10 BEST B+W FILMS

Let me start by saying,…”Yes, this is a subjective list”! I also only included B+W films with no concern to price. Every one of these films is rated 5 stars on every website that I’ve found that has reviewed them. So, it’s not just me. And, yes, I think Kentmere, Adox, Fomapan, Lomography and others make some great films. When price matters, there are certainly better deals. I personally load Tri-X in my Nikon F5 and Hasselblad XPAN.. But any of these films listed are beyond capable of great images and easy scanning.  

B+W Films – Do Lists Matter?

These are all new rolls, and available right now in 2017. That they are all in stock at most outlets was another consideration. Also, all come from companies with impeccable quality control.

Add your favorites to comments if you strongly disagree.I also didn’t include samples of each film. They are all over the internet. And viewing the results of a specific film on a computer screen is suspect at best. Do lists matter? Only to the extent that a wide consensus is more than likely very valid.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 B+W Films

Kodak’s Professional Tri-X 400 is the king of the hill. OK, maybe not. But it’s the king of my hill. Yes, it has fine grain,…but it’s a very beautiful organic grain. I have yet to find a B+W developer that doesn’t produce, if not always stunning, adequate results. Some are better than others, but all work. This is just a classic ISO 400 high-speed panchromatic film that is iconic in nature. Sharp, scans well, develops well, very sharp without the fancy gimmicks. I don’t know a lighting condition that this film cannot deal with. It loves daylight, strobe, direct flash,…I can go on and on. And not particularly expensive. Very, very wide latitude. You would be hard pressed to make an exposure mistake


Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B+W Films

I’m not sure if this was Ilford’s original film, but it seems like it’s been around forever. It’s a traditional panchromatic film. Ilford refers to it as a “general use” film, but I hate that term. If I’m somewhere traveling and am unable to get Tri-X, this is my go to film. It has very wide exposure latitude and responds very well in mixed lighting providing a very even, middle of the road tonality. Very easy to work with in the darkroom. (or your Photoshop darkroom) It’s an ISO 400 that can be developed in any standard black and white chemistry. Pushes as well as Tri-X. HP5 is a very flexible film that is at home in all lighting conditions,….artificial or not.


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Kodak Professional T-Max 400 B+W Films

Kodak’s Professional T-Max 400 is a high-speed panchromatic black and white film that pretty much mirrors the 100.. I put this one first because the outcome is near identical, but at a much faster speed. It still has that T-GRAIN emulsion providing a very fine grain structure. Very close to the 100 version. I’ve heard T-Max 400 was suppose to be a replacement for Tri-X. Uhhh,…NOT! They are very different. You can push it to1600. Making it very versatile for a wide variety of applications. When using fluorescence, it responds very well. (both the ISO 100 and 400) Surprisingly, it resolves almost as much as the 100 ISO T-Max when scanned!


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Kodak Professional T-Max 100 B+W Films

I remember when Kodak’s Professional T-Max 100 first came out. It was all the rage. It is a medium-speed panchromatic black and white film and has a very fine grain along with high sharpness and resolving power. T-GRAIN emulsion is apparently the new chemistry that was responsible for reducing the appearance of grain when enlarging and scanning. Supposedly, the T-GRAIN technology is responsible for facilitating higher sharpness when scanning. I don’t see it. But there is less grain, especially at 100 ISO. A great film. Using T-Max developer is also available for dealing with the uniqueness of the film, but standard development works fine.


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Ilford Delta 400 Professional B+W Films

Ilford’s Delta 400 Professional is a high-speed film. Not quite as sharp as Delta 100, but pretty damn close. In fact, even at 11×14, I doubt you could see a difference. It just uses standard black and white chemistry. But it seems to process best using Ilford chemicals. You can push it to 3200,…but it does get quite grainy. I’ve found it to be a true 400 with no need to adjust. Shot at 400, and developed with Ilford, the grain is quite subtle. Maybe even more so than Tri-X. YMMV


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Ilford Delta 100 Professional B+W Films

Ilford’s Delta 100 Professional is a medium-speed black and white film featuring “core-shell crystal technology” in order to produce extremely sharp results with a fine, uniform grain structure. It’s an ISO film when developed in regular black and white chemistry. It’s advertised as having a wide exposure latitude that permits rating the film between 50 and 200.  (adjusting processing) The grain is very subtle. So, if you love grain, remember it is quite reduced using this film.


Ilford Pan F Plus 50 B+W Films

I’ll be the first to tell you this is a VERY slow film! 50 ISO. Ilford’s Pan F Plus is a very slow-speed panchromatic black and white. Not the slowest, (you can get 25 ISO film), but its grain structure is very fine. I would probably just go to a medium or large format if accutance was really an issue. But this film does render a very broad tonal range and extended dynamic range. It has resolution that is one of the best of all B+W films. Including the Rollei 25 ISO films. For fine art images that are printing large, this is a great film. If you can find the light.


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Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros B+W Films

I have to confess. If I’m going 100 ISO, this is the film I use. I don’t know why I prefer the tonal range of this over, let’s say, a T-Max or Delta. It’s really just a personal preference. Neopan 100 Acros is an orthopanchromatic black and white film. Unless you need a more sensitive film, I can’t think of a shooting condition this film won’t excel at. The grain is really super fine. In fact, I’ve had images that people insist are digital because of appearing nearly grainless, even using 35mm. An added bonus is it has excellent reciprocity. So, long exposures,…no problemo. Little on the expensive side for B+W, but well worth it.


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Arista EDU Ultra 200 B+W Films – $3.89

Supposedly, this film is Fomapan 200 Creative. Could be. I’m really not that much of a techno-nerd. But, is it a great film, with awesome tonal range? Yes. Arista’s EDU Ultra 200 Black and White is a traditional panchromatic film that is optimized for use in a range of shooting conditions. It’s pretty fine grain and is very sharp. especially for 200 ISO. It actually looks like the 100 ISO of many other films. It moderately pushes and pulls easily. While processing normally in a D-76 is great, it responds well to all other developers. Downside of this very inexpensive film? Well, this is the ONLY of all these films that is NOT DX coded.

Analog Inspiration: 8 Beautiful Alternative Processes for Photographers

Given that most photos are captured digitally and shared online, it’s easy to forget the beauty of a print. The history of photographic printing is a fascinating intersection between art and chemistry, and you might be surprised to find a cadre of incredible, contemporary practitioners of techniques well over 100 years old. Here’s a round-up of some of our favorites.

 

Carbon Transfer

A labor-intensive process that uses carbon pigment rather than inks or silver salts to produce a gorgeous black and white image. The carbon transfer method creates prints with deep, rich blacks that do not fade. Calvin Grier of The Wet Print offers bespoke printing services starting at $135 for an 8×10. Curious? Watch this fantastic video about the process.

 

Caffenol Processing

In the search for an eco-friendly printing solution, the team from Cahute bypassed photographing onto film, and instead created a solution of vitamin C, washing soda and coffee that is coated to directly onto Harman direct positive paper. The paper is loaded directly into an 8×10 view camera, and subsequently processed with a biodegradable developer. 

If only coffee stains could look so good! Traveling to Helsinki? Book your portrait session for 59€.

 

Ambrotype

Tired of printing onto an opaque surface? Ambrotypes use the wet plate collodion process to print onto glass. Giles Clement not only has mastered the process, but he also has a very cool series of images with people holding their ambrotype portraits. Book your ambrotype portrait when Clement tours a city near you for $900.

 

Tintype

Tintypes gained popularity in the 1860s and 1870s in part because they were the “instant” photo of the day. Unlike processes that required a drying process, the thin sheets of metal coated with lacquer and a photographic emulsion could be handed to customers after only a few minutes of processing in a developer and fixer.

A resurgence in the 21st century has made tintypes the alternative process du jourand the Penumbra Foundation offers portrait sittings from $49.

But for real fun with tintype, Ian Ruhter turned his van into a camera giving him the ability to expose metal sheets up to 5 feet wide.

 

Chlorophyll

According to the New York Times, Vietnamese-American artist Binh Danh, was fascinated by the strange discolorations left by objects on his lawn in the wake of the powerful rays of the sun. This led to an artistic series created by sandwiching a transparency onto a fresh leaf and letting the sun bleach some parts and alter pigment color in others. Danh’s inquisitiveness and obsessiveness has made him a master of the alternative process.

 

Daguerreotype

Not to be limited to just one process, Danh mastered the daguerreotype, the first commercially successful printing technique that utilizes a light sensitive, silvered plate. Astonishing in its detail, the process is sensitive to blue and ultraviolet spectrum which gives bright areas the distinctive blue coloring. Photos of daguerreotypes simply cannot replicate the sheer luster and incrdetail of the originals, so search one out in person, or make your own !

 

Platinum/Palladium

Your typical silver gelatin print uses silver salts suspended in a gelatin substrate. Although silver prints are fairly durable, silver oxidizes over time and the ions migrate through the gelatin causing image degradation. By contrast, the platino/palladiotype process uses metals that adhere directly to the paper, and some experts suggest these prints could last for thousands of years. 

Platinum ain’t cheap, so palladium was introduced as a lower cost alternative during World War I when platinum supplies were limited. But even the price of palladium has skyrocketed, so you’re probably not going to want to start your foray into alternative processing with this.

Ready for your platinum portrait? Koren Reyes has you covered starting at $3500 for an 8×10.

 

Cyanotype

From blue jeans to the Indigo Girls, there’s no denying that humans love the color blue. Although the cyanotype process is more associated with the blueprint, a low-cost duplication technique used frequently for architectural plans, it has seen a resurgence as photographers have come to embrace its cool tones. Although the cyanotype print is not the most stable and durable process, it does have the strange regenerative ability to darken areas faded by exposure to light by simply storing them in the dark. 

Blind artist John Dugdale has frequently used the process for his highly collected portraits.


The alternative processing is niche, but if you have the patience to try it yourself, the community is pretty open about sharing techniques. Want to learn more? Check out The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James, or visit http://www.alternativephotography.com/

A 35mm Film Hard Case Storage Box – So Simple, Yet So Useful . .

- Please note, I am in no way associated with the seller of these boxes, except that I bought one . . . ok more then one !

It’s often said that the simplest (and cheapest) things in life are the best and when it comes to my latest Street Photography related purchase, I couldn’t agree more.

Let’s be honest, how many times (and how much time) have us film photographers spent fumbling about in those dark and unexplored regions of our camera bags? Afterall, that fresh and unexposed roll of 35mm film is in there somewhere. However, when it’s rolling about amongst five or more identical cannisters, some exposed and some not, it quickly becomes a frustrating game of ‘lucky dip’. Often the only solution is to empty the whole lot onto whatever ‘unsuitable’ surface presents itself.

But swear and curse no more, for the solution is both ingenious, cheap and simple.

This fantastic little box, available in both black and white (of course) and made from strong plastic, features ten moulded compartments designed to snuggly and securely hold your precious 35mm film and is conveniently covered with a firmly fitting lid.

Measuring just 140 x 62 x 51mm, this case will easily fit into a coat pocket or spare corner of your camera bag and means that all of your unexposed and exposed film is ‘on call’ whenever you need it.

And the cost of one of these boxes, delivered to your door here in the UK ? Just £5.99 (or thereabouts depending on the exchange rate).

So where can you buy one? From the wonderful guys of JAPAN CAMERA HUNTER. I ordered mine on a Friday and it was at my door by the following Wednesday. Of course you can buy an almost identical case from a few other internet based sites in the USA and elsewhere but these will set you back approximately £15 with the shipping.

This is easily one of the simplest, cheapest and most useful of my photography purchases. A must buy.

Photographer’s Pouch, Velcro-Backed Felt Pockets That Stick In Any Bag

The Photographer’s pouch is a boiled-wool pocket that will stick inside any camera bag thanks to the velcro strip on its back. And of course you’re not limited to cameras, or even camera bags – anything that will fit fits, and any bag with velcro can be used.

Each pouch is 9cm x 15cm, or around 3.5 x 6 inches, has a big velcro square on the back, a flappy lid and an elastic band to close that flap. The velcro is “bad” velcro, or the hook side of hook-and-loop, so it’ll stick to the inside of any camera bag that uses velcro dividers, or in a bag like the excellent Rickshaw Zero Messenger. And you could also stick it to your wooly sweater.

A three pack costs just $30 and a single is $12. I fancy some of these to organize my bike’s handlebar bag.

 

 

Because some camera bags don’t have enough pockets or pouches, Designer Will Kortum has created the Photographer’s Pouch. These pouches are designed with velcro on the exterior to fit in and stay put in a camera bag.  This only works with certain camera bags though like those from Billingham. Each pouch measures in at 9x15cm and is designed to help you organize your camera bag a lot easier. I’ve known from personal experience that sometimes I tend to just shove things in.

The three pack comes in at $30, while a single is $12. More photos are after the jump.

Who is Will Kortum?

Will is putting together a portfolio for his college application right now.  We got together the other week to review his portfolio, and over a coffee he said,” Oh Adam, I want to show you this thing I made.”  He pulled out a small felt pouch that can velcro to the inside of a camera bag’s padding.  As a 17 year old, with his mind focused on college, I would not expect him to have the time to redesign his entire Billingham bag, but I applaud his efforts in finding an economical solution to the problem of an internal, multi-use pocket for his bag.  Will tells us more about the history here:

I first thought up the idea that later became the Photographer’s Pouch after losing one of my favorite pens. I use a Billingham camera bag, and while it is fantastic in nearly every way, the main section is pretty much open. This means that it is hard to keep a tidy bag, and loose items like my pen could easily slip out. The Photographer’s Pouch is my idea of a remedy to this flaw. It’s not too small, but not too big either- meaning that you can keep multiples in one bag for different things. It is perfect for the loose batteries, filters, viewfinders, and cords that often occupy the dark depths of a camera bag. Because it has a velcro back, it can be stuck anywhere on the inside of a bag for easy access. I’ve spent months designing, prototyping, and redesigning the pouch for the perfect iteration. I hope you find it as useful as I do !

Conclusion

A few weeks ago when I was speaking at the SXSW V2V Entrepreneurs conference in Las Vegas, there was an idea which was echoed in almost all of the talks.  Good ideas are an excellent place to start…but they are not worth anything without execution.  To this, I’d like to say that Will not only got a product prototyped, logo’d and produced…he also put together a simple, clean, and effective website.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah that reminds me, I have to get on my site.”  Hopefully you take Will and his Photographer’s Pouch as an encouraging example that an idea, with a plan and a little hard work, can produce results; and results that other people can get behind.  Until someone designs the perfect bag, it’s nice to know there are a few add-ons to keep all of our batteries and pens together.  In the meantime, let’s all wish Will well on his college application. - See more at: http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/08/the-photographers-pouch/#sthash.eVaRdY4i.dpuf


Photographer’s Pouches are available for individual purchase ($11.95) or a pack of 3 ($29.95) Here is the website: http://www.photographerspouch.com/ 

Polaroid Reborn

Polaroid enthusiasts who have long missed Type 55, that unique black and white 4x5 emulsion famous for providing a usable negative along with a positive print, may soon be in luck. The film may return to production but it depends on the likelihood of New55 project, a four year effort aimed at resurrecting it, having success as a Kickstarter campaign with a funding goal of $400,000.

The Impossible Project's production of instafilm has created an active marketplace for new Polaroid-style instant films. Type 55 will not be resurrected by the Impossible Project and the film, which ended production in February 2008 alongside all Polaroid instant films, has been a hot commodity on eBay despite the last batch of film’s expiration date of 2010. The emulsion, rated to ISO 50, is thin on Type 55 and bears a telltale dark gutter and pockmarked film edge and also produces a print when peeled apart during processing.

Four years ago, Bob Crowley, Sam Hiser and a group of photographic tinkerers based in Ashland, Massachusetts began a concerted effort to revive Type 55. Named the New55 project, their efforts were documented via a Blogger page. This effort has now culminated in a Kickstarter campaign that premiered yesterday in the hopes of making this viable emulsion available to the general public. The 30-day goal seems astronomic at $400,000 but it is entirely realistic given that $200,000 will cover materials and manufacturing and the balance will cover the initial run of orders.

Here are a few examples of images captured on the new Type 55 prototype emulsion by Bob Crowley.

“Our Kickstarter goal is intentionally high,” says Crowley in the Kickstarter video. “We need to show strong market strength and viability for an ongoing new 55 product that will lead to other new 55 products.”

To contribute to New55 and help in the effort to bring this unique creative emulsion back to life, check out their Kickstarter campaign. All photos here are shot with the new Type 55 and are published with the permission of photographer Bob Crowley.