___For professionals and experts in B&W films

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by -= shtativ, May 17, 2006.

  1. Hallo, friends!


    I heard opinion, that b&w films (unlike color) can be never replaced
    by a digital matrix. Explain my why, please? I understand, that the
    question can seem silly, but it not so. I know what pleasure the
    photographer during in analog development and a press of photos
    prints. For me interesting the technical moments only. Why b&w films
    will live it is eternal?
     
  2. Dynamic range, for one - if I may respond not being either a professional or an expert. But I wouldn't bet on eternity - just digital technology as it currently exists. Of course the fun of working in the darkroom might not easily be digitally duplicated.
     
  3. I think digital can already look as good as B&W film. I choose to shoot my own personal
    photos on B&W film because of several reasons. I do like the process of shooting
    ,developing and printing film. I also like the fact that film will be able to be printed or
    scanned in the future , and is not subject to someone pushing a Delete button and making
    it go away. I am sure, I am the last of a generation that will be shooting film , already here
    at the paper we have some photographers who have never shot a roll of B&W film . A little
    sad I would say , but the only things that do not change are things that are dead.
     
  4. It's relative, some would say you can replace it with digital, and for some (like me) digital can't replace even color.
    I'm simply not satisfied with the way digital pictures look for color.
     
  5. Well... I think - and as we're all living through this time of huge upheaval in photography - that colour film doesn't have long left. If you're pro shooting to deadlines, then digital is the way... because I know picture / art editors are impatient sorts. Digital cannot replace film, I don't think ever, because it's just too clean. Sure, you can replicate filmic qualities with photoshop, but it's just not the same game. Not better, different.

    However, colour print film will die off in the next few years. Large formats may survive a little longer for fine art reasons, but consumer 35mm print will go... I am sure of it. Ink-jet printing for colour is fine, because you're still dealing with dyes. So regardless if it comes from a print processor or an ink-jet printer, the results should be similar.

    However...

    Black and White film will continue forever. It may become rare and expensive, but because you're dealing with silver halides, you cannot make that with an ink-jet printer. No matter what printer or paper manufacturers say, there is no replacement for a silver print. You can throw all your three-black ink, gloss optimiser stuff out the window, because you'll never get the same results than from the darkroom.

    I don't much care for the people that rattle on about how wonderful their new $1800 printer is. If it's a B&W print you're after, you've got to get into the darkroom. I love digital cameras... but I'd never use one to purposely go and take monochrome pictures.

    Discuss.
     
  6. that b&w films (unlike color) can be never replaced by a digital matrix
    There are two answers to this, with both being correct.
    (1) - Your emotional answer: Because hardcore B&W shooters have spent a lifetime creating an emotional straw horse and psuedo institution about how their medium is superior to color (and digital). This because they can't shoot a color image nobody would care about anyways, so they use the automatic 'fine-art' designation of anything printed on silver gelatin paper, even if it sucks, as an emotional crutch. Once Ansel Adams and Henri Cartie Bresson were nailed to a crucifix instead of Jesus, all other photographic mediums have been rendered 'inferior'. Fortunatley, apathy in the younger generation towards boring pictures of street people and staircases taken by middle aged men with balding hair and Leicas is correcting the problem. I call it, 'cultural entropy', and it's badly needed. As an example, the first person to say 'digital or color photography will never surpass conventional B&W' is usually the same cretin that would come in last in a photography contest run by eight year old school kids with disposable film cameras.
    (2) - Your technical Answer: MF and LF classic B&W films when properly shot and developed, and conventionally printed onto classic silver gelatin paper produce images of very appealing nature because of the long density range of the materials. This is why properly printed B&W images from exceptionally processed B&W film tend to 'glow' and have such elegant higlight transitions. While RA-4 based digital printers like the LightJet and Frontier have righfully destroyed conventional color printing, they haven't replaced conventional B&W printing because color papers lack the density range of classic B&W materials.
    The result of this is that digital 'fine-art' printing has become the sole responsibility of ink-jet printers run by those with enough brains to tweak them to produce exellent B&W out-put.
    Several years ago this was tough to do because inks and pigments used in ink-jet printers were designed primarily for color and B&W as a secondary consideration. With the advent of the newer Epsons and an HP running a dedicated B&W ink-set, along with high tech matte based papers, I'm seing 'fine-art' B&W ink-jet prints rendering conventional B&W prints obsolete.
    Unfortunatley, disgruntled old timer B&W shooters will never admit this, and will revert back to film worship rather than admit what photography was intended to do, and that's communicate images.
    Unfortunatley^2, even with the well intended efforts of our fearless moderator, this forum is not the best place to post such a question and will mostly yield uninformative answers from category (1). The digital forum will give you more objective answers from photographers succesfull with both mediums.
     
  7. You can throw all your three-black ink, gloss optimiser stuff out the window, because you'll never get the same results than from the darkroom.
    Thank you for proving my point for me.
    Wonderfull images you have uploaded as well.
     
  8. Some complementary points:

    1. Each film differently sensitive to each wavelength (color) of light, which adds a certain look and feel to your images. Nearly impossible to reproduce it with digital.

    2. With digital, you perphaps shoot a color photo and will convert it later to B&W. Anything you do, you're going to have near 256 number of different grey colors, which is zero comparing to thousands being on a B&W negative. Using B&W mode of your digital camera will end up in greyscale conversion using exactly 256 colors.

    3. B&W film resolution can be easily get to 25-30 megapixels or even more when high contrast subject is photographed.
     
  9. I use both digital and b/w film. I've only recently started shooting and developing my own film because I was frustrated with trying to recreate the b/w look using digital files from a 10D and 20D. This is my opinion:<,p>
    B/W film has had well over 100 years of "fine tuning" to make it better and better <p> The sensitivity to different wavelengths of colors has been engineered in b/w film, for making red sensitivity less prevalent in portraits (blemishes, etc) making someone with an uneven skin tone look much better.<p> Digital in this aspect is both better and worse - much more sensitivity to color changes, causing you alot of photoshop work to make the portrait more appealing. <p>
    I think color 35mm film will be replaced with digital pretty soon, but b/w film has it's own look and won't be replaced until the generations of people that appreciate and expect that look for b/w film are gone.<p> Joe
     
  10. Digital cannot replace b&w film now or for the near future for the following reasons:

    Dynamic range � b&w film can hold far more details in highlights and shadows of a high contrast scene. With pyro developers 10 stops + is pretty easy to achieve, with some people (apparently) managing 14. Digital just cannot compete here and won�t for quite a long time, but I sure one day they will crack the problem.

    B&W conversion isn�t great, I�ve tried every method I can find online including plug-ins and it is hit and miss, sometimes is works and sometimes it just doesn�t �look� right. Digital printing isn�t there yet. The closest are prints from a durst lamda on fiber paper since real photographic paper is exposed by lasers. Inkjets have problems with getting a print with no colour cast, archival problems, and looking different under different light sources but these problems are less with newer printers.

    You cannot replicate the look of film grain like that of tri-x with a plug-in or PS trickery. The tri-x docu/street look can not be done by digital and I�m sure never will be. Eventually digital will become so widespread that people will just get used to the digital look, which is a shame.
     
  11. I think that Film with the combanation of good Digital scanning then good Digital printing on Photo paper by someone trained and also worth their salt works well. I can get the screen correct but I am as of yet to get a great digital print of my B&W negatives. Eather those I have scanned or had scanned that match what I have produced in the Darkroom.

    I bet though with the correct equipment I can get close but with what I have I can't turn out a B&W print that is good enough for me.

    I think that Film is much better than Digital and making a B&W print from a converted negative seems easyer for me but my B&W from B&W to me acts better on the screen.

    Sorry not all of us can own a drum Scanner but then I doubt that we would ever want one with all the trouble and since I shoot everything from 8mm through 4x5 I think I will just wait for the prices to come down on better printers and inks.

    Larry
     
  12. Wow, the amount of disinformation on this topic is simply staggering.
    This because they can't shoot a color image nobody would care about anyways
    Assuming the double negation wasn't intentional, then the only reason anyone shoots in monochrome is because they failed shooting in color? Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to read your arrogant claptrap.
    You can throw all your three-black ink, gloss optimiser stuff out the window, because you'll never get the same results than from the darkroom.
    No, digital prints will never look the same as darkroom prints. So what? I happen to like my digital prints more than anything I ever did in the darkroom. Darkroom vs. inkjet is a personal preference, not some universal absolute. So is film vs. digital capture. A good photo is a good photo regardless of how it was made. Get over it.
    Anything you do, you're going to have near 256 number of different grey colors,
    If you shoot raw and/or scan in 16-bit mode, you can have up to 65,536 shades of gray which is several orders of magnitude more than the eye can perceive. Monochrome jpeg modes on most cameras do indeed suck, but so do most of the color jpeg modes.
    The sensitivity to different wavelengths of colors has been engineered in b/w film, for making red sensitivity less prevalent in portraits (blemishes, etc) making someone with an uneven skin tone look much better.
    Actually, you want more red sensitivity to smooth out blemishes. Orthochromatic film (sensitive to only blue and green) give a very rough looking skin tone because red areas show up very dark. Sometimes, this is desirable (particularly for getting a "rugged" look in portraits of men), but is often unflattering. In photoshop, the channel mixer allows you to precisely control the spectral response during monochrome conversion of color materials (film scans or digital). Colored filters achieve the same effect at capture on films.
    Inkjets have problems with getting a print with no colour cast, archival problems, and looking different under different light sources but these problems are less with newer printers.
    If you believe this, then you clearly haven't seen a good inkjet print. A printer with at least 3 grays, driven by a RIP, and properly calibrated and profiled will give you a dead neutral print -- or just about any other tone you might desire. Carbon pigment inks are extremely stable (> 150 years) and the paper stocks used for better inkjet printing are of higher quality (many are buffered 100% rag) than the vast majority of fiber papers (generally alpha cellulous).
    Any print will look different under different lighting -- the prepress industry insists on standardized viewing stations for just this reason. Chemical prints are no exception: one of the reasons I never liked Ilford multigrade is that it can develop an ugly green cast under certain types of flourescent lighting. Inkjet prints made with gray inks (not with composites of CMY) exhibit no greater shifting due to light sources than silver gelatine papers. The Epson 2200 with the standard driver had really bad color shifting, but this was a result of lousy software, not some fundamental limitation of the technology. Unfortunately, its problems (all of which have been solved, BTW) have prejudiced a lot of people against inkjets.
    You cannot replicate the look of film grain like that of tri-x with a plug-in or PS trickery.
    OK, finally something I agree with. Trying to duplicate the look of a particularly B&W film/paper combination digitally is a fool's errand. If you want the "Tri-X look", then shoot Tri-X. It's cheap, readily available, and duplicating it digitally will be no more than poor simulation of the real thing. But Tri-X on fiber is not the apotheosis of photography. There are plenty of other different but equally attractive media.
    Eventually digital will become so widespread that people will just get used to the digital look, which is a shame.
    Oh, please. Digital B/W has a unique look, which individual photographers can choose to adopt if they feel its suits their work. It has no more or less legitimacy than any other medium, so why is it shameful that people might actually like it? As platinum papers were being phased out in favor of silver gelatine 100 years ago, I'm sure someone was crying "eventually silver gelatine will become so widespread that people will just get used to the silver gelatine look, which is a shame."
    What is a shame is that the manufacturers are using digital as an excuse to kill off traditional products. But I speculate that we're near the low point for silver B/W materials right now. The big, industrial players are leaving the market, opening up niches for smaller, cottage industry companies to fill. The materials are simple enough to manufacture, and have a sufficiently unique look to them that people will continue to make and use them for many more years. Look at the quantity and quality of alt. process work being done today, when most of these materials haven't been manufactured on a large scale for at least 50 years. Like it or not, silver printing is destined to become an alternative process, but this neither diminishes its beauty nor bodes its demise.
    Frankly, I think the exit of large, corporate manufactureres may turn out to be a good thing after we get through a few years of pain. The necessity of economies of scale dictated that most of the industrially produced materials were all pretty similar to one another. Smaller, more focused suppliers may actually be able to profitably produce a greater variety of unique materials than large corporations like Kodak or Fuji ever did. Look at the number of developers produced by Photographer's Formulary compared to Ilford or Kodak. Imagine what a small, dedicated B/W paper manufacturer could produce: dozens of varieties of paper stocks and surfaces instead of your current choice of glossy or matte, RC or fiber. The downside is that it will probably be $2/sheet instead of 50 cents.
    I really would like to know why both sides of this argument insist on turning it into a war. Do painters bash each other on the internet over whether oils or acrylics are "superior?" Are sculptors flaming each other about whether bronze can "replace" marble? Do you get a gold star for being the first on your block to buy a DSLR? Do you win points in photographers; heaven for having chemical stains on all your clothers? This isn't a zero sum game, folks. It seems pretty obvious to me that more choices = good; fewer choices = bad. I can sympathize with those who bemoan the loss of some classic materials -- I use (at least until I shoot the last 15 rolls I have in the freezer) a lot of APX 100 and was really sad to see Agfa implode. But I really do like printing digitally and am pleasantly surprised with the quality of converting 5D raw files to monochrome. Since film and paper are still readily available, I'm thrilled that I have a whole bunch of new tools in my toolbox while still being able to do it the old way, when the mood suits me.
    So, to answer the original question: no, B/W films (nor color, for that matter) can never be "replaced" by digital, in an artistic sense. Film and digital capture and printing simply look different. Of course, digital replacing film as the dominant medium in the marketplace is fait accompli and all the whining in the world won't change that fact. But then B/W was replaced by color as the main consumer and commercial medium years ago and monochrome photography survived. I believe it will not only survive the rise of digital, it will become stronger as photographers learn how to use these new technologies in conjunction with the old.
    As with any medium, you have to learn how to use your tools, experiment with the available materials and choose the ones that suit your vision. But please don't be so arrogant as to assume that your choice of a material imparts it with any sort of intrinsic superiority. And please stop with the poorly thought out technical arguments attempting to prove the factual supremacy of what is simply your opinion, no more or less valid than anyone else's.
     
  13. My Rant

    We have room for all in this world and everyone likes what they like.

    Some of my current choices are due to my living conditions but I still find time to Develope my own Nrgatives even though I can't use my Enlarger at the moment.

    I only show prints as proofs these days so Electronic is the way I have to use it.

    I do Color but just prefer B&W these days maybe someday I will go back to Color but at the moment I prefer B&W.

    I am teaching teens Photography and allowing them to see their hand developed negatives as prints sooner and in their hands without a dark room Well................... I think it is priceless.

    Larry
     
  14. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    "Unfortunatley, even with the well intended efforts of our fearless moderator, this forum is not the best place to post such a question and will mostly yield uninformative answers from category (1). The digital forum will give you more objective answers from photographers succesfull with both mediums."
    Reminds me of a vacuum cleaner sucking itself up.
     
  15. Right now I prefer film to digital for B&W. The ability to control tonal range and maintain detail in shadows and highlights is still better.

    I am starting to see a lot of quality B&W digital work being done. If you visit a site like photosig.com you will find a growing percentage of submissions being digital B&W. People are rediscovering that B&W is just better for some subjects.

    As the interest in digital B&W grows the tools for working with those images will improve. I've seen prints from some of those dedicatated B&W ink jets, they are very nice. The archival quality is also something to consider.
     
  16. Cheap Shot Tony.

    Nuff said
     
  17. This is a bad question to ask. NO ONE can answer it for YOU. Its like asking....paint brush or pencils? They are just tools. Try them both and see what works for you.
     
  18. Matthew, it is a bad answer.


    I do not ask answers for myself. For myself I for a long time have solved all and I shoot only on b&w for a 2 years. But people ask why I shoot only on b&w. To one to explain easily - I speak, that it is my philosophy, I like process and b&w view. My opinion, that color distracts on itself a lot of attention, and its absence helps to concentrate on sense. But there are people whom instead of creativity the technics and specs interest. They often recommend me to buy the digital camera and "to not spend time in vain". To me to become it is insulting. For this reason I also have asked this question - to me are necessary technical the superiority b&w that I simple terms could tell it to people who think, that films have already died.



    Thanks all, that do not regret time for answers. This information will be interesting not only for me.



    Greetins, -= Shtativ
     
  19. I've noticed that a lot of the recent photographers featured in LensWork are capturing B&W images w/ film and then doing "duotone" output with inkjets. I was blown away by Nick Brandt's portfolio in the January issue (East Africa). If I recall correctly, he captured his images with Pentax 6x7 gear and then outputs digitally with injkets.

    I'm sure that capturing images with a digital sensor can create fantastic B&W images.

    For me, I truly enjoy shooting B&W film with my 4x5" camera and making silver-halide prints onto fiber paper. Someday I will experiment with digital capture and printing when I have more disposable cash. But for now, I'm having a blast with the big old 4x5" enlarger I found at a garage sale for $75.
     
  20. Shtativ,
    I rather agree with Matthew that with digital you just get more tools. When I was in Art school we had a graphic exercise for discovering the own character of drawing tools: pen, pencil, brush, charcoal, scratching, oil chalks, ... etc. We had to draw a basic form like eg a spiral, a square, a circle and try to draw it in a way that would show what was typically pencil, pen, brush etc. So each tool, digital or film process has its own possibilities we should explore and apply. I agree that we should not try to imitate in one medium the characteristics of another medium or material. A plastic imitation of a wooden chair looks cheap and ugly, but you might make a chair in plastic in a way you never can in wood.In all arts it's important that you know how to work with your tools, and explore it all the time. Then it is up to your feeling and artistic capacity, how you will apply the effect of your tools on the image. For me digital photography has indeed added some nice tools and made more choices possible.
     
  21. It all went pear shaped when safety film took over from nitrate.
     

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