Ortho film...

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I can't remember if I asked this here before already, but I think not... I am always looking for new things to play with in photography and recently found several boxes of kodak ortho film for sale cheap. I looked at the kodak website and couldn't find info on processing or what it is used for. I even called their tech guys and all they could say was that it would be a real contrasty film. They didn't seem to have much other info. What can you all tell me? Do I need to get more info to you off the box? Can I use it for neat stuff?

-- Jason Janik (janikphoto@yahoo.com), June 12, 2001


I don't know what your definition of "neat stuff" is, but get hold of Ansel's books, he use a lot of ortho film, I have used it myself and liked it. It is not red sensitive which makes foliage light in prints and makes for flat skys. The one thing I really liked about it was that I could develope by inspection under a 7w red safelight or a 15w up higher. You might want to try using PMK Pyro as a developer and you could use Gordon Hutchins starting times for Tri-X. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), June 12, 2001.

Jason: We need to know specifically which ortho film you have. There have been in the past ortho versions of Tri-X and Plus-X. There are also ortho lithographic films that are a totally different thing. These litho films are extremely high contrast and are used for a number of different purposes from copy line work to doing half tone reproductions. Let us know which film you have, and we can help a little more.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), June 12, 2001.

In general, ortho film is typically used for high contrast manipulations, masking, and making enlarged negatives. You can also shoot ortho to mimic older (19th century) emulsions and to produce positives for printmaking processes which require a film positive (photo etching and screenprinting, for example). Film positives can also be displayed with backlighting for some interesting possibilities (do a serach for work by Mike and Doug Starn.) You can also make slides for projection but you won't get the quality you might expect using the T-max reversal process. Let me know if you wan't more info on any of these.


-- Dave Willison (dwillisart@aol.com), June 12, 2001.

Two things that haven't been mentioned yet: (1) Because ortho film is not red sensitive, it is an interesting choice when you are using any convertible lens with either element removed. For example, let's say you've got a Symmar 210 convertible. An extremely common convertible (a plasmat). With both elements in place, red is given fair-average correction. But if you remove the front element, turning the lens into a 370mm, there is no red correction. This is the basic reason that convertibles aren't as sharp with an element removed. BUT if you use the single element to project on ortho film, which isn't red senstive, PRESTO, the lens is bunch sharper. You just have to remember that red light in the field will print dark. Normally no big deal. By the way, all this assumes you're using a full-scale ortho film, like Ilford Ortho+, and not a process-type film as mentioned in the previous responses. The Ilford is said to have a speed and amenability to developers similar to FP4+. I've shot it at about EI 80, developing in Rodinol at times prescribed for FP4+ with good results. (2) One of the other responses to your inquiry referred to ortho film as a means of mimicking the look of archaic work. Yes, it seems that many LF photog's have done that, including myself. Without a lot of fuss and using the procedure I just noted I've gotten interesting, kind of archaic-looking portraits OF MEN. It kind of accentuates every vein and crevice in the face, makes the eye-sockets dark and moody and that kind of thing. Darkens the lips. Do not try this with women (I don't care if I am accused of sexism in this connection, inasmuch as I am concerned about your health). It is pointed out in "The Film Developing Cookbook", by the way, that much the same effect can be achieved by using a No. 85 blue filter with panchromatic film. One last thing (3) ortho film is cheap. -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), June 12, 2001.

Speaking of masking and the like..... I have started using Kodalith 2556 for making contrast reducing masks. I've just started doing this so have a lot of work to do before I really know what I'm doing. One basic technical question. I would like to make masks for some 6x9 negs. Where can I punch a registration hole if I am not willing to sacrifice the negs next to it on the roll? The borders on 120 film are too narrow. My one thought waas to carefully tape a strip on the edge of the film, perhaps another piece of film or just a wide piece of tape. What do others do? What sort of tape would be stable, rugged and not heat sensitive?

-- Dave Schneider (dschneider@arjaynet.com), June 12, 2001.

Look for the View Camera web site or index; Steve Simmons did a nice article on using Ortho film a couple years ago.

-- David Stein (DFStein@aol.com), June 12, 2001.

Dave, try this


-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), June 12, 2001.

Actually, I haven't bought it yet. It was only a few bucks for a box of 50 sheets, but I didn't pick up any boxes until I knew I could do SOMETHING with it. I DO remember the kodak guy saying it was the type used for things such as screenprinting. If I could do something with it, I'll play around with it and see if I can make anything interesting. Referring to the above, I've seen the Starn brother's work before. What part of it is a product of the ortho film? Their work is so busy and complex that it's hard to tell what is what... Anyway, I just thought a new type of film would be fun to play with...

-- Jason Janik (janikphoto@yahoo.com), June 13, 2001.


If you get a chance, check out Any Grundberg's book on the Starn Twins (still in print and available from Amazon). The catalog descriptions list at least twenty works using ortho film. They also use standard paper and in book format it's sometimes hard to see the difference. Most of these images are projection printed on multiple sheets of film (sometimes as many as 20-30) which have been taped or pinned against a large wall. The film is then developed and reassembled using tape, plywood, pipe clamps, etc. I've seen more recent work where the Starns have collaged film or collaged images on single sheets and placed them in a large lightbox.


-- Dave Willison (dwillisart@aol.com), June 13, 2001.

Jason, if they said it was meant for screenprinting, then it's probably just Kodalith. I've used quite a bit of that years ago when we made film positives & film negs in house (with a stat camera) for our silkscreening operation....everything's done by computer output now. I think some people can manage to get a continuous tone out of it, but for the most part this is just a litho film. Use it for shooting line art, or making halftones. Personally I don't care too much for the stuff, and was glad to be rid of it. The chemistry always bugged me & it had formaldehyde in parts of it. I still occasionally use it in copying old etchings, or similar line art. I'm sure you can get creative with it, but this is what it's designed for mainly.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 13, 2001.

You're right. I went back to pick up some expired tri-x and some pmz1000 at a really good deal and checked the 4x5 boxes. It says kodalith, ortho type 3. I actually bought a little personal-size screen printing kit to toy with a while back from freestyle camera.com and haven't used it yet, so maybe this film would come in handy for that. I'll pick up a box next time I'm out. Anyone know what it develops in? What's its iso?

-- Jason Janik (janikphoto@yahoo.com), June 14, 2001.

If it's Kodalith Ortho Type 3, it's ISO speed depends on what application you're going to use it for, and what developer, and sort of light source you'll be using. In any even, it's really slow. With Kodalith chemistry, plan on starting at around ISO 8 for tungsten. We develop it in the old liquid Kodalith chem. (A+B), but only because we have a lifetime supply stockpiled...if you find the old stuff in a 2 part liquid, you mix both parts seperately (1:3) and then add them together prior to use. The developer oxidizes very fast, so you use it immediately. This stuff is pretty rough on your skin, so be careful when you use it, and it's just downright unpleasant to use in general. But you can use it under a red safelight. There's an old trick in developing this stuff by inspection. One side will hit it's d-max quicker than the other, keep flipping the film over and when both sides match (actually JUST before they match) in density, pull it out and stop/fix the film. The dev. time is critical to sharpness. But, we're talking about a 2-3 min. time here, with continuous agitation. Do it in a tray, and sort of randomly rock the tray around, it's easy to get agitation patterns on this film, so you can't treat it like paper. I think you can only get Kodalith RT in powder now, although some other manufacturers like Nacco, or Edwal also make liquid litho developers. You can also use Kodak D-11 developer, a high contrast dev., and if you use this aim for ISO 25 or so with tungsten. If you do find the old 2 pt. liquid Kodalith developer, be careful with it when you use it because it has formaldehyde in it, as well as some other things like methanol, and potassium hydroxide. You should be careful when you use it, wear gloves & protect your eyes....it can be nasty. Like I said, I avoid it if I can.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 14, 2001.

Hey, I will tell you what I've used it for other than doing silkscreen film, or making copynegs. I've used it under the enlarger to make tone-line conversions and similar effects. I used to use Kodak SO-132 dupe film to make an enlarged neg. I could enlarge the hell out of a 35mm neg, and get a grainy image (almost like a mezzotint screen). Then I'd take the enlarged neg and contact it onto a sheet of Kodalith. I'd do this many, many times, until I had a bunch of film positives and film negs. I'd do them in different densitites as well, and then make sandwiched negs out of them, only just slightly knocking them out of register, so they'd almost cancel themselves out. You get this line around the image...it's technically called a tone line conversion, but mine probably weren't completely right. I used a glass carrier to hold them in the end, and would use rubylith (graphics) tape to hold them all together. You can do some wild things with Kodalith though....I did an album cover like this years ago (before photoshop). If you decide to use the film, get yourself a jar of opaque fluid, or an opaquing pen from a graphics supplier...it'll help you with the pinholes that will inevitably happen.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 14, 2001.

i have used ortho film to shoot portraits - studio setting - no filtration- processed in just like tri-x, and got really nice results. it gives a very 1940s look - lipstick appears black ... character lines become more pronounced .. i know eileen mcclure, portrait photographer in providence, ri used it quite regularly for formal portrait work, and if i am not mistaken, yousuf karsh also used it. - john

-- john nanian (jak@gis.net), June 17, 2001.

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