View Full Version : 4x5" B&W film preferences

David Honey
26-Nov-2005, 21:22
After getting stated with Polaroids, I just began looking at the 4x5 sheet films that are available.

B&W is my preference, and I'd be quite happy to go with Tri-X if I could count on finding it. However I fear from what I've read it's not the same as the Tri-X of old anyway, so maybe there's little point in following that route, besides sentimentality.

A few questions:

Does anyone use and like the J&C-brand 400 ASA B&W film?

How does it compare to Tri-X?


Oren Grad
26-Nov-2005, 21:55
David, if you're just getting started in LF for the first time, the important issue with LF Tri-X (TXP) is not whether or not it's the same as the old LF Tri-X (TXT), but the fact that it's very different in its characteristics from the 400-speed Tri-X (TX) that is popular in 35mm and 120. If your idea of Tri-X is based on experience with TX roll film, you might as well consider LF TXT an entirely new and different film.

TXT is a fine film, manufactured to a high and consistent standard of quality and capable of a beautiful tonal scale under the right circumstances. However, I'm not sure it's an ideal choice for a first film - it tends to give relatively low shadow contrast combined with steep highlight contrast, which can make negatives taken under contrasty situations difficult to print without elaborate manipulation. I think that HP5 Plus is more forgiving in exposure, development and printing, and also has somewhat superior reciprocity characteristics; that would be my recommendation.

I don't have enough experience yet with the JandC 400 to say anything useful about it. If I recall correctly, David Goldfarb - one of the regulars here - has commented in the past on the JandC 400 vs Tri-X comparison - you might go over to APUG and search the B&W film discussions there for some of his observations.

Oren Grad
26-Nov-2005, 22:09
Drat, I'll end up confusing everybody. The new ISO 320 TX sheet film is TXP and the old was TXT, as stated correctly the first time but garbled after that.

David Honey
26-Nov-2005, 22:21
Thanks Oren. I should say that I have read about the differences between the sheet and the 35mm types of Tri-X, mostly in thickness of the film base. And then the differences between the old and the new (in sheet form, not sure about 35mm but that doesn't matter).

Will look forward to more info...

Thanks again.

David Honey
27-Nov-2005, 00:38
After a bit of a search I found Defender Photograhic's 200 ASA Czech-manufactured film, which is claimed to be similar to Tri-X, but at half the price.

Any feedback on this?

Jiri Vasina
27-Nov-2005, 04:01
David, I have no experience with this film, but probably what you have in mind is a Fomapan 200 Creative (a link to more informations and a technical sheet is here (http://www.foma.cz/foma/produkt/FotoDetail.asp?ProduktID=11) [http://www.foma.cz/foma/produkt/FotoDetail.asp?ProduktID=11]). You can also find some info about Fomapan 100 Classic and Fomapan 400 Action.Jiri

steve simmons
27-Nov-2005, 07:04
My favorite films are Tri-X and FP4+. With these you have a lot of possibilities. Ilkford has made a real commitment to the traditional black and white market and Tri-X is Kodak's best selling black and white film (across all formats) so I would trust that both will be around.

steve simmons


Ed Richards
27-Nov-2005, 07:14
Do you want to do wet printing or digital printing? This makes a difference in what you want in a film. Tmax 100 is a good film for scanning. It is also nice to have a box of readyloads around for emergencies when you run out of holders or want to travel light.

Joseph O'Neil
27-Nov-2005, 07:32
Tri-X or HP5+. I live both films very much, but they are different from each other. You'll just have to "play" with them and find out for yourself which you like best.

Michael Kadillak
27-Nov-2005, 08:13
Second the recommendation for FP4. Great film in the medium speed category and I use it regularly in 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10.

T Max 400 is a great film for the high speed category. Not as finicky as T Max 100 in the developer and this film will hold a linear relationship between exposure and density to the moon. Plus, it has much superior reciprocity relationships as compared to the European films in this speed category.


Gary L. Quay
27-Nov-2005, 08:51
My opinion on this is very simple. Use anything and everything you can get your hands on. Experiment. Find the look that really floats your boat. JandC also caries Efke films: an excellent older-style emulsion. Freestyle Photo carries Arista. Both are excellent and less expensive. Give Maco Aura a try if you dare. T-Max, Tri-X, FP4 and HP5 are all excellent films, but, thanks to the Internet, they aren't the only game in town.


Brian Ellis
27-Nov-2005, 09:21
Since you're new and have no existing preferences, you might base your decision on which film you think will be around for another five or more years. Kodak has shown no commitment to b&w photography that I've noticed. With their recent termination of all b&w papers it doesn't seem like films can be far behind so if it were me I'd probably avoid Tri-X and T-Max. That leaves
Ilford plus the little companies (Efke, Berger, et al about which I know nothing). I don't know how long Ilford will be around but I think they're a better bet than Kodak, at least b&w is their only business and we know their excellent quality control. I also happen to like HP5+ so that would be my suggestion. On the other hand, if you adopt the theory that none of us can foresee the future I'd probably sugguest 100 T-Max because you can get it both in regular form and in Readyloads.

Oren Grad
27-Nov-2005, 10:04
I should say that I have read about the differences between the sheet and the 35mm types of Tri-X, mostly in thickness of the film base.

David, essentially all sheet films are coated on a thicker base than 35mm films. That's not an issue. What matters is that a picture taken with TXP will look very different from a picture taken with TX.

steve simmons
27-Nov-2005, 10:31
The comments about Kodak's lack of commitment are unfortunate. Yes, the did drop their black and white printing papers but they had really been out of the game for years. They still sell a lot of film and Tri-X (across all formats) is their best seller so it is silly to think it will go away. It is very good film in a variety of developers. FP4+ is also a very good film and with Ilford's commitment and survial based on traditional balck and white film I would trust this as well.

In large format fine grain/T-grain technology seems unnecessary. The T-Max films are fussy and can be hard to use (they are very senstivie to changes in time, temp, and agitiation) so I would suggest staying with a more traditional film. HP5+ is a good film if you need that much speed.

The important thing is not to join the film of the month club. Pick one and stay with it for awhile.

What will you be photographing?

steve simmons

Michael Kadillak
27-Nov-2005, 11:44
I agree that T Max 100 is highly sensitive to very consistent agitation and temps but I have found T Max 400 to be a joy with its variability in the darkroom as it takes every soup I have tried with it from DDX to T Max RS or Pyrocat HD and ABC and it just sings. It has nothing at all to do with the "grain" or the lack of need to worry about this variable I find it is about the marvelous gradations in the middle of the film curve and the extra speed. I feel many have continued to dish T Max 400 speed assuming that it is as tempermental as T Max 400 and nothing could be further from the truth.

Just my $0.02.


27-Nov-2005, 11:45
For me, the convenience, light weight, compactness, and cleanliness of ReadyLoads overwhelms other considerations (even the price!). So I end up using T-Max for 4x5, even though I really prefer Tri-X, which I use for 5x7 and 8x10. Just another consideration to bear in mind.

Michael Kadillak
27-Nov-2005, 11:54
APologize. I meant to say -

I feel many have continued to dish T Max 400 speed assuming that it is as tempermental as T Max 100 and nothing could be further from the truth.


Nature Photo
27-Nov-2005, 11:58
Agree w/ Steve. Get to know one and stick with it.

Disagree w/ the concern about Tmax's 'fussiness'. If you can read a thermometer and a timer/watch you can develop TMax -- follow manufacturer's instructions and stay consistent. I am a beginner, having done LF for only 3 years, yet Tmax worked the very first time and has not dissapointed since.

Furthermore, you need to decide if you want to digitally scan or not. TMax 100 in XTOL is a good combo for scanning.

David Honey
27-Nov-2005, 12:31
Jiri -- Yes it is indeed Fomapan 200 I was referring to, which they (Defender) claim is similar to Tri-X.

Steve -- From what I've read over the years, Tri-X exposed at 200-320 ASA and minimally developed in HC-110 is (or was) the classic LF film/developer combo. OK, that's easy -- I'll just do that (ha-ha)!
But this is not 1949, I'm not Ansel Adams, and Tri-X is not the same as it was, so even for him it wouldn't be possible to get the same results. So much for history.
Despite that, I seriously want to give Tri-X a go.

Ed -- that's a good question. I have heard that T-Max gives the best negatives for digital scanning. If so, I'd be bound to try it. A proper wet darkroom is still somewhere off in the future for me.

Thanks Joe.

Michael, thanks too.

Gary -- You're right, there's a lot of film types to choose from. Another lifetime to explore it all would be great(!) but I'll just have to pick one or two for now!

Brian, let's hope Kodak hangs in there awhile. But anyway, a couple of dozen boxes of 4x5 won't take up much room in the freezer!

Oren -- From what I've read the sheet 4x5 Tri-X has the thinner base. 35mm Tri-X is thicker, probably to withstand sprocket teeth pulling at the perforations(?)

Steve -- I hope you're right about Kodak keeping Tri-X around. I also don't see the sense in using a slow film in LF. I like to shoot trees and atmospheric landscapes (fog, etc.) in low light, so
200 ASA would be as slow as I'd want to go. I used to like the grain of Tri-X in 35mm, so in 4x5 it's not even an issue.

Thanks very much to you all for your helpful input!


Oren Grad
27-Nov-2005, 13:08
Per Kodak, 35mm TX is coated on a 5-mil acetate base, TXP sheet film is coated on a 7-mil ESTAR (polyester) base.

Back to what really matters: the single most important piece of advice in this thread is what Steve Simmons said - pick one film and stay with it for a while.

Good luck!

David Honey
27-Nov-2005, 14:19
Hi Oren -- Perhaps I confused actual film base thickness with 'film-base plus fog' negative density?

In Fred Picker's Zone VI newsletters, he found that 4x5" sheet Tri-X had a base negative density far less than that of 35mm-type Tri-X. From memory it was something like (a densitometer reading) of .08 for the 4x5 sheet film versus 1.06 for the 35mm (I may not have the exact numbers.)
I'd have to search through all the newsletters to find it again, as unfortunately there is no index.

Anyway, like you said, it hardly matters.

Re choosing and sticking to one type, I trust you all on that advice. Intuitively and in my experience of other things it's the only way to progress..

So. Tri-X, Fomopan 200, T-Max, FP-4+ -- eenie meenie miny moe..!

(I'll try Tri-X first and hopefully will never look back; we''ll see.)


27-Nov-2005, 19:42
"The T-Max films are fussy and can be hard to use (they are very senstivie to changes in time, temp, and agitiation) so I would suggest staying with a more traditional film. HP5+ is a good film if you need that much speed."

Fussiness is just another word for "responsiveness." Personally, I think it's a great quality in a film ... it means lots of control over what it looks like. I use a thermometer and a waterbath to get my solutions the same temperature each time, and have never over the course of ten years of using Tmax has a problem with fussiness. What I appreciate is that in the beginning, I was able to tweak my development in order to get the film to look exactly the way I want.

That being said, I think the suggestions to start with a traditional film like tri-x are good ones. A little more forgiving, and I think the nature of these films is much more widely understood. You're more likely to get straight, accurate answers to your questions about how to use them.

Mike H.
27-Nov-2005, 19:44
One of the nice things about always using the same film (100 TMax ready loads) exclusively for a number of years (since I started large format five years ago) is that you never have that problem of, "Gee, it doesn't look as good as 'type X' film" or "It doesn't operate as easily as 'X' ." After having figured out exactly how to expose and develop it so you get just what you want (detail and contrast), all the rest doesn't matter. And, you have no clue what all the rest are like - so it doesn't bother you. Maybe your repertoire is somewhat limited, but, it makes life SO much more simple and stress free. :-)

Ed Richards
27-Nov-2005, 19:59
I have never used Tmax in a darkroom - it did not exist the last time I did silver printing. However, I have been developing and scanning it for a while and I can find no trace of fussiness. Even the negatives I really screw up (like reading the wrong aperature scale on my convertible Symmar) are printable, as long as they are over exposed so there is something there to print. I do not use a water bath, and I even tinker with the time when the temperature is a little low, and, at least with Xtol 1:3, it always works fine. I mostly shoot 100, but do shoot some 400 when I am shooting handheld.

Brian Ellis
28-Nov-2005, 06:53
"I hope you're right about Kodak keeping Tri-X around"

Just FYI. Here's what Kodak said in its 2004 annual report about traditional photography products: "The key elements of the company's strategy with respect to traditional products and services includes intelligent management of the traditional film and paper products and services . . . " About seven months after that was written we learned that "intelligent management" of paper meant discontinuing it. So now they're "intelligently managing" film alone. Is that encouraging?

steve simmons
28-Nov-2005, 07:01
As I said they were not in the paper game anymore so they withdrew. They are still in the film game so I do not see them withdrawing.

steve simmons

Paul Butzi
28-Nov-2005, 09:27
First choice - TMX, especially in Readyloads
Second choice - Acros, especially in Quickloads
Third choice - TMY

David Honey
28-Nov-2005, 10:24
Brian -- Manufacturer's declarations of commitment to 'niche' products, addressed to dwindling market sector, followed shortly thereafter by said product getting the the chop. Unfortunately, predictable by now.

Obviously the weight of 'our' purchases are a drop in the bucket for a huge corporation, and ideas of us keeping them profitable mere wishful thinking on our part.

Smaller, dedicated businesses making suitable replacement products are more deserving of our business. Ultimately that's where we will have to go anyway.

Having said that, Steve, I hope (somehow) you're right. But I think I'm going to stock up on some Tri-x just in case!

Oren Grad
28-Nov-2005, 10:30
Steve's point isn't based on faith in an imagined commitment. It's a factual observation that Kodak B&W paper became uncompetitive in the market a long time ago; pulling the plug on it just acknowledged reality. OTOH, their B&W film products are excellent and continue to sell well and profitably, especially Tri-X.

steve simmons
28-Nov-2005, 11:21
We will only have to go elsewhere if they do not see a demand. I have used Tri-X, in all of its evolutions for many eayrs and like it very much. FP4+ is another good choice. I cmpared FP4+ and Across a couple of years ago and felt the FP4+ giave me a better image - more depth and dimensionality. The convenience of these preloaded black and white films does not outway what I feel are the better images produced by the non preloaded films.

steve simmons


David Honey
28-Nov-2005, 11:28
I see your point Oren. Come to think of it, I was just given 20 free sample sheets of Kodak 'Professional' inkjet paper. Sincerely, good luck to them -- we all need to survive.

Sanders McNew
28-Nov-2005, 12:42
Offtopic question for Steve Simmons:

I have written to you twice in the past months to your aol.com address listed at viewcamera.com. You left both emails unopened (I am on AOL as well). Do you have an email address that you use that you can forward to me?


Sanders McNew



steve simmons
28-Nov-2005, 13:02

is my e-mail.

I do not open e-mails with attachemnt if I do not know the sender or if there is no title

steve simmons

Matt Powell
28-Nov-2005, 15:16
I'm about to place an order for some Arista.edu Ultra 100 or 200 in 4x5. It's also Fomapan. For reference - 20 sheets of TMax readyload is $45.95, 100 sheets of Arista.edu Ultra 100 is $29.99.

J&C (Fortepan) is a bit cheaper, also has good qualities from what I've read, but quality-control issues in the emulsion justify the slight expense for rebranded Fomapan in my eyes.

David Honey
28-Nov-2005, 21:17
milo -- Fomopan is listed along with Arista.edu film at Freestyle. It's a different film and more expensive -- about $57 for 100 sheets, more or less the same price as Defender Photographic sells it. Pretty darned reasonable if it's any good.

Has anyone used the Fomopan 200/Alpha developer combination from Defender Photographic?

Here's the sales pitch on the developer, I was quite taken with it (not that that means much!) :


John Kasaian
28-Nov-2005, 21:52

The commitment of Kodak to sheet film has been batted around here, and I have nothing to add except that I hope Kodak does stay in the film business and that Tri-x(and Tmax400) are fine films that I enjoy working with.

If Tri-X is what you want to use, then go ahead and use it. In 8x10 anyway, it is now the same approx. price as FP-4+. A nice thing is that once you go through a 25 sheet box of Tri-X "Honeymoon" you can commit to a 50 sheet box which isn't a bad idea. I used to abhor the thought of buying 50 sheet boxes(too expensive!) but now I like the idea of getting 50 sheets from the same manufacturer's lot. I appreciate the consistency and since LF film is a mailorder purchase in my town, there is always the danger of running out and having to wait a week or so to get back to shooting. IMHO either of these films are great emulsions to start out with and I agree with Steve Simmons' wise advice to pick one film/developer and stick with it until you really find out what it's capable of. Tri-X and D-76 goes together like ham and swiss(or peanut butter and chocolate!)

Good Luck!

David Honey
28-Nov-2005, 22:09
Thanks John.

Matt Powell
29-Nov-2005, 17:18
Freestyle sells their own brand (Arista, Arista.edu, etc.) along with the name brand that's the same material. They used to do it with Ilford.

Arista.edu Ultra 100 and 200 are Fomapan. Arista.edu (Made in Hungary) sheet film is Foretpan.

David Honey
30-Nov-2005, 19:52
milo (or anyone) -- have you found Arista Ultra 200 or Fomapan 200 to be 'similar to' Tri-X, as I've seen claimed?

Genuine Tri-X would probably be a waste for me at this stage of the game, as I'm sure I will be ruining a lot of film before I get the procedure straight. But I would like to know that the characteristics of the film I'm using to practice on are somewhat similar.


Ed Richards
30-Nov-2005, 21:33
> I will be ruining a lot of film before I get the procedure straight.

This stuff is not rocket science. Make an exposure check list, a darkroom check list, get a good thermeter, practice loading holders in the light before you try the dark, and you can avoid ruining too many sheets. Then buy that Tri-x and learn with what you want to use. Shocking as it may seem, you might make some good images by accident when you are learning.:-)

John Kasaian
30-Nov-2005, 22:26
I agree with Ed Richards.

OTOH there is nothing wrong with Arista.edu or .eduUltra, or any of the J and C films either for that matter, but none of them are Tri-x and if Tri-x is what you want......?

As for ruining film, that comes from turning on the lights before you've closed the box of film up. Putting the film in the holders wrong so they either pop out when you pull the dark slide or you expose the uncoated side when you pull the dark slide, or from forgetting to pull the dark slide(or pulling the wrong dark slide!) Forgetting to close the shutter before pulling the dark slide. Loosing a darkslide off a cliff. Forgetting to stop down your lens or set the time on the shutter(lets see, what have I left out?) Mistakes we all make(and I continue to make) but if you take your time and use a check list, either written or committed to memory, you won't ruin a lot of film and you'll quite possibly have some photos you'll be rightfully proud of the first or second time out of the gate.

Good luck with whatever film you choose and welcome to LF!

David Honey
30-Nov-2005, 23:13
Ed and John, thanks both for your optimism -- Yes, I'm sure my first decent 4x5" exposure will seem like a miracle, even a masterpiece!

LOL John, your list of mishaps could be a checklist itself -- in reverse!

I guess I was thinking that a honking big box of the cheap stuff to throw around like confetti would be a plus, but on second thoughts it seems a bit dumb -- like a hangover from the digital advent of free and instant gratification. One does have to go to the trouble of developing them, after all! A small box of Tri-X and a careful approach might be a better bet.

I have to admit that the 'scariest' part of all this is finally getting my hands wet again after 15+ years, and holding my breath for the right development time -- and with a serious negative, too, not the small potaters of 35mm! What if I don't get that Zone VIII right on the money? gulp. (just kidding!)