Why you should experiment with different films
Today we have a great guest article from Jeremy Greenberg. Jeremy has done a mini review of some of the more well known films that are available on the market and why you should have some in your bag.
As fan of JCH, I was delighted to collaborate through a feature for the website. The topic of this piece will be about experimentation with different film. Photography is similar to other creative processes in the arts in that experimentation is a healthy, and some would argue, a necessary process. The practice of visualisation can aid you in achieving a certain look or feel within an image, series, or body of work as well. Having some basic understanding of the variety of films available can facilitate your achievement of this look.
Of course there are many black and white, and colour films available today. However, some films are better than others for certain applications. Discussion about films can be a slippery slope (pun intended). These days, they are all good, essentially.
To complicate matters, you have a plethora of options pertaining to your choice of camera, lens, filters, format such as the size of your film medium, as well as various developing, printing, and scanning options. For maximum control and flexibility, you might want to consider developing film at home. Black and white film development is actually a simple process once you learn how to do it. You would be pleasantly surprised to learn how much time and money you can actually save. Camera Film Photo online is a terrific resource for the serious film devotee.
The following will be a brief review of a few black and white and colour films that are generally popular and commercially available in the popular 35mm format. In general, the images were made on a Nikon SLR or Leica RF camera with prime lenses in the 28mm, 35mm, or 40mm focal length range. The black and white images were likely made using a yellow #8 filter that increases contrast slightly. Film was all shot at 400 or box speed (as recommended) unless otherwise specified. Developing techniques were standard. Pushing or pulling will be mentioned as appropriate. Negatives were scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner at 2400dpi with minimal to no post processing. Slight cropping or image straightening may have been made to the images but no contrast, colour, or sharpening adjustments were made.
I sincerely hope that the sample images below can help to inform your film photography decisions, inspire you to experiment, and to move you closer to producing the types of images that match your creative vision. “Indeed, If you shoot film, you’re a photographer. If you shoot digital, you’re an editor”, said someone.
The films covered here are broken into sections with the brand, speed, type, name, application & characteristic notes:
Black and White 35mm Film
Fujifilm 100 Black and White Neopan Acros
• Super fine grain
• Great for portraits or outdoor shoots. • For indoor studio work or outdoor portraits with lots of light this works extremely well.
• Good for landscapes as well
Kodak 400 Black and White TRI-X 400 Film (400TX)
• Excellent fine grain and wide tonal range usage in a variety of indoor and outdoor uses.
• Responds to pushing and pulling very well • Considered by many professional as standard
• Responds well to a variety of B&W developers
Kodak 400 Black and White TMAX
• Smooth and fine grain and wide tonal range usage in a variety of indoor and outdoor uses
• Response to pushing and pulling very well.
• Similar to TRI-X • Also a very versatile film for a range of applications
• Kodak claims this to be finer grain than the TRI-X although I have found the opposite to be true.
Rollei 400 Black and White RPX
• Similar to grain to TMAX
• Versatile film for general usage. • Less expensive and good alternative to Kodak’s 400 films
Rollei 400 Black and White Retro S • Moderate grain structure with high contrast and retro look. • Use with Yellow #8 filter for high contrast images. With flash and night the photos really pop.
Rollei 400 Black and White IR Infrared
• Moderate to rough grain and medium contrast
• Special applications for outdoor & landscape • Red #25 lens filter is required
• Very high contrast when processed at 1+15 dilution.
Ilford 400 Black and White XP2 Super
• Excellent fine grain structure
• Very wide tonal range
• Beautiful contrast • Develop with C-41 Colour Process.
• Print images using glossy paper, it’s outstanding.
Ilford 400 Black and White HP5 Plus
• Versatile for indoor or outdoor usage
• Smooth grain and moderate contrast • Pricey like Kodak
• Compare with Ilford Delta 400
Colour 35mm Film
CineStill 800 Colour Film for Low Light 800 Tungsten
• Excellent for low light conditions.
• Based on movie film
• Super saturated colours • C-41 Colour Processing.
• Colours are beautifully saturated
• Makes reds glow.
• Shoot at night
Fujifilm 400 Colour Superia X-TRA
• Great fast colour film for many normal applications
• Colours are rendered true and neutral • Relatively inexpensive
• Readily available in“drug stores”
• Great colour and grain
Kodak 400 Colour Portra
• Excellent fast colour film with smooth grain
• Excellent colour especially for portraits and skin tones • Process with C-41
• Slightly punchy colours
• I always have some of this in my bag.
Rollei 200 Colour CR “Chrome”
• Very fine grain
• Nostalgic look
• Hard to find
• Decreasing supply
• Positive Slide Film
• View on light table with loupe • Warm toned retro look from 1960s -1970s
• Shoot in daylight outside at events or family gatherings
• PRINT IT!
Disclaimer: There are many variables that combine to produce a given image. These images are from a selection of personal (not commercial) photos that I feel represent the film type on average. It should go without saying that your results may vary. I have not been paid by any camera or film manufacturing company. The opinions are my own and reflect an accumulated experience of years of shooting and developing many rolls of each of the films reviewed.
Thanks for sharing this, Jeremy. Very useful information.