A Top 5 Films List for a Beginner

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by yeknom02, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. Alright, this is my first post to photo.net forums, so I hope you'll be forgiving. I am just switching to film photography from digital, and I'm thinking of shooting black & white film for a change rather than my usual color. (I know, it sounds like my photography career is in reverse.) I've looked over this site, but I can't seem to find a good checklist of films I should start out with. I'm looking for something high-contrast with maybe some extra-edgy grain for some applications. I was wondering if people could point me in the right direction. Should I look at Fuji's Neopan? Some Ilford film like HP5+ or Pan F? What about Efke or Foma?
    Which would you say are the top 5 rolls of film I should buy and try to start getting a good feel for black and white?
  2. I'd say and Ilford Delta or T-Max at 3200. But well, it also depends on when and you're going to shoot. Or Tri-X, but pushed to 1600 or 3200. I like tri-x. Very forgiving...
  3. The HP5+ has a very fine grain. The Pan F has almost no grain.
    The grain of Fuji neopan is fine as well. But you can push your rolls a bit. The iso 400 can be pushed to 1600 and the 1600 can be pushed to 3200. That'll surely put a bit of an edge on your grain. I haven't used the other two film brands.
  4. Tri-X Plus-X HP4+ HP5+ and Panf+ Process them yourself in D-76 or HC-110. Don't allow anyone else to do it... You are your own boss from the moment you pick the film put it in the camera and look at the final product. After that experiment. with different developers and pushing and pulling.
  5. Tri-X in D-76 is about as classic of a combination you can get, and gives just gorgeous tones. It tends to be a bit grainier than newer films, and in my experience reacts very nicely to higher contrast filters when printing. Fantastic stuff. Good luck.
  6. Newer films? TMY-2 is the newest there so I think the ground is even... LOL
  7. Tri-X or HP5 would be great general purpose films that as has already been mentioned, will give you high contrast and big grain at 1600 or 3200. The good thing with using these films is you can turn around and shoot them at box speed for normal looking results without having to buy a different film
  8. Or pull them with a middle tone range you could never imagine.
  9. Another vote for tri-x as the best all around B&W. If you want it grainy & contrasty. either push it, or use tmax 400.
  10. Fomapan 100 is an excellent film, fine grain, and easy to work with. Fomapan 400 has quite coarse grains, gives a look compared to old press photos (IMO).
    Also, take a look at Rolle Retro 100 (rebanded APX100). It is very cheap, and very easy to get right if you develop it in Rodinal.
  11. "I'm looking for something high-contrast with maybe some extra-edgy grain for some applications. I was wondering if people could point me in the right direction."
    What you are seeking is more a matter of how you meter and how you develop your film. So just choose one or two films and one developer for now. I'd suggest HP5+ and Neopan 1600 (or Delta 3200 if you want an even faster film). Plain old D76 is good, but I prefer XTOL because it gets me closer to box speed for general shooting.
    Run some film tests to determine how the film responds to expanded or contracted development. Or just start off rating the films at 1/2 box speed if you use D76 so that you pick up decent shadow detail. Rate higher if you want inky blacks without detail.
  12. Are you going to be devloping your own B&W film?
    I guess with the colour film you have been using a lab?
  13. Ilford FP4, Ilford HP5, Ilford Delta 100, Fuji Acros 100, Agfa APX 100.
  14. To clarify: yes, I think I'll end up doing my own developing. The lab has been processing my color rolls, and I'm disappointed in their turnaround time. Thanks for all the suggestions. It sounds like push/pull processing is a lot more common than I thought and not just some fringe experimental technique. That's something else I'll have to research...
  15. If you're new to thi, here's what I did.
    Pick a film, any film as long as you can get it without too much trouble, In my case that was Agfa APX 100, because I bought a box with 100 roll's in the bankruptcy of AGFA.
    Get a developer and stick to it. I got Rodinal by coincidence and so that 's what I was and am using. Almost everything in 1+25.
    Rate the film at box speed and develop it according to the standard instructions inside the box.
    After You've done enough roll's you'll get to know the look of your film and developer combo. Only then it is time to start changing the development, the iso rating or the developer ( Only one at a time; same Iso & same film different developer or same film, same developer, same iso , different dilution, you get the picture ...)
    After a few months you can really say that you 'll like this or that for the llok it has or that you've taken some other film so that you have more contrast. Or less.
    What ever you do, start with every thing standard, box speed, rcomended time and dilution for your film + developer.
    Do Not start with taking some film and rate it 1/2 box speed.
    And get a general purpose 400 iso film like HP5+, Fuji Neopan 400, Tri-X. Why? Because 400 iso you can use in and out doors on most day's where as 100 iso is too slow for indoor use and anything faster than iso 400 has too much grain.
    I know this is a plea for middle of the road photography, but you need to know the general, average lokk so that you can classify the more extreme push, or pull techniques.
    You need to know the baseline.
  16. If grain and high contrast are what you want, develop a fast film, such as Delta 3200, in a grainy developer, such as Rodinal, and develop for longer than the recommended time.
  17. Another vote for HP5
  18. As a long time film user, I would recommend the following films for being the most forgiving whilst being "tasty". Therefore before much ado, I present:
    1. Ekfe/Adox 100
    2. Fuji NeoPan 400
    3. FOMA 100
    4. ILFORD Delta 3200
    5. Kodak T-Max 400
    Furthermore, I suggest buying BW film in bulk (read 100 feet or more rolls) to maintain consistency and temperament.
    Hope you have fun with emulsion.
    Abhijeet Shah
  19. Tri-X, Ilford FP4, Agfa APX 100.
  20. You could try R09 one shot with this film for your first steps.
    Agfa APX 100 or Rollei 100
    Agfa APX 400 or Rollei 400s
    Trix 400
    Foma 100 or 200
    Neopan 100 or Legacy 100
    Across 100
    Ilford hp5+ ( a little grainy)
    Ilford Pan F
    I am a beginner too and I use a lot of asa 400 films: rolleo 400s, ilford hp5+, trix 400, kodak 400 cn (this one is a C41 film), neopan 400, legacy 400 (is like neopan, but not a tgrain film).
    ...and asa 100 sometimes, like rollei 100, across 100, tmax 100.
    Good luck! ;-)
  21. Delta 400 is my favorite film, and it didn't take long for that to be the case. I'm getting to know TMax 400 as well and liking it a lot.
  22. Tri-X
    Michael J Hoffman
  23. Here are the three I will use most often.
    Kodak Tri-x: 320/400 Classic film, nice grain, very forgiving(as other have said).
    Ilford Pan F: Smoothest, richest tones, slow, for best results try to expose properly or to the right.
    Ilford XP2 C41: Process, great film very nice rendition of B&W.
    This is a shot on XP2, just to give a sense of a what standard C-41 process B&W film can do.
  24. Top 5 films? That's not the best approach when you're just starting out with B&W.
    Here's my recommendation:
    1. Go download and read this tutorial from Ilford on how to process B&W film
    2. Buy the equipment, buy the chemicals, buy a few rolls of HP-5
    3. Shoot, develop, scan/print. Evaluate the results critically to really understand what the material and workflow is doing.
    Oh, and eventually you'll discover that Kodak TMY in Xtol is the most kick-ass B&W combination on the planet :)
  25. Please allow a simple question from a non native speaker:
    Is a "kick-ass B&W combination" good or bad?
  26. It is very good.
  27. Start with one film such as Tri-x or Plus-x.  Get to know this film well before trying others. As for top five, that will be up to
    you. After getting to know a film, you will have a better understanding of what you like in a film. Have fun and post some
    of your results.
  28. On the one hand, I'd echo the advice to choose one film and master its possibilities first.
    On the other hand, like many of us I've gone through phases of experimenting with several films. So here's my top five list to try, with the goal in mind of choosing five that are as dissimilar as possible:
    1. A slow technical or micro film. Tough to suggest any because many have been discontinued.
    2. T-Max 100. A good substitute for #1 if pictorial results are preferred.
    3. Tri-X 400 - useful from EI 100 to 6400, ideal between 200-500.
    4. Delta 3200 - lovely, fat, fluffy popcorn grain.
    5. XP2 Super - the single best compromise choice if you prefer to scan rather than make optical enlargements in the darkroom.
    Naturally that list omits some very good films. But with that list there's no overlap and each will produce distinctly different results.
  29. Forgive me, but what does "EI" mean? Such as when you say, "useful from EI 100 to 6400, ideal between 200-500." ...and can I use B&W chemicals on a C-41 film like XP2 Super? (Sorry, I said I was new.)
    Just so everyone knows, I recently bought two rolls of Ilford HP5+ and some HC-110 developer as my very first materials. I would be interested in sharing my results, but I'm not quite sure how to do it on this site.
  30. If you are sending it out to be developed and scanned, then X-P2 or another B&W variant would be easiest to work with. XP-2 is a chromogenic B&W film, meaning it is developed using the C-41 chemicals like color film.
    But since you have just bought HP5+ and HC-110, I guess you will be developing this yourself. Good choice... as someone once said, if you screw up HP5+, find another hobby. TO share photos on this site, you'd have to scan your negatives and upload them, or make prints from your negatives, scan the print and upload.
    If you do end up diong more of this, you might want to check out Arista Premium 400 from http://www.freestylephoto.biz/index.php -- it is re-badged Tri-X and costs less.
    EI is exposure index, aka exposure value (EV), which is a measure of the light to which the film is getting exposed. It's actually a mathematical equation, but a shorthand way of using EI is to equate it to the film ISO to use, so when soeone says useful for EI 100-1600, but optimal for 400, that means that film canbe shot using ISO 100 through 1600 (with likely less than desirable results at the extremes), but optimal (nice shadows, highlights, etc...) at ISO=400.
    I'm actually surprised at the number of folks recommending TMX or TMZ or Delta films to a B&W newbie, given that these have less latitude than HP5+ or Tri-X.
  31. Arguably, the term EI - exposure index - should probably be confined to personal exposure ratings that retain true shadow detail, as determined by conventional means for evaluating the smallest measurable density over base plus fog. So while EI is often used to describe film that has been deliberately underexposed for push processing later, that may not be the most appropriate use for the term. For example, Tri-X has an ISO rating of 400. The same film is likely to have an EI of 100-500, perhaps a little higher than 500, depending on exposure conditions, developer and developing technique. But it may not be technically correct (or useful) to rate Tri-X at 3200 and call it "EI 3200" since there's virtually no possibility for getting true shadow detail.
    "I'm actually surprised at the number of folks recommending TMX or TMZ or Delta films to a B&W newbie, given that these have less latitude than HP5+ or Tri-X."​
    T-Max films don't have less latitude than HP5+, Tri-X, etc. TMX and TMY have a different characteristic curve - it's nearly straight compared with other film types. This makes it trickier to master, but in my opinion it's worth the effort for the extremely fine grain of TMX and the unique "tonality" (another one of those nebulous terms we love to use). Kodak describes T-Max 100 as having an expanded exposure latitude .
  32. Lex - interesting... I guess "trickier to master" would be more appropriate. I've never quite mastered TMX/TMY, so have stayed with Plus X/Tri-X (or the Arista branded equivalents).
    In my opinion though, "trickier to master" -- even though it may be eventually worth it -- creates a potential for frustration for a newbie, whereas HP5+ eases him into shooting/processing B&W.
    Just my $0.02.
  33. I learned on Plus-X, as I got a ton of rolls for free. It was easy to learn on, and is still my main "go to" film for B&W. It is one of the easiest to develop, along with Tri-X and the respective Ilford equivalents (FP4+/HP5+). My current "top 5" films (in order) are:
    1. Plus-X
    2. Agfa APX 100
    3. Tri-X
    4. TMAX 100
    5. Fuji Acros 100
  34. #1 Delta 100.. (exposed at 50) For bright conditions and anytime I'm using a tripod. Great 100 speed film.
    #2 Tri-x... (200-400) For all general purpose situations.
    #3 Plus-x... (Exposed @100) I've shot more of this than anything else but it's taken a back seat lately to the films above.
    #4 Tmax 400. (Exposed 250-400) Nice stuff but I've been shooting more Tri-x lately for the classic look.
    #5 HP5 (Exposed at 400) Haven't shot it in a while and I'm not sure why. Another nice general purpose film.
  35. Hi Dan,
    I hope you ploughed through so much incohesive .... without loosing interest or motivation!
    With the exception of specialty films like TMZ/Tmax3200 and Ilford Delta3200, the my 'grain ranking' is:
    1. Fomapan400
    2. Neopan Presto/Neopan1600 (@ 800)
    3. HP5+
    4. Tri-X
    (This ranking is subject to your developer choice, any film can make or loose a ranking by choosing a 'nice' or 'bad' developer for a film.)
    If you can get Agfa APX400/Rollei Retro400, get it. About as grainy as HP5+ but much nicer tonality (more like Tri-X).
    But MOST importantly, you need to develop your films Agfa Rodinal or a clone, or, best, Adolux APH 09, the grainiest of the clones. These are the developers that get you this salt-and-peper-grain.The use of a Rodinal-like developer is preeminent!
    I haven't come around testing the new Kentmere 400 (not even finding out what it actually is...).
    Unfortunately not obvious to many: C-41 films are almost grainless (no edges at all with dye clouds!), and Delta and Tmax films are not really easy to develop (and not grainy at all in their 100 oder 400 ASA varieties).
    High contrast you get by printing with high grades or upping contrast/ steepening the curve in PS. Never _overdevelop_ by more than one step or you'll get unprintable/unscannable negatives.

    Buy cheaply and have fun, best,
  36. Just to clarify, I do know all about how to get a digital version of my photos - I was referring to my unfamiliarity with sharing specifically through photo.net. I still don't know anything about sharing through this site - I've only used it for looking up answers to questions I had that were already in the (very extensive) forums. All my sharing I do through Flickr at the moment. (shameless plug = http://www.flickr.com/photos/yeknom02/)
    I decided a few years ago to try a B&W film before I was serious about my photography hobby, and it was a Kodak C-41 film. I will definitely not be trying that again. A problem I have is distinguishing between Kodak films. It's confusing! Tri-x, T-max... TMY? It sounds if I were to invent a new Kodak film, I'd have to name is something that (a) begins with 'T' and (b) sounds like it can clean toilet bowls.
  37. "A problem I have is distinguishing between Kodak films. It's confusing! Tri-x, T-max... TMY?"
    Then just shoot Delta 100 and HP5. It's all you really need anyway.
  38. Kodak's use of the "T-Max" nomenclature has been confusing at times. One of Kodak's earliest - if not the earliest - versions of their C-41 process chromogenic monochrome film also carried the "T-Max" marque. I remember buying some several years ago and not realizing until I opened the package that it was a C-41 process film - I thought I was buying the ISO 400 silver halide version of T-Max. Good film and I used a lot of it until Kodak dropped the medium format monochrome version labeled "Portra". At that point I got fed up with Kodak's fickle marketing and switched to Ilford XP2 Super for occasions when I wanted hassle-free monochrome photos for weddings and events. Great stuff from any competent minilab, and XP2 Super prints well on b&w variable contrast paper.
    Kodak added more confusion by naming a developer "T-Max", which led to years of confusion among photographers who were new to the b&w darkroom and who, quite understandably, believed that T-Max films could be developed only in T-Max developer.
  39. If I have it right, TMX = T-max 100, TMY = T-max 400 and TMZ = T-max 3200
    They are using similar nomenclature now on Kodak Gold color film too... GA = Gold 100, GB = Gold 200, GC = 400 and GT = 800
  40. I was in your shoes not that long ago, and I found that the contrast of the film depends on the developer you use and the method of development as well as, if not more than the film. I'll get into that later though.
    As far as film goes, the ones that I would use are:
    Alot of people like the Tmax and Delta types of film but I really don't care for them. They tend to produce flat, hard to print negatives, and they smell a bit funky compared to the other films but that's just a minor point. The films I listed above though all provide excellent contrast, sharpness (not to be confused with grain) and tonality, though they may be a tad bit grainier depending on the developer you use, I personally don't mind the look of a little grain, and it really only shows in 400 ASA film and above. Also the films that I reccomended are all classifed as "old type" film, and I like the old type of grain much better than the new type, just my opinion.
    As far as developers go I reccomend that you pick one and stick with it. You'll learn how to get better negatives over time, and it cuts down on the time lost while swithcing around. I experimented with probably 5 different developers before I finally got fed up with the results I was getting and decided to learn to use just one. I personally would reccomend Perceptol, but DD-X is also a good one. DD-X Will give you much higher contrast, and with PanF the contrast is very extreme and very dramatic. However, the mid tones suffer a little which is why I like perceptol. It maintains great middle values while still holding enough contrast to catch your eye. The choice is yours. Also remember, that you can increase contrast in your negatives by increasing agitation when you develop, you can also do it by adding time to the development, but don't over do it since you can start to just lose detail. Experiment, and take notes.
    If you want to get lots of grain try taking a 400 ASA film and pushing it up to 3200. Or if you're feeling really daring take 125 ASA film and push it to 3200. I've never seen it done but it could be interesting.

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