best film for photography newbie? : LUSENET : Black_and_White_Photography : One Thread

someday, when i can afford it (in 2 to 6 months?), i'll buy the stuff i need to process my negatives at home, but until then, i'll be availing myself of the services of a commercial lab to process and print. with that in mind, what type of black and white film would folks recommend? i've been using Ilford's XP-2 (and actually i have been getting very pleasing results with it), but it isn't always easy to find labs that will process the stuff. also, since it is actually color film, i feel that i should always shoot and process it ASAP - whether i can afford it that month or not (i'm a grad student right now, and next year i'll be an intern earning very little money). i tried Tri-X once, and my results were disappointing (was it me, or the cheap-o lab?), but that's the only B&W film i've ever used, other than the Ilford. i look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions!

-- Anonymous, February 15, 1997


Vicki, the Ilford XP films are excellent and probably your best bet since you are not doing your own processing. Mini labs and most color labs do a very good job processing and printing it. Your best bet with a standard black & white film would be to find another amateur who can process it for you. Most universities offer some type of available dark- room for students. Good luck

-- Anonymous, February 15, 1997

I've had good results with both Tri-X and XP-2. When XP-2 is commercially processed it often comes back with a brownish, sepia-like cast which many people find pleasing. Some labs can print it up for you on B&W paper if you dislike the color cast. Before I set up my bathroom darkroom, I frequently got disappointing results with B&W film in general. I believe that this is because many places, especially "cheap-o" labs do very little B&W business and are not geared up for it. I did manage to get decent results at a lab which catered to professionals but that was significantly more expensive. In my opinion, Tri-X is an excellent film for the beginner. It is fairly affordable and forgiving. Don't let your single negative experience(pun intended)deter you from using it in the future. Try another lab! Good luck!

-- Anonymous, February 17, 1997

starter film

Whatever, you do about choosing a film is to be very simple in the early phases of your experience with the craft.

Do not try a different type of film everytime you go out and shoot.

Other people have mentioned Tri-X. You really have to beware who processes the film. Improperly processed Tri-x can be grainy and have poor tonality.

I have used tri x for over 20 years. This film can produce awsome prints or poor quality images merely by how careful you are in exposing and developing. I have made 16X20s with very high quality.....quality good enough to be awarded Kodak gallery awards as a professional photographer.

By keeping your film and developer or processor choice very simple for awhile, you can rule out many problems. If you do not want to process your own film and still want to use tri x, by all means search out a pro lab that would be willing to soup your film. Many metro areas have labs that do this sort of thing. However, by educating yourself with the bare minimum of investment of processing gear, you can produce negatives of very high quality, providing you are methodically careful. good luck

-- Anonymous, February 17, 1997

Sticking to the XP2 until you can do your own processing makes sense. When you get your own processing setup, Tri-X is excellent and I like T-MAX 400 (Kodak) even better. However, it has a very low (maybe zero) tolerance for overdevelopment. I teach photography at a small college and we've been using HC110B developer for 6.5 mins. at 68 degrees F. We use diffusion enlargers. Results are excellent.

-- Anonymous, February 24, 1997

I have also just started exploring the vast world of photography. I've tryed a few different types of film and developed them all myself. I highly recommend Tri-X. Good luck!

-- anonymously answered, April 03, 1997

Vickie: It's hard to say what the "best" film is. It depends on the lighting conditions, the effect you want, etc. etc., but for general shooting, Tri-X is the standard, as far as most photographers are concerned. Some also like T-max (shrug--I've only tried it a few times). The problem with corner store B/W (or color, for that matter) processing, one hour or otherwise, is that ALL negatives on the strip are printed at the same processor exposure, usually set on the first frame. Some automatic processor operators may not even bother to reset the machine after processing the previous customer's film! The result is that some prints are "too underexposed" (YOUR fault--they try to tell you), "too overexposed" (again, YOUR fault, according to them), or "..really great...WE did a good job printing that one!", they'll tell you. Assuming that you exposed them correctly in the first place, there is little reason that all the prints come out "relly great" if you (A) process them yourself (correctly!) or (B) take them to a custom processing lab where each print will be printed individually by a trained expert. Try North American Photo or Tedrick Photo labs (both happen to be in Livonia Michigan). They both probably have a website, or you can call Information to get their phone #'s. They deal with photographers all over the US through the mail and do GREAT work!

-- Anonymous, April 15, 1997

Stick withyour XP2, but try experimenting with various grades of oange and red filters this brings up the contrast and XP2 reacts well to the change. Speak to your colour lab and ask for an early run on fresh chemicals, it does make a difference......

-- Anonymous, April 19, 1997

I've been photographing for about 35 years, and I can tell you that Ilford XP-2 is one of the *very best* B&W films I've ever used! Try printing it yourself on real B&W paper. The negs are a joy to print: fine grain, smooth scale, great tonality.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 1997

XP2. T400CN

XP2 is a delightful film with a fine grain, smooth tonality and wide exposure latitude. For a 'newbie', it is indeed a nice film. XP2 does have a rather long 'toe' and a bit of a shoulder; this means shadows and highlights will have reduced contrast, making the negs a little easier to print for some. I've found that Kodak T400CN offers the advantages of XP2 (exposure latitude and consistent C-41 processing) with TMax qualities (finer grain, sparkling mid-tones and the ability to print truly brilliant highlights with detail). T400CN is quickly replacing TMY as my EI 400 film of choice.


-- Anonymous, July 11, 1997

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