If you had to choose just one B&W film ....

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I'm thinking about simplifying things in my photography. One camera, one lens, one film, one developer. I've spent much time experimenting with different films and developers. I'd like to stick with one set-up for a while and see what happens.

If you could choose only one B&W film to shoot for the next year, what would you choose ... and how would you go about choosing?

In my case I shoot mostly candids, street and travel shots in 35mm. Always available light, always hand held, alwasy B&W. I do my own processing and printing. I tend to prefer the look of traditional films over tabular grain and c41 process films.

Potential choices for me include:

(1) Agfa 100 developed in rodinal 1:50 or xtol 1:3. I've found these very pleasing. Nice gradation, tonality, sharpness and grain. Only problem ... borderline film speed (too slow). Sometimes have to hand hold at slow speeds.

(2) Tri-x developed in xtol 1:3 or rodinal 1:50. Nice gradation and tonality. Only problem ... grain and sharpness not as nice as option 1 above.

Tough choice for me. What do you think?

-- Kevin (oreagan@yahoo.com), February 26, 2002


I don,t know why you dislike the newer emulsions but MY choice would be...Delta 400 exposed normally at EI650.For low light EI800. good results. Developer Xtol 1:1. Paper Ilford FB for choice prints Ilford RC for the others. To round it off
-- Melvin (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), February 26, 2002.

Ilford Delta 400 rated at ei 400, developed in XTOL 1:1 with a 40% pull.Try the Delta it may change your mind about tabular grain films. RO

-- Robert Orofino (minotaur1949@iopener.net), February 26, 2002.

Have always had good results with HP-5+ for street shooting. The speed is right, the grain is right. As always, the unkown factors are how big you will be making enlargements, and what other expectations you have. HP-5+ is quite flexible, speed-wise. Second choice would be FP-4+ pushed a stop. My developer of choice has been ID-ll. Jim

-- jim meisenbach (pacifica011@insightbb.com), February 26, 2002.

Italics off (I hope!)

I'd take HP5+ too. Smoother grain than Tri-X, very flexible, very forgiving.

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), February 26, 2002.

Pan F+ at EI 50, developed in Rodinal 1+25 for six minutes at 68 degrees F. I'll gladly forego the versatility and convenience of faster films for the incredible sharpness, long tonal range and virtually grainless 11"X14" prints from a 35mm negative of this fabulous combination. It makes me think: no wonder some 19th century photography looks so gorgeous. - A slow film developed in Rodinal is hard to beat. Perhaps most of the advances in the last 100 years are advances in convenience rather than in quality. As to why I use 1+25, rather than 1+50 or 1+100: I simply haven't yet tried the other dilutions yet; I certainly will in the future, and I'll learn from the experience, but I'm not in a big hurry, as the 1+25 dilution (recommended by Ilford on the Pan F+ box) looks so beautiful! -Ollie

-- Oliver Steiner (violindevil@yahoo.com), February 26, 2002.

in 35mm, FP4+

for 120, Delta 400

-- Nigel Smith (nlandgl@unite.com.au), February 27, 2002.

I've standardized on FP4+ for just about everything and love the tonal qualities. I shoot it at an EI of 64 or a bit more and avoid overdevelopment- too tired of difficult darkroom sessions and overcontrasty prints. I tend to shoot things that are firmly fixed to the earth and don't move much. If I were shooting candids and street shots, I'd go with HP5, Tri-X, or TMY. Never tried Delta, but it might be better than the others. I dislike t-grain films, but have had very good street shots with TMY & Xtol. The reason I'd likely go with TMY or Delta 400 is to avoid being locked into the larger grain of the conventional films, and to avoid the pushed look. That's just me- lots of people like the edgy grainy pushed look. Depends on what you want.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), February 27, 2002.

If you are hand holding and shooting street scenes, the best choice is Delta 400. HP5+ is a good second choice. Both are better than Tri-X. TMY is the sharpest and finest grained of the 400 class films, but it's quite contrasty and has a very steep toe, which means you'll often loose important shadow detail. It's also slower, by at least 1/3 stop, than Delta 400 and HP5+.

Why not two films? A 400 speed for handheld and a 100 speed for contemplative work. Any of the 100 speed films would be a good choice: FP4+, Delta 100, TMX or Acros. They all have their particular strengths and signature look, but they all offer excellent image quality.

In any case, if you must choose one, Delta 400 is it.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), February 27, 2002.

In LF I would chose Ektapan and for higher speed, TXP. For medium format Ilford Pan F. All developed in Divided D76 or Diafine for higher acutance. The smooth tones of Ektapan are amazing!

-- Scott Walton (walton@ll.mit.edu), February 27, 2002.

Thanks everyone for your input. This is the first time I've asked a question here. I'm impressed with the depth and quality of responses.

It's interesting to note that thus far Ilford Delta 400, HP-5+, FP4+ and PanF have all received strong endorsements. Not so for Kodak or Agfa films, which are the films I've worked with the most to date. I have used FP4+ in xtol 1:3 and the results are very nice to my eye -- I just like APX 100 a bit better.

Also, in many cases the T-grain films are recommended over traditional films. I've experimented with TMY and TMX, but not Delta 400. I find TMY and TMX very sharp and fine grain for their speed, but I've yet to get "a look" that I'm really pleased with. The TMY gives me what I might call a plastic look -- very sharp and fine grain, but not the 3-D luminosity that I've seen with some other films (such as Tri-X). I don't see this as much with TMAX -- which probably (if I got my technique perfect) could be exceptional.

No one here seems to like Tri-X! Despite its grain, I've seen nice results from Tri-X. Salgado's work is one well-known example.

Based on input to this question I'll have to try Delta 400 and HP5+ (which I've always thought was a *lot* like Tri-X).

Also, can anyone point me to sources where I could look at some fine work done with Delta 400, HP5+ and TMY?

Thanks, Kevin.

-- Kevin O'Reagan (oreagan@yahoo.com), February 27, 2002.

I don't know if it would be my choice as my only film , but I agree with you on the APX 100. When developed in Rodinol 1:50 it is a hard combination to beat. If you feel like experimenting, try APX 100 In DiXactol. Use the single bath partial stand method and the non acid fix from Photographers Formulary.As Of late, this has been my developer of choice.

-- Gary T'to (tto22@comcast.net), February 27, 2002.

The one Kodak is now discontinuing: Verichrome Pan. I don't think a better film has ever been made.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), February 27, 2002.

If you are working with a stainless reel in your developing tank you will find that Tri-X is a bit easier thread than HP5+ because the film is thicker. Just another way that Tri-X is a more forgiving film.

-- Peter Schauss (schauss@worldnet.att.net), February 27, 2002.

I didn't know that Verichrome was being discontinued. This has been my favorite film in 120 (never seen it offered in 35mm). To my eye the gradation, tones, etc. are wonderful. Great combination of sharpness, grain and overall look. I've also found it quite forgiving. Do you know if it's still available at all .... if so for how long? Thanks.

-- Kevin O'Reagan (oreagan@yahoo.com), February 27, 2002.

Concerning Verichrome Pan, supplies should be available until production ceases July '02. Order your bricks now - this emulsion has had a terrific history beginning with the orthochromatic days (darkroom work under red light) until it became a pan film with a loyal, almost cult, following. Extremely sharp medium-speed, and very forgiving.

-- Jim Boltz (boltz@netsync.net), February 27, 2002.

i use delta 400 & 3200, in 120. that combo can handle most anything. i develop in ddx or ilfosol s. i like the look of the ilford films over kodak. the 400 delta is a great all 'round film but i use the 3200 whenever i can. i prefer low lite, street shooting.

-- joe rizzuto (backalleyphoto@shaw.ca), February 27, 2002.

I like FP4+ for 35 mm, HP5+ for 120 and 4x5. ID-11 diluted 1:1 for all of them. I fudge the EI for each film.


-- floren (flcpge@yahoo.com), February 28, 2002.

About 40 years ago, when I decided to "grow-up" from 35mm to MF, I evaluated all the films available at the time. I was torn between Plus-X and Verichrome Pan......but the retouching surface on the Plus- X convinced me. I worked-up a good zone system regime with Acufine, and have been using the combination ever since. I've tried most new films as they appear on the market, but haven't seen a reason to change (although I have used TechPan and HC-110 for landscapes, in recent years).

-- Pete Schermerhorn (PeteScherm@aol.com), February 28, 2002.

I find the Ilford film are easiest to load with stainless reels. Just my experience-

One film? My choice would be neopan 400- alhtough I'm sure Tri-X and HP5+ are great too. I dislike the T-grain stuff- just preference.

I don't try to downplay the grain using solvent developers- to my eyes Neopan in (photographer's formulary) FX-2 looks way better. Grainier, yes, but alot sharper and easier printing.

-- Mike DeVoue (karma77@att.net), February 28, 2002.

Personally, I usually use 2 films--EFKE KB 25 @ an e.i, of 64 and Ilford HP5 @ 400, 800, or 1600--all developed in D23. However, if I had to use only ONE film it would be Plus X (which I still occasionaly use) which IMO works beautifully @ 125 and can be pushed 1 or 2 stops, when needed with little loss of quality.

-- Robert Marvin (marvbej@earthlink.net), March 01, 2002.

Ilford Delta Pro 100 (or 400, depending on one's needs). These films have a good balance between fine grain, sharpness, and gradation. Develop in XTOL.

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), March 01, 2002.

Well Kevin, I'll throw a vote for Tri-X. I agree with so many here who just don't like the look of the Tmax films. It's a good film, technically, but it just looks a little dead to me- mechanical- I think the grain is too uniform.

Tri-X and Plus-X, on the otherhand are my favorites. I can get very good results that make me happy with Tri-X at ISO's from 50 to 1600, so I carry this as an all purpose film when I don't know what I will encounter. Standard ISO is 320, but I shoot it according to the light. Similarly, Plus-X is my favorite for portraits and lanscapes in good light- and probably my favorite all around film. Shoot it at 100 or 125.

I run film in Rodinol- recently had good results with the adition of sodium ascorbate, as suggest in this forum, but for Tri-X pushed or pulled, I use ID11 (pulled) or Microphen (pushed). As I said, with some tweaking I can get results atISO 50-1600 with grain and tonality that look very similar at all speeds- with very different chemistry, times, and temps. Write if you want some info.

-- drew (swordfisher@hotmail.com), March 02, 2002.

Hands down, FP4+ in Rodinal or Xtol. Because its lovely and available in big sheets. I'd love to try apx 100, but it isnt available in 8x10 sheets afaik.

-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), March 03, 2002.

Tri-x developed in PMK Pyro. I have tried others and I always ask myself why try to fix something that isn't broken.

-- Mark Riendeau (m6pc@hotmail.com), March 05, 2002.

Hi Kevin , Interesting question Ė love the idea of keeping it simple! Iíve been doing a lot of street doco photography and have been using FP4+ and HP5+ developed in Ilford Plus (LC29) Developer to great success. Probably lean a bit more towards HP5+ for general all round versatility.

My question to you is which camera and lens Ė now thatís an even longer piece of string!!

Cheers David

-- David Jenkins (dhjphoto@hotmail.com), March 05, 2002.

I only wish that making great photographs was as easy as choosing a film/developer/paper/developer combination.

-- Kevin Kolosky (kjkolosky@kjkolosky.com), March 10, 2002.

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