Kodak T400CN query

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Hi! I am looking for any opinions on Kodak T400CN in 5x4. As I want to do only occasional architecture/landscape in B+W (I normally shoot transparency) I am considering this film in preference to procesing conventional B+W myself. I've read that grain and tonal range is excellent but sharpness is inferior to conventional B+W films. Is any sharpness difference noticeable with print sizes no larger than 16x20? If chromogenic films are as good as they claim to be, why are they not more popular? Any comments gratefully recieved.

-- Mark Barrett (kaq28@dial.pipex.com), August 16, 1999


I made the switch to chromogenic film a few years ago after using silver for 20 years. My reasons were (1) processing convenience (2) fine grain (better than 100 asa films)(3) tonal range esp. the fact that highlights dont block up. As for the sharpness; you would have seen a significant difference in 35mm from the first generation of chromogenic films. You can see a slight difference in 35mm with TCN400 (which I dont mind in 35mm). I defy you to see differences in medium format upwards in terms of sharpness and as I have said I believe the overall end package to be superior to silver films. It may be that for many B&W shooters, the cost of chromogenic film and processing and the lack of a reliable lab may put them off. I think the BIG question is archival stability. However, I recently printed some negs on XP1 from 20years ago for an exhibition and for publication and I saw no deterioration versus archival prints made at that time.

Try it and see.

-- Mark Eban (markeban@compuserve.com), August 16, 1999.

chromogenic dye films are for amatuers and wedding photogs...tcn is a fine film for the masses...don't be lazy learn black and white!

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), August 16, 1999.

Dont be lazy -try it. Convenient doesnt mean bad. I produce fine art black and white prints - call me old-fashioned but I believe it is the final result that counts not how much effort you had to put in to get it or which school you went to.

Also call me old-fashioned while you are at it for thinking that if you express a view on a subject it might just be the tiniest bit helpful to your audience to advance some reason why you hold it...

-- mark eban (markeban@compuserve.com), August 16, 1999.

Highlights don't normally block themselves "Up". I think that would be your fault. Now I know why you like this film so much. If you don't do your own black and white processing you are stuck with tcn/xp2 and that's not necessarily a bad thing but it's definitely not the best thing either. I've printed tcn for clients and liked the results some have even won regional contests but only shot in contrasty light even then I see the edge def going south. Also a one layer chromo film stands a better chance of falling apart at higher mags so if you know you will need 16x20's rate it around 200! hope that helps...p.s. it looks compressed in the mid-tones too!

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), August 16, 1999.

Notwithstanding the reactionary comments above, T400CN offers large format users several significant advantages:

1) a better speed-to-granularity ratio than non-chromogenic films

2) effectively no reciprocity failure

3) ability to record subjects having a very large brightness range (alternately, large exposure latitude)

4) wide availability of high-quality, standardized commercial processing

5) Zone Systems procedures are largely unnecessary. This is a feature, not a bug.

There is no reason why the tones achievable in prints of chromogenic negatives should differ from those of traditional negatives. Any fine print requires that paper, exposure, contrast, and manipulation be chosen with the negative characteristics in mind, and vary with choice of film, exposure, development, and intended result.

I have been extremely pleased with my results using T400CN, and encourage you to try this film.

-- Sean Donnelly (smd@alumni.rice.edu), August 17, 1999.

make sure and print that on ektamax ra too

-- Trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), August 19, 1999.

I recommend T400CN. It has several advantages over regular black & white for someone coming from chromes, most of which were listed above.

I use this film a lot in 35mm, and it prints well for me up until 8x10, from negs exposed @ ISO 320. It is a truly long-scale emulsion that records detail much further into the highlights than I expect it to. (Note: if your proofs are on color paper, you'll have no idea how much detail is in the highlights on the negs.) It is the best compromise I can find on a ~400 speed film where grain is an issue. Most people, used as they are to color film, react well to the grain pattern.

For your proposed 4x enlargement you should be fine. I wouldn't use it for something which requires more than an 8x enlargement, however. I personally don't like the way the grain shows up at that point and the sharpness of the film, well, it just isn't as sharp as regular B&W at that magnification (to me).

Compressed midtones on 4x5 T400CN? Interesting. I've seen that a bit in 35mm, but wouldn't figure it to be problem in LF. Or are you making 40x50's, Trib?

-- John O'Connell (oconnell@siam.org), August 19, 1999.

no...just 8x10's from 35mm I made a 48"x60" last weekend though!

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), August 19, 1999.

sorry from 120 3200 delta...fer fun...looks good from 12 feet away!

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), August 19, 1999.

I've been using 35mm Ilford XP-1 and XP-2 for years for editorial work (photos which will be published in magazines) because it's convenient as heck and its final destination is going to be fairly low-res anyway, but I don't use it in 4x5 for the following reasons:

1.) You can't control the contrast (this is a biggie). 2.) It's more expensive than Tri-X (not much) but... 3.) Processing (and proofing, if necessary) is MUCH more expensive than souping your own film. 4.) Local contrast seems low, and the overall look is a little mushy. Fine for portraits, especially women and children, unless you're into the Karsh-like "stark reality" thing (which I like for some subjects). I wouldn't use it for landscapes/architecture/etc. 5.) The film (especially when wet) seems physically softer than silver-based film. I've repeatedly had XP-2 scratched by various processing labs, much more so than conventional films.

For low contrast, fixed-illumination-level shots (i.e. studio portraits) where the extra $2 per sheet processing cost doesn't matter much compared to what you're getting for sitting fees & print sales, T400CN or XP-2 may be just the ticket, especially if you don't have a b&w darkroom set up. Otherwise I'd recommend Tri-X in HC-110 or something similar.

Best wishes, Mark Parsons

-- Mark Parsons (polar@thegrid.net), August 20, 1999.

Hi Mark;

One thing to watch out for with chromogenic films such as T400CN is grain structure.

While the amount of grain produced by chromogenic emulsions is low, the pattern that it forms (the "structure") tends to look a bit muddy, particularly when significantly enlarging the image. Traditional B&W emulsions give a cleaner, harder-edged grain structure, which may actually contribute to the presentation of certain subjects (something I've never heard anybody say that about the grain from any C-41 emulsion, B&W or otherwise ;-)

Chromogenic emulsions are just another tool in the photographer's emulsions. I wouldn't describe them as either better or worse across the board than conventional B&W emulsions. They are probably the right answer for somebody who can't do their own processing.

-- Patrick

-- Patrick Chase (patrick@sdd.hp.com), August 22, 1999.

Well...I'll go a bit against the flow. Because of T400CN's fairly low acutance it can be nice for "pleasing portrait subjects," while otoh you might not want a film that just doesn't look very sharp. Actually it does have rather high resolution, just low acutance, so may need to be printed with what would otherwise be excessive contrast just to get a sharp-looking print. If you want very fine grain and aren't too concerned about acutance, develop HP5+ or TX in D-25; it'll have a very similar look. It's said that T400CN doesn't block up, but in fact that's exactly what it does. HP5+ in D-76 1:1 or Xtol 1:1 produces a very straight-line curve shape of at least 15 steps (all I ever measure); the fact that such a range can't be gotten onto the paper is what's seen as blocking although in fact the neg isn't blocked at all. T400CN has a pronounced shoulder, so highlight densities aren't near as high as with a conventional film; in fact it does block at a _much_ lower exposure level than a conventional film. Many take advantage of this characteristic of chrmogenic films with portrait subjects by exposing at EI 25 or 50, which gives creamy blemish-free skin tones. You can vary the CI of chromogenic films by changing the development time, as with conventional films, but of course this means you must process it yourself or pay a lab excessive dollars to process your film at plus or minus times. The acutance of chromogenic films can be significantly improved by diluting the developer. The old XP-1 developer was essentially C-41 developer diluted to about 1:1, which resulted in much better acutance and a longer development time suitable for small-tank processing (and the errors involved with that). Another concern with chromogenic films is their long-term stability, since the negs are dye images. At any rate, to answer your question, I really doubt any significant sharpness differences would be apparent in 16x20s from 4x5 negs; that's just not enough enlargement for that to be a factor.

-- John Hicks / John's Camera Shop (jbh@magicnet.net), August 22, 1999.

The only way you are going to know if youi like it or not is try it. I would venture to guess that these answers have confused more than helped (I know they confused me and I have used it before, and I liked it fine).

-- Ken Dunn (kendunn@haz-uky.campuscw.net), August 25, 1999.

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