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Thread: Film/Developer comparisons

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2002
    Lehi, UT

    Film/Developer comparisons

    This may be a pretty tall order, but it's worth a shot...

    Is there some resource, either in print or online, that displays the same image photographed using various black and white films, and developed in different developers? What I'm after is some sort of matrix which shows how film 'X' looks when developed in 'A', "B' and 'C', compared to film 'Y', developed in the same developers? I realize there are a million variables that affect the final image, but there's got to be something significant about each film/developer combination or else why do so many people spend so much time looking for it?


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Seattle, Washington

    Film/Developer comparisons

    I think that for the information gathered to be meaningful, the size of the matrix would have to be immense, as the number of variables is astronomical. It would be nice to be able to choose from a menu, though.

  3. #3

    Film/Developer comparisons

    Testing, testing, 1,2,3… I’d love to have a visual guide to making my choices in materials, but as Jay said, there are just too many choices. There is a lot of room for error and variation after that!

    In Phil Davis’ Beyond the Zone System, he shows a couple of examples of the same scene handled a couple of different ways and he matches the differences in photographs with graphs representing different film and paper characteristics. In the end I now believe one must look at what data the manufacture supplies, make some educated guesses as to what materials might work well together and then test them out. I am going to try to work with only two films and two developers, two papers and two paper developers. That seems like more than enough to keep me busy and hopefully satisfied with the range of possibilities.

    For the record I am using J&C classic and Ilford FP-4, Pyrocat HD and HC-110, Ilford multigrade IV and AZO, Ilford Multicontrast Paper Developer and Amidol. Generally the Ilford stuff stays together and the oddball stuff is a group aimed at contact printing. It calls for a lot of testing but everyone says it is worth the time. HC-110 is the most versatile developer I have ever found. There is a web site devoted to it:


  4. #4

    Film/Developer comparisons

    The best I know is Irwin Putts site Look in the techniques folder-film basics and b&w subfolders. More than you ever wanted to know. Irwin reviews Leica, but the info is applicable to all formats.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Film/Developer comparisons

    It may be incomplete to consider only a film+developer combination. In reality, it looks different, depending on how it is printed, scanned, etc.

    Even if you limit yourself to comparing characteristic curves, you need to consider color of the light that you shine through the negative. For example, variable contrast papers have a different spectral response than fixed contrast, while platinum emulsions are sensitive to UV.

    I suggest you read Sandy King's article at the Unblinking Eye web site - It covers many of these issues and a few others.

    Speaking of Unblinking Eye, I notice that the author presents some links to books on Buddhism. I may be wrong, but I think one of the primary tenets of Buddhism is there are no solitary factors which can be considered in true isolation: Everything is interconnected and interdependant. Perhaps this subject is a good an example of that theory !

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    San Clemente, California

    Film/Developer comparisons

    Dan -- welcome back!!!!

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