View Full Version : Film choice

21-Oct-2005, 22:38
I've been using FP4 in 5x7" for alternative process. It's been affordably until my local supplier decided to increase the price substantially. I am thinking of switching to J&C400. My concern is J&C400 might be discontinued in the near future since I understand it is made by the troubled (is that true?) Forte factory. The last thing I need is to switch from film to film. Alternatively, I could bite the bullet & go back to my first love, Tri-X. So before I decide on either J&C400 & Tri-X, did I missed out on other film choices? Thanks!

John Kasaian
21-Oct-2005, 23:44
What speed film do you prefer? With 125 FP-4, 320 Tri-x, and J&C 400 you're covering a lot of speeds. If you're settled in on a asa 125, why not look at 100 and 200 iso films that are kind of in the same ball park, at least speed-wise?

OTOH, If the financial health of a manufacturer is your concern, then buy their products so they can stay in business! Can you mail order FP-4 at a more attractive price? I haven't checked, but Freestyle might still have some private label Arista Pro (FP-4) in 5x7. Or Photo Warehouse.

Efke, Forte, and Foma (and their private label incarnations) from eastern europe are, IMHO fine films and I've been happy with the results I've gotten. If the 'big guys' fold ( like Agfa) I don't think I'd personally be at any great loss other than for aerial films and of course TMax 400 (and then only because of the great reciprocity characteristics it offers)---but hey, I can adjust.

Good luck!

Dave Moeller
22-Oct-2005, 03:18
It's my understanding that Forte is under new management and is doing well. However, if you want the up-to-the-minute story, just email John at J&C and express your concern to him. He's very up-front about what's going on with his various suppliers and will tell you if he believes Forte is in for the long run or if they're in trouible. Although it seems strange in this day and age, John is a very honest retailer, and I've always gotten the truth from him when I asked him a question. (He usually takes a few days to answer, as business seems to be good...but his emails are always worth the wait.)

You can also look at this thread for his opinion on the heath of Forte (his username at APUG is jandc): http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=18680&highlight=forte

Best of luck to you.

22-Oct-2005, 04:58
Unless you're doing great quantities of commercial work, the cost of film is a relatively minor piece of the photographic pie. Bite the bullet and pay the price (and help keep your local source in business, while you're at it).

John Cook
22-Oct-2005, 08:22
My suggestion would be to shop around for mail order prices on FP4 from (let me emphasize) reliable firms.

A local supplier used to be a wonderful thing. But there is so little business in servicing our needs, these neighborhood camera stores must treat us as a tiny sideline to their main profit-makers. And their stock of LF supplies tends to sit around for a looong time.

I see that B&H has 25-sheet boxes of 4x5 for $22.95 and 5x7 for $36.95. Thus, they are selling 5x7 for less per square inch than 4x5.

Black and white 5x7 has been an orphan format ever since formal portraiture and high school graduation portraits were shifted to smaller format color, and now digital.

So little 5x7 equipment and film is sold, I would expect to pay big money for it. Therefore the B&H prices come at quite a pleasant surprise.

22-Oct-2005, 09:04
John, I've been using FP4 because it's good and affordable. I have to put up with the speed though. Now that the price has doubled, it's dearer than the Tri X which is faster, and I do like the look of Tri X. J&C400 is a natural choice as these films are all suitable for extended development. In my order of preference: price, quality, speed. And I don't want to test films anymore.

Bill, I will bite the bullet if I have no choice. In the meantime, I'll scout around and vote with my pocket. And if I were doing great quantities of commercial work, money's no problem!

Dave, Thanks! I might do just that. But I'm just a little sceptical from stories of Kodak, Ilford, Agfa, New India's Stirling, etc.. Non of these firms has managed to restore consumers confidence.

Thanks to all.

22-Oct-2005, 09:18
Thanks John. I have looked at the B&H's prices. My choice would be Tri X at $70 for 50 sheets. As I wrote earlier, I like Tri X, and the reason I have been using FP4 was it's previous low price. I do appreciate your posting as well as the others. I gather that the confidence level in B&W product isn't too optimistic.

tim atherton
22-Oct-2005, 10:15
If you are really concerned about film costs (and I think it's all going to go up in price of the next year or two) stock up on Freestyle FP4 at these prices and stick it in the freezer (this is the last of what they have)


but really, unless you are shooting a few hundred sheets a month, B&W film is cheap

Brian Ellis
22-Oct-2005, 10:22
This is the third message I've seen recently complaining about the price of film. Wake up guys. It's going to cost more. When an entire market almost disappears in the space of a decade those few staying in it have to get prices up to cover costs and make a profit. IMHO if you're going to stick with film you should stick with one company that makes the film you like and be prepared to pay the price, not move from one company to another whenever you can find a better price. Every time I read about yet another film-based company going out of business (see Agfa for this week's story) or another 20% drop in some company's film revenues (see Kodak for this week's story) I think we're fortunate to have any choices in film at all. If you don't like the price of high quality film made by a known company with outstanding quality control such as Ilford don't prolong the agony, just buy a digital camera and be done with it. End of rant.

Paddy Quinn
22-Oct-2005, 15:44
let me get this straight, you feel the best film for you is Tri-X but you are to cheap to buy it? Are you interested in making the best pictures you can or not? If not, why bother - $20 or so a box more than cheapo mitteleuropa film is too much?

Michael Kadillak
22-Oct-2005, 18:11
Brian is absolutely correct on this one.

If you are committed to LF then budget for increased film costs - period. Your choice is to either understand and appreciate the fact that we have film and suck it up or find another medium to express yourself with that meets your financial criteria. You could shift to working with another film and some time in the future when you figure this emulsion out it could go up in price as well.

I shoot a particular film because it provides me with the results I want. Whatever the fim costs is simply the price of admission and I understand that. Staying the course in my small way contributes to the support of this product and if enough so the same thing then it is quite possible we will all be just fine.


22-Oct-2005, 18:39
Yet another agreement with Brian here. I spent a ton of $ for MF scanner, high quality glass in 35, 120, and 8x10, and a whole lot of ancillary crap. I complain. But I will buy more because:

Photography keeps me from strangling the dog sh*t out of morons with whom I deal on a daily basis at my real job.
Photography lowers my blood pressure.
Zeiss lenses rule.
8x10 rules on a higher level.
Shooting with a Contax compared with shooting with a digicam is like comparing driving a Porsche with driving a Yugo. (yes, those little G lenses really ARE that good.)
HP5 Plus rules.
Neopan rules even more.
I can knock the living snot out of a would-be mugger with a 553 elx body. (Hitting him with a d70 would likely just piss him off.)
I get to laugh at the "splendid examples" of digital capture at the local camera shop that the unenlightened seem to revere.
I hate those little flash card thingies.
There is nothing I 've seen photographically speaking that compares favorably to an 8x10 contact print.
Even scanned film from my 30 year old Zeiss Planar beats the livid cahoolies out of what I've seen coming out of a 1DS Mk II.
Smoking crack is far more expensive in the long run, and the paraphenalia is not as fun to play with.

22-Oct-2005, 18:54
From this thread and a couple others I'm getting the impression that y'all are financially pretty well off. Am I right?

23-Oct-2005, 00:46
Brian, Michael, Paddy, Percy, Sometimes when I read your posts, I really envy the equipments you guys own. Certainly we're in a different league. It isn't necessary to say to someone that if he don't like the price or can't afford it, here's the door out. This isn't a country club. Paddy asked, "Are you interested in making the best pictures you can or not?" Just because one owns an expensive club and can afford the fees does not make him a good golfer. I've visited many photographers websites (some respectable ones who frequent here) and I dare say I'm not impressed with the pictures they make. I use less expensive films, but if my vision means something, people will take a second look.

Every now and then, a company says sales have drop, or that they are facing liquidation. To keep the factory viable, prices has to increase. When prices keep coming up, the cake gets small. I can only see manufacturers and consumers killing each other. We don't know much about how they plan to streamline operation and cut cost. Extreme measures could be that workers are hired for shorter hours, less days per week, taking a pay cut, etc.. Wait! Let me see... these workers are going to go on strike if they are to take a pay cut, right? Maybe the factory should just close down for good! There needs to be a mindset change. All I can figure out is half-hearted attempts to keep the industry going and blame it all on digital. I know people here are going to jump at me that workers have to sacrifice for my shooting pleasure. I make no apology for my view and will not rebutt on your protest. You see it your way. End of rant!

23-Oct-2005, 05:57
My apologies Aaron; I meant no offense.

I am not a wealthy man. I bought the vast majority of my tools used, and over a considerable period of time.

I dare say that I have moaned, groaned and complained about the cost of fine photographic equipment far more than the average person (I still do from time to time). I simply meant to indicate that, despite the hideous costs involved, I manage to persevere. As a well worn, professional commercial photographer I assisted for a time once said, "what would life be without photography?"

Life would go on, of course, but would be poorer in quality for the absence.

Michael Kadillak
23-Oct-2005, 09:43
Likewise, I am not intending to make this a dig in any capacity.

I have found that when people carefully look over and scrutinize their particular situation for spending inefficiency or make a particular desire a priority, it can and will happen. Why? Because in this country we are most fortunate to be able to attain to our wildest expectations if we chose to do so.

I would put the ball in your court - What are your objectives and what are you willing to do to attain them?

Sometimes it can be as simple as finding a group of new friends with a positive attitude that puts a new meaning on the word "expectations".

At times I find this forum to laden with pessimism to the point where I wonder why they bother to participate. But that may just be me.


23-Oct-2005, 10:32
I have been very happy with the Jand C film. They got a new stock lately.

I personally do not like tri-X and have been much happier with Efke PL100. It does what I want it too, and it does it well.

Finances are an issue with me. I shoot with an 80ish year old camera, and a very inexpensive convertible symmar. It pays to have patience when surfing auctions. My point is, the best is not necessary if you are contact printing. Where the best is important is in the film. You have to be able to do what you want with it. of course best is a personal choice, and no one can tell you what is best for your shooting style.

If you like the ilford stuff look for it's rebranded name at freestyle it is cheaper. If you want to move to another film go with JandC because they have damn fine films and their prices are real good. They had a good sale recently. It might still be going on. I think the 400 was included in that sale. I have not looked lately as I have one fresh box of 200 (different film) in the freezer and money won't allow for another.

23-Oct-2005, 20:08
I would put the ball in your court - What are your objectives and what are you willing to do to attain them?

Michael, I will make the best pictures I can with whatever finances that allows. I will not cheat, beg, steal, or rob to buy films. I will wait until I have enough money for the next box of film. I will stubbornly stretch my dollar to find affordable films that meets my needs. I do not give a hoot about everything you believe in. If your opinions are logical and helpful to me, I will learn and graciously thank you for it. But in this case, What you implied is flawed, one sided and showed no sensitivity to the person on the other side of the road.

I have found that when people carefully look over and scrutinize their particular situation for spending inefficiency or make a particular desire a priority, it can and will happen. Why? Because in this country we are most fortunate to be able to attain to our wildest expectations if we chose to do so.

Michael, Who sold you that idea?

Percy, I take no offends at all. Like you, I will moan, groan and complain, but I will keep on shooting with the best films I can afford.

Mark, Thanks for the suggestion. That's very helpful.

Michael Kadillak
23-Oct-2005, 20:36
Nobody sold me any "idea" Aaron. You either figure it out or you don't.

I found a number of highly successful people in my travels around the country and simply asked them face to face how they did it. What they could convey to someone that had the desire, willingness and interest to make it and you know what? They were more then gracious to share with me their years of experience with me to allow me to get to where they are and I can tell you first hand that the view is great.

I wish you only the best in your endevours.


23-Oct-2005, 22:59
Aaron: "I've visited many photographers websites (some respectable ones who frequent here) and I dare say I'm not impressed with the pictures they make. I use less expensive films, but if my vision means something, people will take a second look."

Where can I view your work? I am always interested in looking at one's work after bold statements. Maybe you have something to teach us all.

23-Oct-2005, 23:15
Michael, Please define "success". I have friends who believe in themselves and climb themselves to the top. I have also seen people with the desire, willingness and interest to be successful in what they desire to be or have, but fall each time they tried. Yes, they get better, but not necessarily good enough to compete. Not everyone is cut out to get what they want or be. Try American Idol. Thousands will never make it. William Hung was lucky, people liked him. But soon he's be forgotten. We need to be realistic about what we want. Don't want to sound pessimistic, but sometimes we need to look at ourselves in the mirror. That's the real world to me.

The power of positive thinking? I believe in that, but only if one knows himself.

I wish you well too. We're ok, right?

23-Oct-2005, 23:19
Darr, You'll have to fly thousands of miles to see my work. Wanna bite?

23-Oct-2005, 23:53
Aaron: I guess your saying that you do not have your work posted on line. You could upload a few shots on photo.net or apug.org if you wanted. You have stated that finances are a little scarce for some aspects of your photography, so I am sorry if I have asked for something that you do not have.

Where is a few thousand miles? I am in the Key Largo/Miami Florida area (currently listening to the woes of Wilma).

Pascal Quint
24-Oct-2005, 00:07
Mr Ng - where those your photographs I saw at MINDS?? There are many wonderful photographers here. You may live in a glass house, no?

24-Oct-2005, 00:34
Darr, What begins as an innocent question about film choice turned out to be loads of unreasonable opinions pounded on me. These are very unkind and frankly, rather arrogant. I do not enjoy having to justify my situation and dislike such senseless exchanges. Occassionally, I do get unpleasant remarks here, but I just get it pass. It is not in my nature to be argumentation and am tired of it all. I will not take the trouble to upload any photographs. I have no ego to justify. I am learning every day to make better photographs and am no master of photography. But that doesn't mean I have to be IMPRESSED with pictures found on notable photographers' websites. I can only say I have a good eye for photographs. If you find my statement bold, I cannot help it. No apologies too. We're all different! This will be my last posting here.

By the way, I can be found in a little red dot, Singapore. Come visit me someday. I'll show you photographs.

24-Oct-2005, 01:29
Aaron: I see that at times there are people on this forum (and other forums in general) that can lean towards personal attacks on others, and I do not like it. But honestly Aaron, it was the statement you made about other photographer's works that I found a little "bold" towards personal attacks. I do enjoy looking at other photograper's works as it helps me grow as an artist, so I was hoping that you would share your work. Oh well, maybe another time.

John Cook
24-Oct-2005, 04:33
Aaron, I must come down somewhere in the middle, but closer to your side.

It is true, I believe, that from now on as the consumer market shrinks, we are all going to be forced to pay a lot more for analogue photography supples and equipment. No more “free ride” from the economic miracle of mass production.

On the other hand, expensive film and cameras do not make better pictures, especially online. The small fraction of pictorial information which filters through the electronic process onto my computer screen is only a token of what existed on the original print.

I also heartily agree that some famous photographers have achieved success and attracted a trendy following more through their gift of Blarney than from any “art” talent which personally strikes a chord in my heart.

But then, I never really cared for the Beatles when they and I were both young.

Finally, let me assure you based upon many personal e-mails I receive that there is a lot of people reading and learning from posts like yours who do not choose to participate with responses.

For their sake, as well as to enhance the general quality of this forum, I sincerely hope you will continue to participate in spite of occasional slings and arrows. Sadly, not everyone is so civilized and gracious as he might be.

24-Oct-2005, 19:06
I agree with Mr. Cook.

John Kasaian
24-Oct-2005, 22:53
This seems to have degenerated enough to permit me to comment ;-)

First a story.

An old gent I met told me that his #1 love interest was Betty Grable, but she wouldn't have anything to do with him. His #2 love interest was Dorothy Lamoure, but she wouldn't have anything to do with him either. OTOH, a lass named Dolly who worked at Woolworth's wouldn't leave him alone.

"What did you do?" I asked him.

"I made Dolly my #1!"

So Kodak Tri-X is your #1 and Ilford FP-4+ is your #2, eh?

FWIW, I don't think the price of sheet film reflects its superiority, but rather it's production costs and profit structure. Any superiority of one film over another, all other things (like quality)being equal, depends on what the photographer does with the film. The most expensive chisels made won't carve a "David" but the most modest tools in the hands of a Michaelangelo will.

True, the difference between a low cost film and a high end film, at least in 8x10, is only something like $1.40---if you multiply that by 50 sheets, going with the lower cost film(nothing in LF is cheap!) will permit you to buy another 25 sheet box plus some left over for paper or chemicals. For a student or hobbyist, thats a lot of stuff that permits a lot of experience building.

True, when I'm shooting a portfolio I'll spring for the high end stuff if it brings something extra to the party thats relevent---like the reciprocity of Tmax 400, or the added speed of Tri-x, or the unique qualities of Efke PL25---but for 95% of my photography 'film ordinaire ' works just great for me.

Aaron's worries about dissappearing film (and film companies) is justified, but IMHO that shouldn't influence his choice. Nothing is guaranteed. Use the best you can afford for as long as you can afford it---(if its still available) This means testing whats out there when your favorite pony has been shot out from under you by them thar hombres at Agfa or Kodak or ??

Theres no way around that, Aaron.

Fortunately you've only got three of the lower cost options to test: Foma, Forte, and Lucky as rebranded by the likes of Freestyle and J and C. Fortunately for you at least two of these films are IMHO very,very nice to work with and I wouldn't be the least surprised if Lucky wasn't more of the same. Fortunately for you both Freestyle and J and C are excellent companys to do business with.

Good Luck!