landscape film speed : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Just getting started in LF. Looking for my first film to try out. Will be mostly doing landscapes, buildings, and found objects. Putting a camera on a tripod has always meant to me that I could use a slower finer grained film (b&W). With LF the apatures are smaller, and other things also end up using longer exposures. Mostly my prints will be no more than 2X-3X, with an occasional 6X. Will 400 speed film have a grain problem at this size, or would 200 be better? Thanks.-----JimJ

-- Jim Jasutis (, May 15, 2001


Jim: You should be guided by whether you like the look of the film and whether the speed is there for what you are taking a picture of vs. the grain size. It really isn't an issue for the smaller prints but if a 6X enlargment means one which is 30" wide, then it might be. For framer of reference, Tri-X (320) will make essentially grainless 11X14's. You can see little grain in 16X20's, but to do so you have to get really close and basically stick your nose up to the print. People in real life don't look at photos that way, though we photographers do. With Tmax 100 you get really fine grain, with a loss of speed. No problem with buildings and found objects, could be trouble with trees and grass etc. if the wind is blowing. There is basically zero grain in 16X20's off Tmax 100. I haven't gone bigger than that so can't personally say what a 30" print would look like beyond the obvious observation that the slower film will have finer grain. What is important to keep in mind is that the bigger you make the print the further away people stand to "take it all in." This means the bigger grain in migger prints tends to be a non-issue. Yes, you can see it if you get really close, but you're looking at it that closely for some reason other than appreciation of the picture. Different films have different looks. Find what you like and stick with it and get to know it so that you don't get surprised when you look at your negatives.

-- Kevin Crisp (, May 15, 2001.

Jim The answer Kevin gave you is right on the money. I just thought that I would add that you might want to do a little reading on diffraction limitation. the reason being is that there are alot of things besides grain size that will affect your large format photography. Best advice I ever heard was to buy one film and one paper and one developer and stick with them and use them and test them until you know them like the back of your hand. Kevin

-- Kevin Kolosky (, May 15, 2001.

Could not have said it better myself, Kevin. I would ditto just about everything previously said, from my experiences. For my, B&W work I use T-Max 100, and when exposed and processed correctly, I have never seen grain, up to 20x24, that would keep me from making the print. With transparency film, I use either Fuji Velvia (50 ISO) or Astia (100 ISO) with no problems, though patience is sometimes the biggest obstacle to getting the right shot.

In my shooting experience, I rarely set the shutter faster than 1/60, and that is only on the windiest of days or when there is nothing I can do to keep people out out of the scene. The rest of the time I am at 1/15 or slower to get more depth of field. Just remember not to rush the process to get the ideal photograph, I've waited one to two hours before the setting was the way I wanted it. So just set up, kick back, and enjoy the sights that unfold before you.

-- Tom Percival (, May 15, 2001.

To my knowledge DOF is determined by focal length, lens stop, the distance from the lens to the point focused on and the size of the circle of confusion, and the depth is greater with shorter focal lenght lens than a longer one. Shutter speed has nothing to do with DOF. This is according to Vol.1 of the Navy traing manuel 1944 Ed. Pat

-- pat krentz (, May 15, 2001.

Jim welcome to the highly addictive world of LF!! Any b&w film is worth trying in LF, but a good starting point would be something like FP4 Plus or Delta 100. I still have great difficulty in believing just how sharp and detailed a LF neg can be!! I've seen HP5 Plus negs that also seem really fine grained for a film of "high" speed. Give a few of them a try!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, May 15, 2001.

Pat, I think Tom was saying that by using a slower shutter speed, he is able to use a smaller aperture (larger number) and thereby increase depth of field.


-- Dave (, May 15, 2001.

Thanks for all the input folks. I know this may be sacriligous on a traditional site like this, but I plan to be scanning these negatives, rather thank make silver prints. I just heard of a problem called "grain anti-aliasing" which affects the output of the scans of higher speed films. It is a problem that can show up inconsistently from one shot to the next. Right now the only consistent remedy is to use a finer grain film. One of my final choices was FP4 Plus, so I think I will start my learning with this and go faster later, if this can't handle all the situations I run into. Thanks again.-----JimJ

-- Jim Jasutis (, May 15, 2001.

Jim, Sacreligious? Not really! Just a different form of producing an image! But don't confine yourself to "digital", have a go at some traditional methods too and fully appreciate LF. Best of luck Paul

-- paul owen (, May 16, 2001.

I feel that Illford HP5 Plus (400) is an excellent choice for starting out, and continuing indefinately. It is forgiving and the highlights move "gently" with varied development. Rate it at 200 ASA for proper exposure. If you pay close attention to temperature during all phases of development (+- no more than 1 degree!), the grain structure will remain nice and tight. I print 4x5 up to 16x20 with beautiful results. When I don't need the film speed, I use Illford FP4 (125), with similar behavior in tonal range, but with tack sharp grain. I rate it at ASA 50, and what's particularly nice is that I can use the same "N" as the HP5, and batch process the two films together.

I think the general wisdom is good--choose a good, forgiving film like Tri-x or HP5 to start, but stick with it so you know it up and down. Madly switching films before you master them will only scatter your efforts. Good luck!


-- Chris Jordan (, May 17, 2001.

All the trouble of Large Format, just to compromise on image quality by printing digitally. Makes no sense to me. I don't care what anyone tries to sell you, there is NO digital process that has as much tonal range and subtlety as a fine silver print- even a mediocre silver print, as long as it's in focus, is a damn sight sharper with more detail than any pseudo continuous tone digital process. Yeah, I know, someone's going to tell me I'm a liar or a Luddite, but I've seen the results myself and I know what I'm talking about. Shoot a consumer digicam and save yourself the trouble.

-- josh slocum (, May 20, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ