hordes of the French-made Zone VI Brilliant and early Oriental Seagull stashed in the freezer.
My two cents.
John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
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I was glad to see the vote for Foma products(alias Edu,ultra). The VC paper is very consistent and gives a great tonal scale. I ethol LPD 2:1 it gives a beautiful warmtone in a cold tone dev its quite neutral. The films are also very consistent and I use them exclusively. Like most others I have done my share of experimenting but having settled on these products and exploring all of their capabilities I find I am much happier that flailing about chasing a magic paper or film. Same goes for chemistry I use only D-23, rodinal, and ethol LPD.
No escaping it!
I must step on fallen leaves
to take this path
do try the emaks/varycon and the foma papers....very well done products
you have to try it for yourself to find out...as u already know....so do it and support these companies because that zone vi stuff aint coming back anytime soon
I don't own a cell phone!!
I am glad Zone III asked this question as my photo budget is rather skimpy and was wondering about these other products that are reasonably priced. Thanks.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
If you can stomach a little warmer tone the Emaks graded paper is very nice. Reminds me of the old Pal paper from a few years back.
Eastern european products
I'm glad to see freestyle getting the press. I have been using the eastern european photo products for a number of years now and am quite satisfied. I have had no trouble with quality control on either film or paper. And when I can get 50 shts of 4x5 film(EDU. Ultra/FOMA) for half the cost of the bigger names its a slam dunk for me. Same goes for paper. I have used Tri-x,HP5,FP4,EFKE 100, Forte, and FOMA,alias EDU.ultra. I use the EDU.ultra at 100asa, with Tri-x I used 160,FP4 80 and HP5 200. The only one I was disappointed with was forte because they couldn't keep their quality control under control.
No escaping it!
I must step on fallen leaves
to take this path