Which film/developer combo to start with?

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I've shot miles of B/W film over the years in 35mm and 120mm... but now that I'm moving into 8x10 sheets, I feel a bit out of my element. I'm going to be shooting landscapes and some portraiture, and plan to be processing in trays. I'm willing to learn from my mistakes, but I'd like to minimize those by learning from the list's accumulated experience.

Here's my question to all: What film/developer combo would you recommend a psuedo-beginner like myself learn with?

Thanks in advance - Bill

-- bill youmans (bill@greatgrips.com), April 06, 2000


Whatever is your favorite film/developer combo is in 35mm or 120 is a good place to start. or FP4+ developed in Ilfospeed (yes, the print developer) in an 1-100 or 1-60 dilution for approx 9 or 16 minutes - best trying this out with rollfilm first to see how you like it.

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), April 06, 2000.

Start with Plus-X or Tri-X in D-76 or HC-110. You may never need anything else.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), April 06, 2000.


My personal favorite is Delta 100 in Xtol, but I use a rotary processor. Since you'll be developing in trays, you'll probably be better off with a conventional grain emulsion, not a tabular grain emulsion. Tmax and Delta are tabular emulsions and subject to more precise development, particularly agitation. As a previous poster suggested, FP4+ is an excellent film and if you need something faster use HP5+. For developer use Xtol.


-- Pete Caluori (Pcaluori@hotmail.com), April 06, 2000.

I'd recommend a faster film because with 8x10 you will often be shooting @ very small apertures. If you are intending to contact print, grain is not really an issue. If you want a film that is relatively forgiving (probably a good idea for a "psuedo-beginner" doing tray development)you will want to stay away from the T-grain films like Tmax. All this adds up to Tri-X (or maybe HP5). Tri-X is a beautiful film for use 8x10. Its one disadvantage is that in very low light you get into reciprocity problems and can have very long exposures and contrasty results.

Once you have narrowed down your film choice, you can experiment with developers. One issue is what you intend to use the negs for. If alternative processes (e.g., platinum), you want a developer that is capable of high contrast. I found Xtol a bit flat for this purpose and had more luck with HC110.

My personal bottom line: you can't really go wrong with Tri-x and HC110 at least for a start.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), April 06, 2000.

I guess that an opinion is like that proverbial butthole thing, so I will toss mine in here. I shot 8x10 for more years than I like to think of and I was happiest with tray processing. Don't like HC-110-- highlights tended to get blown away. In terms of off the shelf developers D-76 was my favorite, but I eventually gravitated to D-23 with a Kodalk bath-it was a pain to mix, but the results were extremely nice--I used Tri-X and a lot of Ektapan (which I'm not sure is still available, but it was a really nice film). For 8x10 film I used an 11 x 14 tray with plenty of fresh chemistry. Film was downloaded from holders into a box before hand (and I have run up to 10 sheets at a time). The film was put into the tray, emulsion down, and tapped to be sure it was under the solution. All sheets were added in this manner. When all of the film was in the tray the bottom sheet was flipped over, gently tapped down, and the next sheet was flipped over and tapped down, and so on down the line. Every once in a while (bout every 2nd or 3rd sheet) the tray was rocked to ensure that fresh developer got to each sheet. A slow acting developer such as D-76 or D23 works best with this technique. At the end of the timing cycle the film is run through its normal stop and fix cycle. I learned this from George Tice, who swore that at the end of the timing the first sheet you put in the developer would be the first your put in the stop and fix, and I must say that I never found any reason to be skeptical. I have worked several people through this process, and they always get very nice 8x10 negatives. It requires some testing to get the time right, but the results are outstanding!

-- fred (fdeaton@hiwaay.net), April 06, 2000.

I recommend you start with something that has plenty of latitude and is cheap. You are going to ruin a lot of shots at first; not just developing but loading, shooting, transporting . . . Now that APX 100 is gone, it all adds up to Arista, which is really Ilford. You get it at Freestylesalesco.com for 38 bucks/25 sheets. If you are using a packard shutter or no shutter or slow shutters get the 125 speed; otherwise the advice above is good and get the 400 speed (shoot it at 200 though). It's great film. Develop it in whatever you want. Rodinal is cheap, though possibly more toxic than D-76 and certainly more so than X-tol.

Whatever you do, stay away from TMAX, is my advice.

You can't go wrong with that Arista.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), April 06, 2000.

THE Howard Bond uses TMax 400 in D-76 and develops with mechanical tube thingy whose name a senior moment causes me to forget. I stoll can't figure out the antipathy toward TMax film and dev. my sensitometry test show a controlable slope and a straight line from short toe to a distant shoulder. I use 120 roll with TMax dev, but cut up sheets of 4x5 in TMax-R work the same way with different #'s of course George

-- George Nedleman (gnln@thegrid.net), April 07, 2000.

I use Regular Dektol print developer, the stock solution diluted 1:10 with water. It is fast working, and very economical. Development times are 5 to 6 minutes.

-- Bill Moore (wmoore@provide.net), April 07, 2000.

I also use Arista film, mostly ISO 125, along with some ISO 400.

-- Bill Moore (wmoore@provide.net), April 07, 2000.

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