View Full Version : Modern black and white films

brian steinberger
22-Aug-2005, 22:30
I'm pretty new to film processing. I've been doing it for about a half a year now and I enjoy it greatly. I've been using TMAX 100 and have been getting good results with it in TMAX RS developer using hangers and tanks for 4x5. I've been reading forums in here, and saw alot of stuff about how fussy Tmax is with temperature and agitation. I don't have the greatest advanced darkroom, and I'm not too precise with my temperature or even replenishment with my developer. But I wouldn't know if I wasn't getting good results. All I know is what I'm seeing. Is there another film in the slow speed range that will give me equivelant results as TMAX without the fuss? There is no other Kodak film in the 100 speed range. I shoot Tri-x in medium format and develop it in D-76, I love it. Why don't they make another Tri-x film in the 100 speed range? Thanks for your help!

Jorge Gasteazoro
22-Aug-2005, 22:49
You might want to try Ilford Delta 100. It is made like Tmax with tabular grains but I found it was not as fuzzy as Tmax. Having said that, if you are getting results that please you, why mess with what is working?

One thing you might want to try is using Tmax RS as a one shot developer instead of as a replenishment developer, specially if you are not developing big quantities of film. All you need to do is pour the part B envelope into the part A bottle and dilute 1+9 (one part of the concentrate to 9 parts of water) every time you want to develop a sheet. I was always very happy with this dilution and it worked pretty good for me.

Good luck.

Jay DeFehr
22-Aug-2005, 23:00

Plus-X Pan is Kodak's traditional 100 speed film (actually ISO 125), but I don't know if it's still available in 4x5. Verichrome Pan was another Kodak 100 speed, traditional emulsion film, but it was discontinued a few years ago.

If you like the look of TMX, you'll be hard pressed to find another film that gives you the same look. TMX is the least grainy pictorial film made, regardless of speed, and has a very distinctive look. Since you're shooting 4x5, grain is probably not a big issue, and if you're looking to experiment with some different films and different looks, there are few films from which to choose. Traditional 100 speed films available in 4x5 include: Ilford FP4+ (ISO125), Kodak Plus-X (ISO 125)?, Efke PL 100, J&C Pro 100, and Fomapan 100. Designer-grain films include Ilford Delta 100, Fuji Acros 100, and Kodak TMX.

Just remember the old adage, "If it aint broke, don't fix it". Good luck.


David Luttmann
22-Aug-2005, 23:16

I've had good success with Xtol in a 1:2 or 1:3 dilution. Take a look at the Film Developing Cookbook for ideas. Stay away from Pyro type developers regardless of PMK or HD Pyrocat as Tab grain films don't stain well. Or, you could just stick with the Kodak RS.....it seems to be working for you and it's not a bad developer.

Jorge Gasteazoro
22-Aug-2005, 23:37
Tab grain films don't stain well

What you mean is Tmax 100 does not stain well with some staining developers. Both of Ilford's tabular grain films stain very well and I use Pyrocat HD with Tmax 400 exclusively, in addition Tmax 100 stains very well in ABC as well as WD2D. So you are wrong when you say tabular films dont stain well.

Brian C. Miller
22-Aug-2005, 23:41
I use Xtol with Tmax, but of course I use Xtol with everything! (but not on my salad...)

If you want to try Pyro, then just use it as a normal developer with a normal acid stop bath. Then you will get a normally developed negative with no stain. But I'd use Tri-X instead for Pyro with a water stop bath.

Anyways, like Dave, I use Xtol diluted, 1:1 or 1:2. Developed in either hangars or trays. Oh, incidentally, Techpan in 4x5 is still available from a number of suppliers. I think B&H may have the cheapest prices. Another option is J and C Imagelink (http://www.jandcphoto.com/index.asp?PageAction=PRODSEARCH&txtSearch=imagelink&btnSearch=GO&Page=1) film, which is a repackaged Kodak microfilm, and its cheaper than Techpan.

As for non-Kodak films, I think that Fuji Neopan Acros is good, but it's only available in the Quickload packs. Under a 22x loupe, it seems to have a similar grain size as Agfa APX 100. Comparing both of those to Tmax, Tmax has finer grain, but not as fine as Techpan.

Mark Sawyer
23-Aug-2005, 00:08
If you want to stay with a Kodak film, I'd say try Ektapan. Except they discontinued that.

Verichrome is a really nice film too. But they discontinued that.

I really liked the Royal-X. Which is probably why they discontinued that.

But you might try some Super-XX. Oops, I forgot. They discontinued that.

Well, that leaves you with Plus-X. They'll never discontinue that...

uh... right... ?

23-Aug-2005, 00:17
Of the modern emulsion films, I've only used tmax 100, so I can't comment on the others. I do think that a lot of people's experience with it being fussy and looking odd comes from it responding to developers in different ways from traditional films.

I did a lot of experimenting and found that to best exploit its capacity for sharpness and smooth grain, and to get a tonal scale that meshed well (for me) with the papers I'd been using, I had to develop it in ways different from those that work well with traditional emulsions. It seems to respond well to high concentrations of developing agents, and to high activity (alkalinity) and short developing times (5 minutes or so). Kodak's recommendation of using higher temperatures approximates this, but I don't think works as well. This same treatment makes traditional emulsion films look terrible.

Just some food for thought. If you're interested in experimenting, I'd move toward more activity and less time.

And for what it's worth, it doesn't take a high tech darkroom to keep your temperatures consistent. I've never had fancy facilities, and find it so easy to keep solutions within 1/2 a degree, that I've never bothered experimenting to find out what would happen if i didn't. You just need some kind of water bath, and a thermometer.

Eirik Berger
23-Aug-2005, 00:21
"As for non-Kodak films, I think that Fuji Neopan Acros is good, but it's only available in the Quickload packs. "

Brian, Fuji Acros is available in both 4x5" (non Quickload) and 8x10". But you have to order from Japan, i havent found it on european or US webshops. I order all my film from either USA or Japan and I have the film in my mailbox here in Norway after a week. I have used Fuji Acros (4x5 and 8x10) for some time now and have done a lot of testing to achieve the results I wanted, first I used Xtol (1:3, 14 min, 20 deg C) and were happy with my results until I tried Artdol (1:2, 4,5 min, 20 deg C). Now my Xtol negatives have a "muddish" kind of look. Dont get me wrong, I use Xtol on everything too - even my salad. But for Acros Artdol is superior. Later this week I will try Xtol undiluted with Acros, I havent tried that yet.

Maybe the best thing about Acros is its reciprocity characteristics. You can expose the film for 120 secs without adding extra time. I have tried and it works, and I find this valuable as a LF photographer often working with long shutter speeds.

John Kasaian
23-Aug-2005, 00:36
Give Efke a try! Its available in both 25 and 100 ISO, so how slow do you want to go?

David Luttmann
23-Aug-2005, 01:15
The Efke does have an interesting tonality to it.....very different to TMax. And while grain is far less of an issue than tonality, I've found Efke 25 to have more grain than TMax 100. What kind of tonality do you want Brian? What type of subject matter to you like to shoot?

David F. Stein
23-Aug-2005, 02:58
Ektapan, Verichrome Pan, Plus-X in sheet film. No finer films were ever made. Agfapan 100 - gone, also. You do owe yourself trying a more conventional emulsion like Ilford FP4+, Efke 100 or Fomapan 100. The TMax films have their virtues but I agree with the person above who called them "fuzzy." I bought one of Sexton's calendars printed by one of the great lithographers and there was no distinct image.

John Cook
23-Aug-2005, 03:59
Brian, these are all excellent suggestions about excellent films.

But, back to your original question: If you are experiencing problems with Tmax, they will usually take the form of blown-out highlights and dark middle tones. In other words, a portrait of someone in a white shirt/dress will show no detail in the (opaque) clothing and a "suntanned" face. If you are not getting this, then you are in pretty tight control of the film.

If you wish to switch to a medium speed film which is not too fussy, I would recommend you avoid tabular films such as Tmax, Delta and Acros. Stay with traditional emulsion films like Ilford FP4. Plus-X was excellent, but has been discontinued in sheets. Actually, FP4 is the last one I can think of.

Efke definitely has its place, but its soft "old-fashioned" emulsion is very delicate. If you are at all klutzy in the darkroom or can't control chemical and wash temperatures I would avoid it for now. Rough handling makes beaucoup scratches. And a nice hot wash can easily result in the emulsion lifting off and going down the drain like a little decalcomania.

Brian Ellis
23-Aug-2005, 06:31
The "fussiness" that some people complain about is exactly what some others really like about TMax. For years photographers, especially those who use the zone system, complained that they couldn't get films like the old "thick emulsion" films that responded so well to relatively minor changes in development times. So Kodak gave them T Max 100, which has a relatively straight line and responds well to minor changes in development time. Now they complain that T Max is too "fussy."

That's a little bit of an exageration but not much. The point is that if you ever get into zone system work, which is simple, easy to do, and will allow you to exercise a lot of control and creativity in your work you'll like the fact that by using the same agitation method and development temperature every time (something that should be done with any film, not just T Max, if you expect to ever obtain consistent results) you can achieve major effects in contrast just by varying your development times. For those reasons, plus the fact that you seem to like what you're getting, I'd suggest sticking with T Max 100.

MIke Sherck
23-Aug-2005, 07:28
My darkroom is rather primitive; after years of lugging 5-gallon containers of water up stairs to my "loft" darkroom over the garage, I'm happy to have running water! Temperature control is for sissies... That said, I love T-Max (more properly these days, '100 TMX') and won't consider changing unless/until our Great Yellow Father drops it from their line. I process in trays in fresh D-76 (straight) and love my negatives and the control I have over contrast. I didn't find it difficult to come up with a processing regime which is both repeatable and controllable. If you like your results, why worry about what others think of the materials? That's why there are so many choices -- use what you like!

As for knowing whether you're getting good results -- do you like the prints you can make? If so then you're getting good results. If not, you need to figure out what you don't like and how to change it. This forum will help, as will APUG forums as well. That's one of the nicest things about large format, if you ask me: so many nice folks, willing to give freely of their knowledge and experience. There doesn't seem to be that white-hot fever of competition that some of the more enthusiastic folks devoted to other formats seem to bring with them.

23-Aug-2005, 08:07
"If you are experiencing problems with Tmax, they will usually take the form of blown-out highlights and dark middle tones."

Althought it's quite possible (easy, really) to develop it with high key midtones and very forgiving, compensated highlights. It can be done by using a developer with the characteristics I mentioned.

As others have suggested, the key is in matching the curve of the film to the curve of your paper (and the curve in your imagination). The good news about t-max is that its curve is much more flexible than a lot of people realize.

What exactly are you trying to get out it that you aren't getting? That might help us find a solution for you.

ronald moravec
23-Aug-2005, 08:24
FP4+, Delta 100, or you can try one of the Efke film from J&C.

You are getting good results if there are details in the dark areas and whites are white,not grey, and show detail. Perfect example is a black tux and white brides dress. Both should show detail.

Tmax is no fussier than any other film if you expect perfect negs. If you are off 30 sec with tri x, it shows just like t max. There may be some problem with under exposure as shadow detail falls off rapidly compared to a long toe film like tri x if you underexpose. I have never found it to be more difficult to process given sufficient agitation and fresh fixer.

T Max and D76 are a good combination. I have used it in undiluted D76 for 6.5 min agitation 5/30. Prints on a condenser enlarger. Use EI 80.

HC110 works and looks good and you think you have it, until you try D76. Stick with what you have.

brian steinberger
23-Aug-2005, 09:32
I am getting muddy midtones, but my highlights are good. Then again I think that my batch of paper is old. I do think after reading all your responses that I want to stick with TMAX and master it, cause I love it's tonality. I like the idea of the RS developer one shot diluted 1 to 9. Also, I haven't mastered printing yet, so I'm not sure if I'm getting good results with TMAX because I don't know if I'm getting good prints. I'd be nice if one of you could come over to my house and help me. Anyone live in south-central PA? haha. Thanks for all your information!

John Berry ( Roadkill )
23-Aug-2005, 09:53
I have used Acros and now mostly FP-4 in pyrocat-hd and I'm very happy with it.

neil poulsen
23-Aug-2005, 10:04
"Temperature control is for sissies!"

That's just plain rediculous, especially in the same conversation with TMax. To not have good temperature control is begging for inconsistent and poor results. Why take the chance on having some excellent compositions come out not nearly so excellent because of lousy technique. Darkroom practice is easy to improve.

Now that you have the basic practice under control, drive for better consistency. Consider getting a better and more responsive thermometer, perhaps even a digital thermometer. I have one and wouldn't have a darkroom without it. Kodak makes (or used to make) a decent lab mercury type thermometer that's relatively responsive. I use one as my reference standard over time, since digital thermometers can be adjusted electronically. Even on non-critical temperature situations, digital thermometers are so much faster.

Consider using a waterbath. These can help a lot. For medium or smaller format film, I got away from a running water type of waterbath. By making my bath larger, the temperature changes more slowly. Proper room temperature can help as well. With a properly shaded digital thermometer, you can have warm and cold water sources on hand and correct in waterbath temperature changes as they occur. I use Roscoe green filters and shades for my digital thermometer to keep light from making it's way to the film.

By using the above measures, I can stay within about 0.3 degrees F of 70 deg, which is a standard developing temperature for me.

Richard Schlesinger
23-Aug-2005, 10:40
I use PMK with Tmax - but for a somewhat different reason. I don't care about the stain, in fact I'm happy not to have it because of the curve of Tmax. What I like about PMK is very fine grain, full film speed, good developing times, very high accutance/sharpness, and the big thing is shelf life. I sometimes go months between processing and I no longer worry about developer going bad on the shelf, what with PMK having, apparently, unlimited shelf life!

David Luttmann
23-Aug-2005, 10:49

Do you use standard agitation, or stand?

John Cook
23-Aug-2005, 12:34
"I am getting muddy midtones" - Exactly what I am talking about, Brian.

Some people love this look. Grim stucco interiors and glowing sheer curtains appear arty.

I also understand that Tmax scans extremely well (wouldn't know: I'm totally analog).

If you like the look of zone V printing as zone IV, or can somehow fix it, stay with the film for the few more months that Kodak continues to produce it.

When you finally grow weary, FP4 will be waiting. ;0)

Richard Schlesinger
23-Aug-2005, 13:46
I use a "slosher". It has a lot of advantages and also pretty much keeps my hands out of the developer.

John Kasaian
23-Aug-2005, 14:46
My version of temperature control is that all my chemicals, stock solutions and distilled water for mixing short lived solutions live in jugs in an unsed bathroom (everything is stored at the same tempertaure.)

Thats it!

I've had very good luck with all the B&W materials I'm currently using---even Tmax RS and Tmax 400.

I've got far too short of an attention span for anything more involved than that!


ronald moravec
23-Aug-2005, 17:50
Well I go from Chicago to Landenderg each Oct, but you probably can`t wait.

If you want, mail me a sample neg and a print. I may even reprint it if I don`t like what you did.

I have worked back and forth with Photo Net members like this a few times. I will even send a few sample negs you can print.