Why not make FULL use of chromogenic B&W film?

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Not so much a question, more an idea thrown open for discussion.

Why didn't Kodak make full use of the chromogenic abilities of their new(ish) TCN400 film?
The image could have been made to develop yellow and mauve, instead of simply off-grey.
This would allow it to be printed on Multicontrast paper with an automatic masking effect.
The shadows could be made to print with a high contrast, and the highlights much softer.
Of course, the ability to print it on colour paper would be lost, but that's no loss at all as far as I'm concerned.

A crazy idea?
What do you all think?

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 20, 2000


Why not ask Kodak? I tried a similar thing with Agfa last year, and they were very willing to provide information.

-- Thomas Wollstein (thomas_wollstein@web.de), September 20, 2000.

Because the film was designed to be printed on color paper. If you don't want that, use Ilford XP2+. In fact TCN400 is a balance between printability on B&W and color paper, B&W Select is designed to be even easier to print on color paper at the expense of B&W paper printability.

-- Terry Carraway (TCarraway@compuserve.com), September 20, 2000.

Terry is exactly correct on this one. These films were made to be printed on color paper, by one-hour labs. Any color mask would make this process more difficult.

-- Ed Farmer (photography2k@hotmail.com), September 20, 2000.

Guys, there is a built-in filter with TN, an oragae one that closely approaches a safelight! This stuff is JUNK and is best left to the rank amatuers and newspaper photographers for whom it was intended.

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), September 20, 2000.

Come off it, Michael. The film is intended for color paper. End of story.

I use this film for 3-D prints from my Nimslo. Works great.

-- Brian C. Miller (brian.c.miller@get.net), September 20, 2000.

The built in mask you seek is available with pyro developers and standard silver based emulsions.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), September 20, 2000.

"This stuff is JUNK"

Not really. It allows you to record a massive range of tones, which is quite handy. I don't find the lighter orange mask of T400CN to cause any problems.

-- John O'Connell (boywonderiloveyou@hotmail.com), September 20, 2000.

Shot a bunch of TCN400 rolls this summer. Was very unhappy with the 4x6 proofs I got back from Kodak. Went home and printed same on BW paper and they look great! Happy now. This film is just as good as regular BW if used properly.

-- Ted Davis (teddavis@exactphoto.com), September 20, 2000.

Charlie, that was my whole point. Chromogenic film could be made to give similar (or better) results to Pyro, with the added advantage of commercial processing and consistency, and not harking back to 19th century working practises.

About the compatibility with colour paper. I've already said I don't give a rat's nostril for printing B&W negs on colour paper, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 21, 2000.

I did have some TCN400 enlargements made with the Fuji Frontier printer on color paper and they're unbelievably sharp with excellent tonal ranges and have a slight selenium purple tone. Nice!

-- Ted Davis (teddavis@exactphoto.com), September 23, 2000.

There is absolutely NO similarity between chromogenic film and pyro. TN is designed to be printed on color paper at a one-hour lab. Like I said: JUNK. Strickly for snapshooters, not for anyone even remotely interested in making fine prints. Sorry, guys, the emperor has NO CLOTHES!

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), September 24, 2000.

i use TCN for making "fine prints" all the time. i think it's a beautiful film in the darkroom on ilford's MG-IV papers, though, by kodak's own admission, it was designed primarily for machine printing. it has incredibly huge exposure latitude, terrific sharpness, and nearly non-existent grain. for chromogenic c-41 film, some of my buddies prefer ilford's xp2-super, which lacks the orange mask. i've never even used xp2-super, but plan on doing so on vacation in a few weeks.

to call any of kodak's, ilford's, or fuji's films "junk" is rather silly and ignorant of the patently subjective nature of photography.

--brad daly

-- brad daly (bwdaly@hiwaay.net), September 24, 2000.

I, too get fine results with TCN 400 and VC B&W paper. 4x6 prints on color paper are convenient proofs. Maybe the operative word here is arrogant, not ignorant.

-- Tim Brown (brownt@flash.net), September 25, 2000.

It's always amazing how these little name-calling battles get started by those who feel compelled to defend the indefensible! 400TN is the harbinger of bad news: Kodak appears to be planning to discontinue 'real' black and white film. Hmmm. Think about it. If you believe you are getting fine prints from TN, I suggest you try FP-4+ in PMK. (EI: 80, dev 13M @ 68F.) I bet you'll never use TN again!

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), September 27, 2000.

I don't know how many times or ways I can say this.
I am not advocating the use of 400TN in its present form. I am saying that chromogenic films could be tailored to give more desirable printing characteristics on proper Silver-image B&W paper, and to hell with printing the negatives on colour paper.
PMK is an outmoded, hit-and-miss, minority appeal process that's only suited to the dilletante enthusiast. C41 is cheaply and widely available, and far more consistent.
OK? Now everybody is equally offended. ;^)

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 28, 2000.

I thought the whole point of B&W film was that you could pick the film, exposure, developer and development to give you the range, tonality, grain and sharpness you wanted.

Chromogenic "one size fits all", "standard C41 process" films would seem to be the equivalent of photographic "fast food". Some people, however, like Big Macs, and if you just want a print that isn't color, there's nothing wrong with using chromogenic B&W film.

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), September 28, 2000.

I'm afraid that Mr. Andrews is sadly uninformed about PMK. It was formulated in the '80's by Gordon Hutchings and he waited until he had all the kinks worked out before publishing it in 1991, publick domain, without strings, I might add. It is specially formulated for modern emulsions, and works superbly with the new generation of crystal grain films. 'Hit and miss'??? Hardly! PMK is the most reliable and predictable developer I've ever used. If it has minority appeal, it is only because you have to expend a bit of effort to buy a kit from Photographers' Formulary, or, as I do, mix it from stock chemistry. 'Dilletant' refers to 'superficial, amatuer,' hardly descriptive of those who go to the trouble and work of mixing developers from expensive and sometimes dangerous chemistry! I strongly suggest that those who line up like lemmings at the 'one- hour' color labs are actually the 'dilletants.'

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), September 28, 2000.

OK. Let's see how uninformed I am.
PMK works by generating brownish oxidation byproducts during development, in almost exactly the same way that chromogenic couplers are turned into dyestuffs in colour film. Most developers do this to some extent, but Pyrogallic acid has a stronger oxidised colour than most. Pyro' also has a "tanning" or hardening effect on gelatine, with the result that the developer byproducts are trapped in the emulsion in proportion to the density of the silver image.
So far, so good; but what we end up with, is a dye image that is dependent for its density, colour and stability on a lot of variables. The thickness and pre-hardening of the gelatine used for manufacturing the film; the freshness of the Pyro used in making up the developer; the pH and duration of any stop bath; the pH, duration and freshness of the fixing bath; the duration and temperature of the wash given to the film after development; and finally the storage and light exposure of the developed film. Any variation in one of these parameters can, and will, alter the result, making process control just as tricky as with C41, except nobody tries to operate a C41 line manually.
Any process that has so many variables, some of which are outside our control, cannot be called reliable.
The very fact that the Pyro stain exists at all shows that all of the developer products haven't been fully removed from the emulsion. This can't bode well for long term permanence. Which is why there are probably as many ex-users of Pyro as there are users.
By dilletante, I meant someone who could afford to waste time ordering and making up raw chemicals, or kits only available from one supplier, and someone who could risk the ocassional unexpected result.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 29, 2000.

It's probably worth pointing out that Kodachrome was developed from an investigation into the stain produced by pyrogallol based developers, which were the standard developer for film until smaller film formats became more common. Modern chromogenic film is a further development in this lineage.

I must admit I enjoy experimenting with traditional film and staining developers, but I've also seen some really excellent results using the lack and white chromogenic films.

We're all after the same result, surely. Best, fw

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), September 29, 2000.

Pete, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but you are seriously uniformed about how the pyro stain works. There are no 'devloper by- products trapped in the emulsion.' History has shown thay pyro negatives are AT LEAST as permanant as non-pyro negatives. Different emulsion formulae exhibit different amounts of stain, but each will achieve the SAME results EVERY time. Why not correct your lack of knowlege by reading Gordon Hutchings' Book of Pyro? Or if you can't locate a copy (or don't want to buy one) read his article in the Winter 1997 issue of Camera Arts Magazine, 'Pyro for the Small Format.' In addition, there is excellent information on PMK and other Pyro developers in The Film Developing Cookbook by Steve Anchell and Bill Troop. (This book should be in every darkroom worker's library; it's overflowing with valuable information.) Pertaining to permanance: with the exception of Kodachrome, color film is NOT archival. The dyes used dye-incorporated films eventually fade, even when stored in total darkness. This is NOT meant to be confrontational; it seems that your refusal to access readily available information may be preventing you from exploring fully the capablities of your photographic efforts. If I were the bad guy here, I'd shut up and let you continue with C-41, and never get beyond mediocre results.

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), September 29, 2000.

We seem to be in agreement that a dye image can improve the printing properties of a negative. (What is the Pyro stain if it isn't a developer produced dye?)
Whether that dye image is a crude stain from Pyro or a properly controlled dye-coupler reaction appears to be where we differ.

The permanence of colour negative film is very good. I have C-22 processed negatives going back over 30 years which show no sign of fading, and C-41 appears to be even more stable. In any case, the stability of the dye-couplers used in colour film is compromised by the need to render colour accurately. If more-or-less any old image colour would do, then the dye(s) could be made much more permanent.
C-41 is available worldwide, PMK isn't, and C-41 can also be bought in kit form, for those who want to push or pull the development. The bleach could also be left out to leave a 'proper' silver image.

BTW Pyro-Metol developers have been around for far longer than PMK. Ilford published a formula called ID-4 in 1960 (this is the publication date of the formulary I have, the formula itself is probably much older).

Things move on, and times change, we should embrace technical change and not cling to the past. Modern colour films use things like DIR couplers (development induced restraining) to tailor the characteristic curve of the film. This a far more sophisticated technique than could ever be produced by a simple staining process.

I used to mix my own developers from raw chemicals and experiment with darkroom procedures a lot, but I now consider this was a complete waste of time. I should have been taking pictures, not weighing chemicals, because no esoteric formula will turn a mediocre picture into a good one. A good picture developed in D76 will still beat a bad 'un developed in Pyro or anything else.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), October 02, 2000.

True, pyro-metol developers have been around before PMK. BUT PMK is the most reliable of all the pyro developers. It produces maximum image stain with minimum general stain. FP-4+ in PMK has a B+F of 0.10! HP-5+ is just 0.15. (For those not familiar with density readings, this is virtually clear film. Iflord undeveloped and fixed sheet film has a density of 0.05. One major benefit of PMK is the green (not brown) stain. The stain increases with density. With VC paper, this provides lower contrast in the brighter areas such as sky and clouds. This results in much less burning to get detail in the higher zones. In fact, fully textured Zone VIII is easily achieved. Chromogenic film exhibits highlight blocking like regular color print film. I've never seen more than five or six definite zones in a color print. Chromogenic B&W gets maybe one more than that when printed on B&W paper. It's great for quick and easy, but I can't imagine doing serious work with it.

-- Michael D Fraser (mdfraser@earthlink.net), October 02, 2000.

I have a print on my wall right behind me from a PMK-developed Tri-X negative, shot on a very sunny day with dark shadows and bright highlights. There's almost white to almost jet black all on one print, which I didn't dodge or burn and printed on grade two paper. That's from my first roll developed in PMK. I've only scratched the surface.

-- Jim MacKenzie (photojim@yahoo.com), October 03, 2000.

I happened to stumble across this thread. What is this business about TCN400 being junk? It has a number of advantages over conventional film including fineness of grain and length or printable tonal range. Two years ago I had an exhibition in London entitled Twice in a Lifetime. The pictures were of 55 people taken 20 years before and contemporary pictures of the same people. All the late 70s stuff was shot on HP5 - all the modern stuff was shot on T400CN. The pictures were hung side-by-side. I would like to think the contemporary pictures were better but certainly there was no difference as a result of the film stock. If you want to do more due diligence you can buy the book through Amazon (Twice in a Lifetime by Mark Eban). It is a very high quality print run on Gardapat paper and if TCN400 were really junk, you should be able to see the differences even in reproduction.

Having said all that, I no longer use TCN400 since I prefer the sharpness of XP2 super.

-- Mark Eban (markeban@compuserve.com), November 28, 2000.

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