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Nostalgia Nexus - early and pre-digital discussion Want to discuss the really early days of digital and even film - here is the place for you.

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Old 3rd February 2013
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Is B&W film really necessary?

This is a question for those of you, like me, who still shoot with film. Unless one has a traditional darkroom setup is there really any point to B&W film. I do not have such a darkroom and have all my film scanned by labs. I find it very difficult to get good results with scanned B&W film whereas with both slide and print colour films I can get results which please me. What I do is to get the colour the way I want it then use the "convert to B&W" presets in Photoshop Elements to produce B&W. This gives me the best of both worlds. Here are a couple of examples. The first two are Provia 100 slide film. The bottom two are Kodak Ektar 100.







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Old 3rd February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

I can think of a couple of reasons to use B&W film, but of course neither of them might be relevant to you.

The first is if you want high ISO for low light shooting. When I started shooting bands in badly-lit pubs I found Kodak or Ilford's ISO3200 B&W essential - could get 1/60 at f/2 in most places. There is nothing like that available in colour.

The second is to do with the shooring process. I like B&W but most of the time I can't shoot B&W photos if I know the camera is recording colour. Somehow having B&W film in the camera pushed me in a better direction. Several times I have taken a small digital on cycling holidays to get the happy snaps, and either a compact (Olympus Mu for example) or SLR (OM-1n) with a roll of B&W in for wandering around in the evenings. Usually the B&Ws were better photos.

Looking at your examples you don't seem to have the same problem, these look great.

What is it about your scans from B&W film that you don't like? What kind of film were you using - traditional silver (Kodak T-Max or Tri-X, Ilford Delta, FP4 or HP5 for example) or the chromogenics like XP2 (can't remember the Kodak equivalent, I think at one point it was called something like BW400CN)? They all have different characteristics and specially if you don't have any control over the scanning process you could get very different results.

Have you tried using the software to "convert" your B&W scans to B&W? It might do something interesting with the contrast etc.

Ciao ... John
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Old 3rd February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

John, many thanks for a considered reply. You're absolutely right about shooting in poor light. I'm in the middle of a project about a greyhound racing kennels where the light is shocking. I tried the Ilford 3200 but couldn't get to grips with it. The scans were very flat but I when I increased the contrast the grain became obtrusive and the look of the photos was not to my taste. I've had a lot more success with Fuji Neopan 1600 which seems easier to work with. I should say that I've tried quite a few labs for B&W processing and scanning and in the end always go back to Ilford themselves.

I've shot quite a bit with the chromogenics and have found them pretty good. I probably have had better results with them than the regular films. I suppose I'm not comparing like with like as most of the B&W films I use are the higher speed ones while the colour films above are ISO 100. I've recently bought some Ilford Delta 100 so that will probably be a fairer comparison.

As a footnote and linked to the discussions about equipment on another thread, the camera used for the bottom two pictures was a Kodak Retina 11c. Not too shabby I think.
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Old 3rd February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

I think one of the pluses of B/W film is their natural grain, for which you chose the film you want to use.

In these days where all you read/hear/talk about is sharp/sharp/sharp there is still nothing to beat the pleasure of seeing your developed film with the mood you wanted to create.

No matter how good toning is in digital programmes, I have yet to find a way to truely capture those moods in prints.
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Old 4th February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Greyhound, I agree with Bikie John I personally find having a B&W film loaded seems to automatically steer/push/guide me towards 'thinking' in mono tones.
But this is just personal, my motto? "If it works for you then use it"

I do still get a huge buzz out of undoing the lid of a developing tank and unreeling a set of correctly exposed pin sharp B&W negs. Especially in 6x7 format.
Can't be doing with being locked away in a redlight area anymore though.
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Old 4th February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Hi Jon. I tend to think that certain subjects lend themselves to B&W treatment. The greyhound kennel project I'm doing I think looks great in B&W. I never ever contemplated shooting that in colour, whereas I nearly always shoot landscapes in colour, choosing later which ones (if any) to convert to B&W.

I know what you mean about locking yourself away in a darkroom. I have never had a proper darkroom - merely the kitchen converted to one every Friday when my wife went to her music group. When she disappeared it was a case of moving everything off the work surfaces, taping bin bags to the windows and door, setting up the enlarger and other equipment, then getting started. Hours later, if I had a couple of prints I was happy with I would be delighted. More often than not I had a bin full of test strips and rejects. When I did get it right though there was no feeling like it.
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Old 6th February 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

[QUOTE=Bikie John;212516]I can think of a couple of reasons to use B&W film, but of course neither of them might be relevant to you.

The first is if you want high ISO for low light shooting. When I started shooting bands in badly-lit pubs I found Kodak or Ilford's ISO3200 B&W essential - could get 1/60 at f/2 in most places. There is nothing like that available in colour.

The second is to do with the shooring process. I like B&W but most of the time I can't shoot B&W photos if I know the camera is recording colour. Somehow having B&W film in the camera pushed me in a better direction. Several times I have taken a small digital on cycling holidays to get the happy snaps, and either a compact (Olympus Mu for example) or SLR (OM-1n) with a roll of B&W in for wandering around in the evenings. Usually the B&Ws were better photos.

I am beginning to understand that thought process, I have seen a lot of expired colour film for sale and have been tempted, as I only develop in black and white chemicals... but as you said loading black and white film... tells the brain to use your viewfinder in black and white.


Thank you John
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Quote:
Originally Posted by greyhound View Post




Lovely images, very sharp and rich in tones.
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Old 27th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Sorry for resurrecting an old thread, but I just wanted to add a couple of points.

Firstly, I think you will get much better tonal gradation in B&W using B&W film. Colour films just don't have the subtlety. I think you will also get finer grain from B&W film, because it only has to record shades of light and dark, rather than three primary colours.

Finally, much of the art of B&W photography involves the use of colour filters on the camera. I don't know how well that would work on a colour film, even if you could prevent the film scanner from correcting the colour cast.

I like using B&W film myself, partly because I can process it in less time than it takes me to walk to the Post Office to send it away for processing.

Having said all that, I do like the B&W conversions above.
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Old 27th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Nigel, do you print your own negs or do you scan them? I don't have my own scanner or wet darkroom so I have to have scans done by labs. Whereas I don't have any difficulty getting pretty good scans of colour films, I have difficulty with B&W film. The results are either far too contrasty or very flat with little contrast. There doesn't seem to be a middle way. I find I can usually get something worthwhile with the flat scans as contrast can be increased digitally but contrasty scans are hopeless.

I've just bought a load of 100 iso films to see if I have better results with them. Up till now I've tended to use faster films. It'll be interesting to see if I have more success.
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Old 27th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

I shoot mostly in B&W for the simple reason that I can process it myself. I don't have a darkroom, I use a changing bag like this:
Top Brand Changing Bag ~ 27'' X 30'': Amazon.co.uk: Camera & Photo Top Brand Changing Bag ~ 27'' X 30'': Amazon.co.uk: Camera & Photo



And I bought a developing kit like this:
Paterson Film Processing Kit: Amazon.co.uk: Camera & Photo Paterson Film Processing Kit: Amazon.co.uk: Camera & Photo



Then I scan the negatives using an Epson V500 scanner. I also bought a film holder from betterscanning.com which is much better than the one that comes with the V500:
http://www.betterscanning.com/scanning/models/v500.html

As Nigel says, there is something about the subtlety of tones in B&W film that you just don't get with digital or colour film. I also agree that filters are essential to get the best out of B&W film, especially yellow, orange and red for getting definition in cloudy skies.
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  #12  
Old 28th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Quote:
Originally Posted by greyhound View Post
Nigel, do you print your own negs or do you scan them? I don't have my own scanner or wet darkroom so I have to have scans done by labs. Whereas I don't have any difficulty getting pretty good scans of colour films, I have difficulty with B&W film. The results are either far too contrasty or very flat with little contrast. There doesn't seem to be a middle way. I find I can usually get something worthwhile with the flat scans as contrast can be increased digitally but contrasty scans are hopeless.

I've just bought a load of 100 iso films to see if I have better results with them. Up till now I've tended to use faster films. It'll be interesting to see if I have more success.
Hi Greyhound.
I suspect the contrast problem might be something to do with the commercial colour scanners (which try to automatically adjust levels, colour balance and contrast) not being able to cope with B&W negs.

Also, remember that colour negatives have a strong orange base, which the scanner is probably looking for.

I only ever use Pan F+ or FP4+, but there are some B&W negative films that can be developed in C41 (colour) chemistry, and have a red base. These may work better in commercial colour scanners, but I haven't used them for years so I cannot even remember what they were called. (Senior moment I'm afraid.) **

Regarding scanning, I use both Minolta and Nikon film scanners, which both have settings for B&W negatives. Colour scanning is easy, but B&W is not difficult once you have go used to it.

Edit: I have just remembered it was Ilford Delta and XP2.

I should also mention that slower films tend to be more contrasty than faster films, which might be worth thinking about when choosing an emulsion. I remember once using some 50 ASA Kodak colour Negative film, (I think it was Kodak Gold 50), and it was so contrasty it was almost unusable in bright sunlight - even more so than Velvia!
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Old 28th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Thanks for the response Nigel. The films I've bought are Ilford Delta 100 which I'm going to send to Ilford for processing, on the assumption that they should know what they are doing with their own films. I'll post the results in due course and you can see what you think.

I have shot with the Ilford and Kodak chromogenic films in the past and have had quite good results. My normal colour lab processes and scans a film for £5.50, return postage included so that's not too bad.

Mention of Pan F is a real walk down memory lane. I thought Ilford had stopped making it - it's not a film you hear a lot about. I remember years ago a Greek friend who had been at university in Glasgow asked me to take a picture of the City Chambers in Glasgow to remind her of her stay. I took the picture using Pan F in a Minox 35 camera and had a huge poster sized enlargement made. The quality was amazing.

I used to own a Nikon scanner (a 4000 I think) but I was never that impressed by the results. Colour slides were OK but I never got to grips with B&W. I didn't have it long before I had a burst pipe and the ceiling came down on top of it and that was the end of that. The insurance company wouldn't cough up for a new equivalent scanner as the price was so high. If I'd had more time with it I might have got better results.
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Old 28th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

Cariadus, many years ago I used to do all my own B&W processing and printing and I still have all the stuff (not the enlarger) but to be honest when I've tried film developing recently the results have not been great. The negs were properly exposed and developed but were largely spoiled because of drying marks and dust spots. For the second film I used a squeegee to avoid the drying marks and managed to get a scratch right down the film. I got so fed up I gave up and I now send my films away for processing. When I was doing it all the time I didn't seem to have these problems so maybe I should persevere and try to perfect my technique.
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Old 28th June 2013
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Re: Is B&W film really necessary?

It is very hard to beat the tonality of a slow to medium speed B&W film when developed correctly, with FP4 plus the toe and heel of the contrast curve falls off very gently allowing you to get those creamy highlights and detail in the shadows.

Colour neg film does not do this as nearly as well, I have to admit I have not shot film for quite a while since giving up my B&W darkroom for health reasons, chemical fumes and asthma don't mix.

But I still got good results for a few years after just developing and scanning slow to medium b&w film in my Nikon Coolscan V which is now gathering dust, the method is still the same as wet dev and printing.

You develop and scan to get the best range of tones and detail that you can then use PS to alter those tone to the best effect just as you would dodge and burn in the wet darkroom.

To be honest I was never happy using mail order developing and much prefered developing my own (which is easy to do with B&W) wich I did even after giving my Darkroom up.

Not often I get the chance to post film images here so here is a few that were developed and scanned by myself.

FP4 Plus


Agfapan APX25
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