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Thread: Help Request : Film Choice

  1. #1

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    Help Request : Film Choice

    I am starting out in large format and currently taking a Darkroom class at a local art institute. I have also picked a couple of Stearman Press SP-8x10 daylight processing trays and their chemistry to start developing, although I will try Pyrocat-HD once I get comfortable.

    I am unsure about the film I should choose because I want to really stick to one film, keeping variables to a minimum, and learn that way. I have looked at lots of images online and watched lots of videos on Youtube. In the past week, I think I have changed my mind four times. I like the character of Bergger Pancro but the fine grain (and density) of Ilford Delta 100. I want smooth tonal gradations, sharp not grungy, characterful not clinical result. I understand a lot of this also depends on the developer/chemistry and darkroom process, but I want to pick a film that will yield my stated goals if I know what I am doing to achieve those goals. Can Ilford FP4 be the middle ground or Fomapan 100/200?

    Any recommendations for a newbie?

    Thanks in advance and cheers!

  2. #2

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    Some questions—

    What format are you shooting? 4x5, 8x10...
    Are you contact printing or enlarging? Optical enlarger or scans? What size prints?

    Almost no matter your answers I would use FP-4. It's a great film and likes pretty much any developer. You can bend it to your will, but if you're just starting out it is reliable and forgiving.
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    Richard Wasserman

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  3. #3
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    You'd do well to learn FP4+. Grain isn't a major concern with 8x10. It's a good quality normal film.
    Delta100 might be better for night photos with very long exposure (reciprocity issues)

    Some people might say use the cheap stuff like Foma or Xray for learning.. I had some quality issues when I did that, and I prefer to know for sure any learning issues I'm chasing down are my own fault and not the factory's.

  4. #4

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    Thanks for your response, Richard

    I am going to be shooting 8x10 but have also ordered a 4x5 back for my 8x10 camera, primarily to economize the cost of learning.
    I will be contact-printing. Enlargements perhaps down the line, but a bit out of my league at this time.
    Not my preference, but probably some scanning would come into play.

  5. #5

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    Quote Originally Posted by jp View Post
    I prefer to know for sure any learning issues I'm chasing down are my own fault and not the factory's.
    That is an excellent point. Thanks!

  6. #6

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    From your indication, I'll assume you are shooting 8x10. FP4 is a fine film indeed. I shoot 4x5 and chose HP5 in order to have extra speed, but that is because my primary interest is in portraiture in natural light on location, emphatically including inside. I spent a lot of time thinking about this when I returned to photography a few years ago, because my previous work in 4x5 had mostly used Tmax 400, which is considerably finer-grained. I ended up finding that I had worried a lot more about grain than necessary.

    An 8x10 negative makes a 16x20 print with nominally only 4x enlargement. I enlarge only to 11x14, which is really x by about 13, though I am perfectly ready to crop the negative. In any case, in this format my enlargement is unlikely to exceed 4x and usually stays closer to 3x or less. I print with a diffusion head, which inherently minimizes grain. While some LF photographers would complain of "too much grain" in my images, I, frankly, don't see it -- though the look of a print from an 8x10, ISO 100 negative, all other things being equal, would distinguish it. It's a matter of style. I have no problem with the grain in an 11x14 from my 645 HP5 negatives, an enlargement by maybe 5 1/2 to 7 times, which, to me, is still very modest indeed, roughly equivalent to a 5x7 print from a 35mm frame but in a print one views from a significantly greater distance. If I had more money, I would probably use Tmax 400, but frankly, I hardly lose sleep over it; my focus is not on porcelain skin. My goal is to compose and print images that will make grain the last thing on my viewer's mind.

    Such considerations will emerge as you refine what it is you wish to do in your own work.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  7. #7

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    Philip, thanks for your thoughtful response. You are right about the over-emphasis on grain. I don't mind grain actually. I just don't want a very grungy look. Maybe that comes from over developing or use of chemistry that yields the very harsh look.

  8. #8
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    X-Ray is dying

    Buy where you live, have good supply and pick what is affordable for you

    It is good advice to use the same film, chems, process for a long time
    2022

  9. #9

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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Tin Can View Post
    use the same film, chems, process for a long time
    That is my intention. Leaning towards FP4, Pyrocat-HD in SP-8x10 daylight processing trays.

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Help Request : Film Choice

    I use that combination (in Jobo Expert Drums/motor base)...great way to start.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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