film

TMax P3200 vs Delta 3200

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

Early 2018 I was going through some rough time and Kodak’s, out of the blue, announcement of the resurrection of TMax P3200 was just what I needed to cheer me up. 

I’ve more of less settled on Tri-X for most situations and rate Tri-X at 400 and shoot it with a yellow-green filter. Effectively that make it a 250 ISO film for me. Sometimes, 250 iso just doesn’t cut it and that’s when I used Delta 3200. An interesting film with lots of grain. A little too flat for my taste but I had to work with it. I figured out how to make it work for me but never really liked it as much as Tri-X. Delta 3200 is an extremely flat film. Super low contrast and HUGE grain. Some people prefer pushing Tri-X instead but pushing film makes for difficult to print negatives. If you only scan your film this will not be a drawback for you. For me it is, hence I opted for a faster film when I needed speed.

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Ilford recommends Delta 3200 at EI 3200 to be developed in Microphen Stock 1:1 for 9:00 minutes. I’ve tried that and got incredibly flat and boring results. I kept on increasing development time until I got to a contrast level that I liked. At 20:00 minutes, more than twice the recommended time, I was semi-satisfied. The grain however was horrifying. I like grain but this film is really grainy. 

Delta 3200 scanned image

Delta 3200 scanned image

When Kodak announces the return of TMax P3200 I was pleasantly surprised. I got back into film in 2013, one year after Kodak discontinued P3200. Since I never had a chance to compare the two films I jumped on it.

I ordered 20 rolls from B&H and shot test rolls in T-Max and xtol developers. I didn’t like it in TMax developer but that wasn’t a surprise. I’ve tried that developer before with Tri-X and Delta 3200 and never liked it. It blows out highlights too fast and makes for weird grain to my eyes. In Xtol 1:1 I got results I really liked. The grain is pronounced as you would expect from a film this fast. However, the grain structure was very pleasing and unobtrusive. The tones looked better than Delta 3200, too. In terms of speed I think Delta wins. I know neither one of these films is a true 3200 ISO film but I can get great results at 2000ISO or maybe 2500ISO with P3200. The Delta film I have to shoot at 3200 and massively over develop to get some contrast into the negs. 

As I shoot 35mm almost exclusively TMax P3200 is the clear winner. It’s a dollar cheaper per roll, Xtol is a fraction of any of the Ilford Developers and the film is sharper and less grainy than Delta. Hands down, TMax wins.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

Why you should not develop color film at home.

Developing B&W film is like making a pasta sauce or salad dressing. Developing color film at home is like cookie cutting. It’s a repetitive and standardized process. 

No doubt, if there’s no lab around, by all means develop your color film at home. Other than that I don’t understand why people do this at home. Developing color film is boring. It’s always the same procedure. If you deviate you get bad results. You can’t try new things like in B&W. You just have to follow the procedure. The process is meant to be done by machines. It’s simply not fun. Even if it works out and trust me, most of the time it won’t.

With color film you cannot easily change contrast for example. I think there’s a way with masks etc but it’s an advanced concept hardly ever used  nowadays. With B&W film you can tweak so many variables by altering the way you process your film. If you deviate with color film you get color shifts. Color shifts are ugly. They are so ugly that it’s almost gag reflex inducing. My advice is: leave color film processing to the labs and enjoy B&W at home. It’s a much more rewarding process. 


 

Adox Silvermax in D76 1+1

We're in the middle of the raining season here in Tokyo, which means summer is around the corner. I was thinking I'll shoot some more b&w film this summer and wanted to test a few 100 ISO rated films for those really bright days. I almost always shoot with a yellow or orange filter, but even with that my usual Tri-X is just too fast for a day in the sun. So I tried out a few 100 speed films that I had lying around still. Fomapan 100, Ilford Delta 100 and Adox Silvermax.

I am going to review the Silvermax here and the other two in a follow up post. I didn't want to mess with too many developers, so I decided to soup them all in D-76 1+1, same formula I use for Tri-X. Since I print a lot of my negatives in the darkroom I do appreciate an easy to print negative. For people who only scan their film this may not be worth reading at all. 

I shot a test (half-roll) setting my cameras meter to an ISO, then shot one normal exposure, one +3 stops over, one -4 stops under.

Daylight scene: (100, +3, -4), (200, +3, -4), (50, +3, -4)

Grey surface: (100, +3, -4), (200, +3, -4), (50, +3, -4)

The film was developed in D-76 1+1 at 20 degrees for 11:00. 

I judge my personal film speed from the shots of the grey surface. At -4 stops I should see some density starting to build up. The first set, shot at 100, +3, -4 has basically no density at the -4 bracket (frame 29). Over to the 200, +3, -4 set. Frame 35 above is basically clear film base, so this is not it either. Over to the 50iso set.  The -4 frame has a decent amount of density showing up. Maybe even a bit too much for my taste. I like my shadows! So I am guessing that for my developing technique with my tanks and my water and my agitation and my room temperature etc. this film's speed for my taste is somewhere between 50- 100 ISO. Let's say 64ISO.

To confirm, I expose the corresponding frame of the daylight scene (frame 17) onto paper. I do this using minimum time to get maximum blacks. If the print is to dark that means I was wrong and the frame is underexposed. If it's too bright I was wrong and the frame was either overexposed or over developed. In my case frame 17 actually prints OK, but with very low contrast. I can increase the development time to get denser highlights and increase the contrast. (or mess with the contrast setting on the enlarger, but the goal is to get an easy to print negative) Increasing dev time unfortunately does almost nothing to the shadows, hence no change in film speed here. I could keep trying to change the dev time until I get the contrast I want or just use the Silvermax developer they offer, but I decided not to. 64ISO is a little bit on the slow side for my taste. I was looking for true 100ISO and actually found that in Delta 100. I'll review that in a future post.

Adox Silvermax is still a fine film. In D-76 1+1 it exhibits extremely fine grain. By increasing the development time by 20% it will probably have good contrast too. The film has a very clear base, no tint whatsoever, which makes it easy to print or maybe even reverse develop into slides. The only thing that slightly bothered me is that Adox seems to use a half frame perforator to print the edge marking. Not a big deal, but I am used to the proper 36 exposure codes of Ilford and Kodak. Foma also uses half frame markings. Interesting choice, considering there's very few people shooting half frames.

 

** So reading Kodak's D-76 tech sheet it seems that you need at least 237ml of stock D-76 for each 135-36 roll of film. At 1+1 in 300ml I only have 150ml. According to Kodak I either increase the development time or the tank size. That explains the underexposed negatives above.  

Why hoarding film doesn't work

Sometime in 2015 when it was announced that Provia 400X was going to be discontinued I made a decision to buy a 5pack every time I go to Bic Camera. At that time I shot a lot of color film and went to Bic Camera to drop off or pick up film for developing quite a bit. I think I ended up with some 30 pro packs (5 rolls). I believe the film was already discontinued outside of Japan. This was really my last chance to buy the stuff and be able to shoot it for the foreseeable future.

The crazy thing is it's 2017 now and I still have over 100 rolls left of it. Most of the stock I have either has expired already or is approaching expiry. It's all been frozen since purchase and will probably be ok to shoot even post expiration date, but for how long? It could take me years to go through all this film.

The really crazy thing is that I already had a 100 rolls of Ektar 100 in my freezer. I bought that because Kodak doubled their prices in Japan sometime in 2015. Ektar used to be the cheapest color pro film they had. I think it was 3500 yen for a five pack. (700 yen per roll) They increased it to 1350 for single rolls. So the five packs and single rolls were on sale side by side for a while. I couldn't resist buying all the Ektar I could afford when I saw them side by side with a 100% price difference.

Now I had over 200 rolls of film in my freezer already and discovered how nice of a film Kodak Gold 200 is. So I went on Yahoo auction and bought a 100 pack of that for dirt cheap. I was already used to buying film in bulk so it didn't even register how crazy of an idea this was. Well, after shooting Ektar and Gold 200 the entire summer of 2015 I really got into B&W because I loved that I can print it at home. I never bought that in bulk because I couldn't find any deals. I just ordered from B&H in batches of 10 - 15 rolls as needed. 

The crazy thing is that now it's 2017 and I still have my freezer full of film. I haven't bought color film in over two years and probably won't have to for the next 3-5 years the way things are going now. The film will probably not deteriorate in quality much over that time since it's frozen. It's just crazy to buy that much film. You just don't know what you're going to be shooting. We can't predict the future, and if I could I would use it for things other than saving some money on film that's going up in price.

Buying and hoarding expired film is even worse. You don't know how the film was stored. Old film will curl a lot more than fresh film. You won't get colors as they were intended. The celluloid base of the film won't last forever either. Color film lasts for about 50 some years I believe until vinegar syndrome sets in and the acetate base will rot away. If you buy film that expired 10 years ago, you are already 10 years into those 50 years, meaning that your photos are only good for another 40 years after developing the film. There are ways to extend the life time of film by storing it in a freezer but who really does that except for Hollywood? I don't know anyone who stores their negatives in a freezer at home.

Maybe you don't care about the negatives because you can hold onto the scans. That's a valid for some people, but why not shoot digitally then and use VSCO to get the film look?

Shoot fresh film. Support the industry and enjoy the film as it was intended to.

Messing around with too many film stocks

Why stick to only one film?

In short: To eliminate variables.

It's very tempting to try out new films and see what results you can get with different films and developers. Ferrania for example just announced their first film. An 80 ASA B&W film in 35mm. And Yes! I was tempted at first. I'd love to try it and help them test the film, but I just went through a testing phase for 100 speed films. I shoot 400iso 80% of the time and 3200iso for the remainder. I rarely need a 100 speed film for my type of shooting. Sometimes it does come in handy though. On the beach or on a snowy mountain in full sunshine, I just can't make the 400 speed film work without stacking filters. So I got myself some Fomapan and Silvermax to test and I don't like testing films. It costs money and takes time. I don't feel like going through another test for this new P30 film.

The problem with shooting many different films and processing them in different developers is that your number of variables grows. If something goes wrong or you don't like the results you don't know where to start fixing it. If you only scan your film this makes very little difference, but then you might as well just shoot digital and apply a film filter. I like to be able to print my work. I don't print all of my work, but I like that I have the option to print it and when I do print I noticed that having a good negative makes all the difference. There are many ways to arrive at a good negative and it can be overwhelming.

FilmStock^n + Dev^n + DevDilution^n + Agitation^n + Temp^n + DevTime^n + EI^n + Paper^n + PaperDev^n + etc... = # of ways that you can tweak to get a decent negative.

This is nuts. If you keep changing things  you'll never arrive at consistent results unless it's by luck. Keep as many variables constant as you can. If something does not come out to your liking you can start tweaking one variable and observe if that makes a difference without having to guess. starting by these three makes the most sense to me:

  • Shoot 1 film stock
  • Use the same Developer
  • Keep temperature constant * (more on that below)

* Keep the temperature the SAME! I know people argue that chemical reaction speeds up with increase in temperature and you just adjust the dev time and arrive at the same results. While that is true in general, there is more to it than that. When you change temperature there are a few things to consider. The gelatin of the emulsion absorbs developer at different rates depending on temperature. This is change is most likely not linear with how silver halide reactivity changes. Even worse the developer itself is made up of:

  • Developing agent
  • Preservative
  • Accelerator
  • Restrainer
  • (buffer)

Unfortunately these components don't change linearly when you increase temperature. To make things easier, just keep everything at 20 degrees until you get constant results that you like. 

In my case I try to stick to Tri-X and Delta 3200 for most situations. The D3200 I only use for indoor low light situations. I find it too flat for anything else. Tri-X, or any other 400 speed film is actually really versatile. I shoot mine at 500iso. Usually I have a yellow filter on the lens which brings it down to an effective speed of 320iso. If I need even slower than that I take out the orange filter which puts it to 125iso. 

f/16 1/125, f/8 1/500, f/5.6 1/1000

I can work with that.

Pushing Black & White Film

I have recently gone through some re-organization of my film archive and noticed that one of my first few rolls of film, in fact number 2, was Tmax 400. I shot it in my Ricoh GR1v and had it developed at a local lab. I was new to film and new to the GR1v, which is now broken beyond repair. The GR1v reads the Dx code on the film canister and sets the ISO speed automatically. I thought I had no choice but shoot it at that speed. I now understand that you can just set the exposure compensation to -2 stops for example. 

Read More

Against the Grain

Fall/Autumn time in Tokyo and leaves are finally starting to change color. People are going crazy about capturing the fall colors. Camera stores are pushing new gear and people love the excuse to buy a new camera. As if a new digital camera could somehow capture the colors any better than a 10 year old D700. 

Meanwhile I am shooting the trees in black and white and on film. I don't need instant gratification and I really like it when I can stick the middle finger up to the fast paced world trying to continuously sell me new gear. 

My film camera has zero shutter lag and focuses every time. Perfectly. It shoots when I want it to shoot, unless I'm out of film...

Tri-X, I'll never betray you again

Yeah I didn't like he purple-pinkish tint of my Tri-X negatives. You know that from my last rant.  So I shot through all of my old Neopan Presto stock and then started buying HP5+. While both, Neopan and HP5+ had a noticeable stain, too, it easily washed out every single time. The purple/magenta negatives supposedly don't affect anything. That's what Kodak and other wise people on the internet claim. I actually believed that until I started printing some negatives that were 2-3 years old. I noticed that the purple stain fades unevenly. I am pretty certain that uneven patches like these will have an effect on my prints or scans. 

I started printing more of my negatives on the new Adox MCC110 fiber paper and Tri-X just looked better every single time. HP5+ and Neopan can be nice, too, but Tri-X just had that extra little something. I don't know what it is, but I like it. I since stopped shooting the other two films and went back to Tri-X.

Kodak Tri-X two years after developing the film.

Kodak Tri-X two years after developing the film.

Very, clear and neutral negatives.

Very, clear and neutral negatives.

Update: Solution to pink, purple and magenta Tri-X

So after searching forums online and asking friends how to get rid of the tint on Kodak's Tri-X I finally decided to actually ask Kodak itself. 

If you follow Kodak on Instagram and/or Twitter you may have noticed their recent enthusiasm for film. What can I say? I like it! So I thought if they are so pro-film now maybe they actually care and will answer if I ask them. So I went to Kodak's website and clicked somewhere on "contact me" and sent them an email.

Read More

Expired Black & White Film

Once in a while when I get tired of shooting in the city I take a day trip or weekend trip to the Inaka (countryside) to shoot landscape or random stuff in old towns. On my trips out there I noticed all the expired film they had in the stores. In the 90s and early 2000s basically every store was selling film. Flower shops, supermarkets, convenience stores and of course camera stores. When I saw Neopan 400 on the shelves, long after it was already discontinued, I asked them how much it was. They gave me all the rolls they had for free!

After that, every every time I saw a "Fujicolor" sign outside of a store I just asked them if they had black and white film for sale. Long story short, every time I asked I got a bunch of free Neopan 400. In Japan it's called Presto 400. The oldest rolls expired in 2006. The best ones are expiring sometime now. I wasn't sure how to shoot or develop them but gave it a shot anyhow.

Read More

Olympus XA2 vs Leica MP + Summicron !

Both take 35mm film, both have 35mm lenses. Both take SR44 batteries, both have a meter, both are  manually wound, both are black, both are ....

Ok, there are a few differences. f/2 vs f/3.5 lens. Manual aperture & shutter speed vs automatic aperture & shutter speed. Manual focus vs zone focus. One is made out of brass and basically indestructible the other is basically cheap metal and plastic. Oh yeah, and the Olympus costs about 1 % of what the Leica will cost you.

Can you tell the difference?

Read More

How to get that film look from your scans.

I used to get frustrated when I scanned my color negatives at home on my OpticFilm 8200 scanner. That scanner is fantastic for slides, how could it be THAT bad for color negatives? 

No matter what I did in post, color negatives from that scanner never looked as good as they did when I printed them wet in the darkroom or had them scanned at a lab.  I almost thought I'll just shoot slides then. Nice idea, but that costs a lot more money for film and processing and sometimes slide film is just not the right tool for the job.

Read More

The lost Generation

All my college memories are gone. No graduation photos, no photos to remember trips, events and friends. 

I graduated in 2007. Digital was the way to go. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Shoot as much as I want and it was 'free' too. Couldn't get any better. It's 2016 now and I have none of these photos left. Between moving countries, buying new computers and transferring from one medium to another things got lost. The only photos I have left is what parents or friends printed. Very sad.

Read More

Do we still need contact prints?

Now that we can batch scan thumbnails? 

As far as I know, the only use of contact prints was to evaluate which ones were keepers and worth enlarging. I've made contact prints in the darkroom twice. Once for black and white and once for color. Never again. Reason being, when I go to my local rental darkroom to print, I have already decided which frames to print. 

Read More