What black and white film should I use.
November 20, 2010 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Calling all film photographers. What 35mm black and white film should I shoot with?

I have been shooting a few rolls of B&W film recently. Mostly Ilford ISO3200. I like the grain in it but I am thinking I should try some other film stocks.

I am heading to Kenya next month so along with my DSLR I will be packing my old Minolta 3xi in the hope of getting some nice shots.

I am very close to picking up some Kodak TX ISO400 rolls but before I do that I thought I would query the Mefites.

Any suggestions or recommendations?
posted by gergtreble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely pick up some Tri-X and try shooting it. Also, look into alternative developers. Tri-X is incredibly flexible stuff.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:33 AM on November 20, 2010

Adox CMS 20
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2010

I've been quite satisfied with Delta 400, Neopan SS, and Plus-X. I'll also shoot D3200 on occasion.

You may also consider bringing some Velvia 100 in case you encounter some fantastic colour and choose to capture it.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2010

Tri-X @ 400 is a great standard film. It has pretty good grain characteristics, and is easy to shoot.

But the best film I could recommend would be T-Max 400. It's bulletproof. You can shoot it at 800, and have a great negative. Shoot, you could shoot it at 800, develop it at 400 and add 10-20 seconds and have fine negs. Point being (and nevermind the anal naysayers, and don't try this with the 100) it's a very forgiving film.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:30 AM on November 20, 2010

Tri-x is nice, I believe you can push it to pretty high ISOs - which also makes it grainier if you like that, and more contrasty. Kodak also makes a 3200 iso film - its in the T-max line, though, which some people don't care for (as I recall they use a grain-reducing technology which also decreases sharpness). It can actually be pushed REALLY high though, the specs say to like 12.5k ISO. I mostly used to use very low-ISO films, I liked plus-x a lot. I did controlled lighting still life, though, so low ISO was not an issue for me.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2010

My favorite always used to be Ilford HP5 PLUS. It is also worth trying out Tri-X.
posted by stp123 at 11:32 AM on November 20, 2010

I'm a huge fan of Fuji Neopan. I usually shoot the 100-speed. I've got a few old film cameras and I've been really happy with the contrast on Neopan specifically and beautiful fine grain on all the Fuji professional films. I just shot some Delta recently (I was out of town, ran out of Neopan, and couldn't find more), but haven't had a chance to get it developed yet.
posted by duien at 11:43 AM on November 20, 2010

Also, be sure to pick up a few rolls of everything you are considering shooting in Kenya and shoot them this weekend. Then process them over the next few days. Don't bring new film you've never shot before on a trip like that.

Something I really liked about Tri-X is that you can fairly safely shoot it at ISO400 without a meter. It takes a little practice, but eyeballing exposure isn't that hard and Tri-X is very forgiving.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:51 AM on November 20, 2010

If you're looking to save some money, Arista Premium 400 from Freestyle Photographic is rebranded Tri-X.
posted by Lorin at 11:52 AM on November 20, 2010

I've always been a big fan of Ilford b/w films, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on November 20, 2010

It's usually sunny in Kenya, right? Get a slow film like Fuji Acros or SS. You'll still be able to get fast shutter speeds with reasonable apertures. Slow film brings out a wider range of grey values and has better resolution. The 100-speed rating for a lot of these films is optimistic; shoot at 50 and you'll get better results.

You'll still want to bring a fast film to shoot in low light. I prefer Tri-X over HP5 by a long shot, and it pushes to 800 really well.
posted by scose at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2010

Ilford has gorgeous film. For color, I'm ridiculously fond of Fuji Superia 800... you'll get grain, but it's very pretty. For b&w, as said above, Tri-X is very good but I find it a bit more contrast-y than TMAX, but it might depend on your camera & developing. Have lots of fun - no matter what you bring, you'll have some amazing photos at the end.
posted by lyra4 at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2010

After Agfa went under I waiver between Neopan and Tri-X 400 developed in Rodinal, but depending on how much time before you leave and whether you want to try it, Adox has re-introduced Agfa APX.
posted by squeak at 7:44 PM on November 20, 2010

I love Tri-X, at 400 it is forgiving but shoot it and develop it at 250 for beautiful tonality and nice contrast.

Apart from that I use Acros 100 for well lit architecture shots and Neopan 1600 for those really low light moments.
posted by hardcode at 4:22 AM on November 21, 2010

Thanks for all the suggestions. As the film shooting is going to be a secondary experiment I am thinking I may try and source a number of different kinds of film and shoot them all to see how I feel about them for the future.

Thanks for all the tips about shooting at different ratings. However I am still beginning with film and thus have to rely on my local photo shop to develop them. Next step is to learn to develop myself so I can try out pushing and pulling.


TX400 is definately in. I will also grab a roll of Neopan 1600. I like the look of the Adox20 but I am not sure I will be able to find that in time! If I can I will try and pick up some HP-5 and some HD3200.

If you are interested keep an eye on my flickr stream (in profile) in the new year for the results...
posted by gergtreble at 4:42 AM on November 21, 2010

Thanks for all the tips about shooting at different ratings. However I am still beginning with film and thus have to rely on my local photo shop to develop them. Next step is to learn to develop myself so I can try out pushing and pulling.

Developing your own film is extremely easy - you don't even need a dark room. You do need a developing tank and spool(s), a changing bag, timer and some chemicals. Pick up a copy of the Film Developing Cookbook for advanced tips and techniques.

Don't try to develop color film, but you should really develop your own B&W film.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2010

Thanks b1tr0t, yeah that's the next project. Ive had a read about it recently and Its definitely something I want to do. I'll check out that link.
posted by gergtreble at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2010

Coming back to second scose's recommendation to throw a bit more light at your B/W negative film: I typically shoot ISO400 rated film at 320, and ISO100 @ 64. Your highlights will almost certainly be safe with the shoulder of the films mentioned above, and shadow detail will come out more— remember you can adjust your prints for your shadow detail.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2010

You'll have to develop yourself if you try Adox CMS 20, it has a developer formulated for it. (You could send it somewhere else and let someone else develop it with whatever they have on hand, but it kinda defeats the purpose.) This film was the first film I developed myself. The initial outlay for a tank, containers and chemicals costs a bit, but after that, it's fairly cheap. (I say this as someone who usually shoots Provia and is starting to use Velvia.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2010

Just as an update I have picked yo:

2x Fuji Acros 100
2x Kodak TRI-X 400
2x Fuji Neopan 1600

That should do me!

Thanks again for all the help. I'll be back when I buy some Rodinal and have to develop em ;)
posted by gergtreble at 4:04 AM on November 26, 2010

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