Which film has a good latitude for indoor window light portraits?

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sterioma

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Hi everybody,

I am about to explore indoor window light portraits. I need your suggestion for a black and white film which, in my (beginner's) mind should have the following characteristics:
  1. A good latitude to handle the high contrast light
  2. Has a good rendering of skin tones
  3. Possibly, it's not too difficult to scan (I will evaluate the negatives scanning them into my PC)
There might be other properties of the film which are not coming to my mind right now, and I will appreciate any indication that you might find useful.

I shoot Nikon MF 35mm and will most probably be using a Nikkor 105/2.5 (maybe also a 50/2).
 

modafoto

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sterioma said:
I am about to explore indoor window light portraits. I need your suggestion for a black and white film which, in my (beginner's) mind should have the following characteristics:
  1. A good latitude to handle the high contrast light
  2. Has a good rendering of skin tones
  3. Possibly, it's not too difficult to scan (I will evaluate the negatives scanning them into my PC)
There might be other properties of the film which are not coming to my mind right now, and I will appreciate any indication that you might find useful.

I shoot 35mm and will most probably will be using a Nikkor 105/2.5 (maybe also a 50/2).

I like Tri-X for this type of shots because it's got good tones and is good latitude.
About scanning this film is ok, but if you plan to print the negs traditionally evaluationg the negs exclusively on the PC isn't good enough though. You need to "read" the negative directly.
Another good film is HP5 from Ilford.

Greetings Morten
 

sparx

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I have just started trying portraits by natural light. So far i have used FP4 if the light is quite bright which i am very pleased with, HP5 and TMax 400 for handheld . Out of the two 400 films i much prefered the HP5, the tmax being too soft and grainy, this might have something to do with the developer (ID-11) though i'm not sure.
 
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sterioma

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Modafoto, Sparx: thank you for your quick answers (and links).

In my initial post I forgot to mention that I don't to my own BW development, therefore I have no control on the developer (unfortunately!).

Since I don't expect to have a very bright light, I think 400 makes sense. I haven't tried TriX and HP5, will buy a few rolls and start experimenting. What about the 320 TriX flavour? Is the rating the only difference between the 320 and the 400?


modafoto said:
You need to "read" the negative directly.
You mean I should get a table light and a loupe? Or is there any other way to evaluate the negative before scanning/printing?
 

gma

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My personal favorite is Tri-X rated at 250 and developed in Microdol diluted 1:3.
 

jd callow

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I vote for tri-x for b&W, Reala, and portra 160nc for colour. I like tri-x in microdol-x or d76 both at 3:1 dilutions.
 

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sterioma said:
I don't to my own BW development, therefore I have no control on the developer (unfortunately!).

Maybe you should try Ilford's XP2. It has ton's of latitude, great skin tones, scans fairly easily, and can be developed consistently by a lab of your choice. See some of Cheryl Jacob's work for examples of XP2 in natural light.
 

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matt miller said:
Maybe you should try Ilford's XP2. It has ton's of latitude, great skin tones, scans fairly easily, and can be developed consistently by a lab of your choice. See some of Cheryl Jacob's work for examples of XP2 in natural light.

XP2 has the drawback that it is made to be printed on B&W paper. Try Kodak Portra BW400 which has a base that prints good on colour paper. Therefore you'll get black & white prints with the convenience of colour. XP2 is made for people who needs fast development on high street but wants to make their own prints.
 

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I do like XP2 with natural light (and it can be printed on B&W paper just like any true B&W film with beautiful results -- just as well as Portra). However, I do also LOVE Tri-X for this same purpose -- and for an added benefit: if your light is low and you need a faster shutter speed, you can push it with excellent results. This can be a great advantage, and it's why I keep several rolls in my camera bag for every session.
 

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I second the Tri-X and HP5 suggestions. With decently fast lenses and/or a tripod, Plus-X and FP4 may be good alternatives with smaller grain. I really don't like T grain films (T-Max, Delta) for people subjects.
 
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matt miller

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modafoto said:
XP2 is made for people who needs fast development on high street but wants to make their own prints.

Which, I believe, is what he's after. I've heard that the Portra film does scan better though.
 

modafoto

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sterioma said:
You mean I should get a table light and a loupe? Or is there any other way to evaluate the negative before scanning/printing?

I use a light box (about 8x10 inches) and a loupe for my negs. Cost about $60.
 
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sterioma

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Thanks again from all your inputs!

matt miller said:
Which, I believe, is what he's after. I've heard that the Portra film does scan better though.

My options for printing are either
  1. Digital print from an online service from high rest scans
  2. Print from the negative by a lab, after rough evaluation from low res scans
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the Portra BW film here in Italy (yet?). Only T400CN (which I take is discontinued by now) and XP2. On the other side, having traditional BW films developed is not an issue since my lab does that at a reasonable price (less than 2 euro for a 36 exp roll).

After all these suggestions, I guess I will try both XP2 and TriX/HP5 and find out which one I like most (both in traditional printing and in digital scans).
 

Cheryl Jacobs

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Unfortunately, Portra BW has been discontinued. I really prefer it over XP2, as the skin tones it yields are simply amazing. I used XP2 far more frequently, though, because Portra costs fully twice as much. Kodak has discontinued both the Portra and the TCN (which I personally will not miss) which leaves XP2. Kodak's "replacement" film is nasty -- I find it to be flat and dimensionless, and actually is NOT recommended for B&W traditional printing. Go figure. A "B&W" film not intended for traditional printing. That's so backwards.
 

Helen B

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I've started to use Maco Cube 400 instead of HP5 for indoor portraits under tungsten light when I want conventional 35 mm B&W film. It has better red sensitivity.

As all my work goes though a digital intermediate stage, I also use C-41 colour films for B&W. Their graininess is similar to, or less than, the graininess of the B&W C-41 films and there is the added advantage of being able to control tones using the channel mixer in Photoshop. Try Fuji NPZ or Portra 800. By the way, I suspect that this is one of the reasons Kodak reduced their line of B&W C-41 films.

Best,
Helen
 

bobfowler

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sterioma said:
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the Portra BW film here in Italy (yet?). Only T400CN (which I take is discontinued by now) and XP2. On the other side, having traditional BW films developed is not an issue since my lab does that at a reasonable price (less than 2 euro for a 36 exp roll).

After all these suggestions, I guess I will try both XP2 and TriX/HP5 and find out which one I like most (both in traditional printing and in digital scans).

T400CN scans very well and should do nicely if you can't find Portra 400. The C41 route is really your best bet if you're not processing yourself as it removes a lot of variables from the equation.
 
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The only problem with XP2, is that the LABS sometimes aren't bright enough to realize that they need to take it over to the B/W machine after processing!

No kidding. The big "Pro lab" in town is incapable of doing that. The smaller actually-a-pro-lab in town has no problem with XP2. It is a nice film.
 

TPPhotog

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My vote for what you've asked would be XP2. As has already been suggested rate it at 250. It scans easily and prints very well on B&W paper.
 
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sterioma

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A lot of response, thanks everybody. I have ordered 4 rolls of XP2, and 3 each of TriX and HP5. I hope to be able to post some test here soon and get some feedback from you :smile:
 

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Cheryl Jacobs said:
Unfortunately, Portra BW has been discontinued. I really prefer it over XP2, as the skin tones it yields are simply amazing. I used XP2 far more frequently, though, because Portra costs fully twice as much. Kodak has discontinued both the Portra and the TCN (which I personally will not miss) which leaves XP2. Kodak's "replacement" film is nasty -- I find it to be flat and dimensionless, and actually is NOT recommended for B&W traditional printing. Go figure. A "B&W" film not intended for traditional printing. That's so backwards.

I have a friend who is not shooting that much B&W and therefore not developing himself (and I don't have the time to develop the films for him). He uses this film, and is quite pleased with the convenience of colour film.
 
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