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02-03-2009, 03:31 PM   #1
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Questions about C-41 and non C-41 BW film.

I just started taking a Film photography class. We will be working with BW and developing BW films. The teacher asked us to pick up a couple of rolls of BW films for the class. He said to get the Kodak Tri-X 400 film. He also said other BW films will work as well but just make sure that it is NOT C-41 BW.

I didn't ask him why at the time because I didn't think of it until now. So I did a little research and found out the C-41 was really a Colored film but but is in BW. They made this to be processed more easily or something.

I have a few questions that I wasn't able to find a clear answer to.
Is there really a difference in the quality between a C-41 type bw film and the "real" BW film?
Also how is the processing different if I process them myself?(I thought BW processing was easier so why is C-41 more convenient?)
Does it matter if it is C-41 or not if I take it to a lab to process it?

02-03-2009, 03:44 PM   #2
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If you process it yourself, non c-41 is the choice. If you take it to a shop to be processed, the color process c-41 is much more common so just about any photo lab can do it for you and at least where I live most of the labs don't process anything else. In this case you really should pick up some non c-41 because you're going to learn how to process the film at home.
02-03-2009, 04:31 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperAkuma Quote
I just started taking a Film photography class. We will be working with BW and developing BW films. The teacher asked us to pick up a couple of rolls of BW films for the class. He said to get the Kodak Tri-X 400 film. He also said other BW films will work as well but just make sure that it is NOT C-41 BW.

I didn't ask him why at the time because I didn't think of it until now. So I did a little research and found out the C-41 was really a Colored film but but is in BW. They made this to be processed more easily or something.

I have a few questions that I wasn't able to find a clear answer to.
Is there really a difference in the quality between a C-41 type bw film and the "real" BW film?
Also how is the processing different if I process them myself?(I thought BW processing was easier so why is C-41 more convenient?)
Does it matter if it is C-41 or not if I take it to a lab to process it?

C-41 film is, by definition, colour film. Monochrome C41 is using a single colour dye layer to mimic B&W.
C-41 is convenient, in that you drop the film off and someone else does the work of processing it.
B&W film processing is far easier for the hobbyist to take on.
02-03-2009, 04:54 PM   #4
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Having used both C-41 and traditional black-and-white films, I have to say that there's not a significant quality difference. If anything, Kodak BW400CN (a C-41 bw film) is quite superior to the similarly priced traditional BW films I've used in its contrast and clarity, and grain seems practically nonexistant. Tri-X provides no contest, quality-wise. It's my favorite film. It's also my only reason not to shoot exclusively digital, I've never really been able to get digital to render the same way as that particular film and it's possible I never will. The reason your instructor is requiring traditional bw film is probably so that you can learn to process and print it yourself, which is a fascinating process.

A hint: I usually avoid 1-hour processing like the plague, but it's the only thing I use for BW400CN. The only time I ever sent it out for higher-quality processing, the prints came back flat and grainy, a huge dissapointment compared to the usual smooth, high-contrast results I got from the 1-hour processing. I'm not sure if this is because they just don't work well with that kind of film or if they mis-read it and tried to process it like conventional black-and-white film (which would produce poor results). Just to let you know in case you ever decide to try it.

02-03-2009, 05:30 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by er1kksen Quote
Having used both C-41 and traditional black-and-white films, I have to say that there's not a significant quality difference. If anything, Kodak BW400CN (a C-41 bw film) is quite superior to the similarly priced traditional BW films I've used in its contrast and clarity, and grain seems practically nonexistant. Tri-X provides no contest, quality-wise. It's my favorite film. It's also my only reason not to shoot exclusively digital, I've never really been able to get digital to render the same way as that particular film and it's possible I never will. The reason your instructor is requiring traditional bw film is probably so that you can learn to process and print it yourself, which is a fascinating process.

A hint: I usually avoid 1-hour processing like the plague, but it's the only thing I use for BW400CN. The only time I ever sent it out for higher-quality processing, the prints came back flat and grainy, a huge dissapointment compared to the usual smooth, high-contrast results I got from the 1-hour processing. I'm not sure if this is because they just don't work well with that kind of film or if they mis-read it and tried to process it like conventional black-and-white film (which would produce poor results). Just to let you know in case you ever decide to try it.
I worked at a Fuji lab for eight years and we hated processing C-41 B/W film like the plague, most of it was sent by APS format and not 35mm but the results always seemed to give us bluish or pinkish tint photos and color correcting to a solid B/W photo was a nightmare. Maybe the Fuji chemicals and Kodak film weren't compatible with each other. My other nightmare was doing 110 but that's another story for another day

Barry
02-03-2009, 05:57 PM   #6
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You can actually process the Kodak BW400CN with regular black and white process. We did it once, I think at ~6 minutes 70 degrees in dektol. The only thing different is that it still has the orangish look so if you do a wet lab print, the tones will be like you have a toning filter on it.
It was just an experiment thing but it worked!

Last edited by zplus; 02-03-2009 at 09:43 PM.
02-03-2009, 07:22 PM   #7
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make sure to test a roll at your lab, some places the prints might turn out w/ a big tint
02-03-2009, 10:03 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by er1kksen Quote
Having used both C-41 and traditional black-and-white films, I have to say that there's not a significant quality difference. If anything, Kodak BW400CN (a C-41 bw film) is quite superior to the similarly priced traditional BW films I've used in its contrast and clarity, and grain seems practically nonexistant. Tri-X provides no contest, quality-wise. It's my favorite film. It's also my only reason not to shoot exclusively digital, I've never really been able to get digital to render the same way as that particular film and it's possible I never will. The reason your instructor is requiring traditional bw film is probably so that you can learn to process and print it yourself, which is a fascinating process.

A hint: I usually avoid 1-hour processing like the plague, but it's the only thing I use for BW400CN. The only time I ever sent it out for higher-quality processing, the prints came back flat and grainy, a huge dissapointment compared to the usual smooth, high-contrast results I got from the 1-hour processing. I'm not sure if this is because they just don't work well with that kind of film or if they mis-read it and tried to process it like conventional black-and-white film (which would produce poor results). Just to let you know in case you ever decide to try it.
If I don't take it to the 1 hour processing and if I can't processing the film myself(yet) where would I take it to? I never seen a film processing shop before. Are camera shop like Ritz, considered 1 hour processing as well? I really hate Ritz by the way.

02-03-2009, 10:45 PM   #9
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It matters hugely what you take to get processed.

Ritz/Wolf, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, probably your local grocery store chain all have "one-hour" type film processing outfits. Their machines can only process C-41 B&W film.
There are basically 3 different makes of C-41 B&W film: Kodak BW400CN, Ilford XP-2 and Fujicolor Neopan 400 CN (Fuji also makes Neopan 400 Professional - it is not C-41!).

If you take a roll of Tri-X or TMAX or Ilford HP5 into them and they run it through their processing machine what you will get back is a long strip of absolutely transparent film with perhaps a few cloudy spots on it where the emulsion was not completely stripped off.

Now, I know this for a fact because "a friend of mine" stupidly trusted a photo clerk at Walgreens on their word that they could process a roll of Tri-X for him "no problem". And lemme tell ya - this "friend of mine" was rather miffed when he got his film back.

As far as where to take your B&W film if you aren't going to process it yourself, you're just going to have to let your fingers do the walking in the phone listings (or google) to find processing labs in your area. There is also a processor I know of with a good rep you can send your TRI-X to and that would be Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, KS.
02-05-2009, 12:15 PM   #10
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I've used the C-41 a few times and the results from store processing can be wildly variable, from sepia looking tints to blue tints, I'd say a good lab can make good prints from it. If your not happy with the prints you back get ask them to reprint them. The negatives should be alright its usually the printing thats off.

But if you plan to do any dark room work with the C-41, it takes longer to expose your prints. I'm not sure why this. But it'll still work you just need to do some test prints to work out the correct exposure times.

I'd say that the main reason your teacher doesn't want you use the C-41 film is because you'll be doing the processing of the negatives in the the class. And if its a B/W class they won't have the chemicals to do C-41
02-05-2009, 05:00 PM   #11
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In the Bay Area

QuoteOriginally posted by SuperAkuma Quote
If I don't take it to the 1 hour processing and if I can't processing the film myself(yet) where would I take it to? I never seen a film processing shop before. Are camera shop like Ritz, considered 1 hour processing as well? I really hate Ritz by the way.
I see that you are in the Bay Area. A couple of places that I have used are:

Foto Express in San Jose - Near San Jose State
Keeble & Shuchat in Palo Alto - California Avenue
Kaufman's Camera in San Mateo - 25th Ave - They do real dip and dunk black and white printing - Old school and pricy but you can't beat the results!

I am sure that there are more but that may get you started.
02-05-2009, 05:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by zplus Quote
You can actually process the Kodak BW400CN with regular black and white process. We did it once, I think at ~6 minutes 70 degrees in dektol.
Dektol is a print developer, not a film developer.
02-05-2009, 08:55 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperAkuma Quote
He said to get the Kodak Tri-X 400 film.
A wise man, indeed.

QuoteQuote:
I have a few questions that I wasn't able to find a clear answer to.
Is there really a difference in the quality between a C-41 type bw film and the "real" BW film?
Quality, as always, is subjective. I like the look and tone of traditional BW films - Tri-X especially. Tri-X is an old-school film - chunky grain that gives it a wide latitude (basically, how bright or dark you can shoot without adjusting your dev process).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Grain is not evil. Grain is not the enemy. Don't wanna go scaring you off like that. Some people have insanely high standards for how little grain they want.

QuoteQuote:
Also how is the processing different if I process them myself?(I thought BW processing was easier so why is C-41 more convenient?)
Does it matter if it is C-41 or not if I take it to a lab to process it?
99 times out of one hundred, the average lab you find - in a chemist, Walmart, Target, will be C-41 only. It will only process C-41 films: "chromogenic" films - colour print films. What your mum used to take photos of your 5th birthday party. (Unless you're about eight years old. I'm betting you're not. Also, I apologise if you don't have a mum or are orphan or are from a...non-traditional family, as Steve Fielding wouldn't say...ah, you get the idea.)

It's the bog-standard film your see sold in supermarkets - Kodak Gold or Fujicolor. Both those companies also make professional-grade C-41 films: Kodak's Portra series, and Fuji's PRO series. Black and white versions, as Wheatfield said, just don't have the colour dyes on multiple layers that make colour negatives.

Anyway, yes, C-41 processing is more convenient, but more expensive. Much more than DIY traditional BW. You are, after all, paying someone else to do it for you.

But the beauty of traditional BW film is the variety. There are many, many more trad BW films to chose from, whereas with C-41 BW you're limited to about 3 (I think): Kodak BW400CN, Ilford XP2 Super, and Fuji NEOPAN 400CN.

Trad BW film...oh, the possibilities! Do you want Tri-X pushed three stops, devved in D-76, as I do? Neopan 100 in Perceptol? Pan-F in a mixture of instant coffee and vitamin C tablets? Lucky 100, pulled two stops, in that weird-arse five bath process that takes three hours to complete that you found on DigitalTruth.com?

Each of these will give different results - different tones, finer grain, with push back the shadows, more contrast, less contrast, bigger grain, greater sharpness...

Anything you like. Sure, there are labs out there that'll do trad BW for you, but at a cost, and often won't let you choose what developer you want.

Besides, it's a skill to have, and a fun one at that.
02-05-2009, 09:14 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by felix68 Quote
I see that you are in the Bay Area. A couple of places that I have used are:

Foto Express in San Jose - Near San Jose State
Keeble & Shuchat in Palo Alto - California Avenue
Kaufman's Camera in San Mateo - 25th Ave - They do real dip and dunk black and white printing - Old school and pricy but you can't beat the results!

I am sure that there are more but that may get you started.
Thanks. But I no longer live in the bay area, San Jose. I grew up there but moved to Sac about 7 years ago, that is when I picked up photography.

lithos,
That is a lot of info, thanks. I won't be paying anyone to developed my bw film. I am just wondering if I was going to take it to be developed where would I go? I am taking a class on film photography so all of my films will be developed in class.
02-05-2009, 09:25 PM   #15
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And remember, Kodak has a Pro Lab locator.
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