View Full Version : Black and White film quality.

Mike Hansen
7-Nov-2008, 07:03
Is it just my Bad Luck with film or do black and white films have more problems with defects in the emulsion than color tranny films?
Since I started using large format (4X5) about four years ago I have exposed over 300 sheets of Fuji and Kodak tranny film and havn't noticed any defects, that weren't self inflicted.
In the last six months I have been taking Black and White and making prints in the darkroom. Most of the film I have used has been the Arista EDU Ultra 200 and 100 and I believe I ended up with about one out of ten sheets without some sort of defect. Most defects would be no problem if they were scanned, a couple of clicks with the clone brush would remedy most.
I decided I have developed good enough darkroom skills to move up to better quality film. I bought an assortment of films to try and here are the results so far.

HP5--Four of the 20 sheets exposed so far, that I have printed, have had flaws in the emulsion.

Delta 100--Two of the four sheets exposed so far have flaws in the imulsion, one was major. Out of date by a year, but was kept frozen.

TMY-2 400--Twenty sheets exposed with only one small pin hole.

ERA 100--Four sheets exposed with no problems. Out of date, but kept frozen. ( This film was Free)

Just my bad luck ?

Is Kodak the film that will have the most consistant Quality?

Mike Hansen

Ron Marshall
7-Nov-2008, 07:11
I must be lucky or unobservant, I have only had a couple of bad sheets out of many hundreds shot. I shoot mostly b/w, mostly Fuji and Kodak.

Hope you have better luck in the future.

Bruce Watson
7-Nov-2008, 08:16
In the last few years I went through 500+ sheets of 5x4 Tri-X. All developed in a Jobo 3010 tank on a CPP-2 with HC-110 and XTOL. The good ones I drum scan at about 11x and go through them with a fine tooth comb for dust busting. I've seen very few emulsion flaws (I can only remember a couple).

I've now gone through nearly 50 sheets of TMY-2 and haven't seen an emulsion flaw. All processed in the 3010 tank with XTOL 1:3.

I've gone though hundreds of sheets of 160PortraVC and have seen exactly one emulsion flaw. I've gone through less than 50 sheets of 400PortraNC and haven't seen an emulsion flaw.

None of the flaws I've seen would be noticeable in a 10x enlargement. The only reason I see 'em is that I'm looking for 'em.

It's often difficult to tell the difference between an emulsion flaw and junk on the film from processing. Things like crud from the inside of the pipes, micron sized sand, crud from reusing developer and in particular reusing fixer, dissolved minerals like calcium that leave junk on the film from evaporation, and of course the ever popular dust in all its forms and all its "glory."

That said, the so called "off brands" of film have a reputation for having more flaws (very few as opposed to nearly zero). Kodak has justly earned a reputation for extremely high quality.

Richard M. Coda
7-Nov-2008, 08:34
My experience is that Kodak makes the best "quality" films.

7-Nov-2008, 08:38
My 1st box of 4x5 Arista Ultra EDU 100 had a few sheets with defects but I have had none since in either 100 or 200 ISO. And that was 6 boxes of 50 ago.

No defects at all (ever) in TMAX100, TMAX400, or Acros beyond those I know I did myself.

Eric Biggerstaff
7-Nov-2008, 08:54
I go through several hundred sheets of Ilford FP4+ each year and cannot recall an emulsion defect in several years. I have done damage myself, but cannot recall any defects.

kev curry
7-Nov-2008, 09:01
2 years of HP5+ with no issues.

John Kasaian
7-Nov-2008, 09:09
I haven't had any problems with Kodak (aside from thier 10-sheet boxes) or Ilford
FP-4+. I guess I've been lucky when it comes to Arista.eduUltra 100 too.

7-Nov-2008, 09:14
There have been bad batches of film over the past decade in ULF sizes in particular -- Kodak replaced some 12x20 TMY three-four years ago. Ilford has been known to have shipped film with problems. In these rare cases, the firms have always made it right by replacing. You can work with your rep with samples and see what they say about the defects (they've very open and honest about replacing bad film when its their fault).

But your experience with so many different emulsions from so many different vendors?

Either you are a magnet for getting bad film (and if so, please carry on the good work so none of it comes my way ;-)
you should review how the film is getting processed. (you don't mention whether you send it out or whether you do it yourself).

You mention pin holes -- I've never seen any in any Kodak or Ilford products.
Other defects? Could you be more specific? Most of the defects I've seen were obvious coating problems - stripes or regions(blotches) across the film that were coater-related. Defects aren't usually crude or grit or blobs of stuff on the film after processing, and if they are, they will be embedded in the emulsion, not sitting on the surface. Gouges in the film? Usually tray development with corners damaging emulsion during sheet shuffling? Fingerprints in the emulsion? Check the prints- probably match those at the ends of your fingers.

Post some images of the defects so we can take a look. There are many on this forum that can help with suggestions once we see the issue. We've all been there...

Kevin Crisp
7-Nov-2008, 09:27
I have been using Tri-x since 1969 in formats from 35mm to 8X10. I have never had a defective roll or sheet. I've been using TMAX 100 since it came out without a problem. I have used HP5 for about the last 10 years and have never had a problem. The one time I was convinced I had pin holes in a box of 5x7 Tri-X I sent it in and they told me it was dust. And they were right.

I have had some defective sheets of paper over the years, mostly Forte, but I liked it so much I used it anyway. I have not used the films you mentioned but others have had similar complaints. I realize that there is a savings with some films but I would feel I had to shoot backups of everything which is something I don't do now except very rarely. That wouldn't help with the economics of using them.

Peter Mounier
7-Nov-2008, 10:04
If pinholes are the defect you're talking about, that is more likely due to over active fixer, or a move into the fixer without a rinse.


7-Nov-2008, 10:30
Maybe I'm lucky. Never a emulsion issue - ever.

The OP might wish to review his processing. Any chance he is using developers with a lot of carbonate followed by a strong acetic acid stop?

That combination is said by Anchell and others to tend to produce carbonic gas bubble pinholes in emulsions. Anchell's answer is to use a weaker acetic stop, or a water bath as a stop.


7-Nov-2008, 10:56
I can't say that I have seen anything wrong with Tri-x 320 in 4x5 or 8x10 in the past year or so, since I have moved up to large format.

David Karp
7-Nov-2008, 11:00
I cannot recall a problem with HP5+ or FP4+, or their Arista Professional versions that I used to use in the olden days.

Mike Hansen
7-Nov-2008, 11:06
Hi all : I do develope the film myself, after much trial and many,many,many errors,and many hours of reading through the threads here, I believe my developing practices are not the problem.
I use a Unicolor type drum to develope my film, D76 1:1 or xtol 1:1 to 1:3. All chemicals are one shot, and every thing mixed with distilled water and distilled water final rinse.
I am posative some of the pin prick marks are dust, I use all the tricks with my film holders and camera ( To keep them clean) that I have learned from posts here, but here in the dry desert they are pretty much dust magnets.

The HP-5 problem looks like a wrinkle in the coating.

The Delta-100, one sheet had two spots where the emulsion was gone. The other sheet has a spot that looks a small finger print full of pin pricks.

The Arista film-- Pin pricks,scratches on both sides, dark spots, spots that look like drying marks from using tap water.

I really am the most dissapointed with the Ilford, I really didn't expect the Arista to be top of the line film. I bought 100 sheets of FP-4 that I havn't tried yet, but I have faith it's going to be a good batch. I've never had a problem with Ilford FP-4 film in 35mm.

I have no idea how to post a picture, I have been visiting this site for over four years and yesterday I finally found the nerve to make a post.

Thanks, Mike Hansen

7-Nov-2008, 11:42
Are you filtering your water? I know this is obvious. But a water heater that is going bad will release metal particles through the pipes. Experience.

Bruce Watson
7-Nov-2008, 11:54
The HP-5 problem looks like a wrinkle in the coating.

The Delta-100, one sheet had two spots where the emulsion was gone. The other sheet has a spot that looks a small finger print full of pin pricks.

It sounds like you are doing all the normal smart processing things. So you've already eliminated the majority of the things that a user can inflict on the film. I don't use the word "inflict" lightly either -- after the things I've done to film over the years I'm surprised they still sell me the stuff! ;-)

These two film problems above should perhaps be brought to Ilford's attention. They should make good on your film purchase for one thing. And they need the feedback if they are going to improve. And we all want them to improve. Even if I'm not using their films now, I might in the future and I want them to be as good as they can be.

Simon Galley of Ilford (http://www.apug.org/forums/members/simon-r-galley/) is a frequent poster at APUG. (http://www.apug.org/forums/forum13/) Might be worth chasing him down about these problems. He apparently has been very good at Ilford customer relations. Worth a try maybe.

Gene McCluney
7-Nov-2008, 12:14
I have been using sheet film (b/w & color) for about 40 years. I have used many, many brands of film. I have not seen any problems that couldn't be attributed to processing on my part.

Transparency color sheet film, doesn't show "dust" as much, as it images as tiny black specks, rather than white "pinhole" like specks. These are usually harder to see.

Sheet film has many more chances to get scratched, or dusty, as each individual holder has to be loaded (and unloaded), and LF bellows-type cameras are more dust magnets than medium-format cameras are. In addition, the processing of sheet film requires more human contact with the sheets than roll film usually does.

John Bowen
7-Nov-2008, 14:32
When it comes to film, you get what you pay for. Buy the best and you won't have the problems. Defective film is way too expensive. Quality Control is not cheap!

On a recent trip to Maine (2,635 miles @ 16mpg), 9 nights in motels, and 10 days of meals on the road, I shot 120 8x10 negatives, 20 5x7 negatives, 20 7x17 negatives and 1 roll of 35mm. Compared to the fuel, rooms and meals the film was the least expensive item.....and the film was all Kodak TMY except the 35mm which was Tri-X. Imagine how mad I would be if after taking all that time and spending all that $$, I returned home to find my film was defective????? Now THAT's expensive!

Brian Ellis
7-Nov-2008, 18:20
I must have been extremely lucky. In ten years of photographing excusively with HP5+ and TMax 100 4x5 and 8x10 I never found a defect in a single sheet.

Gudmundur Ingolfsson
7-Nov-2008, 19:21
In my 46 years of serious photography I have used ADOX, AGFA, ANSCO, ARGENTA, BEGGER, DEKO, FUJI, FORTE, FERRANIA, GEVAERT, GEKKO, ILFORD, KODAK,KENTMER, LEONAR, MIMOSA, ORIENTAL, PERUTZ and a few more. Mostly when there are faults, they are mine. But somehow AGFA, ILFORD, KODAK and FUJI have risen above the rest.
There is no scientific proof, just personal preference.

7-Nov-2008, 19:58
Hi all : I do develope the film myself, ....I use a Unicolor type drum to develope my film, D76 1:1 or xtol 1:1 to 1:3. All chemicals are one shot, and every thing mixed with distilled water and distilled water final rinse.
I am posative some of the pin prick marks are dust, I use all the tricks with my film holders and camera ( To keep them clean) that I have learned from posts here, but here in the dry desert they are pretty much dust magnets.

The HP-5 problem looks like a wrinkle in the coating.

The Delta-100, one sheet had two spots where the emulsion was gone. The other sheet has a spot that looks a small finger print full of pin pricks.

The Arista film-- Pin pricks,scratches on both sides, dark spots, spots that look like drying marks from using tap water.

...I finally found the nerve to make a post.

Thanks, Mike Hansen

Great that you posted. there's a lot of experience and people have shared some of it.

I lived in the desert with 8x10, 7x17 and 12x20 for many many years, so dust is one of those things. Ever wonder why dust always seems attracted to the sky? take the back off...see all that dust on the bottom of the bellows? When you pull the darkslide of the holder..the sky is right next to that. Clean it out.

Find the equivalent of the old Kostiner antistatic brush - -one of the big ones that cover 8 inches. Use it on all holders before you put film in. Use it in the field one the holder before inserting it.

Is the HP-5 wrinkle caused by a scratch, or is it permanently in the emulsion? Contact Ilford. That delta problem sounds an awful lot like a contaminated finger print. You'd have to scan it and post. Sounds like you are doing the right things with developing chemsitry - distilled water and one-shot.

MIke Sherck
7-Nov-2008, 20:15
You should try an experiment. Load up half a box of film and share or trade the other half with another photographer -- anyone will do, most likely. Shoot & process and compare results. Process vs. manufacture problems should be pretty plain.


Mike Hansen
7-Nov-2008, 20:58
I'm glad to rear that my problems are the exception and not the rule. I had about decided that flaws were just the way it is.

I went out today and shot four more sheets of the Delta 100, and all four are perfect.
I am thinking that the first two sheets were stuck together and I did the damage when I pulled them apart.

Shot six sheets of Tmax 100 and they are all perfect.
I feel a whole lot better now, and have no regrets buying the better film.

Thanks, Mike Hansen

7-Nov-2008, 22:45
18 years of using Kodak Tri-X and TMax films processed in D76 with Jobo CPA 2 and have had no problems at all. I exposed 500 sheets of Tmax 400 this year and processed them in Pyrocat HD and they all came out great. I have had a few issues with Ilford and Agfa, but never with Kodak or Fuji.

brad martin
10-Nov-2008, 00:28

I've always assumed that the dust spots and scratches were my fault. I feel way better.


Frank Petronio
10-Nov-2008, 00:42
I found Ilford HP-5 to be miscut so it was 1/4" shorter than normal. And boxed so that the two inner boxes were facing the same way. Both times I complained, and the reps apologized to the lab owner but never made any effort on my behalf (some properly sized film would have set things straight) so they lost my business. That was last year when I shot over 1,500 sheets of the stuff.

I went back to Kodak and have never had a problem. That includes all the 1,000s of sheets I had to deal with when I was a young assistant doing catalogs and such.

10-Nov-2008, 06:17
one extra thing i do to try and keep the dust down i keep my changing tent zipped up when i am not using it. when i take out the film and holders i immediately close the flap. i just did a trip out west with a friend. i call him the dust monster....all he talked about was the dust the dust the dust. i kept after him and teased his incessantly about "seeing" so much dust. turns out he has been shocked that his negs have "no" dust (not yet at least).

i want to use kodak and ilford...i really do but they are WAY more expensive than my favorite film foma100/arista.edu.ultra. i have no doubts that K&I have top of the line quality control....(and i love their films don't get me wrong!) BUT i have not had any problems with the foma films....except the problems i introduced!

i simply shoot too much LF film as a hobby to be able to justify K&I. i think this last year i have shot about 700 sheets of 4x5, 300sh of 8x10 and 100sh 11x14 (i just started shooting 11x14:) )! i have been shooting this film for over 5 years. as i have said i have no problems that i could attribute to the manufacturer.

so now for the interesting break down! basically when i compare the prices i pay for the arista.edu.ultra to the prices of the same amount of Kodak film from THIS years film purchases i have already made, i have saved exactly $1550! NOW that is a HUGE savings! (i think i should shoot less film...if my wife ever finds out.....)

so lets break this down a bit further. that savings has afforded me the entire 15 day trip to utah this year including car rental, lodging,gas, and plane ticket....AND it has also paid for my share of a one week house rental in maine this year (split with some of my photography pals) and the gas to get there and back....AND i still had a bit extra money left over for my new wet plate interest....maybe one day i will no longer need to buy film......!

the long and the short of it is i guess i am lucky! i have had no issues with my film. it prints on silver very nice. i have been using it with Alt process with great success AND i have saved enough money to pay for two trips this year alone. i am very happy.

when/if i can get some one else to pay for my films i may try some of the other great films from K&I....i sure would like to bang away on FP4 and Tmax400....i really would! but until that day i will continue to shoot A.E.U.


Michael Kadillak
10-Nov-2008, 08:15
This subject has been bantered around extensively.

I have come to the conclusion that photographers that use film on the lower end of the cost scale continue to defend the practice and diminish the adverse consequences that they realize in the process. If it is a case of just being excessively frugile it really does not matter. I feel that if it is worth doing, it should be done to the best one ones capabilities which should favor the highest quality materials, but this is just not the case.

I understand that students learning the craft obviously do not have the financial resources nor the requirement to use the best film possible. But those that have been making photographs for years do not necessarily fall into this category.

At the end of the day you get what you pay for.


10-Nov-2008, 08:30
Was the tranny film all ready-loads?


Mike Hansen
10-Nov-2008, 11:47
All the tranny film was loaded in holders, and developed in a unicolor type drum.
I have seen a few dust problems in the scans, but no major flaws not caused by my finger nails in the wet emulsion.
I've taken and developed 16 more sheets of Kodak Tmax film since my last post,and they all look good, not one problem that I can see.
I finally figured out how to post a picture, and posted some color in the landscape thread. I scanned some B/W prints, but they just didn't look like the original, so I posted color.
Thanks, Mike Hansen