Shared: Fstoppers.com – 5 Popular B&W Films Compared
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
I read an interesting Fstoppers film photography article a few days before flying out on my last photography trip comparing five popular black and white film stocks. I think I was searching for a comparison of Ilford Delta 400 vs. Kodak T-Max 400 film as I enjoy using 35mm T-Max 400 but wondered if Delta 400 would be even “better” for me. I love and really appreciate Ilford Delta 100 film and think it is one of the best films I use in terms of detail and sharpness and to showcase what a camera-lens setup can achieve. Ilford Delta 100 film example image:
The Fstoppers film review however compares five ISO 400 film stocks and illustrates side by side example images of the same subject captured with five of the “best”/ popular black and white films. Each film is compared for tonality, grain and apparent sharpness.
I wont spoil the article if you want to read it in full but overall I was very impressed with the C41 B&W film – Ilford XP2 Super 400. I wont say anymore ahead of the link but if you want to hear my thoughts please see my conclusion below.
As hinted above Ilford XP2 Super 400 was the clear winner for me for detail captured (in this test example) but the image consisted of varying shades of greys and lacked interest. The film with the most impact for me and seemed to be the best compromise for all desired traits (for me) was the very popular Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film with its classic grain structure, good apparent sharpness and thick blacks. I have shot Kodak Tri-X film in the past but found 35mm TriX too grainy for my female portraiture so instead I favour the fine modern grain of Kodak T-Max 400 film. I find 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 film much more useable as the grain is less apparent and I have used it a lot in my Hasselblad 501C /500CM cameras, especially if I need to push film to ISO 800-1600 in low light. In abundant light I often use the low-cost Fomapan 100 film (35mm and 120 Foma 100) and rate it from 100-400. That said I must give Kodak Tri-X another try soon!
Ilford XP2 Super 400 film
120 Kodak Tri-X 400 film
35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 film
And for a comparison, the B&W film I maybe use the most – Fomapan 100..
35mm Fomapan 100 film
120 Fomapan 100 film
Nikon F4 – Ukraine Girls 2016
Matthew Osborne Photography / @MrLeicaCom
September 2017 (from July 2016)
Here are some of the film photography scans I took on my last trip to Ukraine last summer. I cancelled my return trip to Ukraine in July 2017 as wanted to concentrate on my Ironman triathlon training but managed to fit in another trip before the end of 2017 to catch up with my model friends. It feels like ages since I was last there!
When packing for Ukraine last time I planned to do strobist work so decided to take my Nikon F4 SLR instead of my usual Leica film cameras. The Nikon F4 has a flash sync speed of 1/125 instead of 1/50 so it is easier to balance ambient light and strobes. For the Nikon F4 I took the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 pancake lens as it is small and sharp and the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Micro. All the film scans seem to be shot on black and white Kodak T-Max 100 so it looks like I was keeping it simple! All photos were home developed using Kodak Xtol and scanned with a flatbed Epson v800 scanner.
Nikon F4 and Kodak T-Max 100 Film Portraits
Nikon F4 vs. Leica Rangefinder – Any difference?
As I normally use Leica film cameras such as the Leica M3, M2, M4-P, M6, that are all rangefinder style film cameras I thought I would summarise how I find shooting with the more modern Nikon SLR that accepts auto-focus lenses.
I am short sighted and don’t wear glasses for photography so an SLR style camera is OK for me to use accurately if I use up close to a model (perhaps at =<1m distance) with a manual forcus lens such as the Voigtlander Ultron 40m f2. For longer distances I have to rely on auto-focus lenses to capture a subject in focus.
The Nikon F4 is quite chunky and heavy with the 4x AA batteries in the battery grip vs. a solid yet more compact Leica film camera. When I am packing small I would always pack a Leica as both the cameras and lenses are smaller.
Leica cameras such as my 1950s design Leica M3 are built to last and just keep going. That said they do need recalibrating now and again to be able to capture accurately focused images using fast lenses with a shallow depth of field. The Nikon F4 too is built like a tank. I dropped my F4 down a flight of concrete stairs on a workshop in Zurich and to my amazement both the camera and Nikkor 60mm Micro lens continued to work when I caught up with it! You couldn't do that with a modern camera (I think!).
For image quality with film cameras it is down to the lens and choice of film probably more than the camera body itself. If you select a good lens for the Nikon F4 I would say I probably could not tell the difference vs. a photo taken with a Leica film camera. I think I compose better with a rangefinder camera like a Leica and probably work faster with it but in terms of sharpness I think generally speaking the images would be quite similar in most cases with both cameras.
Lastly if I could pick only one film camera I would chose a Leica M3 as I prefer cameras that don't rely on batteries, that are as small as possible, it's simplicity and the magnified viewfinder for accurate focusing.
Full details of the trip
For full details of this trip to Ukraine please see my Ukraine Models (#2) linked below.
120 Fomapan 100 Film – Hasselblad Portraits
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
Firstly sorry for the lack of new blog posts recently. There are a lot in the pipeline when I find time!
120 Fomapan 100 Film
Fomapan 100 Classic is a traditional panchromatically sensitized black and white negative film made in the Czech Republic. To my eyes it is as sharp as B&W films from Kodak such as T-Max but had a more classic grain structure more similar to Ilford FP4+ or perhaps Kodak Tri-X. Again from my experience, Fomapan 100 prroduces low contrast negatives in normal lighting conditions. Some of my Fomapan 100 photos are higher contrast due to developing or lighting used.
Fomapan 100 film is my current favourite / best value for money black and white film in 120 format. I enjoy using various B&W films from the likes of Kodak, Ilford and Fuji but Fomapan manage to price their film below the competition and the results are actually quite nice. I pay around £3 a roll for 120 Fomapan 100 film and the next cheapest would be I think £4 a roll for the likes of Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak T-Max 100 & 400 and Fuji Acros 100 and then £5 for Ilford Delta 100 and 400. I try to find the lowest prices!
What I like a lot about Fomapan 100 is I can shoot it at ISO 50-400 and develop it at box speed. This may be true for other films but I have not noticed it. For medium format film photography shooting in available light ISO 400 is normally the go to film speed for me in the UK. In the studio I shoot ISO 100 films more. Fomapan gives me both. For ISO 800 exposures I would rather shoot Kodak Tri-X 400 or T-Max 400 films and push them
one stop in developing.
I constantly swing between the different film stocks trying to find a favourite but as yet there is no clear winner. Kodak Tri-X has some of the nicest tones and Kodak T-Max also. Ilford Delta 100 and Pan F 50 are amongst the sharpest films I have used and can look almost digital in 120 format. I would say I prefer Fuji Acros to T-Max 100 especially for portraits but both can create nice images. At this stage I prefer Kodak Tri-X to HP5 for the tones and overall look of the pictures.
Since getting my Hasselblad 501C I have been shooting much more medium format film and 35mm film is currently on hold! Here are some examples of me shooting 120 Fomapan 100 film.
Hasselblad Film Portraits
Firstly a sneak peek from Poland! Full post to follow.. 🙂
Next, more 120 Fomapan 100 film portraits shot in the UK
I am also using Fomapan 100 4×5 sheet film in my large format cameras so those results are to follow too!
Ilford Pan F 50 Film
Matthew Osborne Photography
Ilford Pan F 50 film is super fine grain, slow speed, black and white film produced by Ilford. I bought a roll of 35mm Pan F 50 to take on my trip to Zurich for a model photography workshop. It was my first time using this film and I was interested to see the results. I often use ISO 100 speed black and white film such as Kodak T-Max 100 or Fuji Acros 100. I had not shot with slow speed film before but I was in luck as we had bright sunny weather for the shoot.
I shot the Pan F 50 film in my 35mm Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder camera on the first day of the workshop. (My Leica M3 was loaded with Kodak Portra 160 and my Leica M2 was loaded with 35mm CienStill 50D film). The first model we worked with was Joy, kindly supplied by Option Model Agency. The second model was a local dancer, Julia.
Here are some sample images shooting Ilford Pan F 50 at box speed in my Bessa R3A camera and developed in a soup of 1:3 diluted Xtol solution + 1:400 Rodinal. I realise other developers may give sharper and finer grain results but I wanted to use the developers I know best at this stage. Most photos were taken with a Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 lens.
Model – Joy
Model – Julia
I was really impressed with the amount of detail captured with the 35mm Pan F 50 film. The resolution was something closer to what is achieved with 120 medium format films. My next test will be to shoot 120 Ilford Pan F 50 film in my Fuji GF670 stopped down for my sharpest possible negatives.
Would I buy this film again?
Ilford Pan F 50 film is certainly not an everyday film as it requires 3x more light than say the popular Kodak Tri-X 400 film. I believe Pan F 50 is more suited to my 35mm film photography than my medium format cameras as 35mm lens are often much faster with the likes of the Leica M mount Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0, Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH and Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4. I am also interested to try this film with my latest purchase, a 35mm Nikon F4 SLR with perhaps the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-s lens. Most of my medium format camera lenses start at f2.8 (x2 slower than f1.4) or smaller with the exception of my Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 C for the Mamiya 645 Super camera.
I plan to shoot Pan F 50 when I can during the brighter summer months of the UK and for some strobist work. Price wise Ilford Pan F 50 can be found for under £5.00 a roll in the UK making it cheaper than Fuji Acros 100 and a similar price to say Kodak T-Max. I invested in a 10 pack of 35mm Ilford Pan F 50 film to get a slightly cheaper price and to keep me going over the summer months.
Other Black and White Films
Kodak Tri-X Film
Matthew Osborne Photography
For anyone who has followed my work for a while will know, for black and white film photography I normally use Kodak T-Max 100, especially for 35mm film. I have tried various black and white films and will continue to experiment but I am finding I am now completely hooked on Kodak Tri-X 400 film. The modern T grain T-Max films have very little visible grain so can look a little too much like my Leica M9 black and white JPEGs which have a slight filmic look despite being digital. I was an easy convert to medium format 120 Tri-X as grain is less apparent with the larger negative size. For 35mm Tri-X I was a little worried the the classic grain structure might result in too much visible grain for my film wedding photography and portraiture. I shot a roll of 35mm Tri-X when I was out in Florida covering a wedding and was pleasantly surprised. Samples below.
What do I like about Tri-X and what is it that made me convert?
Broad lattitude – I can (and do) shoot Tri-X at anything from ISo 200 (-1 stop) to ISO 1600 (+2 stops). It can do it all and will even go to ISo 3200 and beyond (not yet tried this but others have with success). This means that for available light photography it is perfect for my needs.
Contrasty – Other than the grain structure, the biggest difference I notice when comparing Tri-X to T-Max is the beautifully contrasty mid tones. The deep shadows are rich blacks, the highlights retain their detail and the mid tones are what makes it for me.
Price – I am now starting to use quite a lot of film, both 35mm film in my Leica cameras (M3 and M2) and 120 Tri-X in my medium format Mamiya 645 Super, Rolleiflex SL66E and in my 6×7 Horseman 120 roll film back for my 4×5 large format cameras. I need a film that I enjoy using yet is also affordable. 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 5 packs can be bought in the UK for £20 a box if you shop around. £4 a roll is competitive at today’s film prices. Calumet are currently offering 120 Tri-X 400 for £20 a box and free postage so I stocked up!
Calumet UK, Film – http://www.calphoto.co.uk/category/film-darkroom/film/
Developing – I develop my own black and white film at home and favour the R09 Rodinal stand developing / semi-stand developing method. I am still fine tuning my times and temperatures to develop Tri-X at box speed but also pulled 1 stop to ISO 200 and pushed 1 stop or 2 stops to ISO 800 and ISO 1600. Depending on the lighting conditions I shot in I can then adjust my times accordingly.
Sample Images (various)
Kodak Tri-X 400@200 (135 & 120)
Kodak Tri-X 400@400 (120)
Kodak Tri-X 400@800 (120)
Kodak Tri-X 400@1600 (120)
Mamiya 645 Super – First Thoughts
Medium Format Film Camera – Matthew Osborne Photography
I recently bought myself a Mamiya 645 Super medium format film camera. When I wrote the last post “Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645” (link below) the camera had not yet arrived. Now I have had chance to run a roll of film through it what do I think?
My first observation is the 645 format is in horizontal orientation in the camera rather than vertical. As a portrait photographer I tend to shoot in the portrait orientation. For anyone used to a digital camera such as a DSLR you might think so what? Well I bought this particular camera as I wanted a waist level viewfinder (“WLF”). To focus you look down at the top of the camera and it will show a horizontal image on the glass. To take a portrait photo I have to hold the camera on it’s side and it is not quite as easy to compose when working quickly. You don’t have this problem with say my Rolleiflex SL66E or a Hasselblad as they are 6×6 format. I don’t have the issue with the Mamiya RZ67 either as it has a rotating film back. That said the WLF makes the camera smaller and lighter than with a prism view finder so I am happy to compromise.
The modular design of the Mamiya 645 Super means I can remove and replace the film back. For wedding photography it is good practice to have multiple film backs, for both speed and efficiency but also so you can load perhaps one film back with colour film and one with black and white. For that reason I bought myself a spare 120 film back.
The Mamiya 645 Super comes with a Mamiya Sekor 80mm f2.8 lens as standard. It is small and lightweight but the reason I bought the camera was to make use of the fast Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f1.9 lens. I have this lens as it came on my Mamiya 645 1000S (link below) so the first task was to transfer it onto the M645 Super camera.
I bought the camera to use for analogue wedding photography as I can get 15 photos per roll and the 80mm f1.9 lens lets me photograph in low light conditions. I now plan to use it alongside my Leica M3s and other cameras for film photography weddings.
My first chance to use the Mamiya 645 Super was in my Coventry studio for model photography with friend and model Roisin. Above is an iPhone photo of my first 645 Mamiya negatives drip drying above the bath. Below are a few samples of the resulting photos once the negatives had been scanned.