Discussion in 'Black and White' started by michael_daly|2, Jul 14, 2004.

  1. As a young man In the early 1960s I used to develop and print b/w,
    using Panatomic X and Plus X Pan with Microdol. Since then I?ve only
    shot colour negatives which have been developed in commercial labs.

    I have some pretty nice Canon SLR equipment (F1, T90, FD lenses) with
    which I am generally happy. Having recently retired I would like to
    try b/w again, though without darkrooms and chemicals. I tried XP2
    years ago, which was convenient, but not great, and am currently in
    the process of shooting a roll of T400CN, which I am told is better.
    We?ll see.

    In order to become informed on the current b/w situation I just spent
    two days researching b/w films, developers and printers on the
    internet. To my (mild) dismay, I found that Panatomic X has been
    discontinued, though Microdol and/or clones still abound.

    While searching for info on Efke films I came across this forum.
    Although I did find some info on Efke in the forum, I found more info
    in a German photo shop?s website. As it didn?t seem there were too
    many German speakers in the forum, I thought a translation might be
    useful for some of you. (The notes in brackets are mine.)

    - Begin quote -

    Efke films are classics with high silver content and a fantastic grey
    tonal range.

    Efke films are produced from the old ADOX recipes on German machines
    (note: at Fotokemika in Zagreb, Croatia). Film base is ORWO (note:
    East German Agfa). The emulsion was developed by Dr Schluessner for
    ADOX (note: Adox Kamerawerke, Wiesbaden) in the 1950s and quickly
    became the favourite of travel and journalistic photographers. In
    times when good exposure meters were still a luxury, the unbelievable
    flexibility, tonal richness and fine grain of this high-silver
    emulsion were very well esteemed. Pictures you make with Efke film
    live. Efke captures the atmosphere of the original scene. Grain-
    free enlargements are yours when you use Efke?s low speed films. The
    wide latitude and consequent tolerance in developing makes Efke films
    ideal for beginners in their own darkrooms and for schools.

    All Efke emulsions are poured onto clear bases and hence can be
    reverse-developed for b/w slides.

    Even the 25 and 50 ASA films differentiate red and blue exactly
    (note: presumably because panchromatic and there?s only one emulsion
    layer). Efke films bring highlights and shadows onto your negatives
    without spot metering. In the studio, you should have no problems
    with bright spots or reflections.

    Efke films are single layer. Only one layer of emulsion is poured
    onto the base and hence the sensitivity is based solely on the grain
    size (note: not on which layer the grain is in). The emulsion
    becomes thicker, the higher the sensitivity (note: due to increasing
    grain size). Neither flat nor pre-exposed silver crystals are used
    (note: not like modern Tmax or Delta). You can?t make photos more
    classicly than with Efke film. This is the way film has been made
    since the beginning of the (last) century. Efke film is the last
    representative of the old school. Efke films are consistent and
    manageable. They?ll do everything you want, they behave well.

    But be careful: all the Efke films actually have approx. twice their
    nominal sensitivity, so please don?t overexpose or overdevelop!
    Although, on the other hand, the film is pretty resistant to
    underdeveloping. (Note: might make sense to adjust exposure to ? stop
    higher). The developing temperatures have to be maintained, otherwise
    the grain will become wrinkled. We recommend using a hardener after
    the stop-bath! For developing times, see instructions or request from

    - End of quote. -

    Since I have used conventional b/w film and still love the effect of
    old photos (and movies) from the 30s and 40s, Efke film sounded like
    the right place to start trying out (real, not C-41) old style (not
    Tmax or Delta) b/w films. The wide tonal range and latitude sounded
    especially good.

    Hence I have today ordered 3 each of the 25, 50 and 100 ASA Efke
    films. My plan is to take some bracketed shots of different types of
    scenes (high and low contrast, high and low range of tonal gradation
    and difficult surfaces like glass, clouds, water, skin) and to have
    one roll of each speed developed in each of the three common
    developers used by b/w labs here: Agfa Atomal, Kodak Xtol and Tmax.
    With these combinations I should ? hopefully ? be able to see which
    film speed, exposure, and developer is best overall and also for
    specific scenes. The only thing that worries me a little is the
    recommendation in the above to use a hardener after the stop bath,
    something presumably not done routinely by labs (although I don?t
    remember using a hardener with Pan X, an even older emulsion).

    Presumably these b/w specialist labs should be okay for developing
    negatives and the cost isn?t too great for developing and test
    strips. They?re pretty expensive for prints, though. But according
    to what I?ve read on the internet, printing in a darkroom is not
    necessary anymore, given the quality of photo software available and
    of the current scanners and printers.

  2. Please let us know how the experiment turns out. I used some 25 and R09 developer ( original rodinal formula ). Turned out great. Filter factors are different as the film is sensitised differently. Very little red, more green than average.
  3. All modern films, such as those from Ilford, have very tough emulsions and do not require hardening fixers. If you read the wealth of technical information in their website, you will see that Ilford discourages use of a hardening fixer because it makes washing much more difficult. I would therefore assume that commercial labs no longer use hardening fixer.

    Efke films are indeed old-fashioned and have extremely soft emulsions which most definitely require a hardening fixer. Without hardener, the emulsion is prone to scratching with normal handling. If there is any temperature variation during washing the emulsion will likely slough off and wash down the drain.

    Efke films are very beautiful, but demand careful knowledgeable care and treatment. You would be wise to process them yourself.
  4. Michael -- haul out the Agfa APX 100. Shoot it at 100.<P>Buy a couple reels and a jug.<P>Soup the APX in Agfa Rodinal @ 1+100 68 degrees, 20 minutes. Don't bother with stop. Three minutes in fix, no hardener. Hang it in your shower.<P>You'll end up with control over very tonal, very sharp, traditional looking negs -- something that is very difficult to get from a lab.
  5. Michael -

    The Efke KB emulsions are notable for their odd spectral response (not very red-sensitive). This much is beyond dispute. They are also variously described as thick emulsion, old-fashioned, silver rich, old-school and a host of other things that may or may not be true.

    I'd suggest getting a few rolls of more conventional stuff as a comparison. Pan-X is long gone, but you might try Ilford Pan-F. It's not an exact replacement, but you might like it. FP-4 is a good medium speed film if you want to try that route.

    Trust your eyes and don't get all caught up in looking for a magic emulsion. There aren't any.
  6. >Trust your eyes and don't get all caught up in looking for a magic emulsion. There aren't any.<

    Yes there are, I read about them in a magic book. You put them in water and a picture appears- like magic.
  7. I have also recently returned to B & W. I shoot 35 mm and 120. In my youth I was a heavy user of Panatomic, Plus X, Adox KB17 and KB14. When I came back to BW I worked with current films and developers and finally converged to Ilford Pan F and FP4 because they are widely available and give excellent results. Efke is not available where I live.

    However, regarding your last paragraph, I think that reasonable priced film scanners and printers do not give yet the quality I want and remember from conventional printing, maybe excepting 120 film. (More expensive scanners and costly paper, however, do). Maybe in a few more years or months it will happen. In the meantime I looked for a good B-W lab!

    good luck
  8. I just so happened to shoot APX 100 and developed in Rodinal
    recently. Shoot was low contrast 'available light' portraiture, one
    in which B&W typically does not do well, but the Rodinal w/ APX
    did come out rather nice and unique looking, if a little grainy.

    Definitely a winning combination under low to moderate contrast,
    based on limited experience.
  9. Michael:

    About the hardener. Any hardening fixer will do, so no real worries there. If you used Kodak's fixer before with Panatomic-X, you've already used a hardening fixer. It's still available in the familiar yellow packages.

    You can pretty much set up to do your own developing for less than $100 and that's if you buy everything new. Shop around and you can probably find the all you need for a lot less. With a little practice you'll be doing better than a custom lab. As for printing, there's nothing like a wet print made in the darkroom. Scanning B&W negatives (XP2 and the like excepted) doesn't work all that well with the current crop of affordable scanners, and the consumables for printing (ink and paper) are expensive.
  10. hello michael, I agree with John, it would be wise to develop the negatives by yourself. it is little, but satisfying work and not expensive. I obtained nice results with Efke R25 in Tetenal NEOFIN-BLAU, may be less known in North-America than here in Europe (but you may order it without problems). Hardener is recommended and therefore a little more extended washing procedure as well. good luck!
  11. Jürgen Ferner , jul 15, 2004; 04:37 a.m.
    "hello michael, ......I obtained nice results with Efke R25 in Tetenal NEOFIN-BLAU, may be less known in North-America than here in Europe (but you may order it without problems). ....."

    I, too, recommend doing your own processing. You don't need a darkroom, just a changing bag, which can be improvised with a black plastic trash bag. I'm also retired (since 1989) and returned to b&w photography after leaving it for decades. If you can't order Neofin Blau, you or a friend can mix it by using Willi Beutler's published formula of his developer called Neofin Blue in USA. In the 70s it was sold in glass vials for one shot use. Search the net for Neofin Blau or Blue and you'll find the formula and variations.

    I used 35mm Adox KB14 with home brewed Neofin Blue in Italy in the late 50s. Most of photos in my website were of that period and place and developed with Adox's original name for Efke's KB25 (note: KB14 was older DIN rating) See www.lesgediman.com

    Question to others: The black plastic bag popped into my head while writing this morning. Is there a static electricity problem with
    heavy plastic that could lead to static discharge in form of spark?

    Only once I had that problem when shooting many photos in a cold theatre with my Leica IIIf. The sparks spoiled many of the exposures. It was Tri-X rated over 1000 ASA and souped in Ethol's UFG. There were enough good ones (without firework-like recorded spray of sparks)to satisfy client.
  12. Michael:
    I have been using Efke film for several months now and processing it in D-76 or F76+ from Clayton. I've found it is very sensitive to variations in processing time (5.5 min at 20C in F76+ @ 1+9 dilution) when processed on a Jobo. As little as 15 seconds variation in time is noticeable. Haven't tried it by hand yet.

    Negatives are fine grained (its an ISO25 film!), so take that into account. I've gotten results I like when shooting on sunny days but my next try will be on overcast days to see if the high contrast will be useful. Have not yet tried flash but that's on the list.

    I've just finished some testing using a 1+19 dilution of F76+ at 20C for times from 8 to 15 mintues, looks like about 11 minutes is best, but that is subject to further evaluation.

    All the comments about hardening fixer are correct; you must also be very careful handling wet emulsion as it is very soft. Once, dry, however, it seems to be the same as Tri-X or T-Max in terms of scratches, etc.

    Good luck - I think you'll enjoy Efke for certain looks.
  13. Thanks so much for the overwhelming (eleven!) response(s). It is truly uplifting and inspiring to receive so much friendly and informative advice. After thoroughly reading all 11 replies and looking through the web a little more, I will now attempt to formulate a reply of my own.

    The general consensus seems to be that:

    1) Agfa`s or Ilford`s slow to medium speed conventional films are just as good as anything, including Efke`s, (though nobody really plugs Plus Pan 125);

    2) Doing your own developing will give better results than a B&W lab;

    3) Three developers were named: Rodinal, Neofin blue and Clayton F-76;

    4) With Efke there`s the additional problem of very soft emulsion and need for extra hardening bath;

    5) Using a (reasonably priced) scanner and printer won`t give results equal to own printing and developing.

    To 1)
    Please look at the pictures at www.adox.net (Adox Inc., Calgary), made and developed with Bluefire Police, a film with 80-100 ASA. These prints seem wonderful to me. Is this quality possible with APX or FP4 at a rated 100? I have asked this company if it is related to Fototeknika and how its film (which seems like Efke R50) differs from the Efke films, but have not yet had a reply. I am surprised that no one seems to consider Plus X Pan as an alternative.

    To 2)
    I think the consensus is right. I started years ago with a plastic tank with a crank and a long plastic sleeve for the film. I later changed to a little stainless steel tank with a stainless steel spiral, which I liked better. Have there been any improvements in the meantime to make things easier, more automatic and/or less light sensitive?

    To 3)
    I know that both Rodinal and Neofin blue were popular 40 years ago, though I never used them. Being that old, they`ll be full of nasty chemicals. As I`m allergic to nearly everything, the Clayton F-76 sounded good. Unfortunately, it doesn`t seem to be available in Germany. Does anyone know if this solution, under another trade name, or something similarly good and benign is sold in Germany?
    As with film, it seems surprising that no one mentions Ilford or Kodak developers.

    To 4)
    I have looked at the web on this subject and find essentially the following: It seems to be generally recommended to use a hardener for conventional films, though Ilford say that this is not needed for its Pan F or FP4 and some say it tends to impede washing. Fotospeed make RH100 Rapid Hardener to add to their Fixer. Maco produces a hardening additive for developer, called Geladur. (Seems there might be a danger of impeding developer absorption, but maybe it`s harmless.) Kodafix seems to be the easiest solution, though, including a hardener and requiring no mixing. Unless anyone has some good arguments against it, I think I will try Kodafix, which contains a hardener, requires no preparation and is fast.

    To 5)
    Re scanner and printer, I have written something on this in the b&w printing forum. Even if printing quality isn`t as good as from your own darkroom, I`d really like to avoid the darkroom for prints. Just too tedious and dark. Also, I really don`t have the room for it. And my wife couldn`t share in the work, which she likes to do on the PC.

    Thanks again for all the thoughtful and useful replies.
  14. "To 3) I know that both Rodinal and Neofin blue were popular 40 years ago, though I never used them. Being that old, they`ll be full of nasty chemicals. As I`m allergic to nearly everything, the Clayton F-76 sounded good. Unfortunately, it doesn`t seem to be available in Germany. Does anyone know if this solution, under another trade name, or something similarly good and benign is sold in Germany? As with film, it seems surprising that no one mentions Ilford or Kodak developers."

    The name "F-76" I would take as an indication that it is very similar to Kodak D-76, and thus Ilford ID-11.

    Neofim Bleu is an old developer, but very far from "full of nasty chemicals". While Willi Beutler's Neofin formula is different from the published ones, one can see from his published formulas that he concentrated on Metol with or without Hydroquinone.

    If you're allergic to everything, that probably includes Metol. So Neofin Bleu and D-76/F-76/ID-11 is out.

    In that case a phenidone/HQ developer would be better. I'm sure someone will come up with one, or I'll do it tomorrow. I'm 600km away from my library today...

    The Geladur hardener for developer is a good idea - although I have never had any problems with EFKE having especially soft emulsion.

    A tanning developer (Pyrocatechol or Pyrogallol - based) will also harden the emulsion. P
    yrocat-HD is a very simple pyrocatechol/Phenidone developer which gives outstanding results with all EFKE films I have tried (R25, PL25, PL100).

    There are people who produce exellent results with scanners, PC's and printers. I am not one of them. I find it far easier to get a good result in the darkroom - ESPECIALLY with "classical" films.
  15. Regarding Adox in Canada -- it's a different company and a different film from Adox in the rest of the world.
    "About Adox"
  16. http://www.frugalphotographer.com/catEfke.htm

    I noticed on this site that Frugal Photographer is no longer bringing in Efke film for whatever reason. J&C Photo seems to be the only main supplier now in North America. I get mine from Beau Photo in Vancouver BC, which gets it from J&C.
  17. You could always order it from Retro Photographic in England. Annoyingly, there's no one single supplier that does all the films I like. I wish 7 Day Shop would stock Efke and Bluefire.

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