Starter BW Film
I'm sure it's been asked before, so I'll ask again. For first time BW film developing, can someone recommend some film and chemicals? I'm looking for something affordable, easy to work with, and fairly forgiving -- unless they all work about the same. I'll probably take my first roll through my pinhole camera. I've been using 400 speed color film and getting it professionally developed. Thanks to Bill Barber, I have some supplies to work with. I just need film and chemicals.
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My first combo and easy was Kodak TMax 400, Kodak HC110 developer, Kodak Indicator Stop Bath and Kodafix fixer. And you need to augment processing times with pinhole photography. So for the first few rolls I would do some normally exposed film in order to get the hang of the process.
Try the Arista Premium 400 35mm film, it's rebranded Tri-X and significantly less expensive, together with HC-110 Dil. B or H or D76, 1:1, a rapid fix, I like Ilford because I don't have to mix the entire bottle at one time, also Hypo Clear, PhotoFlo and some Fixer testing solution.
Save your money on the stop-bath if you're not making prints, it's not needed for films with developing times greater than five minutes and if you mix it too strong, you can end-up with pin-holes in your film. If you insist on a acid stop, use common white vinegar mixed with water. Use distilled water for chemicals and use the Ilford method for film washing; it'll save water and it's inexpensive enough to use Walmart distilled water for; between 54-68¢ a gallon.
PS, try rating/pulling the Tri-X at iso 200 and don't push it past iso 1050. Also test your fixer after processing if it is 'old' or well used.
Last edited by eli griggs; 08-19-2009 at 09:01 PM. Click to view previous post history.
For pinhole photography, I'd use a pretty fast film. I don't like tabular grain films generally (just a personal preference) so I'd recommend Kodak Plus-X or Ilford HP5+; both are 400 speed.
As for developer, the answer depends on how much film you plan on using. If you plan on using 10 rolls or so in a month, D-76. If less, then Rodinal (or Fomadon R09 New). I say this because D-76 has a pretty limited shelf life, and when you're starting out you want to focus on your technique, not your ability to keep chemicals from oxidizing. R09 has an amazingly long shelf life, and works well with Plus-X or HP5+. You use it diluted heavily (1 part R09, 40 parts water, for example).
I use water as a stop bath. Works fine for me, though it may be a good idea to get some stop. It's not terribly expensive, and you can continue to use it until it changes color (if you use an Indicator stop) or it feels slimy to the touch (if it isn't indicator), so it lasts a long time.
For fixer, get any kind of fixer you want; I use the gallon powder Arista rapid fix from Freestyle. You can also get liquid fixer that you dilute like R09 if you don't want to store gallons of chemicals.
Also get some Hypo-check. It tells you when fixer is bad; two drops in your fixer, and if a white precipitate forms, then it's bad. There are threads here that tell you how to dispose of exhausted fixer. Developer and stop can be poured down the drain.
If you have problems with water spots while your film is hanging up to dry, then get Photo-Flo or Arista-Flo (Freestyle's knockoff).
I suppose you can tell I am a fan of Freestyle. You're close to NYC, so it may be better for you to order from Adorama or B&H (unless there's a store local to you that you would like to patronize), since it'll be quicker.
These are all my opinions, because that's what you asked for. For every person that replies to this thread you'll get different answers, of that you can be sure. This is just what has worked for me, and I feel certain it will work for you too.
I should also mention this: if you buy a gallon of fixer, store a portion of it in a 20 oz drink bottle. Fixer can be re-used many times, and this is how I keep used fixer from unused fixer. Drop a drop or two of the Hypo-check into the drink bottle every time you get ready to develop. I dilute fixer 1:1 for film.
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Christopher's suggestion is a good one. In addition, you'll probably get a 1001 different replies to your inquiry, as everyone has very personal preferences to the look and feel produced by their developing/printing materials, techniques, and processes.
My personal recommendation is to start with either Kodak or Ilford products, as they're widely available and offer film and chemicals that are comparable to each other. For 35mm, I use Kodak Tri-X, most often, developed in XTOL (1:1). Sometimes, I'll use Fuji Neopan 400, also developed in XTOL (1:1). The only issue with using XTOL developer, for an absolute beginner, is that you have to mix up 5 liters of stock solution at a time; storage may be a problem, if you don't process often. In that case, you can start off with Kodak's D-76 or Ilford's ID-11 (which are very similar in make-up), for smaller batches. Go to both respective websites to read up on their products, uses, and specifications:
Good luck, and have fun!
Last edited by Andrew Horodysky; 08-19-2009 at 08:48 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Kodak Tri-X and D76 is a very classic, tolerant combo time-tested for decades. I started out with it for that reason and it's done well for me.
If you want to use cheaper film stock, it's hard to beat the value of Freestyle's Arista house brand. The "Premium" line is widely believed to be re-badged Kodak while the "EDU Ultra" line is believed to be Fomapan. I've taken to using both and have been quite pleased.
Any of the Freestyle Arista branded films, and Kodak D-76. Of course, you can use any clone "76" developer, or variant thereof, with excellent results. Just follow the recommended developing times and temps and all should be fine. I live in north central Pa, and I would be more than happy to talk you through your first soup session. You can PM me with your phone number and I'll talk you through on the phone(I have unlimited LD).I am available most times during the day, and early evening.
For the long exposures of a pinhole camera, I would recommend Fuji Neopan 100 Acros or Kodak T-Max 100 for black and white films. They are among the fastest films out there for long exposures.
For transparency films, I would try Fujichrome Provia, T64, or Astia.
For an all-around beginning film (not just for pinhole cameras), I would recommend Tri-X or HP5 for fast films and Plus-X or FP4 for medium films.
At this point in time, Arista Premium is by far the best choice IMO, for beginners or anyone else. It is exactly the same as Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X as far as I can tell, but it is half the price, and cheaper than most of the "bargain" films out there, making it the best quality:dollar ratio available in a 35mm b/w film.
For beginner chemicals, I recommend Kodak HC-110 or Ilford Ilfotec HC. They are convenient, quick, consistent, versatile, and they last forever as concentrate (and for a very long time as stock). I would recommend Ilford Hypam or Ilford Rapid Fixer over Kodafix, as the Ilford ones do not have hardeners, which are unnecessary (and not recommended) for modern high-quality films. Both of these are liquid concentrates, which I love. They can be mixed at room temperature, and do not require the handling of any powders.
A cheap bottle of indicator stop bath will last you years. I filter and reuse my stop bath until it goes purple. I have had my current 16 oz. $7.00 bottle of Kodak Indicator Stop bath for about 3-1/2 years, and I have used 1/3 of it. Doesn't make much sense to improvise a stop bath at the rate of under a dollar per year! If you are going to cut corners on chemical costs, don't bother doing it with stop bath, IMO. Do it by purchasing your own powders and a scale.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 08-19-2009 at 09:05 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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The Fuji Neopan film line looks great, and it seems to be pretty "wallet friendly " if you know what I mean.
Since film manufacturers tend to exaggerate their film (ISO) speeds, I'd recommend Kodak XTOL for developing. Kodak XTOL should give you true film speed (or probably even more film speed). For example, Fuji Neopan Acros 100 developed in Kodak XTOL should allow you to rate the film at EI 100 (or maybe even EI 125), whereas with other developers you may have to rate the film at EI 80 or lower, i.e., depending on your darkroom methods.
Kodak XTOL is considered, by many, a general purpose developer, and I think it's pretty "wallet friendly" when you dilute it 1:1.