Single B&W emulsion for learning in 4X5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am seeking recommendations for the "best" emulsion to start working in 4X5. I know there is no single best anything in photography but from the view point of flexibility in exposure and development are there advantages to Tri-X vs Ilford vs T-max etc.? (Film speed should not be an issue) I want to stick with a single emulsion (and developer) initially to limit the inevitable confusion over the vast number of variables and choices to be made in B&W as I try to learn the basics of consistently producing a good negative. I was going to start with Tri-X professional but realized my bias here is because Tri-x is the only B&W emulsion I have any experience with and that from long ago in 35mm. So I seek counsel from the experienced forum members before springing for the 100 sheet box. I will be working outdoors and subjects will be anything that suits my fancy and eye. thanks Russell

-- Russell Levin (, October 06, 2001


Russell, I have the same criteria and use Ilford HP5+ and Ilford ID- 11 Developer.

An Ilford chemical engineer who came to my school not too long ago said that HP5+ is an especially reliable, tolerant and predictable film. From my experience seems to be perfectly true.

ID-11 is very similar, as a developer. It's close to Kodak's D-76 in formulation so don't worry it may not sound as familiar, it's very mainstream chemically. ID-11 can be used to develop film in stock concentration, mixed 1+1 or 1+3. This gives you the versatility to adjust for a wide range of subject contrast recorded on the film.

These two should keep you busy for a long time. Do any other members agree?


-- Andre Noble (, October 06, 2001.

Having just started myself, I have found HP5+ rated at 200 developed in perceptol at 1:2 for 11 minutes a nice combination. HP5 comes in boxes of 25 too....



-- David Tolcher (, October 06, 2001.

Try Arista Pro 400 film from Freestyle. Lots of evidence to indicate it is the same as HP5. Much cheaper - especially good for learning while you proceed to get all those early mistakes you'll make behind you!

I just wish I'd get through making them!

-- Alec (, October 06, 2001.

Have you considered FP4+ ? A great film and very forgiving! BTW I seem to remember an article in View Camera where this film was tested alongside Arista(?) and they appeared one in the same thing! Both made in England But the Arista was much cheaper. I think that arista is only available in the US from Freestyle(?), pity its not available in the UK or I'd definitely try it. Try either film with almost any dev too!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, October 06, 2001.

I think you should stick with Tri-X because you already have experience with it in other formats. My girlfriend and I recently bought a pair of 16x20 prints (a landscape and a land/cloudscape) made from 4x5 Tri-X negatives from Marathon, Texas based photographer James Evans and they are truly amazing in both technical terms (sharpness, grain, toanl range, detail in bright highlights down to deep shadows and vision.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, October 06, 2001.

One of the best emulsions for 4x5 B&W is Agfa APX-100. It is normal grain film (rather than tab or other grain constructs) and can be successfully developed in virtually any developer. D76 1:1 produces magnificent images. As does Xtol, HC-110, Pyro, or whatever. It and Efke are my favorite 4x5 B&W films.

-- Jim Brick (, October 06, 2001.

I started with HP5+ and XTOL; ID11 would probably be fine. I also shoot the HP5+ in 35mm as a carry camera. I find the film very forgiving and like the results I get with the developer combination. You might want to try the new Delta 400 and stick with it past the learning stage since the reviews are pretty good. The Fuji B&W film also has had good reviews and is available at Badger.

-- Wayne Crider (, October 06, 2001.

txp in perceptol is a good combo you can go n-2 with this also agfa 100 in pmk is great the latter has wonderful highlite seperation in 4x5 and 35mm stick with high quality materials they may cost more but you can learn to depend on them . also agfa 100 works well with orange and red filtration in snow and by the sea in new england.

-- lee nadel (, October 06, 2001.

I hate to slam any retailer supporting traditional photography, and do not claim to be a saint in the manner in which I handle my own materials. I have no problem even buying out date transparency film if the date and the box otherwise look reasonable.

Having said that: Freestyle photo (which markets the Arista film mentioned a couple times above as being one and the same as Ilford) has headquartes here in LA. They need to take better care in the way they handle their stock of film and paper - as photo students, my classmates and I were warned not to purchase film and paper there by some very experienced and competent photo instructors here in LA. Freestyle often lets their incoming film and paper stock to sit out in their unshaded loading dock here in the blazing Southern California sun. I'm a regular shopper there and have seen it with my own eyes. An awning over their loading area would convince me that they adequately care, but such is unbelievably absent. Perhaps they know what their doing, perhaps photo material is not quite so sensitive to heat as I imagine, but I've seen sensitive material out in the barring sun for a whole work day, unprotected from the intense heat.

I love Freestyle, the staff is very friendly, but before I buy any Arista film on a regular basis, Freestyle needs to invest in an awning for their loading dock. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, October 06, 2001.

Agfa 100 in Rodinal 1:50 64 asa works good for me, but Tri-x is good as well.

Freestyle was one of, if not my favorite place to browse and buy film and chemistry. Since I live in the east I only get out there to see family in L.A. a couple of times a year. I don't know when they changed but the last time I went in there, last August, I was surprised as to how much paper, chemistry, equipment that they no longer have on display or in their catologe, really scaled down. Almost looked like they were going out of business the day I was there.

Funny that someone mentioned pallets of photo materials sitting in the sun, I have noticed this many times and have wondered about it.

-- Carl Harrison (, October 06, 2001.

Russell -

4x5 Tri-X (TXT) is NOT the same as 35mm Tri-X (TX). The sensitometric characteristics are wildly different - 35mm TX is a very forgiving film, with a gentle shoulder (i.e., moderate highlight contrast) while 4x5 Tri-X (TXT) has steep highlight contrast which can be very hard to handle.

If you like 35mm TX, I would recommend HP5 Plus in 4x5. It's not exactly the same in tonality or overall "look", but it is robust and forgiving, delivers a full-information negative with ease under virtually any lighting, and is capable of making beautiful pictures. It can look a bit gritty under some circumstances, though. The closest tonal match to 35mm TX among Kodak sheet films is probably T- Max 100 developed in D-76. But it's quite a bit more finicky in exposure and development than is TX, and in my experience doesn't deliver full shadow detail as reliably.

Good luck...

-- Oren Grad (, October 06, 2001.

My preference is Agfa 100 4x5 dev. in HC-110 dil. B. I have used it for many years in 35mm and 120. I dev a little differently than most. Caveat, "What works for me may not work for you".

1 oz. HC-110 concentrate in 15.5 oz. water (tap) @ 68 degress (Dil. B)

I load 1 or 2 sheets into a Unicolor print dev. tank (it can hold 4, double the volume of dev if you do.) Now your in room ligt for the rest of the time.

Fill with 68 deg water w/ 1 drop of photoflo pree soak for 1 min. while running on Unicolor motor base. This helps stabilize the tube to 68 deg.

Develope using the motor base for 7 min. (N) Rinse and fix as usual.

The results are 100% perfectly devloped negs. No streaks, marks, pin holes, air bells.

Good shootig.


-- Steve Feldman (, October 07, 2001.

OOPS!! Re-checked my graduate marking.


IT"S 1/2 OZ>


-- Steve Feldman (, October 07, 2001.

I also use FP4+ and find it very peachy. However, I'm starting to use HP5+ because of the speed and I like it in the other formats. I'm trying to decide whether or not to ditch the FP4 for the faster film. I like the look of FP4. My prints are 5x max, I'm not how HP5 would handle this. It's nice to see other people shooting large format with EI of 100 or less.


-- floren (, October 09, 2001.

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