View Full Version : Currently available 4x5 B&W emulsions?

15-Feb-2019, 22:45
LF newbie here, been shooting MF for a few decades, and used Agfa APX100 as my standard film (later Rollei Retro 100 while it was still repackaged APX100), with APX25 when I could find it and TX 400 when I needed something with higher sensitivity, contrast and grain (e.g. punch).

I really love the long range of midtones APX has, as well as the older style grain. Having tried T-Max and other tab grained films many times, they just never gave me the same feeling that APX did/does.

Anyway, I managed to source several hundred 120 rolls of APX a few years ago, so I'm set there.
When I bought my 4x5 camera, a member here was extremely generous and sent me not only some film holders but also a few boxes of APX100 in 4x5 (Thanks Leigh!). Since it isn't available anymore, I'd like to save it for when I'm more familiar with working in LF and have some really compelling subjects and lighting.

On to my question - what emulsions are available today for 4x5?
Looking at B&H, Kodak has the T-Max line and TXP.
Fuji Acros is no more (never tried it, but heard very positive things about it).
Ilford has FP4 and HP5+. As much as a respect Ilford and love what they've done for the film photography community, I've never gotten any decent results with any of their films, they just don't do it for me.
There's also Arista EDU Ultra 100, I've never heard of it, any comments or experience?
I've read a bunch of reviews of Rollei RPX25 hoping it was a clone of APX25, but it seems to be more of a repackaged high contrast aerial photography emulsion. Looking at online results seems to support that, with a few exceptions.
Foma Fomapan 100 is one I've heard of before, but never tried - opinions or experiences with it?
ADOX CMS 20 II appears to be a special high contrast emulsion needing a special developer.

I'm not adverse to a bit of grain, but don't want to overdo it in most cases either. In 120 format I normally process in a Jobo ATL1500 with Rodinal, I have a bunch of different sized tanks and reels that all will take 4x5 sheets, and am willing to try different developers, or use manual inversion instead of the Jobo.

My choice of subjects is pretty wide ranging when working hand held, but for LF will be primarily landscape (cityscape/seascape) and portraits.

Mainly I'm trying to get an idea as to what's out there in 4x5 for B&W so I can find something I can standardize on for the next few years as I learn. It's a completely different beast from medium format, but so far a lot of fun!

15-Feb-2019, 23:06
Arista EDU is Foma 100, unless they've changed again. Foma is notorious for bad reciprocity characteristics. Whether or not that matters depends on your shooting habits. I've seen some nice shots with it and plan to shoot some 5x7 Foma soon, just haven't gotten around to it.

You've got most everything except maybe a few oddball emulsions like Bergger 400.

IMO, I think you need to give FP4+ another try, and play with developers a bit, if sticking with traditional films. I have been shooting traditional films a bit more recently and I liked FP4+ in Pyrocat. Speaking of Ilford, you've forgotten Delta 100, which is a good film but modern like T-Max. There's no magic bullet here except maybe practice and refinement of your technique. I like playing with different films but I more or less use T-Max 100 the most, and know how to use it. But at first I couldn't handle the film and was constantly blowing out the highlights. Once I refined my technique and got to know the film and found the best developers for my usage it was great.

15-Feb-2019, 23:42
I've been happy with FP4+, which I process in HC-110. What I'm learning is it's important to get to know a film and predict it, and find a good developer for it. I too am looking for a "smoother," less contrasty look that the TMax films won't give.

Kent in SD

Daniel Stone
15-Feb-2019, 23:45
Tmax 400. IMO, probably the most versatile, currently available emulsion out there. Terrific film for enlarging, and gorgeous for contact printing(even when using ABC pyro).

It isn't the cheapest, but damn, I haven't shot with anything more versatile for b/w.

I DO miss plus-x though, but that's long gone so don't even think of chasing old stock. Stick with currently available emulsions, and get to know it inside and out.

16-Feb-2019, 00:36
Yes Daniel, I'm looking for currently available stock that I can standardize on. I agree with Kent about the "look" that TMax provides that's not really what I prefer.

Whether reciprocity will be a problem or not depends on how soon it kicks in. I've noticed that most of my exposures thus far have been in the 1/2 - 1/30 second range. If it's fine up to 10-15 seconds, I should be able to deal with it. As you mention, I might have to simply revisit several emulsions that I didn't care for previously and figure out how to get them to look their best. There isn't a whole lot available anymore.

16-Feb-2019, 09:45
... I more or less use T-Max 100 the most, and know how to use it. But at first I couldn't handle the film and was constantly blowing out the highlights. Once I refined my technique and got to know the film and found the best developers for my usage it was great.

Can you expand on what you did to avoid blowing the highlights, I think I am having the same problem.?

16-Feb-2019, 14:43
Fp4+ in pyrocat hd is worth exploring more. Works great for me. Tmax400 can have any look you want depending on how it's used and developed. Aside from slight differences in spectral sensitivity I can make those two films work similarly for normal scenes. Grain isn't much of a problem with large format with many developers, so I don't worry about traditional grain versus t-grain. Staining developers like pyrocat mask some of the effect of grain anyways.

Arista/Foma100 I had quality problems with several years ago and just don't want to deal with that. I have heard better things about their 200 speed film but have not tried it.

Berrger Pancro 400 is another option for 4x5 film and I haven't tried it.

Nodda Duma
16-Feb-2019, 18:42
There is an up-to-date list of film manufacturers at emulsive.org, which will provide you the information you are looking for.


16-Feb-2019, 22:20
Can you expand on what you did to avoid blowing the highlights, I think I am having the same problem.?

Short answer, reducing development time.

Longer answer - I was using BTZS tubes and T-Max RS and this combination built density fast. Doing Zone testing my development times ended up being very short. This was an issue and eventually I just switched developers. Rodinal works great with TMX, with some speed loss, but FX-39 is even better. It is expensive now though and the benefits not important in larger formats IMO. I am now trying out Pyrocat again and also HC-110 works fine, if a bit grainier. But I tend to always develop for less than standard times to tame the contrast (unless I need more contrast of course!).

17-Feb-2019, 19:00
When using tabular grained film, does the same old adage apply - expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights?

17-Feb-2019, 19:47
Yep. However I have found that for T-Max 100 especially and also other modern films, the whole curve can move down with less development. The result is thinner shadow areas, so you really gotta give the film generous exposure if you are pulling down the highlights. I think this is partially what people don't like or don't correct for. I know I didn't for a long time.

Years ago I shot a lot of T-Max 100 in an abandoned mill with light coming in from holes in the ceiling or half-boarded-up windows and I was doing ridiculous N-3 development with Rodinal, so I got very acquainted with TMX and pulling development.

Oren Grad
17-Feb-2019, 20:24
TMX is unusual in allowing an extraordinary degree of control of curve shape via choice of developer. Want a straight line out to the moon and beyond? A gentle shoulder like TX roll film? A flattened midrange with contrast preserved at the ends, to record both the depths of the coal mine and the scenery outside the entrance? All that and more is possible, with some up-front testing to properly tune for each developer choice. Phil Davis had an article about this in the old Photo Techniques magazine.

Tim V
18-Feb-2019, 00:52
There is also now (again) Adox CHS 100 II. I have not tried it, but want to.

Drew Wiley
18-Feb-2019, 16:59
TMax films were designed to replace several other films. But Kodak didn't always communicate very well exactly how to do that. And it seems that a lot of folks wanted their old one-trick pony back. Too late for most of them; they had already been turned into dogfood.