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09-24-2008, 04:19 PM   #1
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B&W Film Questions

I havn't shot B&W film since high school and wanted to try some out. I love the 'old-school' look and feel of B&W images. I've got some questions about it all, though.

I'm looking for a high-contrast, fine-grained film. My memory is telling me that Tri-X was a high-contrast film. Is this true?

Should I be using a green filter?

I am well aware that the developing chemistry is different than C-41 or E-6-- any other things I need to watch out for? Any general advice?

Thanks!

09-24-2008, 04:54 PM   #2
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Clawhammer,

If you want fine grain you might want to steer towards Plus-X with an ASA rating of 125. It isn't as contrasty as 400 ASA Tri-X, but the grain is much tighter. Ilford FP4 Plus is also a good choice if tight grain is your goal. HP5 Plus is the Tri-X equivalent in the Ilford family. If yu can find it the Ilford Delta films come in 100, 400 and 3200 ASA.

I usually use a yellow filter to bump up the contrast. I never was a fan of the exaggerated contrast and loss of 1/2 f stop that the green filter caused.

These films should be developed in chemisty like Kodak D-76 or Dektol. Ilford also makes chemistry for delveloping these films, I always used Ilford Perceptol and ID-11 with good results.

Good Luck,

Ray
09-24-2008, 05:24 PM   #3
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Ditto what Ray said, though I usually use Ilford DDx developer. It's a liquid developer (no mixing powders) that is supposedly geared toward fine grain. The Ilford Delta 400 film will give you fast speed like the Tri-X or HP5 with a bit less grain.

Adam
09-24-2008, 05:35 PM   #4
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how's the XP2 Super? being able to be C-41 processed is cool

09-24-2008, 08:15 PM   #5
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Thanks for all the responses. Looks like I'm gonna get a roll of Tri-X and a roll of Plus-X and try them out.
09-25-2008, 03:14 AM   #6
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Please keep in mind I'm borderline insane and should not be used as any sort of sensible example.

I'm the kinda guy who'd push Tri-X three stops for everyday shooting. I like Tri-X. The grain's a bit more obvious than more modern films, but it's nice grain. I dev it in D-76, which is a match made in heaven as far as I'm concerned. Tri-X in D-76 at stock speed:



At 1600:



Remember the beautiful thing about a "chunky" cube-grain film like Tri-X is that it's got a stop of latitude either way. You can underexpose by a stop and develop normally - Tri-X don't blink. You'd probably need a densitometer to tell...because I've done it with about every roll of Tri-X I've shot and I can't tell the bleedin' difference.

My favourite modern (ie, T-grain) film is definitely the Fuji Neopan series. The 1600 is fine-grained, with fantastic contrast:



The 400 is breathtaking. Very sharp in resolution. But the term "crisp". Fine, starched white linen comes to mind, for some reason:



The 100 (Neopan Acros) is very tight-grained, but a little less contrasty than the 400, which I'm not too fond of. But it's very tightly grained, when developed in Perceptol, and very sharp, even if developed in Perceptol, as here:



I don't mind Ilford's Delta films...it's just that they're kind of middle of the road for me. There's nothing that makes them jump out at me, but here's some Delta 400 pushed two stops to 1600:



Ilford's HP5+'s not entirely awful, it's just that it's I've yet to take a good picture on it. Ok, well, when I developed it, I used HC-110, maybe that had something to do with it, and that I think I pushed it a stop or two. But it's rather like a more expensive Tri-X:
09-25-2008, 05:44 AM   #7
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XP2 Super is a very good film , great for portriats shot as 200
it can be shot anywhere bewteen 100 and 800 with good results
QuoteOriginally posted by k100d Quote
how's the XP2 Super? being able to be C-41 processed is cool
09-25-2008, 12:04 PM   #8
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Lithos, thanks for all the examples. As for being insane, I think most good artists are

09-25-2008, 12:45 PM   #9
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Man I sometimes miss splashin' around negatives and papers in chemicals developing photographs.
My first set up when I lived with my parents. An upstairs room with shades, curtains, black sheets over the windows. Hand made charts and reference guides taped on the wall. All my equipment was second hand and ancient.
Then when I move out, I transformed one of the bathrooms into my darkroom.
Trays ontop of racks over the tub, negatives and photographs hanging from string and shower curtain rod.

*weeps a little*
09-25-2008, 01:29 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithos Quote
Please keep in mind I'm borderline insane and should not be used as any sort of sensible example.

I'm the kinda guy who'd push Tri-X three stops for everyday shooting.
be careful saying something like this as many will think you have been smelling the chemicals too long

but seriously, I too used to go out at night loaded with Tri-X 400 and expose it at 3200, then develop it for about 30 minutes.

The images are unlike anything you can get from digital.
09-26-2008, 05:47 AM   #11
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Yeah. I didn't do it for a while, because everybody'd be whining "Oh, the grain! It's horrendous!"

But then I stopped listening to those people, as they're the kind of guys who call ISO 200 a "fast" film, and think photography's having subjects that can be perfectly still for the 1/2 of a second, with your camera on your tripod.

It's never as bad as people say. The impressions some people give off make it sound like you film turns into some so of silver-bromide mosaic.

I'm gonna say it: Anal- er, Ansell Adams was a good dark room technician, bad photographer.

Give me the fast end of photography, the blink or you'll miss it. Give me contrast, give me grain, a centre-weighted meter and the lens wide open...I think it was someone in APUG who said, "It's called grain, it's meant to be there..." and give me a Paterson tank and a bag of D-76.

Yes indeed, it's unlike digital. No filter I've found can give me the look of film.
09-28-2008, 02:37 PM   #12
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What about Agfa Scala 200x Vario Speed 100-1600 ?
I bought a pack of 5 for 15 € at Photokina...
At which speed is it best ?
Do I need a special developer or is ID-11 ok ?
09-28-2008, 02:57 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithos Quote

I'm gonna say it: Anal- er, Ansell Adams was a good dark room technician, bad photographer.
Grain has its place. After all, it is what the picture is made of.

I personally shoot a lot of landscapes and still-life stuff and grain often detracts. I have also found that my work benefits from the dynamic range of the slower emulsions.

As far as Adams is concerned...No, he did not do street or sports photography nor was he much into wildlife. He shot landscapes. That is what he did. Now if landscape photography requires a certain amount of anal retentiveness, well so be it.

But, before you call him a bad photographer, I would challenge you to approach his subjects with a camera and produce "better" results. Only then, can you call his work bad.

Steve

(Have seen original Adams prints in the flesh...no, they are not bad...)

BTW...Ansel Adams also did the occasional portrait or group photo of school children...one has to pay the bills.

Last edited by stevebrot; 09-28-2008 at 08:31 PM.
09-28-2008, 08:00 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by k100d Quote
how's the XP2 Super? being able to be C-41 processed is cool
I used the chromagenics many years ago. The big advantage is the variable ISO/ASA on the same roll. One does not even have to tell the camera that you are under/over exposing. It doesn't have the character of the true black and white negative films though. I used it mostly for newspaper grab shots.
09-29-2008, 05:07 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
But, before you call him a bad photographer, I would challenge you to approach his subjects with a camera and produce "better" results. Only then, can you call his work bad.
It's the whole Group f64 and Zone System philosophy I can't stand, really. Control everything to the nth degree; only then may you press the shutter. Photography for accountants and actuaries. You know Group f64 outlawed filters, right?

Whether or not someone who's a fan of Ansel Adams can objectively judge my version of Adams' Photograph of Californian Mountain Number 1 457 213 is another matter .

Which brings me to my next point...shooting the same stuff as Adams would require me to somehow make it across the Pacific. Did he ever leave North America to shoot?

Well, it's just that when you place too much emphasis on technique, then the subject doesn't matter. Maybe that's why Ansel got away with a million interchangeable prints that have no narrative in them. Perhaps it's a lack of empathy on my part, in being able to see how carrying a goddamn checklist you must fill out every time you set up a shot:

Have you:

* Stopped the lens all the way down?
* Made sure your tripod's steady?
* Metered the dark shadows, the slightly less dark shadows, the shadows, the dark midtones, the midtones, the light midtones, the dark highlights, the highlights, the very bright highlights, plus the other two tonal areas you'll need to make this a total of eleven meterings?
* Have you wasted enough of this film to know how it looks with all the above meterings?


I'm not sure Ansel had to pay many bills, as his family was one of those New England blue-bloods.

I'm not sure "doing what everyone has done before" is something I'd be content with.

For a photog from this time, give me Frank Hurley - a man whose guts were only dwarfed by the size of his balls. If Ansel ever dived into a ship's sunken hold lying in freezing Antactic waters to retrieve his photographic plates, well, maybe the dude wasn't so bad after all. Not likely, considering if he lost a shot of a cliff face, he could always go back the next day.
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