APX 100 film test

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Memphis powell
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Feb 9, 2005
Adelaide Aus
Multi Format
I've had a forced lay off from photography for 3 years or so but the bug has it's teeth firmly embedded again so “a testing” I have gone.

Prior to my rest I was happy with exposure and development but like all [most – well me] I didn't bargain on illness and didn't keep accurate data that I was happy to rely on after 3 years.

As a novice in the early '60s I had a Kodak Retina and an incident light meter -- so this time I decided to return to basics with the addition of a few extra years of film, exposure and processing knowledge. I have mostly used the zone system and for the most part been very happy with the results but I'm more into simplicity now so I devised my cut down film development test procedure to utilise incident light readings.

Here in Australia [Adelaide] we have very harsh lighting conditions and contrast control can be a problem in B&W.

I have always found manufacturers are overly generous with their speed ratings at the expense of shadow detail.

I found a scene in my yard that had at least 5 stops from shadow to highlight and took a normal point to the camera incident reading. With APX 100. I started at 25 iso and decreased exposure by half a stop. I stopped at the 125 iso mark. It is our summer at present so the scene remained almost the same for about 5 hours. My test camera is an Olympus OM1 and the light meter is a Luna six. Both are and have proved very reliable with regard to consistent results.

I did this with 3 films [all 35mm] and then processed them in HC110 [1:60] – Rodinal 1:50 with borax and Refinal at 1:3.

HC110 had the least real film speed [for me] at 50 iso
Rodinal was 64 iso
and Refinal was 80 iso

I will use the data from the 35mm films as a starting point for my 120 and 4x5 stock.

To determine the shadow detail I wanted was really very simple. For each strip I found the minimum exposure to produce max black [use the gap between frames to find max black] and printed each frame. I naturally ignored the highlights as they fell to the next step. By selecting the shadow detail that suits my style of photography I can set a film EI that works reliably for me with a general incident reading. I must emphasise here that all of the testing is based on visual observation and not densitometer readings. I personally have found better results for my creative side :smile: when I tweak to visually acceptable results.

It was very obvious to me from the test prints of each film and the shadow detail that the Refinal at 1:3 was by far the best combination for me. Grain and tonal separation was superior. Percieved sharpness was similar with all film/dev combinations.

The next step was to determine an accurate development time so I shot enough film of the same scene to allow increased and decreased development times.

My method of film processing is with a Jobo CPE2 plus [?] Rotary anyway.
From the original strip I guessed a development reduction of 15% - 20% and that was just right.
This gave a very nice full toned print on grade 2 paper.
My EI in Refinal 1:3 [60 ml Refinal: 180 ml water] is 80 iso with a development time of 5 minutes 40 seconds and no pre soak @ 20c.

The biggest advantage in knowing your personal film/developer combination is the ability to forget the technicals and approach the creative with a clear head.

This is a very straightforward method to determine what film and developer combinations do for you/me. I will repeat this for dull winter days to see if there is any major adjustment needed.

My spot meter is very useful in determining the brightness ratio of a scene when needed and even if the incident exposure method doesn't work 100% of the time I now have the best of both worlds to rely on.
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