Black and White Film

I wanted to express my opinion on the ever-so-hipster topic of Black and White 35mm film. Since I’ve started shooting film (maybe I’ll write a post later to give a little more history), I’ve dabbled here and there into the world of monochrome and have come to some basic conclusions:

1) True silver halide Black and White film is grainy! I’ve tried ISO 50 through 1600 and they’re all slightly too grainy for my taste. Ilford PanF+ 50 is my favorite so far in this category, but is only fast enough for outdoor situations.

2) Ansel Adams was a genious – Black and White landscapes are incredibly hard to get right if you can’t make and manipulate your own prints. I’ve been experimenting with orange filters combined with polarizers to get his famous “black sky” look. I’ve got a long way to go…

3) To the “untrained” eye, including myself, the C41 (color development process) Black and White film photos look just as good or better. I’ve used both Kodak’s BW400CN and Ilford’s XP2 – the Kodak can come out with a slight purple tint during scanning, probably due to the orange film base. This has been hit-and-miss with different processors. The Ilford is higher contrast and smoother. I used it during a friend’s wedding last year and was very happy with the results.

I’m in the process of setting up a small darkroom to make some 8 x 10″ prints. I’m going to experiment with the C41 negatives to see if they can be printed with traditional Black and White gear. If it doesn’t work, that would be the only negative (no pun intended) of this film. Otherwise, I would use this stuff 99% of the time and let Costco develop and scan it for less than $5. It gets too expensive to use the real stuff when I don’t have any local silver halide developers.

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