B&W Negative Film ISO 100 vs 400

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by average amateur, May 19, 2005.

  1. Hey guys,

    I'm about to purchase some B&W film to use this summer for street-
    type photography. In the past, I've traditionally used ISO 100
    film, so to eliminate potential graininess if I want to enlarge.

    However, I see a lot of people here suggesting ISO 400 films,
    particularly Tri-X and Ilford. Is the graininess factor not as high
    in these, or does 100 vs 400 not differ substantially compared to
    color films?

    Help me out here. I'd hate to get the shot of my life with 400
    film, only to have graininess ruin it.

    Also, if you don't mind, suggest some appropriate films for each

  2. Wouldn't you hate to spoil a shot because your film wasn't fast enough? In my experience, 100 is too slow for hand shooting except in clear or bright cloudy situations. ISO 400 is better suited overall.

    No need to agonize. Yes, ISO 400 film has more grain than ISO 100 film. However, it's not necessarily objectionable, and may add to the atmosphere of photographic sniping. I always preferred Tri-X to slower film. While somewhat grainy, Tri-X is sharp, having high acuity. Faster B&W film tends to have a better dynamic range, so that shadow detail remain more open.
  3. I agree with Edward, Tri-x in my opinion is the best film for street photography.
  4. If you hate grain you better like softness from camera shake. Unless you are going to shoot with a very fast lens and in very bright conditions I would think 100 speed film might prove quite a challenge for street-type photography. In addition to many people liking a tad bit of grain in street shots the extra two stops allows you to shoot at 1/60th or even 1/30th with a rangefinder camera in many lower light conditions. With your 100 speed film that would require 1/15th or 1/8th shutter speed---camera shake for sure!
  5. Many street shooters -- including the early heroes of the genre like Winogrand, etc. -- often rate their 400-speed film at 800 or 1200, so as to avoid motion blur in lower light situations. If you are exposing and developing reasonably well, it's hard to imagine a street shot being "ruined" by grain.
  6. Critic I do quite a bit of street photography, and I've come to love Neopan 400. Fine grain, beautiful tonality. Much nicer than Tri-X and HP-5, in my opinion. I burn it @ 320, and get beautiful negs. Russ
  7. TriX has to be my favourite B&W film. I get really nice 8x10 inch prints with TriX (35mm) in HC110 they do not show obtrusive grain. If I want finer grain I go with HP5 (120) in a TLR or for 35mm FP4+.
  8. Why are you guys referring traditional B/W films when it sounds like the poster is doing their own processing? I love how Walmart does my Tri-X.
  9. Thanks for all the answers so far. In response to the camera shake issue, it surprisingly hasn't been an issue so far for 100 film. I don't take a lot of shots in shadows, and I've been blessed by sunny days. I can often get speeds of 1/125 or even 1/250. The only problem comes when I want to extend the f-stop past 8 or so.

    I'll probably try some tri-x. With Ilford, I've heard that HP5 is good? Any Ilford films recommended more than others?
  10. When people choose Tri-X for this type of photography, it is generally because they want grain. If you want ISO 400 but you don't want grain, then Tri-X (or HP5) is not the film for you. Stick with the "modern" emulsions such as 400Tmax or Delta 400 (or the C41 equivalents -- BW400CN or XP-2Super).
  11. Well 100asa is fine on the street if you are catching the sun, but as soon as you step into the shade you are stuffed. Also 400asa or higher makes it so much easier to pre-set your focus. The classic way to do this is to use a wide angle lens and pre-set the focus using the hyper-focal markings, before you get into position for the shot. 400asa makes this really easy. Usually 400asa films have more lattitude than 100asas films, so you have a better chance of getting a result. The grain also gives you a sharper look, it's punchy. I cook my tri-x in rodinal as it's extra crisp and quite grainy, it's ideal for the classic street look. I've done 12x16 inch prints from tr-x negs cooked in rodinal, they look great, grainy sure, but as long as it is sharp I like grain.
    You could try HP5 in DD-X, you'll still get good tonality with much finer grain but you won't get the same punch. Or if you really hate grain, but still want 40asa, try some Tmax400 or Delta400. Tmax400 has a lovely spread of mid tones, but it doesn't carry that contasty punch.
    Or on bright sunny days give XP2 a shot, it's softer again, but has massive lattitude and a creamy glowing look. It's not so hot in flat lighting though. Oh try rating XP2 at 320asa for a standard C41 process.
    I rate tri-x and Tmax400 at 400asa. I push Tmax400 to 800asa when I need extra speed. In really low light I shoot Delta 3200 @ 3200asa.
  12. ISO 100 film is fine for street photography, that's what you should use if you want a smooth, sharp, relatively grain-free look to your photos. If you scan your negatives, instead of using the traditional darkroom, you should probably try one of the C-41 process black and white films, such as BW400CN. They give you iso 400 and very fine grain. The contrast is low by default but of course you can adjust it in Photoshop. It is ideally suited for photograpy in sunlight (just don't ever underexpose it) and in high-contrast situations in general. And scans beautifully.
  13. Film speed aside, what you do with the film could affect your choices. Do you process yourself or send it to a lab? Do you print yourself, send to a lab, or scan the negs? There are different choices for developer, and some films scan better than others. Personally, if just for scanning, I use color neg film and convert the scan to black and white later. I also love to do my own prints (traditional darkroom) but haven't tried processing the film myself. If you send the film to a lab, find out what developer(s) they use... you might have several choices, or find a better lab that has at least two choices (depending on which film you use) If you drop off the film at a local drugstore (or similar) they just send it out to another lab, so find where they send it and try to call that lab an find out what they use. You will also have choices with the prints, like what paper they use. Without knowing what you will do with the film (after shooting the roll), there isn't much use in recommending a specific film, and as i said, if you intend to scan, just use color film.
  14. Color neg scanned in a film scanner with resolution any good will show atrocious grain after conversion to b&w and compared with a C-41 black and white film scanned. Try it, it is like the difference between disc film and 35 mm.
  15. "Color neg scanned in a film scanner with resolution any good will show atrocious grain after conversion to b&w and compared with a C-41 black and white film scanned. Try it, it is like the difference between disc film and 35 mm."

    How will desaturating an image in Photoshop increase the grain??? Am I reading this wrong? Did you mean to say something else?
  16. I've been experimenting with Acros in Diafine. I shot 40-some exposures at EI 160 on this trip-mostly indoors with a giant north-facing window for light. I got 13 that were sharp enough to be considered a technical success.
  17. Oh, yeah. Leica M6 with 75mm 1.4 I carry the Leica table-top tripod with me. It conforms to your shoulder to allow torso- anchored shooting. Not used in these shots. Another drawback: In this shot there's a focusing error visible. The plane of focus crosses the dad's t shirt and continues to sharply render the baby's pants. I was focusing on his eyes. I believe there's more error in my eyesight than the rangefinder (I've tested the rangefinder).

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