C-41 B&W vs. traditional

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I am wondering if there are any major differences in film quality between the C-41 black and white films and the traditional black and white films. I have heard that the C-41 is not as archival, but is the difference obvious in the images? Thanks.

-- Lisa Marie (hellkitten1@yahoo.com), June 06, 2002


It depends on what you mean by obvious. If you compare 8x10 prints from 35mm XP2 and 35mm Delta 400 side-by-side, both exposed the same subject under the same lighting condition, the difference is obvious.

C-41 based (chromogenic) films have lower resolution, finer-grained appearance and softer highlight contrast. Besides, your control over images through film development is much limited with chromogenic films. If you have at least an intention or desire to control images through this process, I recommend regular b&w films.

I can think of one application where chromogenic film may be preferred in terms of image quality -- portrait (especially of female models). Not that this would be my preferred choice.

Just because it has finer grained appearance, there is a temptation for some people to assert chromogenic film is sharper - incorrect.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (rsuzuki@rs.cncdsl.com), June 06, 2002.

Lisa, as Ryuji says - it all depends. I like C-41 a lot and used it exclusively for doing editorial work, when I did not have a darkroom and needed b&w's. Also, I recommend it to my students who don't have the time/desire to do their own developing. For the general viewer, I don't think the difference between the films is obvious. I especially liked the exposure latitude that came in extremely handy when doing work on the water [sailing]. I think the tonality of films like XP2 S is wonderful, and I would certainly recommend you try it and see for yourself.


-- Christian Harkness (chris.harkness@eudoramail.com), June 07, 2002.

if you have a chance, look up roger hicks' and frances schultz work in shutterbug, to which they are regular contributors. they do much with xp-2, and it certainly looks sharp to me. jim

-- jim meisenbach (pacifica011@insightbb.com), June 07, 2002.

If you are happy with cheap magazine's reproduction quality, I suggest to eliminate film altogether and go digital. In a long run, or maybe even in a short run, it's cheaper :-) (that is, a crappy one will do :-)

-- Ryuji Suzuki (rsuzuki@rs.cncdsl.com), June 08, 2002.

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