Tabular: terrific or terrible? Your opinions, please.

Mustang

A
Mustang

  • 0
  • 0
  • 13
32nd Avenue

A
32nd Avenue

  • 0
  • 0
  • 27
Saab

A
Saab

  • 0
  • 0
  • 51
Chevy Van

A
Chevy Van

  • 1
  • 0
  • 52

Recent Classifieds

Forum statistics

Threads
182,066
Messages
2,519,668
Members
95,487
Latest member
coralluxurycleaning
Recent bookmarks
0

aparat

Subscriber
Joined
Sep 5, 2007
Messages
927
Location
Saint Paul,
Shooter
35mm
One of the most interesting emulsion technologies to emerge since the 1980s is the so-called "tabular grain" technology. Currently, these films are available for sale:

• Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros II (Super Fine - ∑ Grain Technology)
• ILFORD DELTA 100 PROFESSIONAL (Core-Shell™ crystal technology)
• ILFORD DELTA 400 PROFESSIONAL (Core-Shell™ crystal technology)
• ILFORD DELTA 3200 PROFESSIONAL (Core-Shell™ crystal technology)
• KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 100 (KODAK T-GRAIN Emulsion)
• KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400 (KODAK T-GRAIN Emulsion)
• KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX P3200 (KODAK T-GRAIN Emulsion)
• FOMAPAN 200 Creative (T-crystals)

I have tested all of these emulsions. I developed the films in replenished XTOL (XTOL-R) at 20C, using rotary agitation, fixed in Kodafix, washed with Kodak's Hypo Clearing Agent, and processed the resulting data by a custom application. My goal is to present the data in chunks and, if possible, compare the modern emulsions to their conventional counterparts. The important thing to keep in mind is that the results are meant to offer an approximation of the film's performance under controlled conditions, only. It's quite possible, even likely, that the films would perform differently under different conditions and that my test results may not always align with your own pictorial or sensitometric experience. For the sake of brevity, I will be including analysis summaries, only. If you want the whole twelve-page test for each film, please let me know. I will be happy to make them available.

A lot has been written about tabular grain films over the years. For example, here's a quote from Popular Photography (Kolonia, 1992): "T-MAX 400 shows significantly denser highlights when overdeveloped by 30% than Delta or HP5 Plus.". He goes on to say, " As a concession to darkroom workers, Ilford formulated Delta to require less burning in when printing highlight detail than is often required with T-MAX 400." Another quote from the same article: "Ilford engineers state that Delta is less taxing on both film developer and fixer than Kodak's T-MAX." I am sure we can find lots of other information in old journals and forum posts. Therefore, it would be great if you all could share your more recent experiences with these films, and, in particular, tell us your preferences for different types of photography and different types of workflow.
 
OP
OP
aparat

aparat

Subscriber
Joined
Sep 5, 2007
Messages
927
Location
Saint Paul,
Shooter
35mm
I want to start with Fujifilm Acros II. Here are the characteristic curves published by the manufacturer:


Here is the curve family obtained in my test:


Clearly, Fujifilm data shows more film speed, but the overall curve shapes appear similar. I am not sure why Acros II turned out to be about a stop slower than its indicated box speed of ISO 100. One possibility is that replenished XTOL just doesn't produce full speed with this film. I have seen this being the case with a few other films, where stock XTOL and stock D-76 obtained more shadow detail than XTOL-R. Perhaps Acros II is particularly picky when it comes to developer choice. I will have to test it in stock D-76 to be sure.
 

relistan

Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2013
Messages
1,158
Location
Dublin, Ireland
Shooter
Multi Format
Thanks for starting this! I have not shot any Acros II and never got much joy from the original Acros, personally. I know people who love it for night shooting, though, because it does not experience any reciprocity failure. I think that's it's main calling card.

Ilford Delta 100 is my favorite of the current emulsions across the board. Very nice tonality, minimal grain, a low base density, and pretty good latitude, too. I generally shoot 100 speed films.
 

otto.f

Subscriber
Joined
Aug 18, 2017
Messages
243
Location
Netherlands
Shooter
Multi Format
I don’t know Fuji Acros, but I can agree with Kolonia ‘92 on the other two brands. I have very good experiences with Kodak TMZ, for special artistic effects with its grain. But I find the TMX and TMY quite picky in what they demand from a developer. This is btw, as often, most critical with 35mm film.
Delta 100 keeps surprising me in what it offers as a dynamic range, without getting too soft. I use FX93ii for it and this gives me the most wonderfull results compared to what I tried before (DD-X, XTOL, ID11, HC110). FP4+ has more bite and with landscape photography you can often guess that this film was used. It’s not as easy as Delta100 for 35mm though. Both Ilford films have their own fingerprints.
 

cramej

Subscriber
Joined
Dec 29, 2009
Messages
1,231
Shooter
Multi Format
Acros II is fine as a b&w film but the worst thing is that you can't use the Ilford wash method with it. The pink dye takes much longer and more water changes to completely remove. Even after 15 minutes of soaking, agitating and changing several times, I can sometimes see a pink color cast when compared to other film.
 

miha

Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2007
Messages
2,305
Location
Slovenia
Shooter
Multi Format
Thank you aparat, please carry on.
 

Andrew O'Neill

Moderator
Joined
Jan 16, 2004
Messages
8,426
Location
Coquitlam,BC Canada
Shooter
Multi Format
Acros II is fine as a b&w film but the worst thing is that you can't use the Ilford wash method with it. The pink dye takes much longer and more water changes to completely remove. Even after 15 minutes of soaking, agitating and changing several times, I can sometimes see a pink color cast when compared to other film.

I always give a few, quick dump/rinses, followed by HCA, then a 30min soak in 20C water, followed by another 30min soak in fresh water. Takes care of that pesky pink... 🙂
 

GregY

Subscriber
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Messages
894
Location
Alberta
Shooter
Large Format
aparat, when are you coming out with your curve generating app for us? 😁

:cool:

that's a lot of work aparat..... but show me the goods. My favourite films in all formats are FP4+ and TMax400.... go figure.
Some of us would prefer to compare photographs rather than curves......as in the toning thread posted today.
 
Last edited:

faberryman

Subscriber
Joined
Jun 4, 2016
Messages
5,042
Location
Wherever
Shooter
Multi Format
I like the tabular grain films. But who cares what films I or anyone else like? Shoot and develop a few different rolls and find out what films you like.
 
Last edited:

MattKing

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2005
Messages
41,648
Location
Delta, BC, Canada
Shooter
Multi Format
I think TMY-2 is an absolutely fantastic film - best I've ever used.
Until Plus-X was discontinued, I used to complement TMY-2 with Plus-X, to get two different looks, but relatively similar grain.
I've been working with TMX to serve as a slower speed complement to TMY-2. I like it, it has some practical advantages in a two film approach, but I also miss Plus-X.
Ilford FP4+ is another possible alternative, and is a fine film in its own, but I liked Plus-X better.
 

Andrew O'Neill

Moderator
Joined
Jan 16, 2004
Messages
8,426
Location
Coquitlam,BC Canada
Shooter
Multi Format
I think TMY-2 is an absolutely fantastic film - best I've ever used.
Until Plus-X was discontinued, I used to complement TMY-2 with Plus-X, to get two different looks, but relatively similar grain.
I've been working with TMX to serve as a slower speed complement to TMY-2. I like it, it has some practical advantages in a two film approach, but I also miss Plus-X.
Ilford FP4+ is another possible alternative, and is a fine film in its own, but I liked Plus-X better.

I agree, Matt. TMY-2 is fantastic, and I feel that it's the cream of the crop!
 

Ian Grant

Subscriber
Joined
Aug 2, 2004
Messages
22,359
Location
West Midland
Shooter
Multi Format
I think you also need to look at the differences between Rotary processing and Tank development because of the effect on edge effects and perceived sharpness. Maybe that's one for Andrew.

I've used Tabular grain films since their release, at that time I had friends who hated Tmax films particularly Tmax 400, the reason why was to me odd, they didn't like the finer grain compared to Tri-X. They preferred the more gritty grain and consequential less tonal look, the friend mist vocal gainst Tmax was a photojournalist, I could also see his POV. Tri-X has been improved since then,

I'd use mist of the films in that list, except the 3200 emulsions I preferred XP2 for push processing, and I'm not particularly a fan of Acros.

With all these films, as I always say, it's about a little simple testing to determine your base EI and then development time, for your film/developer combination. Probably the last times I had to do this was 16 years ago while living in Turkey, I couldn't get Tmax films at all but Fomapan 100 & 200 were available in bricks. I had no darkroom (to print) so had to use purely a visual assessment, not helped by the then blue film base, it was a few months before I was back in the UK but my negatives were fine, printed as expected.

Do the curves matter, they don't tell you about the grain, the sharpness, they are only part of the story.

Ian
 

Steven Lee

Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2022
Messages
410
Location
USA
Shooter
Medium Format
One possibility is that replenished XTOL just doesn't produce full speed with this film. I have seen this being the case with a few other films, where stock XTOL and stock D-76 obtained more shadow detail than XTOL-R.
Another possibility is that you are under-replenishing your working solution. Xtol-R activity level and characteristics must be maintained by varying the replenishment volume. I've been struggling with Xtol-R for a long time. Until one day I gave up and purchased a box of Ilford control strips, measured their densities using ID-11 stock using Ilford instructions as a yardstick, and then adjusted my Xtol-R activity to match them, and the disparities have disappeared.

I am not saying this is what's happening here. I am saying it's a possibility.
 

Craig

Subscriber
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
1,744
Location
Calgary
Shooter
Multi Format
Until one day I gave up and purchased a box of Ilford control strips, measured their densities using ID-11 stock using Ilford instructions as a yardstick, and then adjusted my Xtol-R activity to match them, and the disparities have disappeared.
Could you elaborate on this? Did you end up using more than the 70ml per film of stock solution added to the old developer?
 

Sirius Glass

Subscriber
Joined
Jan 18, 2007
Messages
43,894
Location
Southern California
Shooter
Multi Format
For me it depend on the look that I want. Tabular grain is uniform and fine, while Traditional grain is larger and clumpy [uneven]. I prefer Traditional grain, however the characteristic curves are much straighter for Tabular grain and the reciprocity is better so there are times when I will reach out for Tabular grain.
 

Steven Lee

Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2022
Messages
410
Location
USA
Shooter
Medium Format
Could you elaborate on this? Did you end up using more than the 70ml per film of stock solution added to the old developer?

Yes and no. What I discovered is that the replenishment rate varies over time. Initially, to adjust control strip numbers to their ID-11 benchmark, I had to keep adding fresh stock to my replenishment bottle while keeping the same time (from Xtol datasheet for replenishment + rotary table). Then, every time I develop FP4+ I add a control strip and have to make corrections. Generally I'd say I'm somewhere between 50ml and 150ml. I can see why Kodak recommended 70ml as a starting point.

For example, I had to develop about 15 rolls from a recent vacation, nearly all of them HP5+. The replenishment volume for that batch was about 100ml. I'm sure had I used FP4+ it would have been lower.

The conclusion is kind of obvious in hindsight: replenishment works much better when developing consistently at volume. Another approach is to shoot and develop just 1-2 films and figure out the replenishment amounts for those 2 separately. But volume is clearly better. Volume averages out activity drop variations from films of different speed and emulsion types. I develop maybe 20-40 rolls per year, usually in batches of 4, mix of 35mm and 120, of many different emulsion types and speeds. I have not found a consistent/constant replenishment amount that doesn't result in activity drifting. Another variable is bulk loading: if your rolls aren't of consistent length, you're making everything trickier.

Here are my HD-LD values for the last 3 measurements: 0.7, 0.81, 0.73. There was maybe 12-16 rolls between control strip runs. The target was 0.73. So the 1st batch has gotten "colder" (despite being replenished with 100ml per roll), then I overdone it to 0.81, and then corrected to 0.73.
 
Last edited:

Craig

Subscriber
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
1,744
Location
Calgary
Shooter
Multi Format
That's an interesting variable I hadn't thought of. Thanks for explaining it.
 

takilmaboxer

Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
293
Location
East Mountains, NM
Shooter
Med. Format RF
Regarding the need to burn in highlights, my experience has been that with TMax films, too much development will cause a upwardly convex curve, so that the contrast in the upper zones is higher than in the lower ones, leading to "blocked" highlights. With careful control of both time and temperature, these films have a very long midsection, giving plenty of latitude.
 

cliveh

Subscriber
Joined
Oct 9, 2010
Messages
6,603
Shooter
35mm RF
Well I am not a fan of tabular grain films. The theory is fine if you can get all those tabular grains pointing in the same direction. In practice even the manufactures of tabular grain films confirm this is not always possible. Therefore, for me it lacks integrity of random granular placement and for that reason I never use them. But that is just my opinion.
 
OP
OP
aparat

aparat

Subscriber
Joined
Sep 5, 2007
Messages
927
Location
Saint Paul,
Shooter
35mm
Another possibility is that you are under-replenishing your working solution. Xtol-R activity level and characteristics must be maintained by varying the replenishment volume. I've been struggling with Xtol-R for a long time. Until one day I gave up and purchased a box of Ilford control strips, measured their densities using ID-11 stock using Ilford instructions as a yardstick, and then adjusted my Xtol-R activity to match them, and the disparities have disappeared.

I am not saying this is what's happening here. I am saying it's a possibility.
Yes, I thought of this, too. It's a very good observation regarding replenishing XTOL. In fact, prior to running these tests, I did a pretty thorough test of replenished XTOL, and it fully stabilized after about the equivalent of twenty 36-exposure films. It was pretty stable after about ten, but it became solid after about twenty. Here are the plots of four consecutive developments showing very good consistency. I have since settled on 90 ml of replenishment per roll of film (or equivalent). I described it in more detail in this thread. I have so far learned to live with the workflow of XTOL-R because it can produce very nice results with some of my favorite films. It's not a magic developer, but it can be dependable, at least in my experience.

ilford_D3200_individual_intro.png kodak_P3200_individual_intro.png
 

Steven Lee

Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2022
Messages
410
Location
USA
Shooter
Medium Format
@aparat What you've described is stability, but I have also pointed out at the activity level. How do you know whether your Xtol-R stabilized at the same activity level as Kodak intended? What if your stable solution contains too much byproduct and it hampers shadow development? Again, I am not criticizing your methods, just trying to troubleshoot the Acros speed drop you've observed.
 

ic-racer

Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2007
Messages
13,120
Location
USA
Shooter
Multi Format
If the film is fresh and exposed and handled per ISO instructions, then this appears to be a test of the developing agent and associated development process, yes?
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
aparat

aparat

Subscriber
Joined
Sep 5, 2007
Messages
927
Location
Saint Paul,
Shooter
35mm
@aparat What you've described is stability, but I have also pointed out at the activity level. How do you know whether your Xtol-R stabilized at the same activity level as Kodak intended? What if your stable solution contains too much byproduct and it hampers shadow development? Again, I am not criticizing your methods, just trying to troubleshoot the Acros speed drop you've observed.
You are, of course, correct. I compared XTOL-R to XTOL in that thread I linked, and XTOL-R consistently gives slightly less film speed, but it, in my experience, it is stable and has the acceptable activity level for my needs. As you will see later in this thread, other tgrain films developed in the same tank had very good performance with regard to film speed.

You bring up a very interesting question: how do we know if and how to control our process. The consensus in the literature seems to be that contrast is a really good indicator of performance, including consistency. But how consistent can and should we be?

We have seen that a few different measures of film contrast can produce acceptable results to the photographer who applies them consistently (Contrast Index, Average Gradient, Gamma). We also know what affects the CI, namely developer (composition and dilution), development time and temperature, agitation. But how consistent can photographers be in terms of reproducing the CI from batch to batch?

Henry (1988) exposed six rolls of Panatomic-X Professional (from 2 different batches) and processed in the same manner. The resulting CI ranged from 0.52 to 0.58. The author considered it to be a surprisingly good result, given all the factors that can potentially affect the result.

I did a similar test when trying to determine whether replenished XTOL can be a stable developer for me. I was getting virtually identical results (0.72-0.73 for KODAK and 0.59-0.61 for ILFORD), esp. given the limitations of my densitometer.


These days, I only run my own "control strips" (a piece of film exposed in a sensitometer) only when there is a potentially long-term change in my process, such as recently switching from D-76 to XTOL-R. Otherwise, I don't bother. For C-41, I process Fujifilm control strips at the beginning of each session, which I do about 5-6 times per year.

In the end, it's up to each individual photographer to determine whether to implement process controls, such as control strips, and how often to use them.
 

Maris

Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2006
Messages
1,395
Location
Noosa, Australia
Shooter
Multi Format
I also replenish XTOL at the rate of 90ml per film or film equivalent. My first 1.6 litre batch worked from 2007 to 2020 (13 years!) with very consistent activity for roll films in tanks and sheet films in trays. Then I got a slightly underdeveloped roll, didn't investigate why, just threw the old mix out and started a new batch. Again this one is replenished at 90ml per film and is working consistently up until now.

My informal impression is that replenished Xtol stabilises at an activity level that depends on the replenishment rate. Well seasoned XTOL replenished at 70ml per film needs about 30% more development time compared to XTOL replenished at 90ml per film. No hard numbers, just an impression.
 
Photrio.com contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
To read our full affiliate disclosure statement please click Here.

PHOTRIO PARTNERS EQUALLY FUNDING OUR COMMUNITY:



Ilford ADOX Freestyle Photographic Stearman Press Weldon Color Lab Blue Moon Camera & Machine
Top Bottom