Archivi categoria: blackandwhite

How to Shoot & Develop the Sharpest Possible Black and White Film Photos

If you want sharp black and white images with fine grain, then you’ve come to the right place!

I’m a bit of a freak in terms of image quality and I love very detailed photos. That’s why I’ve been searching for the combination of film and developer that would get me the best results. The technique I’m about to share is not for every situation and, ideally, you will need either a decent amount of light or a tripod.

The reason behind this is that we need to reduce the size of the grain, and the first step in this process is to use a slow film.

Usually, fine grain films go from ISO 25 to ISO 100. A small grain will automatically result in an increased sharpness as it makes the definition thinner on the negative. It’s the same with digital cameras, the smaller are the sensor’s pixels, the more there are, the higher the definition.

For today’s article, we are going to use a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros. I often hear good things about it and wanted to give it a try since a long time. If you are into digital as well, you may have heard the name Acros in the past months. Fujifilm has added a new film simulation in their high-end cameras that replicates the look of this film.

Back to the film version, it’s considered a medium-speed film and can be used both out- and indoors. It’s also known to be very capable for long exposure thanks to its admirable reciprocity capabilities. For those of you who have never of reciprocity, it’s basically how a film reacts when being exposed to light. In other words: it means that different films won’t handled exposure—especially long exposure—the same way.

In this case, the film has very good reciprocity characteristics, which makes it the ideal partner for Astro or night photography. On the other hand, a film with poor reciprocity would not support long exposures very well, and tend to develop some sort of halo effect around the highlights known as “Reciprocity Failure.” If you are interested to read more about this topic, check the definition on Wikipedia.

The second key element for crisp images is the developer. All developers are not equal in terms of grain quality and in this case, Rodinal (aka R09) is known to give fine grain with slow films (this is different with medium speed films). It’s also notorious for being a high acutance developer—this means it increases the grain which results in an increased edge sharpness.

To make grains smoother, some developer use a silver solvent. This makes the edges between grains softer, which results in a decrease of perceived sharpness. Rodinal doesn’t contain such a solvent; that’s why it may increase the grain appearance on some films but, as we are using a fine grain film, there is no such problem.

The last element that will help us achieve fine detail is decent glass. In this case, I used a 45mm on my Hasselblad Xpan, but I’m sure you can get similar quality with cheaper lenses. For this series, most of the images were shot between f/4 and f/5.6 at 1/60 of a second and exposed for the mid-tones most of the time. I’m sure I would have got a little more detail by closing down to f/8, but there was not enough light on this day and I was shooting handheld.

About the development, I went for a standard development as it was the first time for me using Rodinal. If you want to reproduce the same steps here are the details:

  • Dilution : 1+50
  • Temperature: 24°C (75°F)
  • Development time: 8 minutes
  • 1-minute agitation at the beginning and 4 inversions each minute
  • Stop bath for 10 seconds with Ilford Ilfostop
  • Fixer for 3 minutes with Ilford Rapid Fixer

You can also develop at 20°C, but need to extend the time to 13.5 minutes.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results. It gives to these images a timeless feel and classic B&W look. I will certainly order more of this film and experiment with other developer and stand development as well to see how it performs.


About the author: Vincent Moschetti is an Ireland-based photographer who is in the middle of a year-long experiment where he’s shooting only film photography. You can find more of his work or follow along on this adventure by visiting his website or following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

These Fujifilm Monochrome Cameras Are $4,800+ Cheaper Than Leica’s

The Leica M Monochrom is special in the Leica lineup due to the fact that it lacks a color filter, which improves image quality and restricts the camera to shooting black and white. If you’d like a monochrome-only camera but don’t want to shell out $7,450 for the latest Leica M Monochrom, there are now converted Fujifilm cameras for a cheaper alternative.

No, Fujifilm hasn’t announced its own line of monochrome cameras. Instead, the cameras are being modified and offered for sale by a third-party company, MaxMax.com, which has been doing camera conversions since 1997 and monochrome conversions since 2009.

MaxMax.com says that after years of hearing customer requests, it has finally decided to convert Fujifilm’s highly regarded X-Trans cameras to monochrome ones by removing the color filter array in them.

Right now there are two converted models being offered for sale: the Fuji X-Pro1-M (a converted X-Pro1) and the Fuji X100S-M (a converted X100S).

“To convert a camera to monochrome, we take the camera apart, remove the sensor, remove the sensor coverglass which is epoxied to the ceramic package then use special equipment to remove about 5 microns from the surface of the sensor removing the microlenses and the Color Filter Array,” company president Dan Llewellyn tells PetaPixel. “This exposes the bare photodiodes so that all the pixels see the same light.”

Llewellyn says that this isn’t an easy conversion to do, and that you’ll basically need access to semiconductor fabrication equipment to try it yourself.

“The Fuji sensors are a particular pain to convert because the epoxy Fuji uses to hold the coverglass on is very strong,” Llewellyn says. “It is difficult to remove the coverglass without damaging the sensor.”

Llewellyn believes that his company’s Fuji “poor man’s Leica” alternatives may actually perform better than the Leica M Monochrom in some regards “because there is more engineering in the Fuji,” he says.

Here are some example monochrome photos captured with the two converted monochrome Fujifilm cameras (you can download their original RAW files here):

If you’re interested in buying one of these cheaper Monochrom alternatives, you can find the Fuji X-Pro1-M for $2,425 and the Fuji X100S-M for $2,600 from the MaxMax.com store. More converted Fujifilm models will also be added to the store later this year.

How Color Filters Affect B&W Photos

If you’re new to film photography, chances are that you’ll get into shooting black and white sooner or later because you have been inspired by the masterpieces of old masters. But before you become the next Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastião Salgado, there are a few introductory things you should know.

Seeing the world in black and white is the main struggle for everyone at the beginning, but like with everything else, it can be learned and practiced with a simple understanding of how colors are translated into B&W. The human eye can distinguish approximately 500 shades of gray (well, some are limited to 50, but that’s another story). On the other hand, the scope of colors feels almost unlimited by comparison.

Why are some colors identical when turned into B&W?

Imagine a bus with only 50 seats (and no standing space) that has to carry 200 hundred people at the same time. If they all want to get in, some people will have to share the same seat. It’s the same with colors turned into B&W, there are too many to fit into the 500 shades of gray, so they must be compressed to all fit in the bus. To put this into an image, I’ve turned the 6 basic colors into gray so you can see how they translated in B&W.​

We can see that some share the same seat. Look at the yellow and orange: they are nearly identical, so that affects sunset pictures. Another interesting comparison is the red and green: they are almost identical, which makes pictures of poppy field look like a muddy gray landscape… how disappointing!

Picture by Friederike Hiepko

Does that mean that I can’t take a good B&W picture of a poppy field?

Hopefully not! There are ways to change the way B&W film responds to colors. For this, you will have to rely on colored filters. Let me briefly introduce each of them:

Yellow filter: The classic among black and white photographers. Blue skies are darkened, which helps to increase the separation with the clouds. Other colors like green, red, orange and yellow will appear brighter.

Orange filter: It comes right after the yellow in terms of strength. Blues will become even darker for a more dramatic effect. Most warm colors will also show brighter than greens.

Red filter: This one is the strongest. Red will turn into white and foliage appear very dark. If you want your poppy flowers to pop out that’s the one but pay attention to the background. We can see at the horizon the light green turned also into white. It works best with darker shades of green like in the foreground.

Green filter: The opposite of the previous one. Red will turn darker and green brighter. It’s not very popular because of its limited span of action, but it can give very interesting effect when used on the correct scene.

Blue filter: Another uncommon filter but if you want to brighten blues it’s the one! Warm colors will be darkened and red turned into black, which can help to separate elements in a mixed colored scene. It also increases fog and haze which can help to emphasize a moody landscape.

One important thing about using filters is that they all reduce the amount of light by 1 or more stop. So you must compensate this loss of light when exposing. It varies depending on the filter so refer to the manufacturer’s product information.

Considering contrast when shooting B&W

Now that we know how to manipulate each color, the other element to consider when shooting B&W film is contrast.

Depending on which style you are going for, contrast will play a major role. There are no colors to define the mood of your image so the type of light is probably the most important element to create the ambiance you want to achieve. Direct sunlight can be a nightmare for color photographers, but not in B&W. If you want to shoot street photography, for example, it’s exactly what you are looking for as it will create contrast and harsh edges in your image. It will help to detach the subject from its environment and re-enforce your composition.

If you prefer a softer ambiance, look for an atmosphere with low contrast. Cloudy or foggy days are perfect for this type of images. The light is evenly distributed which result in a mellower ambiance. It’s also the ideal situation for shooting female portraits, as it makes skin looks softer and more pleasing.

Another crucial element that affects contrast is the type of film you shoot with. B&W films don’t react the same way and it’s important that you choose the proper one based on what you are looking for. This is really a matter of personal tastes and there is no right or wrong film here, just the one you like.

If I want to go for a contrasty image, Ilford HP5 or Kodak Tri-X are my go to films. If I’m aiming for a softer image, Fomapan 200 or 400 is the one I prefer.

“There are so many films, which one is the best?”

Choosing film can be overwhelming when beginning so if you are not sure about which one you should use, check out the “Film Dating” quiz I created. It helps to find the right film for you in just a few clicks.

The last point that will influence the result of your image is the development technique or chemicals you will use. There are many ways to go when developing and the combinations of film/developer can completely change the look of a negative.

I’ll take the example of stand development, as that’s the one I’m more familiar with. Depending on the film and developer you are using, it can completely change the contrast of your photo. I have tried this approach with Fomapan 400 (low contrast) and Kodak Tri-X (high contrast).

When developed using the stand technique using Ilfotec DD-X developer, Fomapan 400 turned into a super contrasty film. On the opposite, Kodak Tri-X, which is known for being contrasty, turned into a flatter image with this process. These are just examples and combinations are infinite when developing. The best is to experience yourself with the chemicals and films you have at home. If you want more information about developing time for each film and chemical, check out this Massive Dev Chart.

We’ve now seen that many factors can influence a B&W image, but the most important point is your ability to see the world in monochrome. That’s what requires the most practice but with experience, you’ll become better — it’s just a matter of training your imagination.

If you are just starting out, forget about everything else and just concentrate on imagining a scene in B&W. Once you’ve gained more experience, it’ll be easier to apply what you’ve read above.


About the author: Vincent Moschetti is an Ireland-based photographer who is in the middle of a year-long experiment where he’s shooting only film photography. You can find more of his work or follow along on this adventure by visiting his website or following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Pulse: A 4K Storm Time-Lapse Film in Black and White

Storm chasing photographer Mike Olbinski is known for his gorgeous time-lapse films of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and monsoons. His latest project, however, was a bit different from the rest: it’s one of the first storm time-lapse films to be entirely black and white.

“For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films,” Olbinski writes. “I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.”

“But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.”

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Everything in Pulse was captured over the past few years by Olbinski using a Canon 5DS R, 5D Mark III, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.

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“Pulse” has been selected as a “Staff Pick” over at Vimeo.

You can find more of Olbinski’s work on his website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Ilford HP5 Plus Film Profile: NOT Just a Cheap Knockoff of Kodak Tri-X

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We all know a knockoff when we see it. Fake Rolexes, certain Russian motorcycles, and pretty much anything bought off of a street cart in Hong Kong, these poor quality imitators just can’t match their real deal counterparts. It’s no different in the world of film. And one film in particular has garnered a reputation for being just such a cheap copy—Ilford HP5 Plus.

To some old-school photo geeks, HP5 Plus is nothing more than a pale, British imitation of the renowned American black-and-white film, Kodak Tri-X. On forums and blogs everywhere we scarcely see HP5 Plus mentioned without a reference to Tri-X’s alleged superiority. But is HP5 Plus really just a crappy Tri-X cover band, or does it deserve to headline its own world-tour? I think it’s the latter.

For me, Ilford HP5 Plus wrongfully suffers lazy comparisons to Tri-X, and the needlessly reductive judgements that follow are equally misplaced. Those who judge it so are missing the entire point of HP5 plus, and indeed, much of the beauty of this particular film. When we really look at HP5 Plus and judge it on its own merits, we find one of the prettiest black-and-white films on the market and, for those of us in the USA, one of the best values in film photography, period.

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Ilford’s HP (Hypersensitive Panchromatic) line of films stem from a lineage that stretches all the way back to 1931, beginning with Ilford’s line of coated glass plates. Four years later in 1935, Ilford would release the roll film version of HP, originally rated at 160 ASA. The HP line of films would go on to see a long history of updates, culminating in the creation of our modern 400 speed HP5 Plus in 1989.

Why am I immediately diving into this historical minutiae? Because it justifies my initial assertion. With a lineage that stretches back to the invention and widespread adoption of 35mm film, it’s hard to ignore the HP line’s historical relevance, and makes it downright impossible to call it a knockoff. Ilford’s been doing HP for as long as Kodak’s been making Tri-X. Case closed? Let’s go further.

If this history fails to give it some street cred, that might be the fault of HP5 Plus’ same-same specs, which do little to differentiate the film in the public’s perception. On paper it’s a humdrum, traditionally-grained, black-and-white film rated at ISO 400. Yeah, sounds like a wannabe Tri-X. But HP5 Plus executes its purpose in a decidedly different manner from Kodak’s old standard.

If Tri-X is the straight-A student with a squeaky clean reputation and an Ivy League scholarship, HP5 Plus is the street-smart kid from public school who somehow manages a 4.0 GPA while working part-time as a bike messenger. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s this gritty character that helps it succeed. HP5 Plus possesses a stark, intense tonality that finds itself more at home in the streets and alleyways of the world than in flowerbeds and well-lit studios. Tonal gradation isn’t as silky smooth as other films in this category, but images made with it have a gritty character that’s hard to match.

One thing that jumps out about HP5 Plus is its unique rendering of shadows. The film retains less shadow detail than other films in its segment, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of details predictably fading gently into the shadows, it seems the entire image gets sculpted from out of those shadows. Dark tones in general seem to be painted onto the emulsion in India ink with a broad but supremely accurate brush. Combine that with black-and-white film’s incredible highlight latitude and one can make images that “pop” like no other.

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It would be easy at this point to accuse HP5 Plus as merely being an unsubtle battering ram of visual intensity, but that would be misguided. Ilford’s film can actually show subtlety and precision with panache due to its remarkable sharpness. In the right developer, HP5 Plus sharpens up nicely; what’s more, it compliments this sharpness with its traditional cubic grain structure. When shot at box speed, grain is certainly present, but it somehow doesn’t get in the way of sharpness or resolution. What’s more, its grain is just plain pretty.

But being just another good, average speed black-and-white film doesn’t explain its longevity. 400 speed black-and-white films are expected to have an insane amount of latitude, and that means one thing—pushability. And boy, can HP5 Plus be pushed. When shot at ISO 1600, HP5 Plus doesn’t just look great, it becomes my absolute favorite black-and-white film. The already grave tonality becomes even more stark when pushed to its extremes. Shadows and highlights seem brushed onto massive bits of grain, and every scene takes on that intense and beautiful photojournalistic look of yesteryear.

While HP5 Plus is an old-school film with an old-school look, it retains a usability that is distinctly modern. The good people at Ilford made sure that HP5 Plus behaves well in both the scanner and the enlarger, and they did so with one simple trick—they made it dry completely flat.

For avid scanners of film, there is no greater blessing in this world than a negative that is already completely flat. No sorcery or ingenuity is required to get the film to straighten or lay flat, which shortens scanning time considerably. That means more time working with the actual image, more time editing, more time shooting. This is more than can be said of other films, which is a shame considering how essential film flatness is to today’s digital workflow.

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If all that wasn’t good enough, HP5 Plus beats out its competitors handily in one of the most important categories for film (and for anything, really)—price. Here in the United States, it’s one of the least expensive 35mm traditionally grained 400 speed black-and-white films on the market. It’s also available in about any format you could ever need. Sheet film, medium format, 100-foot bulk rolls for an even cheaper cost per roll; it even comes in single-use disposable cameras.

If ever there was a black-and-white film for the shooter on a budget, HP5 Plus is it.

All this praise begs the question: does this film have any real weaknesses? The answer is yes, sort of. HP5 Plus happens to suffer from the same problem as Tri-X; namely, it’s one of those films whose signature look is both its greatest asset and its worst liability. Sure, we shoot it for that grainy, stark look, but the film falls a little short when used for sweeping landscapes or portraits where we expect a smoother tonality and a more precise sharpness. Its characteristic high contrast and deep shadow rendition means that some fine detail gets lost in the emulsion, and that may serve to bug more technical shooters.

But expecting clinical precision from HP5 Plus misses the point. The beauty of the film isn’t in the way it renders detail; it’s in the way it renders an entire scene, and by extension, the world around us. HP5 Plus bestows that gritty, intense atmosphere to every shot and it’s a look that, over the course of nearly eighty years, has aged extremely well.

Are there other films that can give us that atmosphere? Sure. Are there films that are more technically impressive? Of course. But do they do it like HP5 Plus? Nope. And that’s what keeps me coming back for more.


About the author: Josh Solomon is a photo geek, musician, and student from Los Angeles. When not playing jazz around L.A. or jamming with his band, Young Lovers, he’s shooting film through timeless, mechanical cameras. This post originally appeared on Casual Photophile.