BW film: real stuff or C41?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by zedin, Jun 28, 2005.

  1. zedin

    zedin TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Well since getting real BW film developed can get pricey I was wondering of the 'fake' stuff that uses C41 processing is any good. The only big concern I have is it seems you can only get it in ISO400. If I want to shoot 100 am I stuck paying out the rear? I could buy the tanks and chemicals and develop it myself but since I lack an enlarger I would still have to get it printed somewhere (which is just as pricey).

    On the tangent topic.. Anyone know/recommend a good BW enlarger for a starter? I have dome BW processing in the past (been a bit of time) and in my building we have a darkroom at my disposal (just used for the x-ray developer). Problem is as a poor grad student can't afford anything too expensive. But.. if anyone in southern CA has an old enlarger they want to unload.. =p
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    There is nothing wrong with the C41 BW. Many of the advantages to traditional process BW are lost if you aren't developing it yourself. C41 BW has a huge exposure latitude so you can shoot it from 100 to 800 with no development change.
     
  3. John the Greek

    John the Greek TPF Noob!

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    Ah I didn't know that about the BW C41 exposure latitude... good to know.

    I've had the horrible experience of using up a whole 36 exp. roll of kodak 400TX professional and having a stupid local pharmacy completely destroy the whole thing by shoving it in their C41 machine to develop the negatives.....
    I even told them it was not C41 compatible and that they had to send it out, and they acted like they knew what I was talking about and had a place to send them to.

    Anyway, once I get back to college in the fall, I'm using professional again since I will have access to a darkroom and will be able to develop my photos myself.
     
  4. zedin

    zedin TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    The thing about the C41 tmax400 is it just seems really grainy to me. Was trying to shoot something slower for more detail. Oh well =p
     
  5. wharrison

    wharrison TPF Noob!

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    Zedin:

    I haven't had any experience - to date - using the C41 process to develop B & W film, but I've had over more than several decades of processing and printing B & W films. On the basis of that experience, I would definitely opt for developing my own B & W film with traditional chemistry as it will provide you with better results, more variability, greater range of choices, i.e. developers, etc.

    With regard to a choice of enlargers, I've copied and pasted below the response I gave to a previous posting on this matter. Thought you might enjoy it.


    The first thing I would search for and obtain is an old, but still good, Leitz Valoy II enlarger with the Leitz Focotar Lens. Of course, if you have some extra money available, I'd then suggest an old, but still excellent Leitz Focomat Ic or newer model enlarger - they came in several different models.

    Why Leitz enlargers?

    Well, for one thing, they combine the best of both the condenser and diffuser types of enlargers without the disadvantages of both. For another, the single condenser acts in the same manner as a film plane insuring negative film flatness from corner to corner.

    FYI - condenser enlargers provide a sharp clear image, but they also compress tonal ranges into a contrastier print. So one has to generally overexpose and underdevelope to achieve a somewhat flat negative with a long tonal range. Condenser enlargers will also show every little - and I do mean "every" little - piece of dust, dirt, and scratches in or on the negative.

    FYI - Diffuser enlargers or enlargers with diffused light sources provide a wide tonal range, but the images they produce do not appear as "sharp", "detailed" or as "contrasty" as condenser enlarger. However, they do subdue scratches and dust on or in the negative. With a diffuser enlarger, one's exposure and developing techniques accordingly change to produce the desired negatives.

    Again, the Leitz enlargers combine the best of both without the disadvantages of either, i.e. a diffused light source with a single condenser - among other things.

    I've look at at the current offerings on Ebay. The Leitz Focomat Ia currently offered is too old and the lens is not the current or older Focotar; the others may be a bit too pricey for you at this time; but, nevertheless, I would search, save your money, do some research, and then make your decision.

    By the way, I have an old Leitz Valoy II enlarger, but never could afford - until now - the Leitz Focotar enlarging lens. So I made use of the lens head of my 50mm Summicron (Leitz) with the appropriate Leitz adapter, of coure, and easily pulled highly detailed, well contrasted, long tonal range 11 X 14 (and a few 16 X 20) prints from even a portion of the 35mm negative - including Tri -X developed at ASA/ISO 1200-1600 in Diafine.

    A short story: Decades ago, when I was working at Peoria Camera Shop in Peoria, IL one of our customers saw his neighbor take something huge out to the garbage for disposal. He just happened to notice the word Leitz (Leica) on the device. He inquired about it and since the neighbor didn't want it anymore, he ended up with a very nice Leitz (Leica) and all it needed was a few missing screws.

    I should have been so lucky!!!!!

    If you don't choose the Leitz enlargers, I'd opt for the 2.5 X 2.5 enlargers made by Durst - they were well built and should give you good service and you might even find a diffused light source for them, but they do not compare in anyway with results of Leitz enlargers and enlarging lenses. Period. Nor does any other enlarger for that matter.

    As far as developing tanks are concern, there are a number of good tanks on the market, but I've always preferred those made by Gepe - probably not made anymore or not imported into this country.

    The Gepe tanks were made of plastic like many others still on the market, but they had a device that permitted you to load the reels from the inside out. The whole affair was a little wider in diameter than those made by Patterson, which meant more (better) circulation of the chemistry over the film areas. The Gepe tanks have a wide mouth for quick pouring in and out of the chemistry and the chemicals enter the top and are directed towards the bottom first and then upwards. With the right hose and connections, washing is quickly done forcing the chemicals out from the bottom and over the top thus making archival processing much easier.

    Every once in a while, Gepe developing tanks show up on Ebay for auction. You might check around various web sites and photography stores here and abroad to see if they are still available. Sorry, but I won't part with my set of Gepe tanks and reels.

    Other than Gepe tanks, you might consider either those made by Patterson or (Honeywell) Nikkor (stainless steel). If you choose the latter, you'll have to learn how to load the film properly in the dark, before you try to develop your first roll. If you don't, there's a good chance that portions of your film will touch each other and no or very poor images will result.

    The easiest way to load a stainless steel reel is to make sure that the edges of the reel are resting flat on a surface and use your fingers to turn the reel to load the film. Once load, use your fingers so that they are touching the sides of the reel. You can feel the film move on the reels as you move the end piece of film back and forth to make sure that it is loaded properly. Practice several times in the light - with a junk roll of film and then try loading the junk test film in the darkroom.

    As for trays, I'd opt for good Patterson 11 X 14 trays - even though you may rarely make 11 X 12 prints. Of course, they'll use more solution, but then your chemistry won't get exhausted as easily.

    I'd also opt for a Patterson contact sheet printer. For one, this device will give you a print of all of your negatives, but, better yet, a contact printer will help you determine whether or not your exposure and developing techniques are consistent to produce consistent results - tonal ranges, density, contrasts, etc.

    As for other matters necessary for a good darkroom set up, you'll have to do some additional "homework" and, especially, gain experience over a period of time, and make use of your imagination. On this later point, you can set up an inexpensive "darkroom" by making use of a heavy black visquine (spelling?) available at your local hardware store and use it to cover up some basement windows. I also made use of some old blankets staped over doors in the basement. The blankets didn't make the "darkroom" light proof, if there was light in another room in the basement, but it did, when all of the lights were out.

    Hope this discussion is more than useful for your intended darkroom project!

    Bill
     
  6. zedin

    zedin TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    lol.. I know what you mean.. When I took photography as a class in undergrad I missed the day where they practiced loading film onto those ratcheting plastic reels. I didn't know if you twisted enough they 'opened' up to release the film.. Well after getting it all wound in the dark as I dropped it into the tank I felt it slide open and was like "oh ****... that can't be good" =p
     
  7. Lanrod

    Lanrod TPF Noob!

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    I personally wouldn't use the c41, but I have had great luck with SprintSystems chemicals, mainly because of the cost, and the dilution ratio's.....less chemicals are needed to make a working solution.

    I use Omega enlargers at College, but have slowly begun to scan the negs and print them digitally with an Epson 2200......which has been replaced with the Epson 2400.......best printer to get B&W print close to analog.

    good luck.

    J.
    http://www.jasonlandry.com
     

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