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Thread: Newbie film question - which one to start with?

  1. #1

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    Being a real newbie to large format - the camera won't be here until next week - I've been wondering which film to start with. I'm not really a fan of T-Max in 35 or MF, and I'm concerned about Ilford going under. I don't want to start learning a film only to find it no longer available just when I decide to use it all the time. So, what does that leave me? How different is Tri-X sheet film from it's roll film cousins? What about Efke or J&C? All advice will be gratefully received.

    Oh, the camera? Cambo SCX w/ Caltar IIn 210mm F5.6

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    St. Simons Island, Georgia

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    If you're new to large format, I assume you're new to sheet film, too. If that's the case, I would avoid the Efke film for a while. It can scratch easily, and I'd recommend getting some experience with another film first. The Classic 200 and 400 films seem to be very good - I haven't used them a lot yet. They don't expand and contract as much as the Efke, but they seem to me to do as well as HP5.

    As for Ilford, the latest seems to be that they will continue to produce film as long as it makes economic sense. That's as much assurance as we could hope for from anyone. If I were you, I'd try one of the versions of FP4+ and not worry about the future.

    I tired of Kodak's changes, so I have not tried the last couple of versions of Tri-X.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Frisco, Texas

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    Hi David,

    I believe that 4X5 Ilford HP-5+ film is still going to be around for a while. Try it, in combination with Ilford's Ilfotec DD-X film developer, and enjoy the large format B&W experience. The sky is not falling.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    Hello David,

    Welcome to LF!

    I suggest going with a good quality, economic, private label film such as Arista Pro or Arista .edu, Ultrafine, or J and C Classic. Get the biggest box you can afford and have fun.

    My reasoning?

    1. It takes a while to really "learn" what a particular sheet film can do. Using a film from all the same run in your formative stages minimizes the variables. If it is a quality product from a reputable dealer you can be confident that your investment won't be defective. If by the odd chance it is, you're dealing with a merchant who values his reputation.

    2. If it can be had for a good price, you can buy more of it (which goes hand in hand with #1 above)

    3. Repackaged emulsions tend to be "bullet proof" in that they are usually tried and true emulsions proven over decades to be predicatable performers more tolerable of minor time/temp variables than many of the high tech t-grain films. This is really a good thing if you're tray developing sheet film for the first time. Of course, YMMV!

    4. Don't worry too much about the future of Ilford, (or Kodak or Forte)---unless of course you work for them! Nothing is as a certain as your next outing. If you enjoy Ilford(or Kodak or Forte) keep on using it. Should your favorite emulsion become extinct, make a different one your new "favorite." Michealangelo might have had a preference for marble from a particular quarry, but if for some reason this source became unavailable you don't think he'd quit, do you? Certainly great photographers in the past faced similar product availability issues. LF photographers long ago probably mourned the loss of Ansco and Defender sheet films, but somehow managed to keep at it. If they can do it, so can we.
    "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for men if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority"---EB White

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Westport Island, Maine

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    A small note: I'd suggest using a higher-speed (ISO 400) film to start with, if only because you get a little more flexibility when you're photographing things that might move (like water in streams and brooks), where you can always (usually) adjust to slower shutter speeds that you'd be "stuck" with if you used a slower film. The greater depth of field available by using faster film for inert objects is nice, too, even with view camera movements. You can always adapt to a slower film later, but please avoid the "film of the month" club approach. Settle on one, in the end, and stick with it until they go out of business (preferably not next week!).

    Caveat: the foregoing was written by a dyed-in-the-emulsion Tri-X user, so beware of biases!

    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    You don't say what you are going to do with the negative after you develop it. If you are going to contact print or enlarge---which of course requires a 4 x 5 enlarger---there are some significant differences between TriX on the one hand and HP5+ on the other hand. The HP5 can be shot at ISO 400, while the Tri-X is nominally ISO 320. Of course, either of these might have to be adjusted for your particular equipment and technique. The most singificant difference is that TriX has a long toe, while HP5 is much more linear over the relevant exposure range. This can make a difference in the shadows and low middle values. On the other hand, many of us have decided to scan our negatives instead. If you do that, you can pretty much compensate for any differences in the film characteristic curves, so it doesn't make that much difference which you use.

    I agree with the others that you start off with Ilford if you think that is the best choice at present and worry later about switching to another film should it be necessary. Also, HP5 is a good choice because you will soon discover that you want to shoot at least at f/16 and f/32 or f/45. That will require longer exposures than you are used to, and it will be easier with a faster film. The grain in HP5 (or TriX) won't be a problem unless you plan wall sized prints.

  7. #7

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    Thanks to everyone. Ilford it is.

    I've also asked the CC outfit to send me a card that won't melt. I'm going to Chicago on the 14th and plan an expedition to Calumet to pick up a "few" goodies. :-)

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Newbie film question - which one to start with?

    When I was last at Calumet, I asked if there was a run on Ilford products, and the salesman said there wasn't. On the other hand, they were out of Delta 100, which is a film I like.

    So call ahead to find out what they have in stock. They may be willing to reserve something for you.

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