High contrast black and white film?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by starvy, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. I'd like some recommendation of high or very high contrast black and white films. I am presently using uncoated lenses that seem to give balanced colour pictures when combined with very highly saturated colour films. I am assuming that the same would be true for black and white?
    My expired stock of c41 black and white (Fuji 400CN) does not seem to be providing acceptable results for general photography when there is an extreme tonal difference in the scene.
  2. standard B&W film not the c41 type can be developed for more contrast and also be printed on various contrast grade.
  3. Bebu, I don't do home processing and tend to use the cheapest service offered by pro labs. Would any non-c41 film offer more contrast within the same parameter as c41 black and white?
  4. It's not entirely clear to me what you're asking for. "High contrast black and white film" suggests a film that produces strong contrast differences, but "general photography when there is an extreme tonal difference in the scene" suggests that you actually want reduced contrast (maximum dynamic range) to avoid blocked shadows and blown highlights. So which is it: do you want high-contrast images, or wide dynamic range?
    Ultimately you really need to start looking into doing your own developing (and so do I, to be honest) and become familiar with the effects of different developers and timings to get full control of your images. However, short of that, if you want more dynamic range, you might try Ilford HP5+, which I find to be somewhat less contrasty than FP4+ or Tri-X. You can also try pulling it a stop or two (shooting ISO 400 HP5+ at 200 or 100) to reduce contrast and grain, but make sure to tell the lab what you did so they'll know how to develop it.
  5. Craig,
    I am not about to start developing at home!
    I use older cameras with uncoated lenses. Typically, such lenses can produce images that has little contrast. For instance, my Leitz Elmar from 1937 struggles with standard film but seems to handle saturated Velvia 50 or 100 very well, producing a more balanced image. I have had good results with other uncoated lenses as well, notably, from a 1938 Tessar 3.5 mounted to a Zeiss Ikonta. Recently, I have been shooting with a Rollieflex from 1945 with a Xenar lens. This seems to be slightly less contrasty with black and white films. I am using C41 black and white at the moment. I was hoping that since saturated colour film produces an acceptable colour image, perhaps, a more saturated black and white film than Fuji 400CN might have the same effect.
  6. I think you should start by getting control of your printing. If you're not doing your own printing, get a film scanner, and learn the "digital darkroom" workflow. Using a brightness curve, you can control contrast to your heart's content. You may find that your film is just fine, it's your printing workflow that's the issue.
    Unless you're willing to pay close to $10 a roll for professional process-only of B&W film, there's really little point to shooting it unless you develop it yourself. The capital investment to do that is about $50 if you buy used intelligently on eBay.
  7. Yiou may find that increasing developing time slightly will push up the contrast index enough for what you need.
  8. 400 speed films don't age well. :(
    Are you printing the negs, or scanning them, or having them scanned and printed?
    You also have to learn to "see" in b&w, and experiment with filters. Often, what you perceive as a large tonal difference in a colour scene often translates into a low contrast b&w image. You should see some of the hideous colour schemes used for costumes back in the days of b&w television. Use of a spot meter helps in "seeing" the brightness of different colours and how it will turn out on b&w film.
    $50 should get you a tank, thermometer and most of the chems for DIY processing from most online retailers in the US.
    High contrast B&W films are usually the lower speed ones, plus you want low contrast films for high contrast scenes.
    Using 50 ISO PanF film for scenes with sunlight on mountain tops and spruce trees in shadow does not get you an easily printable negative unless you want white mountain tops and black trees on grade 00 paper. Well it's not quite that bad, but close. :)
  9. 1. try to rate iso320 or even lower to get more from expired monochromatic film
    it depends on film and it's expiration details and of course on scanning/printing
    2. if you really need 'to get more contrast' than try to push it
    push+2 @ iso1200 for a start
    (my expirience goes from Kodak 400CN & Kodak 400BW
    never had a Fuji mono)
  10. I am posting some of the pictures taken with my Rolleiflex from this trip to London. The contrast and curves have been adjusted in all of these.
  11. Second one
  12. And another
  13. And another, this one has had a bit more adjustment of contrast and curves
  14. Kodak use to sell some high contrast film called High Contrast Panchromatic film 5363, 5369. This film was used to produce line drawings and silhouette type prints that were Black and White with nothing in between. Another way to achieve High Contrast was to use high contrast papers of grades #4 or #5.
    However like Craig said, I don't think that's what you really are trying to achieve. With B&W photography you have to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. If you want detail to appear in the shadow areas in your pictures, you have to properly set the aperture and shutter speed on your camera so that the shadows are properly exposed. The camera considers "properly exposed" as 18% grey, which might not be exactly what you want, so you have to compensate by closing down 1 or 2 stops.
  15. Is it the TLR Rollei that causes all the additional headroom composition in these photos?
    I noticed the same thing with a co-student's portfolio, she shot with a Yashica TLR.
    Or was that your intent regardless of the camera?
    I like 4 the best.
  16. If you want detail to appear in the shadow areas in your pictures,​
    Just a note, there is detail usually stored in most shadow areas, even when they print pure black as a straight print.
    Just try it, take a straight print and dodge a dark black shadow area for half the print exposure time. You will pull out detail that you did not see with the straight print.
    The information is there, even when you can't see it.
  17. If you want to truly control the contrast you must develop the film yourself. Also, you must explore developers. For example, I use Xtol, D76, and Rodinal (R09) depending on which film I shoot. My favorite films, totally subjective, are Rollei 80S and EFKE 25, but you MUST experiment beyond C41 bw film. Silver bw film is different and will produce different results depending on myriad factors. Buy some TMAX 100 - great film. Develop it in Xtol and overexpose it and agitate it fiercely to blow it out. Then go from there.
  18. You may not need an extreme boost in contrast. My recommendation: (1)find someone you can trust to develop
    conventional black & white film. (2)Shoot Tri-X at EI 800 and have it processed for a 1-stop push. For less speed rate
    Ilford FP4+ at 200 with an increase in development.
    This will give an increase in contrast but not an excessive increase. Fine tune it further in Photoshop or similar program.

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