View Full Version : Different than expected results with FP4 @ 125 in XTOL 1:1

15-May-2018, 07:14
I've come back from my backpacking trip with the Intrepid 4x5. For BW I only shot FP4 and also took some 35mm shots on the drive there and back. I rated FP4 at 125 and developed the results in XTOL 1:1 (for both 4x5 and 35mm). The results are...kinda weird?


The first two are 4x5, the second is 35mm. The 35mm one kinda shows what I didn't expect. I took a photo of a mountain stream where the water was darker than the surrounding foliage, though the negative doesn't really show that and I'm not quite sure why? It feels like it's both contrasty but also flat at the same time? The confusing looking 4x5 of the rocks on the left with trees/mountains on the right is actually a mountain lake. The rocks are the shoreline and the trees/mountains is the reflection from the water. Looks super busy and nonsensical of course, but I expected a different tone between the rocks and water.

The photo of the frozen lake and trees with mountains turned out rather well. You can't tell that's a frozen lake as well. I could perhaps dodge/burn that (in the Darkroom or Lightroom) but the overall photo I like. That was the best example.

I made contact prints of the 4x5 (I don't have a 4x5 enlarger yet, boo) and enlarged the 35mm to 5x7 in the darkroom. Those results are better than the scans but still have sort of an odd look. I would have expected more tonality.

Hindsight I should have brought some Delta or TMAX 100 to compare but I was trying to keep things simple. I got some decent results overall, but yeah a little confused as to what may be going on. Should I perhaps pull the film next time? Try something other than XTOL (I liked it for the economy/film speed/environmental reasons)? HP5 would have been my other choice but I'm looking for a solid medium speed film to use.

15-May-2018, 07:29
Odds are that you're confused by the color of the scene and haven't managed to translate that into b&w tones when you composed and shot the images. The scans/prints look quite usable to me. For more separation, you'd increase development instead of decreasing it, and for more separation in values color filters in front of the lens can be useful.

In short: not really sure what problem you are seeing or trying to resolve. It all looks fairly normal to me.

15-May-2018, 07:49
Oh yeah certainly possible I didn't read the scene right. I expected a bit more separation in tones. More like what I tend to expect with HP5. In the creek photo, the water was a dark brown and the foliage was a lighter green. It's possible I misread that scene for sure but I definitely expected darker water. I had only brought a yellow and red filter with me on the trip - guessing perhaps a green filter might have been a good choice? (Red/yellow may have made the water lighter?)

Also, in terms of Delta, I've read some conflicting data. By the sensitivity curve, it looks like it's flatter than FP4 (less contrasty)? I think in this case that's probably not what I wanted either but curious if I am interpreting that correctly.

15-May-2018, 08:19
Are you sure you're not mixing up spectral sensitivity and h&d curves? If you mean the latter: within certain limits, you can make a film curve as flat or as steep depending on how you develop it.

15-May-2018, 09:21
Hehe nope not sure at all :) But I was referring to the spectral curves here yep. FP4 has a bump from about 570 to 640 whereas Delta 100 is less prominent. In listening to David Hancock's all about film series (Here's his take on FP4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjpArJP4PYU)), it sounds like FP4 would have more contrast than Delta but I recall hearing the opposite? That bump in sensitivity I guess could explain why the water was brighter than I expected since it was a brownish tone (which would include red)? I noticed the spectral curve for HP5 is actually strikingly similar to Delta 100 so I'm thinking I should give it another look. I never thought of Delta 100 and HP5 as close to each other in look (and I'm sure the spectral chart doesn't tell the whole story here at all).

The H&D curves Ilford provides are using HC for FP4 and ID-11 for Delta but look similar. They don't show the shoulder for Delta though. But that also makes me think Delta might have a little less contrast?

The Ilford tech sheets in case anyone needs them:

I think my conclusion is that I probably should have just taken HP5 :P But I'm still really wanting to have a nice medium speed film. For LF it doesn't matter as much grain-wise, but having a medium speed stock for all formats to use would be a nice to have.

16-May-2018, 16:35
The water likely was reflecting the sky more than your eye saw especially at a low angle and all the various angles of the water surface. A polarizer might have given you more what you expected. Lens flare has some difference too for smaller formats than larger ones.

From my limited experience, Delta 100 has more separation of tones while FP4 is smoother between the tones. With Delta and HC110 I was usually getting too much contrast but with FP4/HP5 I could get muddy flat tones. Eventually I resorted to using dilute Pyrocat developer and altering time/agitation for the scene contrast. I won't say I am getting perfect negatives with a specific density but I am much closer than I used to be assuming no screw-ups during metering or exposure.

16-May-2018, 18:29
Indeed all good points. I did have a CP with me for LF but not for my 35mm. I purposefully broke against typical suggestion and bought filters that fit the 52mm size of my LF lens so I didn't have to carry as much weight - I didn't take my 35mm on the backpacking trip directly. The shots I got were from the trail head once we got back to the car. Would have been helpful there I bet.

For the reflection photo I thought about a CP and should have tried it, but I was worried about killing the reflection which was the thing I wanted to capture. I didn't think about reflection from the sky though, that's a good point - I don't believe I used any filter for that shot. If it was reflecting a lot of the sky, a YEL8 might've been a better choice?

As far as pyro goes, I don't think I'm ready for that yet :) Interesting you get muddy tones with HP5 and HC-110 though. I rather like the look though I push it to 800 typically (and use dilution B). I haven't shot HP5 in LF enough yet to know how it may affect 4x5 though. The last time I tried HP5 in 4x5 I did a stand development with HC-110. Turned out ok but they weren't landscapes.

I think if Delta has better separation it may be worth another look next time I'm rocking landscapes. I do have some 4x5 sheets of it (hindsight I should have brought some on the trip, I was just trying to keep things simple).

Doremus Scudder
17-May-2018, 02:19
How are you metering? If you have a spot meter, you can get a pretty good idea of how tones in a scene relate to each other by simply metering the different areas and noting the difference. Sure, there's a bit of a spectral sensitivity mismatch between meter and film, but I think you're overemphasizing this aspect of things a bit. More important, especially for colors in nature that are not all that saturated, is the overall reflectivity.

FWIW, the scans you posted seem to have adequate separation of tones; maybe not what you were hoping for, and I think there lies your problem.

Really, learning to visualize what your materials and methods will give you is, IM-HO, the most important thing in B&W photography. The film did its thing just fine, you just needed to have evaluated the scene better and known what results your materials would deliver.



Tobias Key
17-May-2018, 04:27
I developed some FP4 in Xtol 1+1 recently. I used the manufauturers guidelines (10 mins and 30sec inversions) and to me it looked over developed. It was my first attempt at this combination but but I did think the tonality was compressed (so muddy) but still very contrasty. I was testing a camera so there were other problems in the mix too (I suspect the shutter was a stop slow) so I can't be definitive. I suspect cutting the dev time might improve things or possibly rating the film at 200? Something about the standard info doesn't seem right to me.

17-May-2018, 06:02
Really, learning to visualize what your materials and methods will give you is, IM-HO, the most important thing in B&W photography. The film did its thing just fine, you just needed to have evaluated the scene better and known what results your materials would deliver.

Name of the game there, yep I agree! Part of what I enjoy about BW photography so I thought it deserved quoting here. And yep what I had in my mind is not what I got this time around.

In line with Tobias' experiences a bit, I didn't expect the results I got with FP4/XTOL whereas, say, with HP5/HC110 I've been pretty spot on with what was in my head versus what came out (though haven't shot too many landscapes with HP5 and not in LF). Tobias' explanation of muddy with high contrast is kinda what I'm seeing in some of these negatives (not all, e.g. the framed mountain shot turned out how I wanted).

Super valid point about the spot meter though. Yep I use a Sekonic 758 with LF. I was looking for generally an actual grey subject (e.g. a grey rock) that was roughly middle grey then look at values on either side, tending to side with a bit of overexposure when comparing multiple greys. I would also often compare that to the incident reading. I was trying to use a bit of a different technique (in reading through AA's 2nd book) there and I may have done something wrong. In truth though the those rocks/reflection shot I'm actually don't remember what values I got for the rocks versus water and this is a super good point here. I'm actually not sure if I even metered the water.

The river/creek shot was on my X-700 and I used in-camera metering. That was mostly a function of time. If I had more time I would have much preferred to break out the LF camera for those.

Doremus Scudder
18-May-2018, 01:20
I just took a quick look at the characteristic curves for FP-4Plus and HP-5Plus in the Ilford literature; they don't look all that different to me except that HP-5 has a bit more of a shoulder. The curves in the Ilford tech sheets weren't all that detailed, however.

Medium speed films like FP-4 are inherently more contrasty than faster films. The usual initial challenge with these is finding a developing time that tames the overall contrast yet still gives you the local contrast/separation you want. The impression of "muddy" and simultaneously "too contrasty" is a bit of a contradiction in terms, but may relate to differences in curve shape, e.g., mid-tone separation is not what you want, but the highlights are right or even too high. Things like this are characteristics of particular films and can't be changed very easily. A staining developer might tame highlights somewhat in a case like this (not sure if that's really your actual situation) or you can just move on to a film you like better.

It may be interesting for you to make the same image with both films a time or two and really compare how the distribution of tonalities are. For me, it's a valuable exercise. When I'm learning a new film, I load holders back-to-back with an old favorite (usually 320Tri-X) and the new film and make two exposures of the same scene for a while. Sometimes I like the new film, sometimes I don't.



18-May-2018, 04:04
I use a Sekonic 758 with LF. I was looking for generally an actual grey subject (e.g. a grey rock) that was roughly middle grey then look at values on either side, tending to side with a bit of overexposure when comparing multiple greys. I would also often compare that to the incident reading.

Use the meters Avg function having measured brightest and darkest areas with texture. It will visually show you the range of stops and relation to middle(Zone 5) and help you visualize where to place a mid-tone object. I read every scene in EVs and use a 3x5 card (http://www.searing.photography/field-exposure-and-printing-notes/)to determine where to place those EV values along with other exposure and processing notes. In a high contrast situation it helps me see what will be pure black or white based on where I choose to place the lowest EV values, so then I can expand or contract in development. If in doubt, I make two identical exposures at the scene, develop the first one evaluate it, and then make changes for the second.

18-May-2018, 06:13
Doremus you're right on the money with what I'll try next time. I probably won't be doing any backpacking trips soon but I have some spots I can take some landscapes that might be somewhat similar to what I shot last week so I can try various films. I kinda want to grab up some TMX to try but fairly expensive in sheet form. I already have HP5 and Delta so I will for sure compare those to FP4. I might also compare FP4 in different developers (XTOL and ID11) to see what those differences are.

Admittedly I forgot about the 758 could do averaging :P I've used it before but yeah sure didn't use it for the trip. Doh! A pre-made note card is also rather clever! I do that when filing my negatives (I wrote a webapp to help me make info sheets to file with my negatives, though it's mostly for roll film) but didn't think of that while on the go. Good idea!

All told, thanks for the advice everyone! Got a lot to think about and try for the next time I'm out and about with my 4x5 (hopefully soon)!

Eric Woodbury
18-May-2018, 10:12
Even with XTOL, it is hard to get full box speed from FP4+. For 35mm, where you may care about 'least grain', give it another 1/2 stop under normal conditions. With LF, unless you are going to enlarge something to wall size, absolute smallest grain doesn't really matter. Give LF extra light. Don't worry about placing Zone 2.5 exactly, but get Zone 4 set properly. Rate your film at 64 ISO for LF.

Ilford films tend to have more green sensitivity than the yellow box.

Finally, if you are in the mountains and at higher elevations on a nice clear day, you are getting a lot more blue light, especially in the shadows. Just because the atmosphere is thinner and allowing more blue to pass. This can fowl things up in several ways. Most light meters don't see blue light very well. This would cause over-exposure. The human eye doesn't see blue light very well, which leads to improper interpretation of values. Finally, B&W film sees blue light very well, further confusing exposure calculations. Adding any color filtration or polarizer, is further confusion in calculations (not necessarily good or bad). Bottom line is to make a couple extra exposures until you become fully calibrated to such light.

Happy snapping. EW

18-May-2018, 12:51
Oh man actually the altitude probably did play a factor. Trailhead was I think maybe 8500 and our max height was 11,000 if I'm not mistaken (I probably am). Definitely at altitude though and I should've realized that would have been a factor given how beautifully blue the sky was compared to sea level. Really good point!

I've also thought about pulling FP4 down a bit as well just to see what sort of look I get so yep I think that's worth a shot. Are you saying rate at 64 but develop normally or compensate in dev? (Massive Dev has pulled ISO ratings for XTOL I could use).

Eric Woodbury
18-May-2018, 14:12
Massive Dev chart I find pretty good.

I won't tell you what to do, but personally, I would rate at 64 ASA for normal contrast. Develop as per Massive Dev. For an exposure, I would measure and place zone IV. I do this because I don't usually care much about the zones lower and my eye is calibrated at Zone IV. That said, if I have a critical Zone I or II, then I'd measure there and place appropriately.