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chris almqvist
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B+W 35 mm films

This is a short and very personal write up about black and white negative 35 mm films. Black and white film selection is largely a matter of personal taste; generally there are no bad films and no good films, just different films. Well, there are exceptions to the rule.... Therefore do not use film you are not familiar with for important occasions.

In case you do not read the whole text let me say a few general things right here:

It is very important that you stick to just a few films and get to know how they work in different circumstances. Jumping between different films is a very bad solution. I make sure that the film I use is readily available everywhere I go, well more or less. Where I live there are major price differences between shops. Buying tenpacks in low price outlets can often save 50% of the price in other stores, even if these are so called discount stores.. B+W films are a speciality items these days. Shopping around pays. So does having a small stock of film at home (deep freezer!) so that you can buy when special offers come on the market

Slow films are film that are exposed at an e.i of 50 or less; they are called slow film because they usually require slow shutter speeds. These film generally have very fine grain, but the low film speed requires longer exposure times and/or the use of larger apertures. Long exposures increase the risk of cameras shake and large apertures result in less depth of field sharpness. So what you gain in fine grain may be lost elsewhere.

There are two type of slow films: general use film and speciality films.

The speciality film include Technical Pan and Imagelink made by Kodak and Agfa's Copex. The latter is also sold under other names like Gigabit. These film are generally not widely available but most mail order photo suppliers stock them. Such films are considerably more expensive than normal films and many of the developers are also quite expensive. The advantage of the film are that the enlargements are more or less grain free. It is however easy to get blocked highlights or to get shadows with no detail when you use these films If you maximum enlargements from 35 mm film is 40 x 60 cm (16 x 24 inches) or less, then there are other alternatives that are easier to work with and also more economical.

General use slow film are not easy to find. Agfa stopped making their APX 25 earlier this year, and they had a good reason for it; current ISO 100 film are so good there is little need for slow films. Still I am giving 'efke 25' a try in Rodinal at this very moment.

Normal speed films have a box speed of 100. There are two general types: old type films like Agfa APX 100 and Ilford FP4 and new type film like Kodak TMAX and Ilford Delta.

Old type films have more grain than the newer type films, but have a nice creamy appearance. If you enlarge 10 times or less, grain will probably not be an issue. My enlargements are often more than 10x linear, and I do not use these films any more.

The newer type film are not all the same. Delta 100 has more grain, or rather grain that has sharper edges which makes it more visible than the grain of Kodak TMAX. Prints from the two films look quite different, one sharp but with some grain, the other smooth with no grain, and it is a matter of taste which one you find better. I use both.

High speed films have a box speed of 400. There is the same distinction between the different film types as for normal speed film. I use both an old type film (HP5) and Delta and TMAX, depending on circumstances. I am quite fond of the sharp grain of HP5 developed in Rodinal.

Super speed films have a box speed of 3200, but the real speed is about 1000 or 1200. I use these film very infrequently and prefer to push HP5 instead.