In the interest of keeping things simple and avoiding the trap of endless experimentation, I would be very interested to learn about your approaches to black and white film selection. Do you tend to standardize on one film? If so, which have you found to be best suited for use as a general all-purpose film? Do any of you use TXP as your standard black and white film both for indoor and outdoor use?
Standardizing on combinations of developer and film is a good thing. However, what is a good combination? Do some reading first and get familiar with the various characteristics such as tonality, grain, acutance etc. Once you found your favourites, stick with those while keeping an open mind to other possibilities. Experimenting too much will only lead to confusion. Reading books by Anchell (Darkroom Cookbook etc.) helps a lot.
Personally I like most traditional film (ilford, Agfa) developed in Ultima (home made 2 bath dev)
I have a couple of main standards and think that's a good idea, but I'm always trying other things, and once in a while I'll switch. I like TX and TXP for most things, in PMK for negs to be enlarged and ABC pyro for negs to be contact printed. If I want more speed, I develop in Acufine, usually for handheld 4x5" use. I would say these are my default choices for most uses.
Delta 400 Pro is a very attractive film in Perceptol at EI 200 and D-76 (1+1) at EI 400, but it doesn't come in sheet sizes. If it did, I might consider switching from Tri-X.
Efke 100 in PMK or ABC looks like it might become a second standard film for me, because it's available in 11x14, responds very well to pyro, is a little finer grained than Tri-X, and has an attractive tonality.
Then there are a few films I like for specific effects--
Ektapan in ABC pyro for Hollywood-style portraits, at least until I run out of 8x10", as it's been discontinued.
Fomapan T200 for a kind of Alvin Langdon Coburn/Fritz Lang look.
I don't do very much B&W in 35mm anymore, but if I want the grainy look, I've got a bunch of Double-X cine stock that works well for this.
valdez: I'll agree with everything David has stated. Instead of relating my own choices (very ordinary) I must repeat that choosing one developer and one film for an extended period of picture making is most important. Someone once said "...for one year." Maybe not quite that long.
Unfortunately it takes lots of practice, that is, photographing, to get to the point where one is truly at ease with all the "stuff". I think that may be the primary reason some give up ap for dp or other. I say stick with it, join an art group (not necessarily photography only) and enter a few shows. There ain't nothin' like success.:-)
If I had to settle for one film, then it would likely be Tri-X or HP-5. As it is, I, like David, have a few that I'm used to: FP-4, APX-100, APX-25 (only 6 rolls left!).
If one is shooting professionally, then settling down to one or two films is maybe a good thing. I personally shoot for fun (and the odd print sale or commission). Trying different films is fun, so I indulge myself.
The answer depends on your level of experience, which I don't know. What format are you using? 35mm tri-x (400) has a completely different tonal range than medium/large format tri-x (320). I'd recommend that your "normal" film and normal paper be from one of the major players, so that you can buy it when you need it.
The important thing is to pick a film/developer/paper combination that work well together. providing good range of tones that you find pleasing.
If you are critically picking a film/paper for the first time, i.e., seeing how combinations actually compare in a finished print, pick 2 very different films, e.g., Tri-x and HP5. Pick two very different papers, such as Ilford Mutigrade and Bergger VCCB.
Shoot a roll of each film, develop in D76 1:1 (a great all around developer) and print both films on both papers. This should give you an idea as to the tonal range you find most appealing in your end product.
Take this combination of film/paper and work with it for a while (at least 6 months). after you've established your baseline, occasional experimentation with other combinations will be more meaningful.
For what its worth, I've fairly much standardized on tri-x professional (320) developed in pyrocat HD and printed on Bergger VCCB. I also like Ilford Warm Tone multicontrast paper. When contact printing I use the same film/developer and print on AZO.
I have stuck with:
FP4+ in HC-110
Tri-X in diafine for faster work
C-41 black and white films for use in the toy cameras
HP5+ in HC-110
I shoot only 35mm, like shallow depht of field in my photos, and enlarge some 10(no crop) to 12 times (some cropping).
Due to that, grain is relativelly important.
My main combo: PX (significantly cheaper than FP-4 for me) in an Xtol clone dev.
I like this combo very much.
Second choice, for available darkness - TX @1200 in a Diafine clone.
I shoot mainly 35mm too and I have been experimenting quite a bit lately but I always have at least one body loaded with my old friend, Tri-X. It is so responsive to exposure and developer changes that it can customized to fit all of your personal equipment, methods and preferences like a glove. If could only be one film in the world, Tri-X would get my vote without a second thought.
I soup it in Edwal FG7, usually mixed 1:15 with a 9% sodium sulfite solution.
I shoot all sizes from 35mm to 5x7". About half the film I use is FP4+ - less than half in terms of number of shots, much more than half in terms of number of films (counting each sheet as one).
I used to develop in Ilfosol-S; now I mostly use FX-2 unless I have a very good reason to use something else.