Film of the 1930s : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I'd like to make a set of photographs simulating the look (grain, sharpness, scale) of 35mm work of the early 1930s. What film/developer should I use? (I know available film at that time was actually tail-ends from 35mm movie film, and D-76 was still being cooked up in Kodak's cauldrons.) My best guess: either Plus-X or Agfapan400 in Rodinol 1+25. Isn't there some European film still made with thick emulsion and no anti-halation backing? Honest, fellows, this is before even my time!

-- Bill Mitchell (, September 20, 2000


Efke makes some thick emulsion films, though I haven't seen them in 35mm.

You could try: TMax 3200, expose at its reall speed (800 to 1000) and develop in Dektol for maximum grain.

I don't know of any films without anti-halation dye or backing for 35mm. There are a few for sheet film (mostly slow speed copy films).

Another thought: use Kodak Infra-red, but filter out the IR. Just use the visible spectrum. It's grainy, and so-so in sharpness, with limited tonal scale.

-- Charlie Strack (, September 20, 2000.

Efke KB100 is the older type of film with thick emulsion. I have "Das Rolleiflex Buch" from 1938 and it has a recipe for "Metol- Hydroquinone-Borax developer" that is the same as D-76.

I would use the Efke KB 100 and develop it in D-76 1+1 (9 minutes 20 C)

For the best 30's result I would use a camera from that period with uncoated lens. My Balda 35mm with Schneider Xenar 2,9/50 is great for that! :-)

T-Max films all have T-grain, and will not give the wanted results.

-- Patric (, September 20, 2000.

Plus-x is about as close as you'll get with a Western emulsion. That stuff doesn't seem to have changed in decades.
Many years ago I tried some Russian film. That would probably fit the bill. The colour response was more ortho- than panchromatic, grain was pretty large for 100 ISO, and the contrast was verging on lith film.
I dare say the contrast could be tamed a bit, I didn't experiment with more than a couple of cassettes of the stuff.

I think it would be a mistake to assume that 35mm work was over-grainy in the 1930s. Film speeds were generally much slower then (I'm not speaking from personal experience here!) and concepts of quality were still measured against the commonly used 5x4 press cameras.
From pictures published from that era, the main difference is in the style of the pictures rather than technical quality.

-- Pete Andrews (, September 21, 2000.

Hi Guys, thanks for the suggestions so far. I don't think huge grain was necessarily a problem in those days, but long scale must have been, judging by the Paris photos of Kertesz, with burned out highlights and styglean shadows. Efke film is available from Freestyle, but the thick emulsion type "R" isn't in 35mm. Please keep the suggestions coming, and I'll let you know what I settle on. Mitch

-- Bill Mitchell (, September 21, 2000.

I just discovered that D-76 was introduced in 1927, so that fixes one part of the euation.

-- Bill Mitchell (, September 22, 2000.

Not much to add. Either Plus-X or APX 100 in D-76 (don't believe Agfa's times, they're too long! I do it 9 min at 68, 1:1 dilution and 1-minute agitation.) would be a good bet. Rodinal's even older than D- 76, so you could go that route too.

Take care with your image-making apart from the film used: Avoid using electronic flash, go with "hard" lights (photofloods, theatrical spots) or window light if you're doing portraiture. Using an old camera or lens would surely help too (but old doesn't have to be ancient: a Nikon with a non-AI lens would be nice.) Wide-angles weren't much used back then, go for longer lenses. If shooting outdoors, try to avoid including recent buildings or cars...

Sounds like a fun project!

-- Michael Goldfarb (, September 22, 2000.

Bergger BPF200 is an old emulsion film. Available in sheetfilm sizes from 4x5 through 20x24.

Bergger will officially announce BRF200 in both 120 and 35mm very soon.

John Horowy Bergger Products, Inc.

-- John Horowy (, September 23, 2000.

I purchased a book today with photographs by Stieglitz and others which has pics from years 1906 thru 1917 and the thing that really stands out when considering your question is the limited DOF. Foreground elements are in focus but the backgrounds seem out of focus and quite grainy (note this is from cheap printing - it was a cheap book! so relavence may be minimal!) Another aspect, which I have previously noticed in some vey old portraits hanging on my Grandmothers walls, is the range of tones seems limited. Sure there are black and whites, but in between doesn't seem gradual between the two. My pinhole camera takes very old looking pictures, maybe thats a possibility.

-- Nigel Smith (, September 24, 2000.

Nigel, the pics you saw was shoot with large format cameras. In the 30's both medium and small format were popular, so the depth of field were different.

-- Patric (, September 24, 2000.

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