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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 11th December 2015
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B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

OK all you B&W film fans, which films do you recommend for street photography?

My daughter has been set an assignment for her A level photography course; she needs to shoot street scenes in the style of Henrie Cartier-Bresson or Lee Friedlander, using B&W film. When converting a digital image to B&W using Silver Efex I tend to favour the look of simulated Kodak films such as TMax or TriX, but would appreciate some suggestions for real film.

Ive just bought a Ricoh 500GX rangefinder film compact on ebay for her, which hopefully will do the job. I would have preferred an Olympus 35RC as I had one many years ago and know from experience that it produces excellent results, but there are not many about at the moment in the sort of condition I want and we needed it in a hurry. However, the Ricoh seems to fit the bill; it was supplied by a trader who fully tests used cameras before listing them and provides a guarantee for 3 months. This particular camera has had the light seals recently replaced and seems to be in remarkably good condition for its age.

The 500GX has full metered manual or shutter priority exposure modes, rangefinder focussing with a large viewfinder and a 40mm f2.8. I think it should be ideal for this project. However, Freya is allowed to use her DSLR to get some back up shots, which I think is just as well judging from her reaction when she first handled the Ricoh this evening!

So what will I be using? Well, I have a Zeiss Ikonta (no metering) or a Voigtlander Vitomatic II (meter does not work) plus a Leningrad 4 hand held meter or I could completely cheat and use my E-M5, after all its not my assignment! I just hope my dodgy hip holds up the latest of a long list of ailments that confirms Im getting old.
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Old 11th December 2015
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I was always an Ilford guy so HP5 Plus.
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Old 11th December 2015
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I would say Ilford HP5+ is a safe bet for street photography.

At 400 ASA it is fast enough for most purposes and has reasonable grain. It also pushes well at up to 3,200 ASA but inevitably becomes quite grainy at that speed.

I personally like Ilford Pan F (50 ASA) and FP4+ (125 ASA) films, as they provide excellent detail and tonal gradation with fine grain, but they are probably too slow for street photography unless you have very good light and a fast lens. These slower films don't push particularly well, but you can squeeze an extra stop if needed.

If your daughter is processing the films herself (which I hope she is) she can also choose the developer that best suits her needs. A developer such as Acculux, for instance, provides a 1/3 stop effective increase in speed with only a minimal grain penalty.

Some subjects work well with grainy images, so pushing HP5 by two or three stops is not a problem. I have never done it myself, but some B&W photographers like to process film in print developers such as Bromophen, which results in tons of grain and contrast.

I haven't used Kodak B&W films for some time, but they are renowned for their fine grain and tonal gradation.

Some people swear by T-Grain films such as Kodak T-MAX and Ilford Delta, but I feel the traditional B&W films have more character.

Regarding metering, remember that unlike digital, B&W negative film has an enormous exposure latitude, so you don't need to worry too much about the exposure. If anything, a stop or two overexposure tends to give a more usable neg unless you want to loose shadow detail.

I like to use a proper light meter with my medium format cameras, but I also have a free light meter 'app' on my phone which is plenty accurate enough for colour and B&W negative films.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

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Originally Posted by Zuiko View Post
However, Freya is allowed to use her DSLR to get some back up shots, which I think is just as well judging from her reaction when she first handled the Ricoh this evening!
Having just read your post again I feel it might be good for both of you to tear yourselves away from your digital cameras and to do everything manually.

There is plenty to think about when working this way, so the less you have in the way of toys and gadgets the less the chance you'll forget something important like focusing! (Yes, I have done it with viewfinder cameras! )

The free light meter app that I mentioned is very handy, but for B&W film you only need to use the 'Sunny 16 Rule'.

To do this, set the shutter speed as close as you can to the film speed. So for HP5+, set the shutter to 1/400 second.

In bright, sunny conditions set the aperture to f16.

In overcast conditions set the aperture to f8.

In very dull or dull conditions set the aperture to f5.6 or f4 respectively.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

Think about how the film will be processed.

If Freya is going to do it herself, much better to go for trad silver emulsions, as David and Nigel have suggested. If you need to get it done commercially, specially if you need it fast, she would probably be better off using a chromogenic film as it can be processed at any C41 lab. Not sure what they are called these days, but Ilford had XP1 & then XP2, Kodak had one that went through a variety of names and I think Fuji's is/was something like BW400CN.

But you probably know that....

John
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

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Think about how the film will be processed.

If Freya is going to do it herself, much better to go for trad silver emulsions, as David and Nigel have suggested. If you need to get it done commercially, specially if you need it fast, she would probably be better off using a chromogenic film as it can be processed at any C41 lab. Not sure what they are called these days, but Ilford had XP1 & then XP2, Kodak had one that went through a variety of names and I think Fuji's is/was something like BW400CN.

But you probably know that....

John
That is a good plan, but quite a few people I know have reported that high street labs refuse to process chromogenic films in case they contaminate the developer. Maybe they are better informed now but I doubt it.

PS: I actually find it is quicker, easier, cheaper and far more rewarding to process a few rolls of film over the kitchen sink than to take them to the high street. Second-hand processing equipment is available very cheaply nowadays and the chemistry is reasonably priced. I have never tried it but apparently you can even process B&W film in coffee!
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

Despite field testing XP1 prior to its launch I don't think I ever shot another roll of chromogenic film once I'd submitted my evaluation to Ilford. For me it never lived up to the hype although the quality could have improved massively since then.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
Despite field testing XP1 prior to its launch I don't think I ever shot another roll of chromogenic film once I'd submitted my evaluation to Ilford. For me it never lived up to the hype although the quality could have improved massively since then.
I seem to remember getting a free roll of XP1 with a copy of AP.

I used to shoot a lot more B&W in those days than now, but to this day I still remember being distinctly underwhelmed by the film.

As you say it may have improved since then, but I am happy with Pan F, FP4 + and HP5+.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

gotta be HP5 in ID11
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

John I'm afraid my first thought film was "The Third Man" for inspiration of course - just shows how digitally brainwashed I've become
Its a good film though.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I use a rangefinder myself, albeit a modern digital version, and through trial and error have found I get more keepers using zone focusing or by simply guessing than trying to focus the RF optically. However if operating in 'trapper' mode, where you select the framework for the shot and await your prey, prefocusing optically works fine. Another tip: if I'm using the optical alignment I always reset the focus to infinity after the shot has been taken, that way I know I have to move the focus ring in one direction only, and usually by a short angular rotation (reference to the focusing scale shows compression towards the disstance end of the scale).
Can't provide any advice on film, but you have plenty of feedback already I see.
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Old 12th December 2015
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I used FP4 and HP5 when I had access to a darkroom. But unless using a specialist printer, for high street printing it may be best to look for films that can be processed using C41 as others have suggested.

If shooting in the style of HCB you probably want quite a slow film (max 100ASA) and I read somewhere that once it came out, he used nothing but TriX.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I just had a quick look at Silverprint to see what there is for C41-process B&W. They have XP2 from Ilford, Neopan 400 CN from Fuji and nothing C41 from Kodak. They also offer lots of the old favourites like FP4 and Tri-X.

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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

If it's in the style of HCB:
* She should allow, no expect, someone else to do the processing for her, including the printing, that's what he did, he kept to capturing images.
* Zone focus, he did.
* Concentrate on Geometry with People.
* Don't worry about spot on focus, he didn't.
* Don't worry too much about image quality, 35mm film has its limits.
* Use a Leica M3, that was his choice of light-painting machine apparently.
* Finally, pack in photography and start drawing / painting instead; he did.
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Re: B&W films for street photography - my daughter's latest A level project

I used to use Tr-X back in the day for that gritty, photoreportage look. I recall that it was said to be a tad grainier and contrasty than HP5, but frankly I never compared.

Lee Friedlander is possibly easier to emulate than HC-B, since hitting 'the decisive moment' in a good photograph relies on a vast amount of luck. She could always stage an image, I suppose (but that's a deniable comment!): plenty of puddles around at the moment...



LF specialized in car images - especially American scenes reflected in door mirrors - and did a slightly creepy series on mannequins in shop windows, so that should be easier. Also shadows of people in the street. Lots of ideas via a Google image search.





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