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12-14-2009, 05:15 PM   #1
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What did I get myself into??- film decisions

This is a borderline post between PP and the Film sections, so I posted it here as the right people will probably find it sooner.

Well, my Spotmatic is home after an Eric CLA and I wanted to do something different for its first roll of film. Up until now, I've been using the Kodak BW400CN so I could take it anywhere for developing. I finally was near the local camera shop while they were open and stopped by knowing they still have a fair film selection.

I was hoping they were a location that got one of the last rolls of Kodachrome so I could say I've experienced it more than just seeing Grandma's slides, but they hadn't had any in a couple years. I ended up walking out with a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400. What did I get myself into? They have to send it out for development because I don't do my own developing and they only do C-41.

I've read all sorts of comments about how you really ought to do your own B&W if you shoot it because of all the developing control options you have. I'm guessing a lab, unless otherwise directed, will take the "safe" route and will not do anything drastic unless otherwise specified. I've never seen what to really expect from a lab though..

Here are my questions/concerns:
1. I decided to try this out as the color cast with the Kodak C-41 B&W is hit and miss. I understand that this is common with the other C-41 B&W as well, correct?

2. Am I gaining anything by paying a premium for an outside lab to develop the "real" b&w? I've lost some control since I don't know what to specify- what's the likelihood that the lab will do something where I lost what I should be gaining by shooting this film?

3. What does it take to develop a roll of film yourself time and material cost-wise? Sounds like a few different chemicals, a few tubs and a reel. While I love having control over everything so I'm the only one to blame if something goes wrong, I really don't have any desire to do my own developing at this time since I don't shoot a whole lot of film. Plus I'd need a real scanner.

4. Should I just stick with my C-41 b&w and deal with the color cast? The local lab seems to control it much better than Walgreens and they scan for $2 now.

I guess I'm open to suggestions on how to get a grip on all these options. When I was a kid with my film p&s, I just bought the cheapest color stuff on the shelf. Now I'm up for experimenting as long as it doesn't cost me a fortune and a bunch of extra time.

12-14-2009, 05:49 PM   #2
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Well the colour cast from C-41 process B&W is caused in part by 'used' chemicals. Your local lab should have a more rigorous process for maintaining top quality. They may also have a better minilab and pay more attention to the process.

Your lab processing a real B&W film will probably offer a range of service. These range from 'by the book' processing (using a strict method and timings) - to push/pull processed prints with burn/dodge where needed.

The results range from better than C-41, to much better than C-41! Even by the book silver process should result in more contrasty, sharper looking images. You'll also get nice grain, which is absent from C-41 B&W film (this could be seen as a good thing or not).

There are guys on this forum who work in labs that have a better understanding of the ins and outs of B&W work than i do though, so take their advice on how difficult it would be to develop B&W yourself.
12-14-2009, 06:17 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by tvfd911 Quote

I guess I'm open to suggestions on how to get a grip on all these options. When I was a kid with my film p&s, I just bought the cheapest color stuff on the shelf. Now I'm up for experimenting as long as it doesn't cost me a fortune and a bunch of extra time.
How about this... avoid all the issues. Shoot in color, scan your film in, and perform B&W conversions as and where desired.

Advantages? Legion. Forget all the chemicals, the dedicated workspace, etc. You can scan negs or even prints if you like... your scanner can do ICE or whatever else proprietary IR dust/scratch removal against color negs (as is required) and then you can start learning digital darkroom by preparing your own B&W conversions. That gets you part of the way into the digital world without completely going off the cliff and removes all the vagaries and hand wringing over color cast versus pro processing. You end up being able to shoot color and B&W on the same roll. Hell I don't even print anymore until I've been through the scans and worked up the keepers.

I know it is not the purist way, but neither is C41 B&W. It was the way I eventually went and I do not regret it at all. My favorite B&W film remains Fuji Reala. Heh. One of these days I will return to real darkroom, but for the time being the simplicity is nice and it has drawn me further into digital.

The nice thing about digital is that it constantly reminds me of how much I really love film.


12-14-2009, 09:06 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by tvfd911 Quote
1. I decided to try this out as the color cast with the Kodak C-41 B&W is hit and miss. I understand that this is common with the other C-41 B&W as well, correct?
This is the only one I'll address.
Unless you specify No Corrections to your prints the lab tech will make the prints loo like they envision them to look. This of course means that you'll have to nail the exposure, or they just won't look right.

However if they don't look like true B&W it's possible that the lab tech hasn't switched the machine over to the B&W setting.
They may not even know there is a B&W setting on it.

12-14-2009, 11:13 PM   #5
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In decreasing order of dificulty:

1. baking a chocolate cake from scratch
2. mixing a good martini
3. developing your own B/W film
4. heating a frozen pizza

If you really want to learn how to develope your own film, just ask we can get you pointed in the right direction.
12-15-2009, 05:06 AM   #6
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The color cast of C41 BW comes from the use of color paper, it generally comes aubergine purple or green/brown out of the machine. Unless your operator is trained and aware and applies the right tonal adjustment.

Develping your own film is extremely easy and well worth the effort..... just a caveat, it can be addictive
12-15-2009, 06:46 AM   #7
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I can attest to that. Must be something in the chemicals :X
12-15-2009, 06:57 AM   #8
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Unless you want to pay for the prints, why get them? I usually ask for 'cd only' and then it is a simple matter of desaturating (or tinting to my liking) the aubergene or green cast of the scan.

Setting up for home developing of 'real' b&w film seems daunting at first, but once you have the necessary bits and chemicals, it's really easy - all you do is follow instructions, and presto!

12-16-2009, 04:33 AM   #9
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I agree with the other posters that developing your own film is possible and sometimes even easy, but its simplicity is often overstated. It does take practice to get it right - sometimes you'll hit the nail on the head the first time with a new film, and then struggle to repeat your results subsequently.

Why not shoot C-41 b&w (I'd recommend Ilford XP2) and scan the negs? C-41 b&w negs scan very well, and XP2 does have grain, it's just a strange grain, more like a charcoal drawing than a photo (it's quite nice actually).

Last edited by artobest; 12-20-2009 at 03:43 PM.
12-16-2009, 04:50 PM   #10
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Original Poster
thanks for all the replies everyone. My prior film practice has mostly been no prints, just scan to CD. The only scanner I own is a multifunction printer Epson Workforce 500, and while I haven't tried scanning film with it, I doubt it'd work well which is one of the reasons I question how much sense it makes for me to develop my own stuff. For the little I shoot, a decent scanner probably won't get worth the cost.

The last b&w c-41 film I had was a couple of months ago and the scan from Walgreens had the color cast as well, and at the time, I didn't have a good tool for correcting it. I now have Lightroom, so the color cast is probably easier to deal with using Lightroom. If I start consistantly taking my film to the local photo shop instead of Walgreens, the color cast would probably be better controlled. I doubt my Walgreens people know how to run the machine properly and when I have used the local shop, the results were better. If only they had a little easier hours than 9-5 weekdays and a couple hours Saturday morning I'd never even deal with Walgreens.

Woof, your method makes sense in practical ways. Hone my LR b&w adjustment skills (of which I have none yet) instead of deal with all of this and also apply to my digital photos better. Somehow practicallity hasn't sunk in yet though...

When this role of film is finished, I'll try the XP2 (liked the samples) while I wait for this role to be developed and see how that works. If I'm happy with its results, I'll generally stick with c-41 and not deal with sending it out.

I'll see how this role treats me before I get too worked up over it.
12-17-2009, 06:16 AM   #11
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The problem is that if you stick to C-41 process film, you will never experience the joys of Tri-x 400 for its nice grain or Agfa APX100 for fine portraits or Delta 3200 pushed to 6400 for those flashless night time shots.

If you are happy to scan your negs, you don't need a darkroom, just a changing bag, a Paterson tank and some chemicals which are quite cheap and still easy to source. Go on...... give it a try..... its addictive

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