Grain and tonality in 400 ASA tradional emulsions : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Thjis is probably a tired question but I see no direct answers to it on a trawl through Dejanews. I was wondering if anyone has a more scientific (i.e. properly tested) comparison between 400 ASA emulsions than my own. My sense is that there is a three-way trade-off between fine, sharp grain and smooth rendering of tonal graduations. To be specific, Fuji Neopan gives (me) the sharpest look but also the least pleasing tonality, Ilford HP5+ gives mid-way sharpness and smoothness, and Tri-X is not very "sharp" and can indeed seem soft and sludgy, but the soft grain gives lovely smooth rendering of tonal graduation, and it remains excellent on texture (fabric etc). It also seems the most flattering for caucasian faces (extended red sensitivity?)giving a lovely glowing quality. Ilford picks up on skin texture in a way which may be unflattering, and Fuji "flattens" skin tone and texture. All of this applies whether developed at standard times in ID11 or Xtol (though the generic differences between the two developers apply - and Tri-X seems to LOVE straight Xtol in which it can be pushed without any visible grain increase - but also not much speed gain). I do not use flat-grain emulsions as I find them gritty.

If this all sounds woefully impressionistic please set me right - in this world of rampant partisanship real hard evidence will be especially admired. I was impressed by Geoffrey Crawley's (as ever) impeccable report on the new Delta 400 in the recent BJP - but while showing illuminating graphs of Ilford grain sizes, and insights into the push capacity of the various emulsions it did not address the issue of tonal and spectral rendition.

-- Peter Metelerkamp (, November 10, 2000


Peter - I can't answer your question, but I'd be interested in a brief summary of the article you cited on the new Delta 400. The BJP isn't easy to find on this side of the pond (at least for me it isn't) and their website just times out when I try to access it at the moment.

Bob Atkins (ex-patriot Univ. of Bristol grad!)

-- Bob Atkins (, November 10, 2000.

Since you mentioned the red sensitivity of Tri-X, I'll just point out that HP5+ has slightly more red sensitivity. Amateur astronomers know this because there is an important hydrogen emission line at 656 nm, and HP5+ captures this light while Tri-X does not. I'd guess that differences in skin rendering between HP5+ and Tri-X must arise from some other factor.

-- Matthew Hunt (, November 10, 2000.

I believe the difference in skintone rendering between HP5+ and TX could probably be attributed to curve shape; HP5+ has a rather straight-line response _way_ out there into really high density, while I believe TX still has some shouldering. I haven't used TX in years nor plotted its curve shape, so that's just supposition.

The current Delta 400 has somewhat reduced red sensitivity compared to HP5+ and Delta 100; I don't use it when photographing people for that reason. It has a tendency toward darker-then-desired skin tones and showing up blemishes.

-- John Hicks (, November 11, 2000.

Ermm! This might be a silly question, but if tonality, fine-grain and red sensitivity are important, why not just use a slower film, and a pale yellow filter?

-- Pete Andrews (, November 13, 2000.

Peter M, thank you for describing the differences between Neopan 400 and Tri-x 400 the way you did. I agree, though I haven't until now found a way to describe the look from Neopan. I have only used Neopan in 120-size but Tri-x I use in 35 as well. My main film size and film choice is Tri-x 400 in 120-size. I think this is a superb film for portraits with 6x6 negs, because of skin-tone rendition. For rendition of textures in clothes, I have to admit that I have been impressed by Tmax 400 in outdoor light, but Tri-x is very good too and have an edge in the skin tone rendition (as noted).

I have some prints I'm really happy with from Neopan as well, both outdoor portraits and indoor portraits with flash light. However, if it was possible to go back in time to change film I would change the outdoor portrait negatives to tri-x. Xtol is what I have used most with 120-film but I have started to use HC110 now and I quite like it. Tri-x in HC110 is definetely different from Neopan in Xtol, everyone would see the difference.

What paper do you (and others!) prefer to use with tri-x film? I found a great improvement in RC-prints when I switched from Ilford MG to Agfa MC with this film. With fiber paper I've had good results with Forte Polywarmtone (perfect match? ) and good skintones with Ilford MG warmtone but not so good shadow rendition (too flat).

Finally, what do you prefer for good (luminant)skin-tones with tri-x, overexposure+underedevelopment+high grade paper, normal+normal+normal, or maybe something else?

-- Peter Olsson (, November 15, 2000.

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