View Full Version : Steve Simmons film test

Herb Cunningham
29-Dec-2007, 20:16
I ran some film tests on HP5 from ilford, Rodinal a 1/25, got a real film speed of about 100, maybe 150.

I then went to the paper white test and find I must develop more than 12 minutes to get a proper white, maybe 14 minutes. at this concentration, I would have expected:

Higher film speed, and less development time. Rodinal does not recommend 1/50 dilution for this film.

anybody have some wisdom here? I ran the tests as was described by Steve in an article I think was last year.

29-Dec-2007, 21:33
I have nothing to constructive to say, but I ran a maximum black/paper white test for efke maybe 3 weeks ago and found that everything worked great at 8min. The problem was that the images were almost totally flat and lacked contrast (or at least the amount I'm used to). I upped my development time by 2min and now I couldn't be happier. It took some experimenting, so it was by no means a quick fix eventhough the negs printed well- just flat..

Michael Heald
30-Dec-2007, 03:23
Hello! Would a flat photo be improved by increasing the contrast of the paper as opposed to changing the development time of the negative? I would have thought this would maintain the maximum blacks and whites, but increased the contrast to give a photo more punch? Best regards.

Michael A. Heald

30-Dec-2007, 09:57
That's usually the idea michael. To get the contrast I was looking for with a normally developed negative I would have needed a grade 6-7 paper. This was kentmere bromide, a paper I have found to be pretty contrasty. It was either increase dev time or print everything with Lith developer so I could get enough contrast ;)

steve simmons
30-Dec-2007, 10:02
First of all this is not my test. Fred Picker first described this procedure in the mid 70's in his book The Zone VI Workshop.

The purpose of the test is to standardize your developed negs to your paper. I have suggested standardizing in the mid range of the paper - either graded or VC. A grade 2 for example would be a good place. This way you can drop to a 0-1.5 to get less contrast if your neg is contrastier than you want, or go to 2.5 or above to get more contrast.

The article is in the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site


for anyone to download and read.

steve simmons

John Bowen
30-Dec-2007, 15:56

From your post, I gather you aren't absolutely sure what your proper film speed is or what your proper film development time should be. May I make a suggestion based on personal experience. When I did my Fred Picker film speed and development tests, one of my most difficult challenges was determing exactly what a Zone VIII density should look like on printed paper. I sent my negatives to Richard Ritter to have my film speed verified.

Bruce Barlow at www.circleofthesunproductions.com sells a film testing kit. This kit includes detailed instructions, a .1 neutral denisty filter to use to determine your proper film speed and a Zone VIII print to use to judge your film development times. It isn't too expensive, something like $12, or you could purchase his book on CD, Finely Focused which I believe includes the film test kit together with lots of practical photographic "tips" and some great exercises to stretch your photographic skills. The book is $25 including postage.

You really can't go wrong with the book

Best of luck,


Bruce Barlow
30-Dec-2007, 17:19
John Bowen is a shill. He's also a good friend. Buyer beware!

Thanks for the blatant commercial, John. Better you than me. You have credibility.

Herb Cunningham
30-Dec-2007, 18:04
I have Bruce's test kit and was working from a printout of Steve's article in VC mag.
In fact I was using the forms from Bruce's film test, can't put my hands on the literature or the film segments he supplies with it, but it is in the darkroom somewhere.

That said, I was making the point I thought it odd that my film speed was really low, considering the box speed is 400. My point is that it seemed really odd to get a variation of almost 1/3 of the film speed and 150% of the recommended time for, what to me, is a pretty hot soup, at 1/25. Is this a film/chemistry issue? I will do it again with pyrocat hd and see what I get.

I have developed tri x 320 in rodinal 25 and got really punchy contrast. I will do a test on txp next time. My point was that the recommended time and film speed seemed wacky.

mucho gracias to all responders.

Peter De Smidt
30-Dec-2007, 18:59
Hi Herb, I'm not at all surpised by your results. My results with Xtol and Hp5+ sheet film is EI 200, but Xtol gives a little speed boost, and Rodinal tends towards giving lower speeds. Meter, shutter accuracy, aperture accuracy, ... all effect results, and they can be significantly different from what is recommended. You could always run the test again and see what you get. It only takes two sheets. Exposuse an even-toned, non-colored surface at Zone I and then at Zone VIII using the speed and development times from your first test. If your first test was right, you should get very similar negative densities to those in your first test.

Bruce Barlow
31-Dec-2007, 07:08
When I lived in Chicago, my development times were one value. When I moved to New Hampshire, they changed substantially. There's a different pH in the water between Lake Michigan and my deep granite well.

35mm old Tri-X was 200 for me in one camera, 250 in another body. I knew when they changed it because my negs went weird. Retested, it's 400 now. My LF speed has remained the same because Richard Ritter keeps my Pentax Digital calibrated so that it is.

HP5 tested at 200 for me. FP4 at 80. Bergger 200 at 80. With pyro developers, all bets are off and I have to retest.

The whole point of testing is to prove what works for you, not to validate the manufacturer's claim. And manufacturers seem to think that we want more speed (I do), and if they claim more speed, it's true. It isn't true.

Herb Cunningham
31-Dec-2007, 08:11
Thanks, guys, I am going to re test for the developing time. I have a 5 gal dispenser that I keep an aquarium heater in for 68 degree water. It may be I had a temperature issue, but I will post the re test results. I was particularly puzzeled by the development time required for max white.

Kevin Crisp
31-Dec-2007, 09:58
I'm not saying you're doing this, but a common problem is to get carried away by picking what "maximum black" is on that part of the test. It makes a huge difference, if you go a stripe or two over then it has a big impact on the exposure time you are using. You are giving excess exposure during the test to find Zone VIII and then you are overdeveloping to get there.

steve simmons
31-Dec-2007, 10:15
The article on the View Camera site is very straightforward. Just don't over think what you are doing.

steve simmons

Kirk Gittings
31-Dec-2007, 11:04
While this method may not be as precise as some other more involved methods like BTZS (by some peoples estimations), it works very well and has the advantage of targeting a particular papers characteristics. I have used it successfully ever since Pickers book first came out.

Herb Cunningham
1-Jan-2008, 19:52
I think the problem was some old Rodinal. My bottle was almost empty, it was months old, so I opened a new bottle, paid careful attention to the temp, and voila, good negs at
8.5 minutes.

That is at 1/25 for HP5.

Thanks to all those replying

steve simmons
2-Jan-2008, 08:00

Happy New Year now go shoot

steve simmons

Herb Cunningham
2-Jan-2008, 11:46
Next we'll have some decent prints to show you at Foto3.

Happy new year

Kevin Crisp
2-Jan-2008, 12:15
I know it is folk lore around here that refrigerated Rodinal lasts forever but it certainly does not. There's mud brown (going bad) and there is a pinkish-blue-purple-brown which is normal. Glad it worked out.

Colin Corneau
3-Jan-2008, 18:48
I just downloaded and printed that article from "View Camera"...wow, what a fantastic read.

It even was clear to a befuddled newbie like me. Steve, thank you.

Kirk Gittings
3-Jan-2008, 18:50
I just downloaded and printed that article from "View Camera"...wow, what a fantastic read.

It even was clear to a befuddled newbie like me. Steve, thank you.

Steve has been using and perfecting this method since Picker introduced it a lifetime ago. It is not surprising that he can teach it well.

Hans Berkhout
4-Jan-2008, 19:22
Finding an evenly illuminated wall is not always easy, or when you need to test-shoot the weather may be foul etc. I don't test often, but when I do, I slip a Wallace Expo disc on the camera lens, hold a second W.E. disc against the front of my exposure meter and take readings for Zone I, Zone VIII or whatever I need. If it's -30C outside I can do the testing from my living room, just aim the exp. meter and the camera at sky, the sun, you name it.

For convenience I've actually snapped a W.E. disc on a 67mm filterring (first remove the glass) and it threads on my camera lens. Can also be used for pre-exposure.

Avoid using an aperture too wide, it may lead to vignetting, check for this in the usual fashion.