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Thread: Black and White film quality.

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2006
    South Western Utah

    Black and White film quality.

    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 Out of date by a year, but was kept frozen.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 Out of date, but kept frozen.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

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4
    Richard M. Coda
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Scottsdale, AZ

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    My experience is that Kodak makes the best "quality" films.
    Photographs by Richard M. Coda
    my blog
    Primordial: 2010 - Photographs of the Arizona Monsoon
    "Speak softly and carry an 8x10"
    "I shoot a HYBRID - Arca/Canham 11x14"

  5. #5
    Ron Miller
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    CT, USA

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.

  6. #6
    Eric Biggerstaff
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Denver, Colorado

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.
    Eric Biggerstaff

  7. #7
    kev curry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    2 years of HP5+ with no issues.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  9. #9
    Don Nelson
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Portland, Oregon

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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...

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Blue Jay, CA

    Re: Black and White film quality.

    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.

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