View Full Version : Tri-X vs FP-4+?

John Kasaian
11-Nov-2005, 10:51
After being spoiled by privately packaged FP-4+ sold at affordable prices by PhotoWarehouse and Freestyle, I'm confronted with the reality that currently Tri-X and FP-4+ now cost darn near the same. It used to be that for twice as many sheets of Ilford-oid as the cost of Kodak, it was an ecomonic no-brainer. I'm talking 8x10.

In the post-game analysis, maybe Kodak wasn't overcharging and maybe Ilford was selling too cheaply(hence the "Panic of '04" with Ilford's reorganization) I'm not sure, but cost-wise, they're now on equal footing these days at B and H (FWIW, Fortepan isn't very far behind after their economic woes prompted price increases)

The bottom line is that 8x10 B&W is currently $3/pop for the "major" brands (of course Foma, Efke and J and C have my attention these days for excellent quality and attractive prices, plus the "look" of Efke which I've become fond of.)

I've always enjoyed shooting Tri-x, but I also enjoy FP-4+ and there are times when I'll want to shoot some, but my question is----which one? FWIW I found both emulsions extremely forgiving to work with. Film speed aside, can anyone comment on the unique qualities of these two films? Maybe my eyes aren't working right, but I'm not seeing a huge difference between the two in my stack of negatives. Curves and toes confuse me so please let me know what practical characteristics You prefer in one film or the other.

Maybe a comparison between Tri-X and HP-5+ would be more appropriate with similar speeds, but I haven't shot much HP-5+. I'd appreciate your thoughts on that match up as well.

Donald Qualls
11-Nov-2005, 11:22
If you like the slower film, you might try a box of J&C Pro 100. I've used quite a bit of this film in 120, and it's very nice, smooth tones and only just detectably grainier than FP4+, and it's the cheapest film going in any given size, with 8x10 currently listing at $32/25 sheets (yes, that's cheaper than 4x5 Tri-X or FP4+). I prefer HC-110 Dilution G, but it's a completely conventional film and likely to work well with any developer that would give good results on 320TXP or FP4+. It has excellent latitude, also, and responds well to contrast controls. In my process, I give the same development time I would for 400TX or APX 400.

The film is coated in China on pre-WWII equipment, especially for J&C Photo, and there is a very slight chance of coating defects (shoot two of anything important, and it's still cheap); it also has a soft emulsion that's vulnerable to scratching when wet, but if you keep the process temperature at or below 68 F and use a water stop bath instead of acid, you'll be amazed at what it can do, and never mind the price.

11-Nov-2005, 11:32
If _you_ can't see the difference, then it doesn't matter which you use, so you are free to make the decision based on external factors like price, availability, etc.

John Berry ( Roadkill )
11-Nov-2005, 13:22
I'm in the same boat. I'm thinking about the Efke film. I like the Fp-4 (ultrafine) that I'm using so I would like somthing that will be close to what I have now.

steve simmons
11-Nov-2005, 13:42
Tri-X and FP4+ are really very different film. Tx has a working EI of 160-200, minuses well but does not plus very well. FP4+ has a working EI of 80 or so, pluses well but does not minus very well.

Which type of film would be the best for your type of shooting?

steve simmons

Henry Ambrose
11-Nov-2005, 14:11
I've been thinking about this film cost subject for a short while - just since entering 8x10 land. Being used to relatively inexpensive 4x5 film its hard to make the jump to 8x10 where suddenly the film costs four times as much. Of course it does, its four times the size! But somehow its still a shock. I've never felt that 4x5 film costs were too high, but somehow 8x10 hit my cost threshold. I bet I'd really tighten up if I shot 7x17!

I've explored the possibility of cutting down aero film to save money but I prize excellent results over cost. Unless I can see someone else having great success with this stuff I'm probably not taking that leap. When I start thinking about European and Chinese film I get the same feeling I get with the cut-down aero film - that I am taking a chance every time I expose or develop a sheet. Which leads me back to a decision to not buy it.

Currently for my use I see these choices in modern standard 8X10 films:
TriX @200, FP4 @100, HP5 @250-320, TMax400 @200-250. HP5 is fastest in my experience which might be something to consider with the big camera. TMax400 has the best reciprocity characteristics. I like the look of FP4 the best. So I'd pick here based on what suits my needs. Any of those films would be fine it seems. And they are all about $3.00 a sheet in 8x10.

After further pondering I wondered if it makes any sense to avoid buying first class film when not too long ago I was worried that Ilford (my standard film choice) would be gone and I couldn't buy their film at any price. It didn't take too long to realize that if no one buys from Ilford and Kodak we won't have as much choice in films for very long. Now that would be a real problem! So I'm sticking with Ilford or Kodak -- but I still mutter under my breath when I think about turning loose of that much money for so few sheets.

Scott Rosenberg
11-Nov-2005, 14:36
if you like ilford films, as i do, i would encourage you to support them with your purchasing dollars. companies are ceasing production on films all the time, and the only way we as consumers can stave off the losses is to support our favorite products. if you like FP4+, even if it costs a little more, by all means, BUY IT! if you don't, one day, possibly real soon, you won't have the option to do so.

when i think of the cost of the entire process - time, energy, fuel, etc - film is the cheapest part of the entire equation, so i will gladly pay a little more for Ilfords darn near perfect QC.

ronald moravec
11-Nov-2005, 14:37
Defender Photographic.com $53 for 100 repackaged 4x5.

Terence McDonagh
11-Nov-2005, 14:40
For me it's simple as Ilford has shown their dedication to producing film and Kodak has basically said they're getting out of the business. I'm going to support the folks that support me.

As for the smaller players I haven't really tried their stuff, but they would be a good second choice. I'm not too gentle in my development so the softer emulsions make me a little leery. Someone with more finesse would probably do well with them. The negs I've seen from them look great for Pl/Pd printing.

tim atherton
11-Nov-2005, 14:50
Henry - try starting of shootign 8x10 in colour, then witch to B&W - DAMN - that stuff is cheap.... :-)

John Kasaian
11-Nov-2005, 15:10

Heres the approximate breakdown for B&W 8x10:
$0.60/sheet for APHS(ortho)
$1.36/sheet for J and C Pro or Arista.eduUltra
$2.24/sheet for Efke (sorry, I don't have the price for J and C Classic at hand)
$3.00/sheet for Tri-X or FP-4+ or Bergger

FWIW Jim Galli has done some wonderful work using cut down aerial films in terrestial cameras. The images on his site dosen't really do justice to the real prints---many I was fortunate to see at an exhibition at the Nevada State Library some time ago.

If all you want to do is keep your camera fed and happy, thats one thing but developing a relationship with a film you enjoy using is IMHO a different ball game. I like the one film, one developer, one paper concept but as Steve Simmons pointed out, some films excel in different areas---its good to know what to expect(thanks Steve!)

One factor to consider when pricing film is that once you have a 'relationship' with a film and know what it'll do, you may well tend to use less sheets----no need to bracket exposures and you'll recognize impossible conditions you used to waste your film on. Say you only shoot 10 sheets a day---thats $30 for Tri-x or Ilford, $23 for Efke, $14 for J and C Pro or .eduUltra, and a whopping $6 for APHS. Steak or salmon dinner vs. fast food combo. For hobbyists like me its good to have a 'handle' on a couple of films for different purposes---I still shoot Tmax 400 when I know I'll be running into reciprocity issues but its not my ordinary film. Besides I'm gun shy. You never know when your favorite film will be shot out from under you by the manufacturers and/or distributors. I seem to be experimenting a lot these days and I've forgotten about my old favorites (Tri-X and FP-4+) because of it---the reason for this thread. OTOH, this isn't anything to loose sleep over---frankly I'm glad there are so many films to choose from.

Thanks for all the great advice!

John Berry ( Roadkill )
11-Nov-2005, 16:27
I think Scott made a good point. If I like Fp-4 support it. LF ain't no K-mart sport. I think I will just bite the bullet and shoot what gets me what I want.What's the use of shooting 8x10 and not being happy with the result. I would rather spend more and shoot less, than give up the image taste I have aquired.

11-Nov-2005, 21:27
Don't buy film made in China. If you do so you are supporting a country the US will be at war with in the near future and a country that has continually threatened the US with nuclear strikes. Buying their products only gives them more money to build up their military weapon stocks. When we go to war you won't be able to get their products any longer so why do it now?

John Berry ( Roadkill )
11-Nov-2005, 22:26
Elvis has left the building

12-Nov-2005, 07:51
Where is Defender Photographic? I would like to know. Thanks.


David Luttmann
12-Nov-2005, 08:29
Looks like Wonderboy got let out on a weekend pass to visit....

Ken Lee
12-Nov-2005, 09:15
http://www.defenderphoto.com (http://www.defenderphoto.com" target="_blank)

Donald Qualls
12-Nov-2005, 11:16
Perhaps WonderBoy can suggest, for those of us on limited budgets who aren't (yet) selling our work, how we can cut our film consumption by 50-60% to compensate for the price difference between Chinese made film and that made in the USA or England?

And doesn't it seem at all possible that putting money into the Chinese economy might, long term, have the effect of making the Chinese quit feeling they have to threaten the rest of the world?

ronald moravec
12-Nov-2005, 21:29
Defender is the current Fine Art Photo Supply. Anthony changed names when he moved from Rochester to Montanna.

There is evidently some cooperation going on with Photographers Formulary.

Jim Ewins
12-Nov-2005, 21:32
I'm happy with Ilford film, but I have no problem buying from another human who wishes to trade with me. Who currently is making war big time???

12-Nov-2005, 21:34
Is it just me, or do the rantings of "wonderboy" sound a bit right wing-paranoid-wackjobish to anyone else? Maybe it's just me...

Sal Santamaura
13-Nov-2005, 11:56
"Defender is the current Fine Art Photo Supply. Anthony changed names when he moved from Rochester to Montanna. There is evidently some cooperation going on with Photographers Formulary."

Anthony did not move from Rochester to Montana. He sold Fine Art Photo Supply to Bud and Lynn Wilson, owners of Photographers Formulary, who are running the two businesses from their place in Swan Valley now. Anthony subsequently started Defender, and there has apparently been some controversy about a message and mailing list he used to announce the launch of Defender.

ronald moravec
30-Nov-2005, 20:53
The $53 film is from Defenderphoto, not Defenderphotographic. I had trouble finding it myself a second time.