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  1. #1

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    B&W film comparisons & samples

    Hi all,
    I'm aware of the large amount of information in the archives here and elsewhere online on film recommendations. That's great, but I couldn't find good samples, comparisons, or side-by-sides. I've decided to start out with Tri-X and want to continue with it for quite some time before (if ever?) I try out some other films. I saw that advice here on the forums, of picking a film and getting familiar with it. But I'm still curious what other films look like. I hear several different opinions but I'm really curious what these look like in the hands of a capable photographer (since I think at this point in my career it would be unhelpful to buy 5 different films and see which one I like best).

    I'm particularly interested in slower films to complement Tri-X, but I'm just curious if there are any good, characteristic comparison shots. For example, I hear that FP4+, HP5+, and Tri-X are "traditional" films and Acros, Efke, and new Tmax are "modern" films but I have no idea what that means other than that "modern" films seem to have less grain.

    I feel flickr isn't the best place for these due to the amount of post-processing, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Any good comparison sites or links? Descriptions and words are helpful as well, but descriptions backed by samples would be even more so. I'm just looking for some good samples, it'd be great if they were characteristic of each film so I could get a sense.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Helinophoto's Avatar
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    I think this information is really hard to find, and even then it would probably be a mess anyway.
    Why?

    Because a film can look very different, depending on what developer is used.
    Also, even developing in a given developer, can yield different results, depending on what developing scheme is used.

    What you _could_ do, is to try a few films in the same developer and see the differece, remembering that these films in a different developer may yield a very different look and grain size etc.
    -
    "Nice picture, you must have an amazing camera."
    Visit my photography blog at: http://helino-photo.blogspot.com

  3. #3

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    Most serious photographers, and by this I mean those that are actually interested in taking pictures, shoot maybe two films consistantly. To make any comparison valid you really need the same person, using the same chemistry, and the same conditions posting a variety of images and statistics for many films. The chances of this happening is very slim. Most people are not interested in expending the large effort that is required to correctly produce what you want. Still there are a few people that seem to do nothing but test films. I don't know whether I would classify them as capable photographers.
    Last edited by Gerald C Koch; 12-19-2011 at 03:59 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  4. #4

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    Thanks for your replies. I wonder how anyone picks a B&W film. It seems it must be half blind, half informed.

  5. #5
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    It is called faith. One learns one film and one developer. Once that is well understood, change only one thing at a time.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  6. #6

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    It's also a matter of figuring out what you really need/want. For example, do you really need speed? If so, choose TX or HP5 rather than PX or FP4. Do you really want grain, pick TX. Etc. Then pick one and start seeing if it meets your needs and expectations.

  7. #7

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    ... and if you want to "punish" Kodak, buy Ilford. And if you want to "Buy American", buy Kodak.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sirius Glass View Post
    It is called faith. One learns one film and one developer. Once that is well understood, change only one thing at a time.
    Well said and this is something that Ansel Adams repeated many times. Might I recommend Adam's (book 2 of the series) "The Negative" to the OP.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  9. #9
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    You have Tri-X, now pick a slower one. FP4 or TMax 100, are fine choices and will cover all your needs. Curiosity is fine but it usually leads to confusion and endless testing. Get to know two emulsions, with a couple of developers at most, and spend your time having fun shooting and creating. How do you pick a b&w film? By necessity, really. Pick one or two that fit your requirements, whether they may be speed, grain, etc and run with it. Not complicated really. I was talking to a very famous and accomplished photographer/printer two days ago and was admiring some of his prints. It never dawned on me to ask any technical questions, which invariably turn an interesting conversation into a boring one, but, since the collection was quite unique and the prints mind boggling, I fired the question. I was inclined to think it was medium format but it turned out to be 35mm, with the entire series shot on Ilford XP2 (a C41 b&w emulsion). He picked that because it rendered the scenes/exposures the way he wanted them, and mostly considering how he was going to print them. Now, if your goal is scanning, you may want to consider the issue of grain, since scanning usually does poorly in that department.
    What other films look like? I don't know if anyone can really answer that question. You can make almost anything look like something else if you know what you're doing. There are too many variables to consider so, looking at someone else's scans or prints on any given film, will probably confuse one more than help. Are you ultimately printing in a darkroom or scanning for alternative output?

    Max

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    To the OP:

    Yours is a good question, but not one that is simply answered.

    To draw a comparison, have you ever tried to research the purchase of a new car? If you have, most likely you will have had at least some frustration with the myriad of "facts" compared, and opinions offered.

    One thing that may help, however, is to get used to how Tri-X behaves in a developer that you choose, and learn how to describe that behaviour in terms (shadow speed, resolution, accutance, grain, contrast, highlight retention, spectral response, etc.) that are commonly understood by those who like to talk about film .
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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