View Full Version : B/W Film Advice.

Lucas M
5-Dec-2007, 22:04
I never really ever shoot black and white so I thought that I'd like to give it a try. I don't have a darkroom but plan to mail out the box when done shooting. I like to take 'nature' shots mainly with my colour film but with black and white I may try some portraitures for a change too. I don't have a clue about the advantages/disadvantages of any particular film. Two I am looking at that are available are Ilford Hp5 and Kodak T-Max. I'll say again I don't have a clue.
Another big factor is that b/w film is a *bit* cheaper and then with some of the money I save I can get some coloured filters and play around with it.

Andrew O'Neill
5-Dec-2007, 22:12
Developing black and white film is easy and requires very little equipment. Are you planning on using sheet film? You would save yourself a wack of money if you do it yourself rather than sending it out. You really should be in control of exposure AND development.
Pick one film/developer combination and stick with it until you know them in and out. Both films you mention are great films, although if you are just starting with B/W I would recommend HP5...it's a more forgiving, traditional film.

Lucas M
5-Dec-2007, 22:19
Though that is just the thing. Currently we don't have any room anywhere for having a darkroom. Maybe in a few years after I move... but not feasible right at the moment. But thanks for the advice, I'll remember it for sure.

Andrew O'Neill
5-Dec-2007, 22:29
It sucks not having a darkroom...but you don't really need one. I know a guy who develops 8x10 film and contact prints it in his bathroom...or was it his laundry room?

Pat Kearns
5-Dec-2007, 22:34
Using Unicolor, Beseler, BTZS, and Jobo rotary drums only require total darkness while loading the film. Afterwards, the development can be done in daylight on a countertop. You are in control of the development process as Andrew recommended then a scanner and Photo Shop will eliminate the darkroom requirement.

John Kasaian
5-Dec-2007, 22:51
A bathroom makes a nice dark(er) room---thats what I use, with a piece of cardboard over the window and either wait until everyone is in bed so I can turn off the lights in the adjoining hall, or put a towel down to block light coming in under the door.
It works good enough for B&W. Assuming you're doing contacts you won't even need space for an enlarger The card board is free and you've already got a towel, right? Get a set of trays, a timer(ebay for a gralab 300) a safe light---get a bulb that screws into a standard light fixture, some bottles for storing chemicals (wine jugs work good, replace the metal screw cap with a cork or rubber stopper) and a graduate (a plastic measuring pitcher from the housewares aisle works as well, just don't let your Bride use it aftewards :eek: a cheap plastic bucket and funnel to pour the stuff in your wine jugs, add a piece of heavy glass for contact printing, some wooden clothes pins for hanging your negatives and prints up to dry and you're in business!
For cheap film, see what it would cost to have Freestyle ship you a box of Arista.eduUltra.

Joseph O'Neil
6-Dec-2007, 06:14
A few random thoughts...
1) HP5 - very easy film to work with and forgiving of mistakes and errors;
2) For sheet film, look at rotary processing in tubes of some kind, even if you rotate those tubes by hand on top of a table while watching TV;
3) When starting out, say to yourself "I'm going to buy a box of 25 sheets of film, and waste the whole box learning". If you get that into your head that your first box is a write off and there only to learn, it takes off pressure and lets you experiment a bit more.
4) take notes of your first box of film, what you did and did not do on each shot. You will not have to do this later on (unless you want to);
5) Look on places like Kijijii or Craigslist for people selling darkrooms. Here in my hometown I see a MF enlarger and whole B&W darkroom setup for under $100. If you cannot find a 4x5 enlarger right away, contact prints are a lot of fun.
6) Sometimes the best place to buy containers and measuring cups for a new darkroom is the kitchen isle of the local dollar store. Also, kitty litter trays make wonderful print developing trays at a 1/4 of the price, so shop around.

good luck

Tom Perkins
6-Dec-2007, 07:17
The HP-5 will be easier to manage than the T-Max. There are very few options available for commercial processing and they are not likely to be cheaper. I think the best way to get hooked on black and white is to shoot a couple of rolls of Ilford XP-2 in 35mm and then have the local one hour place make some prints. Anything you do at home is guaranteed to be better, particularly with sheet film. Then you won't be able to help yourself, and the availability of inexpensive darkroom equipment and makeshift bathroom ideas will make perfect sense; a kind of compulsion takes over. Good luck.

6-Dec-2007, 08:03
+1 for HP5. I used TMax in LF but finally went to Tri-X (should also be readily available and I love it). I used HP5 in the past (35mm) and was happy with it.

Instead of a darkroom (currently "in progress" in the basement, but unusable), I use a loading tent (mine is a red arrow, there are many brands) to load my film in a Combiplan tank, then use the Combiplan in full light to process my film.

Brian Ellis
6-Dec-2007, 08:19
Getting back to your question - see what your lab prefers, if they have a preference and you obviously don't then go with theirs. If the lab doesn't care - Kodak TMax 100, Kodak TMax 400, Kodak Tri-X, and Ilford HP5+ are probably the most popular b&w films and all are excellent. The advantage of TMax 100 is that it comes in Readyloads, which means that you wouldn't have to worry about loading and unloading film in the dark, you would just use it and give it to your lab in the Readyload envelopes. The advantage of the other three is that they will allow you to use a faster shutter speed than TMax 100 because they're faster films. That could be important for portraits depending on your lighting and also is useful with "nature" when foliage is moving gently in a breeze. However, you would need to have a light-tight place in your house in which to load and unload these films in their holders. It doesn't have to be a fully equipped "darkroom," just a bathroom or closet or any other place where you can block out the light and have a little room to maneuver. I used to sit on the floor of a closet at night with a towel under the door to load film many years ago before I had a true "darkroom."

Good luck, b&w is a whole different thing than than color, very few people do both equally well.

David Karp
6-Dec-2007, 08:46
Don't buy the readyloads unless you have a dedicated holder or a Polaroid 545 holder.

Richard Wall
6-Dec-2007, 10:19
Both T-Max (I shoot 4x5) and HP5+ (120, 4x5 8x10) are great films. Although I tend to prefer the Ilford films. I have also used Efke PL25 (8x10) with good results. If you have any control over the developer, I like to develop HP5+ in Microphen or Rodinal (if you can get it) and the T-Max in HC-110 Dil-B.

You probably already know this, but you should try to use some kind of colored filters with these films. My personal preference for general shooting out doors would be a either 12 or 15 yellow, but that is personal preference. I'm sure others on this list have their own excellent opinions on filtration. Other filters that I have in my B&W arsenal are the 11-green, 22-orange, 25-red, 29-deep red and two infrared filters 89B and 87C.

In my opinion part of the beauty of shooting B&W film is in the control of the processing. You might want to find some way to do your own processing after you get comfortable with the shooting. Let the lab process your film until you feel comfortable with your control over the film when shooting then start looking into developing your own film. Just a thought.

Good luck and have some fun.


6-Dec-2007, 10:47
No one's mentioned FP4 yet, it's been a long time since I did any black and white work but back in the day that was my choice – do people still recommend it, particularly for landscape work. I'd have though the grain might be a bit too lively with HP5?

Michael Heald
6-Dec-2007, 12:34
How do you want to print? I imagine film/development choice is impacted by final print, be that in a wet darkroom or scanning.
TMax is has a long straignt line - a more journalistic-type interpretation, at least so I've been told. FP4 and older emulsions have been reported to have a more creamy look.
Part of the fun of large format B&W is the ability to push/pull individual shots.
I use TMax and a Unicolor roller and drum. Cheap on E-bay, and the give VERY repeatable results. I haven't experienced any of the problems other folks in the forum have experienced with TMax because of the repeatability of the this procedure. Best regards.

Michael A. Heald