XP-2 too contrasty

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I shot my first roll of XP-2 last week. It was extremely sharp and almost grainless for a 400 ASA film, but the negatives (and processed prints) are very contrasty, with not much detail in the highlights. I shot it at 320, but didn't mention that when I brought it in for processing. I brought it to a place that is a cut above the "corner drug store" sort of processor, but perhaps not a "professional's" processor. What did I do wrong, and what should I do on the next roll to minimize this? Or are blocked highlights just characteristic of the film, and I should reserve it for flat light situations?

-- Ben Crabtree (bcrabtree@mn.rr.com), April 14, 2002


Who made the print and how? If you are looking at the print made on regular color paper or maybe b&w paper but machine printed in automated mode, then forget about it. Print it on a decent b&w paper using usual darkroom techniques. It'll be much better. I suggest you try AGFA Multicontrast Premium RC.

XP2 has very fine grained look, but not high resolution. If you were processing your film yourself, you might be much happier with Delta line of films. I find XP2 tends to lower highlight contrast a bit but registers the highlight detail fairly well, you just need to burn in a lot.

Using XP2 at EI 320 and processed normally with C-41 is ok.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (rsuzuki@rs.cncdsl.com), April 14, 2002.

Telling the lab the speed you shot the film at is pretty pointless, because most high street labs don't give a monkey's.
I notice that a lot of cheaper labs are overdeveloping their C-41 these days. That could well be the problem here.
Pushing C-41 gives higher colour saturation, which pleases most of the morons that use (and run) these labs, but it makes the highlights unprintable and the grain increases enormously.
Find a better lab, or process the film yourself.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), April 15, 2002.

My experience with XP2 is that its hard to make it too contrasty! Try another lab. Depending on a mini lab to give you great results can be an exercise in frustration. I think you've just experienced crappy printing. Go to a real pro lab and get proper processing and a contact sheet. Then make your picks and have them printed or print them yourself. You might even take your negs that you think are too contrasty and have them contacted at the real lab. There's a very good chance that they are OK since C41 processing is pretty hard to screw up. The very last thing I'd ever say about XP2 is that it blocks highlights. XP2 is known for NOT doing this, its a great film for tough conditions.

-- Henry Ambrose (henry@henryambrose.com), April 15, 2002.

It is unusual for XP2 Super to be too contrasty. It will generally require about a 1/2 grade more contrast when printing compared to other films. The possibilities are that your film is fine; but the prints are printed poorly. If your prints are made on color paper (a very common procedure), this is quite likely. Try printing the negatives on true black and white paper, and you should get very good results. Judging the negatives without printing is difficult; XP2 Super negatives look different from traditional films.

OTOH, if the negatives are difficult to print on real black and white paper, (requiring a grade lower than 2), I would say that you need a different lab. (This is of course assuming that you were shooting in a normal situation. If it was extreme constrast, there is probably no other fault).

As for shooting the film at 320, this is fine, and should result in additional shadow detail and finer 'grain'. There should be no modification in the processing.

David Carper ILFORD Technical Service

-- David Carper (david.carper@ilford.com), April 16, 2002.

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