View Full Version : I know nothing... which film and chemicals would you reccomend?

10-Jun-2007, 12:33
Hi guys, I am looking for some advice. My first LF camera should be here any day now, but seeing how I haven't developed film since high school, I am at a loss as to which film + chemicals would be good to start with. I will me shooting 4X5 sheet film and using the BTZS tubes to develop in, working in my tiny bathroom. thanks in advance!

Ole Tjugen
10-Jun-2007, 12:48
in the next 35 minutes you'll get 115 suggestions from 39 different people, all of whom think the other 86 are idiots. :)

My suggestion is: Find a "simple film" - I like Ilford FP4+ for it's "foolproofness" and yet flexibility. Pick one developer too - keep it simple. I currently use Ilfotec HC; but that's because i got a good deal on 15 liters of it. It works, and gives me good results. I might even buy some more when my current stock is gone...

10-Jun-2007, 12:58
Go for whatever you can buy locally, and try it. I started with ilford 35mm stuff, and then ilford and Lucky (cheap) medium format. For large format I went even cheaper with Kodalith Ortho.

If I were you go for Ilford for b&w, and get a suitable (Ilfosol?) developer.

There's no point trying too many combos. Concentrate on the photo's not the film :)

Sheldon N
10-Jun-2007, 13:06
Here's a couple polls where everyone weighed in on the issue of their favorite film and developer...



My recommendation is to pick a forgiving, "low tech" film, which would probably be either Tri-X, FP4+, or HP5+. Pyro and Rodinal are very popular "specialty" developers, but you'd probably be best served with Xtol, D76, HC110, or one of the Ilford equivalents.

Personally I shoot Tri-X and develop in Xtol, a great combo.

10-Jun-2007, 13:14
Good advice from everybody so far--keep it simple. I use Ilford HP5+ and Kodak HC110 developer in trays. I doubt it's the "best", whatever that is, but I'm used to the combination, and know what I'm getting out of the negatives.

Bruce Watson
10-Jun-2007, 13:59
Personally I shoot Tri-X and develop in Xtol, a great combo.

I'm with Sheldon and the others. Pick one film and one developer and stick with it for a while. You've got plenty to learn without playing the "which film/developer" game. Plenty of time for that later.

I advise that you start out with a fast conventional film like Tri-X. The extra speed will get you mostly out of working with reciprocity failure (slow shutter speeds) which is something else off the table while you are learning how to use the camera.

I also recommend XTOL with your continuous agitation (tubes) system. XTOL was designed for this and is much easier to control than a more active developer such as HC-110. For your purposes you'll probably want to use the 1:1 dilution. XTOL dilutes out to 1:3 with excellent results if you need a longer developement time.

IMHO Tri-X and XTOL are an excellent combination to learn with. With this combination you can just rate the film at box speed and off you go.

Good luck with it, and welcome to LF.

Brian Ellis
10-Jun-2007, 17:28
Assuming you're talking about black and white film, I've used D76 diluted 1-1 with the BTZS tubes for many years. D76 is an excellent general purpose developer, it may be the oldest commercial developer on the market, someone told me it was introduced in the early 1900s. For film, I've always liked Ilford HP5+, it's a 400 speed film (though I rate it at 200) and subjectively has always seemed to give me nicer tonal gradations than other films. Using a 400 speed film rather than 100 allows you to use faster shutter speeds, which is useful with things like foliage that's blowing in the breeze. But if you ever want to use Readyloads then you'll eventually need to learn TMax 100 also since that's the only b&w film Kodak packages in Readyloads.

10-Jun-2007, 18:43
I was in exactly your position several months ago -- definitely pick one combo and get comfortable.

The BTZS tubes are *great* -- very easy to learn and you can increase the number of tubes as your comfort level increases (I'm up to 4 at a time ;)). They are also a great learning tool when you are trying to understand the relationship between exposure and development time, shooting a series of identical exposures and then testing N, N+1, N-1, etc., was quite the revelation (to me at least-- coming from roll film).

I did a ton of reading, asked the guys here for input and ended up taking Brian's advice re D76 at 1:1 because I have used quite a bit of HP5+ in MF and always liked it (I also tend to rate it at 200, though I really need to do some testing soon).

Brian's comment via Readyloads is also important-- I ordered some Acros 100 4x5 Sheet film from Badger recently to get my feet wet before I take off on a long trip out west this summer. I'm planning on sticking with Quickloads, so my testing with the sheet version will be helpful.

Have fun!


Ron Marshall
10-Jun-2007, 20:15
HP5 and XTOL 1:2 or 1:3. Fairly forgiving of errors in exposure and development, and handles contrasty light well.

11-Jun-2007, 08:44
wow! I thought I would be waiting a few days for a response but you guys are great! I will be going with fp4+ (i've used it in 35mm and had no complaints) and d76 or xtol, whatever I can get my hands on locally. thanks again for the quick response guys, I am sure there will be a plethora of questions shot your way in the near future.

11-Jun-2007, 09:06
Be careful though. LF is a lot slower and a little more complex than 35mm. The film isn't sealed in a can then sealed in the camera. You gotta load the sheets in total darkness, and develop them the same way. There's also the chance you'll ruin a shot by accidentally slipping the darkslide out an inch or so before or after exposure.

I did that yesterday. I looked down and saw half a sheet staring at me!

Just a warning to take it easy and don't rush ;)

11-Jun-2007, 09:39
Ilford FP4+ and ID-11.

Nice and easy.

11-Jun-2007, 10:00
I've been drooling over this for a few months now, slowly buying the required equipment while reading up on the topic religiously, so I think I am pretty well prepared, and taking it slow and easy is the way I roll :) The only thing I don't feel comfortable about is the developing side of things, because I have little experience. My goal is to have my first photo turn out well, if that happens I will be grinning ear to ear, though I am pretty sure I will be posting asking you guys what I managed to do to this poor piece of film.

11-Jun-2007, 10:25
In this thread I guess I missed the part where all the details of what was being shot and how prints were going to be made all that information that would help one choose a film developer combo. So in light of that .. TRI-X and D23 split - a completely full proof system - TRI-X has huge latitude and Split D-23 will develop anything and make it printable. I use this combo with my TLRs when I am knocking about without a light meter and winging it. (which is rarely)

Why TRI-X?
Can be had cheap on ebay - yep - just bought 80 rolls at $1.50 a roll -
(sheets are not that hard to find either - cheap - expired is fine - but not from the 80s)
Can be pushed to 1600 and do a great job
Can make 5 stops of brightness fill the range of Grade 2 paper
Can be pulled to suck up 12 stops of brightness
Stains well with my favorite developers
Is very forgiving and tolerant.
Is relatively fine grained
Is everywhere available

Why D-23 Split?
It is really cheap to make from chemicals you can get from artcraft chemical or photoformulary.
It has a lot of capacity (many many many rolls)
It is tolerant of many temperatures and timing is not critical
It is compensating (your skys will look good)

Why I don't use this combination normally:
I know my enlarger and paper(s) and know what densities I am looking for. For LF - I am normally shooting landscapes in the morning or evening and most often I need to expand the contrast. FP4 is better at expanding contrast than TRI-X. I need tight controls and want greater control over densities which I cannot get with the above mentioned combo. I use Pyrocat-P - I like what the stain does in my prints, I like the sharpness and I like what the p-aminophenol does to the mid-tones. So I have tuned my film and chemistry and paper and enlarger head to work together to make what I want. If I was doing contact prints on AZO or portraits, My film choices and developer choices would differ. I use a different combo for Roll film because it has to do many things and do it hand held - often.

So you could get a hundred answers to your question and all would work well for what someone is doing - maybe even fine tuned to their process. For general purpose, you will get acceptable results with generic films (Traditional grain TRI-X PanX FP4 HP5) and developers (D-76 XTOL and their clones) - but not great results always. That is why combos are fine tuned. Start with acceptable results, figure out what you will shoot most of the time and then start calibrating.

Just my $.02

Erich Hoeber
11-Jun-2007, 13:48
Much good advice here. Trad films and XTOL, D76, HC110 are all good choices for the aformentioned reasons. I'd just add that a year ago I switched to Clayton F76+ which is extremely reliable and cheap and has the advantage of being a liquid instead of a powder or syrup which is extremely convenient for those of us who only develop every couple weeks or so. Also, you will benefit greatly from doing some testing. The BTZS method is excellent, but Steve Simmons has a simplified method on the View Camera site that will get the basics for you with a lot less work. Good luck!