Film Dev Combination : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I am going to put my head on the block now, and ask a question that is bound to attract the quite understandable "it's up to you" answers... However, some advice would be great!

My main photographic application is steam locomotives in action. Given that I live in the UK, this often means photting in low light. Since the subject is a moving one, and I need to work at depth of field (I use 6x7 format), this means using a fast emulsion. I am firmly wedded to ISO 400. In fact, I uprate fairly often to 800, and sometimes to 1600.

I am trying to get the right combination of film and developer. I have tried Ilford New Delta 400, and Kodak Tmax 400. (I would rather avoid the older films, as I am addicted to the fine grain of modern films) I have tried Ilfotec DDX, Ilfotec HC, Tmax Developer and ID-11. I've also thought about Xtol, but have not yet braved it.

Essentially, the characteristics I need at 400 are a good mixture of acutance and fine grain, good shadow detail and plenty of latitude to retain detail in highlights and shadow (imagine black engines, and white steam in a white sky!). At 800 and 1600, shadow detail is important, as is retaining sharpness. It's also important that contrast does not go up too much when pushing. I know grain is bound to go up, but keeping it manageable without sacrificing too much acutance is important.

I have tended to find Delta 400 rather soft, whilst Tmax is punchy. However, Delta seems to have more latitude - detail being retained in highlights and shadows.

I've not found a combination that I'm wholly happy with yet.

Any advice? What film-dev combinations would you recommend for 400 and/or 800-1600. If the answer is different for 400 and pushing, that's fine! Any handy developing tips to get the characteristics I'm looking for would be great.

-- Ed Hurst (, March 25, 2002


I suggest: Delta 400 exposed at 400, Xtol 1:2 for10 minutes at 70F. This should meet your needs for shadow detail and maintenance of highlights. If you find this is not contrasty enough then add a little time. The only time I have trouble with Delta 400 is with highlights blocking in very bright conditions. Don't be afraid of Xtol, its very simple to use and very economical. Alternately, try XP2. Finer grain, wonderful tonality, expose at 250-320. XP2 will handle any highlights you throw it with great seperation.

-- Henry Ambrose (, March 25, 2002.

It sounds like a near-perfect film for you might be Fuji Neopan 1600. It's true speed is more like 650 if you want excellent shadow detail. It works well in good, old Rodinal, whose compensating action keeps the high values from burning out.

-- Bill (, March 25, 2002.

I think Delta 400 would be a good choice, but I certainly wouldn't rule out HP5+, Neopan 400 or even Tri-X. All of those developed in FG-7 /w SS will deliver excellent speed (400+), high sharpness and pretty fine grain. I find TMY the worst match for your needs. It's slower than the other 400 films by at least 1/3 stop and it has such a short toe, I can just imagine the trouble you might have trying to print sooty, (flat!) black trains from TMY negatives.

Also, if you feel like experimenting, I've done a few tests with FG-7 with sodium ascorbate added that look very promising--very sharp, fine grain and smooth tonality. As a starting point use 1/2 oz. FG-7 to 15 oz H20 and add 1/4 tsp sodium ascorbate. Develop FP4+ for 7 minutes @ 70 using continuous agitation. I'd try adding 25% to the time for intermittent agitation, add another minute or two for HP5+ and Tri-x, one extra minute for Neopan 400 and minute less for Delta 400. This should put you in the ballpark with all of them.

-- Ted Kaufman (, March 25, 2002.

I would second Henry's suggestion. I have found that XTOL yields noticeably higher film speed than most other developers with Delta 100 film (I haven’t tried Delta 400). Anchell and Troop classify XTOL as a speed increasing developer in the "Film Developing Cookbook,” (1998 Focal Press, page 5). Using XTOL 1:2 dilution (or higher) ensures that it will yield sharp negatives without increasing grain. If you want even less apparent grain (with some loss in sharpness), try XTOL straight.

-- Michael Feldman (, March 25, 2002.

I find that I'm steadily liking Delta 400 more the more I use it, especially when I push it a little, and that's after using HP5+ since it was known as HP4. Delta 400 has a bit of a shoulder, unlike straight-line films such as HP5+, which is what I believe you're seeing as more latitude.

I use D-76H 1:1 and 1:3, rotary processing in the Jobo, 11'30"/68F EI 400 and 13'/68F EI 800 fwiw. Note that the push time isn't a huge increase over the normal time. Packaged D-76 and ID-11 should be essentially the same.

-- John Hicks (, March 26, 2002.

How about XP2super Ed? The grain is finer than anything else I've seen at that speed, it has a very long tonal range, and if you do your own C-41 processing (not difficult) you can even push it a bit.

-- Pete Andrews (, March 26, 2002.

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