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rwboyer

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I just wanted to post this for people starting to do their own B+W processing and to dispel some myths and religious issues. I am by no means the end all be all in B+W science but I have shot, processed, and printed more black and white than I care to remember. I still compare, test, and calibrate materials, out of necessity and for fun in a bunch of different film formats. There are differences and there are subtleties. I have my favorites and others have theirs, so this in no way is to say that there are no differences - there are - that's what makes this fun but they are subtle and to take advantage of them you really really need to know them well. Most of the generalities that you hear might be true but most are probably just anecdotal.

Anyway on with the show - here is some final testing from a long long time ago after I had calibrated both films and developers. I ran across this sheet of negatives a couple of days ago and thought I would share it, the images suck but the comparison is valid. Here are two films and developer combinations that are probably considered very very different in properties by most people - look for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

Two different films two different developers calibrated to the same CI and taken as close to each other of the same subject in the same light at the same time - same camera, same lens, same exact exposure settings including errors of the camera/lens/meter (different backs on a 500CM).

Here is Agfa APX 100 processed in Rodinal

2002_004_09.jpg


Here is Kodak Plus-X Pan processed in PMK Pyro

2002_003_09.jpg


Wanna see the grain structure - here it is:

APX/Rodinal

2002_004_09_crop.jpg


Plus-X/PMK

2002_003_09_crop.jpg


My assessment at the time was the biggest difference was subject movement in one vs the other of course. With respect to the film/dev spectral sensitivity was the biggest difference based on my knowledge of the colors in the scene. The PXP seemed slightly more sensitive to greens. Then the difference was in the grain structure.

The point is it is probably good advice to just choose a film and get to know it and the developer you are working with very very well. A lot of what you hear even when backed up with an image maybe anecdotal and a lot of stuff are extreme caricatures of various "properties" of one or the other.

Comments? Questions?

RB
 
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rwboyer

rwboyer

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Ps.

Both of them came out to be almost identical in speed, no adjustments, no sharpening, no anything in PS - I did scan them to be the same exact black point to account for a difference in the base density of both films. The 100% views are equivalent to 40x magnification - something you will never ever see in a print unless you are a mile away from the thing.

RB
 
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The highlights in the PMK pyro neg is borderline blocked up with more detail in the Rodinal neg.

Other than that I agree with you. There are very small differences between films and developers, much less than we care to think. But most of all I really agree with the approach of picking one (or maybe two, if you need the speed or depth of field) and learn them well. Knowing your materials helps open a window or two to see through. Switching around, in my opinion, is counter productive (unless you just like trying new things and you're more process than results oriented).
 
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rwboyer

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The highlights in the PMK pyro neg is borderline blocked up with more detail in the Rodinal neg.

Other than that I agree with you. There are very small differences between films and developers, much less than we care to think. But most of all I really agree with the approach of picking one (or maybe two, if you need the speed or depth of field) and learn them well. Knowing your materials helps open a window or two to see through. Switching around, in my opinion, is counter productive (unless you just like trying new things and you're more process than results oriented).

Based on my examination of the negatives the highlights are pretty much identical - maybe it is the subject motion and separation in the hair or lack there of you are noticing in the small scans. Neither of them are blocked by a long shot - they were developed for printing and therefore maybe stretching the DMAX of my film scanner. In any case the most dense highlight is actually on the lamp to the left - both are measured at the same density when I was calibrating the films.

RB
 
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Well, they look that way to me. Looking at the overall tonalities, the PMK scan appears brighter than the Rodinal neg, so it could well be just a slight adjustment.

I can't guess what your neg is going to look like printed, based on what I see on my computer monitor in a low rez scan. I can only judge what I see in front of me. It does appear as if the PMK neg would have a bit more density overall than the other one, actually. Especially on the dark face of the pillow facing the lens there is markably more detail in the PMK neg. On the sofa behind the child's head the PMK neg is markably brighter as well.

It's nitpicking, and probably something that would show up even less in a print. Nice comparison.
 
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rwboyer

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Well, they look that way to me. Looking at the overall tonalities, the PMK scan appears brighter than the Rodinal neg, so it could well be just a slight adjustment.

I can't guess what your neg is going to look like printed, based on what I see on my computer monitor in a low rez scan. I can only judge what I see in front of me. It does appear as if the PMK neg would have a bit more density overall than the other one, actually. Especially on the dark face of the pillow facing the lens there is markably more detail in the PMK neg. On the sofa behind the child's head the PMK neg is markably brighter as well.

It's nitpicking, and probably something that would show up even less in a print. Nice comparison.

Just as a viewing note since the negs are not in front of you to look at - it maybe helpful to look at the densities in the things that are not moving/moved in both scans like the couch/dark pillow/blanket in foreground.

RB
 

ntenny

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I managed to align my browser window so that the page-up and page-down keys toggled neatly between the two images, which really helped to show where the differences are. The biggest one I saw (apart from subject movement, of course) is that the APX/Rodinal image seems to have the highlight on her forehead and hair better controlled, but as you suggest that could be partly a matter of subject motion losing the separation in the hair, too.

Interesting comparison. And I agree, the differences are subtle; granted, sometimes subtle details make a big difference to the overall impression, but I suspect that a lot of the differences we think we perceive between films and developers are somewhat illusory.

-NT
 
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rwboyer

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I managed to align my browser window so that the page-up and page-down keys toggled neatly between the two images, which really helped to show where the differences are. The biggest one I saw (apart from subject movement, of course) is that the APX/Rodinal image seems to have the highlight on her forehead and hair better controlled, but as you suggest that could be partly a matter of subject motion losing the separation in the hair, too.

Interesting comparison. And I agree, the differences are subtle; granted, sometimes subtle details make a big difference to the overall impression, but I suspect that a lot of the differences we think we perceive between films and developers are somewhat illusory.

-NT

Look at the highlights in the lamp v the hair/forehead. The motion and subsequent blur of details are what you are seeing in the hair in both shadow and highlight. Not worth debating is the point. Unless you are trying to do something really extreme/specialized most films and most developers will get you whatever you want from them, they are more similar than different. Once you go as far as you can you can start worrying about the very very subtle differences for what YOU shoot and what you want to be different.

As I said I love experimenting with new things/tools/materials but the very first thing I do is get them to the point where I can see the REAL differences in the materials vs. the differences in completely different images and other artifacts that are differences that have not much to do with the materials.

RB
 

Michel Hardy-Vallée

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I'm glad you posted this. So many people try film A with developer B and believe they have found the Second Coming of the Magic Silver Bullet. I have not been immune to this syndrome.

Nowadays, I base my film and developer choices on common sense: does the combination make sense (sharpness, grain, contrast, etc)? are my products readily available? have I worked out a decent EI and dev time?

After that, my reflection is just: do I like my results or not? Is the problem my technique or my subject? So far, my technique does the job, so I try to do my best to think about my subjects.

In the case at hand, the only clear difference I can discern is that the contrast in the shadows of Plus-X is better. If you look on the left hand side, the tones on the couch, left of the pillow under the subject, are better separated in the Plus-X example than in the APX example. That's about it.

Proves that differences exist, but that whether or not they are relevant depends on one's approach to photography, subjects, printing talent, and so forth.
 

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The point is it is probably good advice to just choose a film and get to know it and the developer you are working with very very well. A lot of what you hear even when backed up with an image maybe anecdotal and a lot of stuff are extreme caricatures of various "properties" of one or the other.

Comments? Questions?

RB

I agree 100% and the results you posted clearly show this.


On a somewhat related path, I have been experimenting using the cheapest film and paper I can find lately. The thought being that if one of my subject matter can't support itself without being printed on the best Azo paper or exposed on expensive "T" film, then I need to take better photographs.
 
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@ ic-racer - I have had to, by necessity, stop using Kodak Tmax 400 for a while. It's my film of choice, and it's too expensive for my wallet at this point. So I bought a wad of Arista EDU Ultra 100 in 120 and the 400 speed for 35mm. Tell you what, it's good enough. The prints are just as nice, and I'm going to have a very hard time justifying the Kodak Tmax when funds start to flow more readily again. At $2.29 a roll for the 120 it's difficult to pay twice that for something that isn't THAT much better.
Like you, I just focus on what's more important - subject matter; trying to make interesting photographs.
 

JBrunner

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I think that by nature a PMK neg is going to skew scanning, compared to how it will behave in printing. IME they print much denser than they look or scan. I would wager that the PMK neg has far more range than the scan implies.
 
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rwboyer

rwboyer

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I think that by nature a PMK neg is going to skew scanning, compared to how it will behave in printing. IME they print much denser than they look or scan. I would wager that the PMK neg has far more range than the scan implies.

Here we go, the religious wars.

I think you are missing the point. I happen to like pyro developers I use them most of the time for a lot of reasons. I have developed literally 1000's of sheets, and tens of thousands of rolls with pyro developers of all sorts. They can do some things more easily than say TMAX RS. That is not the point I am making.

The point is that materials are more the same than they are different and that most info out there is either A - anecdotal or B - expert in nature describing something very very subtle effects that the not so expert interprets as huge differences in characteristics.

Here is a great example - your post here. WOW - more range - that must be great I'll take that more range thing. What the heck do you actually mean "more range" Lower CI? Higher CI? Do you mean for this particular negative - I hope not because I can assure you they are almost exactly the same CI and they both have detail or lack thereof for the "range" of light in this scene. Do you mean another scene, like a theoretical one that has like 35 stops between shadows and highlights. Even in that case what the heck do you mean "more range". I can take guesses all day what that might mean for some theoretical scene using a theoretical film and theoretical developer in some theoretical way. For this particular negative it "more range" doesn't really mean anything.

You may have meant that if I use a printing process like a Kallitype or Platinum the PMK negative may be more suitable because it will have more apparent contrast in a UV printing process vs. a Rodinal Negative - I agree to an extent with that very specific "more range" thing.

RB
 

JBrunner

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Uh, ok. I guess you told me. Have fun by yourself.
 

ntenny

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Here we go, the religious wars.

I didn't really understand your response here. Jason seemed to be making the reasonable point that in his experience, how a PMK negative scans isn't a good representation of how it will print, so your test methodology may be sort of misrepresenting one of the images (if we take it as read that, this being APUG, the "normal" target is always a traditional print).

That's not really a "religious" argument IMHO---I don't have any experience with PMK to judge the accuracy of the claim, but it isn't mystical "my Micro-Goop is better than yours" twaddle.

On the other hand, I'd also like to know what "range" means in this context. I mean, surely the range of densities in the negative is whatever it is, right? What's going on with PMK negatives that would make a difference in what that meant in practice?

-NT
 

JBrunner

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I didn't really understand your response here. Jason seemed to be making the reasonable point that in his experience, how a PMK negative scans isn't a good representation of how it will print, so your test methodology may be sort of misrepresenting one of the images (if we take it as read that, this being APUG, the "normal" target is always a traditional print).

That's not really a "religious" argument IMHO---I don't have any experience with PMK to judge the accuracy of the claim, but it isn't mystical "my Micro-Goop is better than yours" twaddle.

On the other hand, I'd also like to know what "range" means in this context. I mean, surely the range of densities in the negative is whatever it is, right? What's going on with PMK negatives that would make a difference in what that meant in practice?

-NT

What I am saying is that a negative scan isn't the best way to represent the available density in a PMK negative, or any negative developed with a staining developer. A stained negative will generally offer more detail in the highlights, how much will depend on how it is printed and by whom, and of course how well the exposure and developing were crafted in the first place. Anyone who knows me knows full well I don't believe in magic bullets. As the OP points out, and obviously knows, stained negatives have different density according to the kind of light that is passed through them, and ultimately the spectral sensitivity of the printing material. The actual value of a staining developer is that one can craft a negative that prints well by both silver and Alt process, as the negative will be denser (generally) to UV. How much that interpretation might vary from scanner to scanner IDK, but the OP seems uninterested in that and more interested in semantic word parsing, so my participation in this thread is at an end.
 
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rwboyer

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I didn't really understand your response here. Jason seemed to be making the reasonable point that in his experience, how a PMK negative scans isn't a good representation of how it will print, so your test methodology may be sort of misrepresenting one of the images (if we take it as read that, this being APUG, the "normal" target is always a traditional print).

That's not really a "religious" argument IMHO---I don't have any experience with PMK to judge the accuracy of the claim, but it isn't mystical "my Micro-Goop is better than yours" twaddle.

On the other hand, I'd also like to know what "range" means in this context. I mean, surely the range of densities in the negative is whatever it is, right? What's going on with PMK negatives that would make a difference in what that meant in practice?

-NT

From properties that can be measured and described I am guessing his meaning here -

One - In high dilutions it tends to be compensating and shoulders the highlights in various cases more than non compensating developers.

Two- Part of the image density is stain vs silver proportional to the exposure and development. In some cases this gives you a higher CI when using a printing process that is sensitive primarily to UV vs visible light. Along with some other characteristics on VC silver papers that may or may not be "good" depending on the scene.

Here was my point - this post was not at all a pyro vs rodinal or an anything vs anything post. It was meant to demonstrate that materials are more the same than they are different and very similar results are possible with very different materials. I even mentioned that while there are differences and I do have my preferences they are usually not night and day differences for general purposes.

The religious wars things comes from even though I was cautious to point out there are subtle differences and the materials are very comparable in most cases. With no qualifications and no rational someone comes out of the blue and "would be willing to wager" that negatives that I have in my possession that I have personally made prints of and I have scanned "have more range"

I didn't mean to offend anyone or even argue a point with anyone. I was just trying to provide a demonstration for the many people out there with not a whole lot of darkroom experience looking for the "best" film or the "best" developer.

Tell me if I am wrong here but a statement like "has more range" doesn't really mean much without any qualifications.

Sorry for trying to be helpful

RB
 

Perry Way

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....I was just trying to provide a demonstration for the many people out there with not a whole lot of darkroom experience looking for the "best" film or the "best" developer.....

If I may pipe in, I'm not a professional like Jason or like you perhaps. You sound like you know a lot but then I know for darn sure Jason does too. Me? I'm going to the school of hard knocks. And it sure is fun. The whole bit of it. I'm 45, looking for my next career, one that funds my retirement so I never have to retire and can play the rest of my life. With that said, and my qualifications of just a pretty darn good artist at whatever I set my mind to, figuring out the best film and the best developer is a journey that everyone even mildly interested in finding that out should take. Being instructed as to what is best, or being told that it really doesn't matter because they are all basically the same, really takes the fun out of the process of discovery.

Now, on to the meat of why I'm posting on this thread... I have discovered the best film and the best developer in the world! I could tell you but then it won't be a secret to me anymore. Lucky for you I am feeling the charity tonight and will share my finding with the rest of the APUG community :D

The film? Ilford PanF+

The developer? Ilford Ilfotec DD-X

Hands down, the absolute best there is on this planet! Be prepared to pay a little more, but it is absolutely worth it!

Now back to your regularly scheduled show...

:D
 
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People are allowed to have opinions. In your reply 'Here come the religious wars!' you don't exactly start off on the best of grounds for a discussion that is respectful and constructive.
You seem very surefooted in your belief, and you may know really well what you're doing, but that doesn't mean that you are more correct than anybody else. Your opinion is just one of about 40,000 here on APUG, so relax a little and let other people speak too.

I think that there are differences between developers, but it's not all what it's made out to be. For me, the only magic bullet there is is consistency. I don't want to try new materials, I just want to keep shooting. If I could afford to shoot nothing but Tmax 400 and process it in replenished Xtol, I would never need to look at anything else. Ever.
But lately my finances took a hard hit, and I was forced to buy Arista.EDU Ultra film instead, at about half the price. And after getting used to it, the results are so good that I almost don't miss the Kodak film. I could live with both happily everafter and just tweak my process to get different results.

To each their own, the above is my way. You told us your way, and it was a helpful and interesting observation. But it wasn't the truth for everybody here, and there needs to be respect for other people's opinions as it took them their entire lifetime to form those opinions.

With best wishes,

- Thomas

From properties that can be measured and described I am guessing his meaning here -

One - In high dilutions it tends to be compensating and shoulders the highlights in various cases more than non compensating developers.

Two- Part of the image density is stain vs silver proportional to the exposure and development. In some cases this gives you a higher CI when using a printing process that is sensitive primarily to UV vs visible light. Along with some other characteristics on VC silver papers that may or may not be "good" depending on the scene.

Here was my point - this post was not at all a pyro vs rodinal or an anything vs anything post. It was meant to demonstrate that materials are more the same than they are different and very similar results are possible with very different materials. I even mentioned that while there are differences and I do have my preferences they are usually not night and day differences for general purposes.

The religious wars things comes from even though I was cautious to point out there are subtle differences and the materials are very comparable in most cases. With no qualifications and no rational someone comes out of the blue and "would be willing to wager" that negatives that I have in my possession that I have personally made prints of and I have scanned "have more range"

I didn't mean to offend anyone or even argue a point with anyone. I was just trying to provide a demonstration for the many people out there with not a whole lot of darkroom experience looking for the "best" film or the "best" developer.

Tell me if I am wrong here but a statement like "has more range" doesn't really mean much without any qualifications.

Sorry for trying to be helpful

RB
 

Usagi

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Wirelessly posted (Samsung 2700: SAMSUNG-B2700/XBIB2 SHP/VPP/R5 NetFront/3.4 SMM-MMS/1.2.0 profile/MIDP-2.0 configuration/CLDC-1.1)

Yes, the differences are smaller than people usually tend to believe. However the differencest exists and are clearly visible in the prints. The scanners responce curve is different than papers so scanner usually does not show so big differences without correction curve.

But the point of threads author is good. The differences between say middle tone separation or shadow contrast are not big issues to many bw photographers.
Everyone is not hunting for best or better tones for their prints. Thus it is true that one film+dev combination is enough for many.

Then there are photographers who uses different materials for different subjects to get desired result. For they these differences are remarkable issues.
 

cmo

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But the point of threads author is good. The differences between say middle tone separation or shadow contrast are not big issues to many bw photographers.
Everyone is not hunting for best or better tones for their prints. Thus it is true that one film+dev combination is enough for many.

Then there are photographers who uses different materials for different subjects to get desired result. For they these differences are remarkable issues.

Between these two species there is one big difference: experience.

Those who can really see the differences are long-year pros that have spent half of their lives with a camera in front of their eyes and the other half in the darkroom. They know their material inside out, they chose precious few films and developers, they are often stiff-necked and stick with their "old-fashioned" methods and materials, simply because they work for them.

Beginners who are happy to achieve a result at all as long as it looks like a b/w photo will not see many differences between different films and developers, especially because they fight with making prints. They will not see any differences in tonality as long as their process of making prints is not reasonably standardized. They are easy prey for con men and often read a lot of exagerrated marketing bla from self-declared makers of silver bullet films and chemistry (did someone say "Rollei/Maco"?). Such photographers would be much better off just using a standard film and standard developer until they are experienced enough to chose the best material for their purpose, based on experience and not base on hearsay or broad promises. And, guess what, in most cases they will still be better off with a standard film and developer after years.
 
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