Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13

Thread: beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Moscow, ID and Gardiner, MT
    Posts
    16

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Hopefully this is a little more specific than the usual 'What should I start with?' question (although not by much). I've spent several years using 35mm Velvia while backpacking and want to try out B&W. No prior darkroom experience, although plenty of chemistry experience (academic, not narcotic =). After having spent the last week or so scouring this and other forums to make sense of the various 4x5 B&W film/developer combinations and the pros and cons of each, I decided to do the online equivalent of walking into a store and asking. I do mainly western landscapes (Beartooths, Tetons, Olympics, Cascades, San Juan Islands, etc.) in fog, snow, full sun, shaded forest, and sunrise/sunset.

    Here's what I'm looking for:

    -smooth tonal gradations
    -expansion/contraction capability
    -unblocked highlights: if that bright cloud has subtle tones in it, I want to see those on the neg.
    -rich shadow detail: ditto the above, but for patterns on tree bark and understory vegetation.

    I realize these things are perhaps more strongly influenced by exposure, development times, printing times, etc., but from what I understand some films and developers are less successful towards these ends than others. Acutance is more important to me than grain. Speed isn't much of an issue, although 100 would be nice to match the Velvia 100F I keep loaded in my Minolta (doubles as my light meter). Price isn't much of an issue either, although 100 Tmax is getting up there as film prices go.

    I just bought a Jobo 2905N tank for development, which I'll likely use with the hand roller accessory since it seems easy and less wasteful than hand inversion. Because scanning is likely at some point, I thought that perhaps Delta or Tmax would be good due to the reduced apparent grain, but many examples of Tmax that I see don't seem to have that velvety B&W look I always liked as a casual observer. I'm a grad. student in biology, so moderately complex developer concoctions are technically possible (but not desired). Product longevity (in the marketplace) and wide availability would be nice.

    Basically, I love the look of 'classic' large format work a la Ansel Adams and Alan Ross (especially the latter's Cabin, Grand Tetons) and hope to emulate it. My suspicion is that I need some basic combo and lots of experience working with it. Suggestions? Feel free to throw in development times/temps and agitation regimes for the Jobo if you have them...

    www.kerey.com
    Kerey K Barnowe-Meyer
    www.kerey.com

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    366

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Kerey, I'm in the same boat as you--I've shot Velvia for quite some time, and now I've started B&W work. Like many others have said, pick one combo and stick with it. I just decided on Efke PL100 and Pyrocat HD for 8x10 contact printing on Azo.

    I chose Efke over FP4+. It's not a big difference from what I can gather, and they're both fairly inexpensive (the FP4+ clones, that is). For a developer, I chose Pyrocat HD--inexpensive and great for contact printing on Azo (my only intention for my B&W work), yet also good for enlargement. As long as I can avoid scratches (I develop in trays, and Efke is very scratch-prone), I see no reason to ever change my choice.

    As for 400 speed film when I need the extra speed, I'm deciding between J&C classic 400 and Tmax 400. The former is inexpensive but not really great for N+++ development with Pyrocat, whereas the latter is expensive but very fast because of its excellent reciprocity characteristics (like Tmax 100 from what I remember). Good luck with whatever you choose.

  3. #3
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Location
    Rio Rancho, NM
    Posts
    3,844

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    I agree that numerous combinations suit the objectives you describe, Kerey. Personally, I've settled in on Ilford FP4+ as my standard medium-speed, and HP5+ when I need the extra speed. They both develop nicely (IMHO) in DD-X, but I've been tempted to try Pyrocat HD, too.

  4. #4
    Resident Heretic
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    USA, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,956

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    I'll add my voice to the chorus. Most any combination will do, and you are best served by picking one and learning it really well - which will give you enough information to make an intelligent choice if and when you decide to change. Which one doesn't really matter - they're all pretty darn good.

    One thing to note. I think you'll find that speed does, in fact, matter. The bigger the format, the smaller the aperture used in capture. For example, f/22 is normal in 4x5 land, and I've used lenses in 35mm land that didn't close down that far. Even with Tri-X, I find that many of my exposures are in the 1/4 second range.

    I use Tri-X and XTOL at 1:3 for landscape work, and have enlarged this combination up to 1.0 x 1.25 meters without noticable grain, but with excellent sharpness. So of course, that's what I'd recommend you start with ;-)

    As always, YMMV.

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    No. Virginia
    Posts
    363

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    They are all good answers. I started off in the 60's with Tri-X and D-76 1+1. I spent the next thirty years searching for that silver bullet. A great waste of time, film, chemicals and money. I'm back to Tri-X & D76 1+1.

    You already knew the answer when you said "Basic combo & experience". You say you like the "Classic" look. So do I. Pick any classic old style type film. Tri-X, Fp4, Fp5, Efke (a bit soft, may want a hardener) Pick a standard developer, D-76, HC 110, Rodinal, Id11, any Pyro etc. and stick with it. Do not read or act on any magazine article pushing the latest silver bullet. The Lone Ranger is dead. His supply of silver bullets are long lost to history.

  6. #6
    Octogenarian
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Frisco, Texas
    Posts
    3,522

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Hi Kerey,

    A faster film would be more practical for outdoor photography, as Hogarth mentioned. Grain is not an issue with large format negatives, as it is with small formats, unless you are planning on making extremely large prints. However, since you state your preference for a 100 speed film, Ilford PF-4+ would be a good choice (see: Anchell and Troop "The Film Developing Cookbook").

    Ilford DD-X is an excellent developer to use with that film. However, you state that acutance is more important to you than fine grain. DD-X is a relatively high acutance developer. High acutance is difficult to obtain with DD-X using rotary (continuous) development. DD-X works best with slow intermittent agitation. Perhaps Bostick and Sullivan's Rollo Pyro developer would be a better choice (www.bostick-sullivan.com) in combination with PF-4+ film.

  7. #7
    Octogenarian
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Frisco, Texas
    Posts
    3,522

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Hello again Kerey,

    If you find it difficult to obtain Ilford PF-4+ film, try Bergger BPF 200. It's becoming more readily available and will give you that "classic" look you are seeking. Especially in combination with an exotic developer like Rollo Pyro.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Posts
    40

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Kerey,

    There are a couple of wrinkles to the process of shooting and printing B&W that you may not have considered, and that might have some bearing on your choice of film and developer.

    As I read your post, you want to shoot in everything from very flat light to very contrasty light, and you intend to print your negatives conventionally, in a wet darkroom. although you may print digitally in the future. If you hope to make good B&W prints from negatives shot in a wide variety of lighting conditions, you will need to learn some variant of the zone system.

    What the Zone system does is give you a way to vary the exposure and development of your negative according to scene contrast so that each negative you make will print well on your chosen grade and type of paper. In other words, you make a negative whose density range will nicely fit the available density range of your printing paper. Since you intend to shoot scenes with subject brightness ranges that vary from about four stops to perphaps ten stops or more, you will have to alter the exposure and development of each large format negative to produce a negative with the desired density range. Of course the ease with which you can do this when shooting sheet film is one of its great advantages.

    As you have a background in science, you will not find the Zone System difficult to master, but it will require you to think about exposure and development in a way that shooting transparencies has not prepared you for.

    Good Zone System work can be done with almost any of the film/developer combinations thus far mentioned, but some are certainly easier to work with than others. For example, two developers-- HC-110 and TMaxRS-- have fairly narrow development latitude with most films; that is, you can vary development time quit a lot without producing a big change in negative density. That makes them inherently forgiving of mistakes, but frustrating for handling scenes in extremely flat or extremely contrasty lighting. At the other extreme, 100TMax in D-76 is has tremendous development latitude-- relatively small changes in time produce significant changes in negative density; but the price you pay for that is its notorious sensitivity to time and temperature changes. Stay away from this combination unless you are prepared to work with great precision.

    A further wrinkle: changing the development time for a B&W film can alter its film speed somewhat. Often this can be ignored, but you should be aware of the phenomenon.

    Finally, the true speed of many B&W films is lower than the speed advertised on the box. The most frequently cited examples: TriX320 has a true speed in most developers closer to 160, and FP4+(125) has a true speed closer to 80.

    I use HP5+ and develop in DD-X using continuous agititation in BTZS tubes. This combination has many advantages: development latitude, grain, sharpness, and tonality are all very good-- at least for enlargements to 16X20, which is as big as I can go in my darkroom. For scenes of normal contrast, I rate HP5+ at 320, or 1/3 stop below its nominal speed of 400. As I seem always to be shooting in a breeze, I welcome the additional speed over the 100 speed films, which have superior sharpness and grain.

    I am a subscriber to Phil Davis's DMax Newsletter, in which he publishes the results of his film/developer tests. Other film developer combinations that appear to be very good, but which I have not personally tried, are:

    Delta 100 in XTOL, D-76, or DD-X;

    Tri-X in XTOL, D-76, or DD-X;

    FP4+ in XTOL, D-76, or DD-X.

    As far as availability, Kodak has recently opened a new plant to manufacture its film, which I take to be a good sign for its future availability.

    Good luck.

    David

  9. #9
    Octogenarian
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Frisco, Texas
    Posts
    3,522

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Sorry Kerey,

    That's Ilford FP-4+ film, not PF-4+. That's what I get for trying to think before having my first cup of coffee in the morning. I should have learned that a long time ago.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Moscow, ID and Gardiner, MT
    Posts
    16

    beginner's film/dev FAQ... but w/ some details

    Thank you all for your help! In the back of my mind I suspected that all the back-and-forth that goes on about various developers and film has merit but may be too anal-retentive for what I'm looking for. Kinda like asking for recommendations on a car that can do 60 on the freeway... perhaps more of a concern back in the day, but everything made now will hardly miss a beat. I hadn't considered the small apertures as it relates to film speed; a very good point.

    www.kerey.com
    Kerey K Barnowe-Meyer
    www.kerey.com

Similar Threads

  1. working out details for next project
    By domenico Foschi in forum Darkroom: Film, Processing & Printing
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 29-Nov-2004, 23:22
  2. more details about ilford
    By adrian tyler in forum Darkroom: Film, Processing & Printing
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 15-Oct-2004, 22:43
  3. Beginner's Film Development
    By David Haardt in forum Darkroom: Film, Processing & Printing
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 30-May-2001, 17:38
  4. ANSI Film Holder Details
    By David Nash in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 2-Nov-2000, 07:51
  5. Beginner's questions about roll film backs
    By Roger Rouch in forum Gear
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 21-Nov-1999, 14:23

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •