View Full Version : What speed 4x5 film for newbie?

26-Oct-2017, 12:23
I am about to order some 4x5 b&w film and I am curious as to what speed I should be using while learning. I already developed some Ilford 400 but have yet to do any contact prints.

26-Oct-2017, 13:33
I only shoot 100-speed film (including Ilford FP4+), and generally only b&w with a bit of color transparency.

My emphasis is on image quality. 100-speed film can be much better than 400-speed or faster.

- Leigh

26-Oct-2017, 13:33
IMO, I'd recommend Freestyle's Arista.EDU for learning mainly because it's inexpensive, and it's a decent film (rebranded Foma film last I knew.) Buy a bunch and shoot a lot!

26-Oct-2017, 13:43
ISO 100 is a great start. Your work is likely to be on a tripod. A faster speed is not necessary unless your subject blurs, then consider faster film, wider aperture. In other words, it depends.

26-Oct-2017, 16:15
To quote from The Film Developing Cookbook: "Ilford FP4 is a film to judge all others by". May not be exact but that is basically what it says. Don't have the book with me to make sure of each word.

26-Oct-2017, 16:44
There's only a stop or two difference between the EI (working speed) of the next highest film, so speed does not make too much difference, grain is not much of an issue with normal sized enlargements, but the main difference will be tonal rendition between different speed or makes of film... One type might render the subjects you normally shoot and under the typical light in your locale to your preference... Some films/processing might have a slightly higher/lower key bias in the midtones (depending on situation), so consider...

Exotic films will not give exotic results, just different processes/exposures will produce slightly different renderings, so as suggested, start with one available/affordable film and stick with it, as it will give you results, and you can learn it's range of possibilities... (Don't "machine gun" different brands/types of films expecting a "magic bullet"...) The best results come from thorough experience/testing of your materials/process... All films can give great results once you get a feel for them...

Steve K

26-Oct-2017, 21:27
Agreed. No “machine gun.” I made that mistake. Pick a film and shoot it till it‘s clear you NEED something else.

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Ian Gordon Bilson
26-Oct-2017, 21:46
My vote for a 400 speed film. Given you will likely be using the F16 to F22 aperture range in daylight situations,why further limit the slow shutter speeds available? There are other factors like tripod stability (try the glass of water test),and consider the effect of wind movement. If you can overcome these,the quality of your results should leave you wondering if the subtle (?) increase in acutance, and lower granularity in the 100 speed emulsions is worth the 2 stop loss. If I had people in my images, it would be 400 ( probably rated 200,but that's another discussion), every time.

27-Oct-2017, 02:34
Taking pictures of people and/or going handheld with a press camera – ISO 400.
Tripod-mounted, generally static scenes – ISO 100.
Sticking with a well-known classic film like Ilford FP4+ makes it easier to find specific information for a wide range of developers, agitation regimes etc.

27-Oct-2017, 05:12
In summary, you are on your own.

Tobias Key
27-Oct-2017, 06:13
I would pick a 400 iso black and white film. Probably HP5+ - widely available, flexible in processing and good quality. As pointed out above less demanding on tripod and technique (faster shutter speeds or more depth of field). I wouldn't start with a cheap film as you'll want to switch over at some point anyway, and then you'll have to learn a new film.

27-Oct-2017, 07:30
In summary, you are on your own.

... but there’s a way to figure it out.

Try this: set a light meter to 100 and meter a scene you are interested in photographing. Do any of the available exposures allow you to capture the image as you desire. Then set the meter to 400 and repeat. Do this for the typical scene types you are in photographing. Very soon you will figure out which is best for you.

I’m in the 100 camp, even for handheld press camera work. I have a bunch of 400 film that just keeps getting older and older.

27-Oct-2017, 15:56
In summary, you are on your own.

lol Indeed :o

27-Oct-2017, 16:43
400 for me too. HP5+ is a great film to learn, and keep using.

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28-Oct-2017, 00:12
I'll offer another perspective: a box of whatever is cheapest and/or to hand. Make it work, find out how it works for your desired images, and get yourself some data for a minimum cost. *Then* you're in a better position to decide whether you need something faster or slower.

Personally I prefer 100ASA which I often slightly overexpose (i.e. 64ASA), because there's little I shoot that isn't stationary, and I care about shadow detail most of the time. And of course, 100ASA, 1/100th, f16 when the sun is shining brightly works when all else fails!


Graham Patterson
28-Oct-2017, 09:00
FP4 or HP5.

I mostly use Delta 100 (EI 50) with some HP5 (EI 200), but a) I live in Northern California, about 15 degrees of latitude further south than Yorkshire so I have generally brighter days, and b) I use a fair bit of Delta in roll film formats, which influences my choice.

Stick with what you know, or the nearest equivalent, then you will not be trying to learn a new film/developer combination with all the quirks of large format.

28-Oct-2017, 13:21
As has been evident by the responses here, get some 100 speed film, or get some 400 speed film, or get some of each and GO OUT AND SHOOT!.

But don't make my mistake. As has been suggested, Arista 100 EDU is inexpensive. I bought a bunch of it thinking, "How bad could it be?" Well, I have not been able to get to like this film at all. I just find it ugly.

Get some TMax 100 or 400 or FP4+ or Tri X and GO OUT AND SHOOT!


Bruce Barlow
28-Oct-2017, 17:31
I think more film speed gives you more flexibility. HP5, and smaller apertures.

28-Oct-2017, 18:56
I am about to order some 4x5 b&w film and I am curious as to what speed I should be using while learning. I already developed some Ilford 400 but have yet to do any contact prints.Try xray film...full speed is about 200 iso and half speed is 100 . a 100 sheet box of 8x10 is about $35. That cuts down to 400 sheets of 4x5. Check the specs as most is red light safe but some is green light

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David Karp
28-Oct-2017, 20:38
Think about whether you will use filters. Even a yellow #8 will cost you a stop. A #25 red, way more. If you start at 100 ISO, you may be getting into long exposures. If you shoot at less than box speed, like most of us probably, the exposures get even longer. If you like to shoot 100 speed, try some Arista.EDU 200 or Foma 200 (same stuff) shot at 100. My favorite is HP5+. The only way for you to know is to try a film out.

Alan Gales
28-Oct-2017, 23:27
Look at the image sharing section here and study a lot of photographs. On your favorite images notice which film and developer they used. Try that as a starting point.

29-Oct-2017, 20:26
Campy, take the suggestion to get some Arista Edu. You are going to make a lot of mistakes, including some really stupid ones. Don't make them with expensive film. Save the FP4 for later.

30-Oct-2017, 03:20
Get a box of Foma 100 (Arista Edu) and burn through that. After having done that, you'll have some ideas and some experience. Just jump in and get on with it.

The imaging chain is a long and complex thing. What you see on the web is not the same thing as holding a print in your hand. That's where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.