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12-19-2009, 07:30 PM   #1
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Indoor (probably), available light portrait film, B/W?

I'm going to visit my grandparents in England for the New Year, and I'm planning on shooting portraits of them as well as recording old stories of theirs. They are all of them aging very quickly, and I know that in at least one case, this will probably be the last time I see them, so I want to do this right. I want to take some black and white portraits of them, since I can develop and print it myself. Since one of my grandfathers is bed-ridden, this will probably be indoors and available light shooting.

What film would you recommend for this project? I've got my eyes on Fuji Neopan 400, Tri-X, and HP5, but I don't know if I'm off the mark. I have a gift certificate to B&H, so I'd prefer films that they sell on their website if possible. Any recommendations? Even better, examples?

Thank you all so much for helping me with this project!

12-19-2009, 08:38 PM   #2
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All those films you mention will do the job just fine. You'll have latitude to shoot at EI800 if needed. And one being better than the other is a matter of opinion and to some extent what developer you use.

But what's confusing is that you say you develop your own film and prints and you make it sound like you never shot 400 film before. If these shots are important, you better shoot and develop some before you go to get some experience with the film, IMHO.

Flickr is full of examples with groups devoted to those films. Here are a few of those groups.

Tri-X
Neopan 400
HP5+

But be advised you'll need to look at tags on the photos. You could be looking at 320TXP for example in Tri-X since the group covers various flavors and you could be seeing medium and possibly large format in those groups.

Last edited by tuco; 12-19-2009 at 09:00 PM.
12-19-2009, 08:51 PM   #3
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Yeah, I wasn't clear. I haven't developed much film for a few years, but I used to shoot Tri-X and HP5 in high school when I did. Only recently do I again have access to a darkroom, stocked with Sprint chemicals (a school darkroom). I don't know if Sprint chemicals do better with one of the above films or not. It worked well back in the day, but I never did much portrait work since I was never pushed out of my comfort zone like that. So, I do develop and print on my own, but I haven't actively done this for a while, and I'm really unsure of what film to start with. I know most students seem to use Tri-X or HP5, but that might just be because it's well-known.
12-19-2009, 09:17 PM   #4
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Sprint chemicals? I've never heard of it. I did a search. I came up with print developer. Yeah, it sounds like you better develop some film before you develop those portrait shots. It would be a *really* good idea. I've shot all those films you mention in medium format. Which one I'll shoot on a given day depends on what developer I'm going to use or how much film I have on hand.

Good luck with your project.

12-19-2009, 09:30 PM   #5
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I've considered getting either rodinal or diafine instead of sprint. I know they're very different, but both look to have produced beautiful negatives from what I've seen. I worry about some reports that diafine-developed negs aren't great for printing, so I'm leaning more towards rodinal. However, I also will probably want to push my film for this project to between 800 and 1600, so that leads me more to diafine. Do you have any experience pushing with rodinal?
12-19-2009, 09:33 PM   #6
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I love Rodinal but you're too inexperienced to use it. Don't mess with Diafine, same problem. They're both fine, but I think you'd be better off with something maximum conventional.

Rodinal is about the sharpest, most grainy developer you'll find...and it gets more grainy when you push. I push to 1200 with it, but just about everything is better for pushing.

Go with Neopan 400 or any other B&W film about that speed (makes no difference in your case), rate it at 800 (don't push your luck) and process it in D76 or ID11. Look up processing times.

800 will give you plenty of shadow detail if you expose and process properly. On the other hand, if you rate it at 400 you'll have even more shadow detail.

No developer is going to give a rookie better looking prints than any other developer. You should concentrate on getting good lighting and good relationships with your subjects rather than imagining that chemistry will solve anything. Get sophisticated about developers and films with a less important project. Best wishes!


QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
I've considered getting either rodinal or diafine instead of sprint. I know they're very different, but both look to have produced beautiful negatives from what I've seen. I worry about some reports that diafine-developed negs aren't great for printing, so I'm leaning more towards rodinal. However, I also will probably want to push my film for this project to between 800 and 1600, so that leads me more to diafine. Do you have any experience pushing with rodinal?

Last edited by janosh; 12-19-2009 at 09:49 PM.
12-19-2009, 11:16 PM   #7
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Since you say these are important shots I personally would shoot in color and have them professionally processed and scanned. Then PP to B&W in photoshop. Ideally I'd shot digital in this case. And yes I do know how to process film and print it. But if I were shooting such an important event I'd follow my own advice for once.
12-19-2009, 11:20 PM   #8
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Yes, I've done a 2 stop push with Rodinal before. But it's not the ideal developer for pushing. Yeah, I second what janosh says. Start off with D76/ID11 or even XTOL. Kodak has plenty of good info and instructions in their data sheets.

12-20-2009, 09:55 AM   #9
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I would go for Neopan 400 and 1600 (in case light is not enogh)

Sprint chemicals are quite good, a nice D76 clone and their fixer was excellent
If you can go for ilford DDX as developer for the above, the combo is brilliant and allows for much better push than Sprint developer

QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
Yeah, I wasn't clear. I haven't developed much film for a few years, but I used to shoot Tri-X and HP5 in high school when I did. Only recently do I again have access to a darkroom, stocked with Sprint chemicals (a school darkroom). I don't know if Sprint chemicals do better with one of the above films or not. It worked well back in the day, but I never did much portrait work since I was never pushed out of my comfort zone like that. So, I do develop and print on my own, but I haven't actively done this for a while, and I'm really unsure of what film to start with. I know most students seem to use Tri-X or HP5, but that might just be because it's well-known.
12-21-2009, 10:14 AM   #10
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I'm very new to B&W developing, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. I've been shooting a lot of Freestyle's legacy pro 400(relabeled Neopan 400) and I may be in the minority, but I feel that in many/most cases 400 or even 800 are still too slow for available light portraits indoors. You could use a faster lens, but then you risk focus and depth of field issues. You could use a tripod, but then you might get some soft shots from subject movement. If you could augment the light with bounced flash or some type of fill light with reflector then you'd probably be fine.

I've recently shot some Neopan 1600 @ 1250 and found the results very pleasing. Nice tight grain, good tonality, and decent shadow detail as long as the scene isn't too high in contrast. The good thing about Neopan 1600 is that it's really a 650-1000 speed film and would likely give you good results anywhere from a 200-1600 rating without much fuss. I don't have any first hand experience but I've also heard that Ilford Delta 3200 is very nice when shot at 1250-1600 and developed for 3200 times.

I scan all my stuff and have no idea what it would look like printed optically, so i'd have to agree with the others and suggest doing a few test rolls and prints before deciding.
12-21-2009, 03:36 PM   #11
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I've never used Neopan 1600 but I HATE Delta 3200. It's mush.
12-21-2009, 03:55 PM   #12
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I was split between Neopan 400 and Tri-X, but B&H had Tri-X on sale, so I got 6 roles on my gift certificate rather than the 5 Neopans that I would have had. So, Tri-X it is. I'll probably use Sprint chemicals on most of them since that's what my school darkroom has, but I might try one roll in Rodinal, just to see.

Edit: I'll probably push the Tri-X to 800, 1250, or 1600. Really depends on the light...
12-21-2009, 08:15 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
I was split between Neopan 400 and Tri-X, but B&H had Tri-X on sale, so I got 6 roles on my gift certificate rather than the 5 Neopans that I would have had. So, Tri-X it is. I'll probably use Sprint chemicals on most of them since that's what my school darkroom has, but I might try one roll in Rodinal, just to see.

Edit: I'll probably push the Tri-X to 800, 1250, or 1600. Really depends on the light...
Important stuff is no time to be playing around with unfamiliar processes. These are times to use what you know to the best of your certainty. Keep it as simple as you have to, and do it right.

Don't even push, if you don't know what it's going to look like, I say.
12-21-2009, 09:11 PM   #14
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Fair point, you're right. I do know that Sprint works, and it's being given to me for free. I should stick with that for the important rolls, at the very least. Still interested in the Rodinal, but I'll do some less important rolls in that first.
12-22-2009, 01:30 AM   #15
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IIRC Sprint developer is a D76 clone; favorite of many schools and community darkrooms. I have used mostly their fixer which is very good, and the developer a few times.

The chart says 1+9 for 10 minutes for TX-400 but pushes are quite possible
Sprint Systems of Photography | STANDARD Black & White Film Developer Time Chart
If you shoot it at 800, then 1+9 15 min and so forth

QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
Fair point, you're right. I do know that Sprint works, and it's being given to me for free. I should stick with that for the important rolls, at the very least. Still interested in the Rodinal, but I'll do some less important rolls in that first.
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