Differences in Results

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I have just been out taking pictures in overcast weather with a friend of mine. I used New Ilford 400 120, rated at 800 and developed in Ilfotec-DDX. He used Tmax 400 120 rated at 640 and developed in Tmax developer. We took almost identical shots, at almost identical times. The comparison in results is very interesting.

The Tmax results were very "punchy" - by which I mean there was plenty of contrast, but excellent detail was retained in dark areas and highlights. The negatives have a very lively feeling, and have been easy to print with a good balance of contrast and detail.

The Delta results were also good, but were very different indeed. The negatives had much less contrast, and much less "punch", but detail was also retained in dark and highlight areas. They were harder to print with a balance of contrast and detail.

Both combinations yielded good results, but the Tmax seemed to deliver negatives with a better mix of contrast and detail. I have always been very keen on Delta, but these results are making me wonder about using Tmax.

I would be interested in hearing your views on this. Does it match your experiences? Perhaps there is some way that I can get similar results from Delta (which I certainly like for its sharpness and lack of grain) - other developers, other techniques, am I under developing? Any thoughts? I must admit, I don't think I am under-developing, because further development seems to increase contrast at the cost of losing detail. But I would be interested in hearing what you think...

-- Ed Hurst (BullMoo@hotmail.com), November 23, 2001


Hi Ed,

could it have been the camera lens or did you use the same lens and the same apertures?

If you did perhaps the anser could be found by analysing the motive, seems some films get better separation in the midtones while others get better separation in highlights or shadows. A motive wich is dominated by either shadowdetail, midtones or highlights would probably favor the film that makes the best of that part of the density curve.

-- Peter Olsson (peter.olsson@lulebo.se), November 23, 2001.

The answer most likely lies in curve shapes, or how the two films record the subject brightness range.

Unlike most "modern" films pioneered by Kodak with TMX and TMY, which have a straight-line curve shape way beyond the usable/printable range, new Delta 400 is a move back toward the "old-style" curve shape which has a bit of a shoulder.

Or to put it differently, Delta 400's highlights are reduced in contrast, or compressed.


The most common gripe about modern films is that highlights are too dense and unprintable. This isn't because of out-of-control processing; it's a function of curve shape. Ilford's first response was to produce a paper (MGIVRC) with an "abnormal" curve shape that served to compress the highlights in printing. Their second response was to produce films (D3200, new D400) with the "old-style" curve shape that could be more easily printed on "old-style" paper.

Combine a film that has lower-contrast highlights with a paper that also compresses highlights and you end up with grey muck. Try to print with more contrast (higher filter) and while you'll get more highlight contrast you may also get excessively-contrasty midtones and shadows.

So..the solution could be trying another paper. Agfa MCPRC has pretty hot highlight rendition, Ilford MGIV fiber and MGIVWT fiber are medium, and Ilford MGIVRC has reduced highlight contrast.

I'm not seeing a whole lot of change in D400 curve shape with various developers but otoh I've used only a couple of developers with it, which have been satisfactory (D-76H and Ilfosol-S).

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), November 23, 2001.

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