"Simple" choices 4x5 film and developers?
Old 03-18-2017   #1
rbiemer
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"Simple" choices 4x5 film and developers?

I have been tempted by large format for a long time but my living/work situation made processing any film/paper at home not possible.

Recently my work situation has changed and I could now process at home. And, in the last day or two, I've been reading about the Intrepid 4x5 camera and the SP-445 daylight tank for 4x5 film.

So, large format becomes very much more interesting to me.

Which leads to lots of questions and decisions on my part.
I think the first thing I need to sort out is a good, basic film developer choice.

Which film and developer should a beginner start with? I have (a very long time ago) developed 35mm and 120 films--TriX and D-76--and maybe that's the way to go? But I am leaning towards slower film and really don't know the current options.

My initial plans are to shoot mostly landscape and, maybe, some still life.

Probably a 135 or 150mm lens to start and I will certainly be shooting pinhole as well.

So, what do you folks suggest as a starting combination for film and developer?

Thank you!
Rob
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Old 03-18-2017   #2
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I would start with what you know. D76.
I processed mine in Paterson tanks using the "taco" method and constant agitation. Not ideal, but if you're careful it works great.
Generally, I used HP5+ and HC 110, but anything goes...
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Old 03-18-2017   #3
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TX isn't the same film that was around before 2006. Kodak reformulated it unfortunately. I know there's a big following but having shot TX for decades I feel it's not even close to the classic TX of the day.

I'd suggest HC110 developer and either Ilford FP4 (ISO 125) or Ilford HP5 (ISO 400). Another great choice is TMax developer with TMax 100 or 400. Ilford is probably a little easier to work with.
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Old 03-18-2017   #4
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Currently I use HC110 for large format, doesn't matter if it's not as fine grain as XTOL since the negs are so large. Economy of HC110 is really hard to beat, and it has a good longevity.
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Old 03-19-2017   #5
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What you might run into when using slower films on larger formats is perhaps external things like running out of "leg room", that is getting into half a minute exposure times when it is windy, less light than blasting midday sun and so on. Unless you want to make huge prints, using Tri-X/HP5+ is a good start, with say D76. Just pick some combo and go from there - it's your own journey and your experiences.
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Old 03-19-2017   #6
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I have found Fuji Acros 100 the least expensive and easiest to find 4x5 monochrome film (I live in Japan), which I develop with D76. I use Jobo 2500 series tanks, so I can develop 35mm, 120, and 4x5 by merely expanding or changing the reels. My Epson flatbed scanner does a wonderful job scanning 4x5.
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Old 03-19-2017   #7
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In Europe getting Fomapan 100 is one of the cheapest options at around 30 Euro for 50 sheets.
I develop with HC-110 (and Rodinal from time to time) using a paterson Orbital tank (and sometimes the taco method) ..

I scan them with a decade old HP scanjet G4050 that comes with a 4x5 sheet holder.
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Old 03-19-2017   #8
Ronald M
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Developer does not matter for common print sizes. Tri x and HC110 (4x5) will beat the pants off any 35mm .

HC110 for economy. D76 if you already use it. If you can develop in a darkroom, a 5x7 tray work fine for a single sheet. Agitate by lifting two adjacent corners 1" and letting it fall. Takes 10 sec. 5 sec per corner. Next agitation is 50 sec later and
do the other two corners.

Film will slosh around and bang the sides. This is what you want, random and vigorous agitation. Do not believe the crap about gentle. That will mark your film.

Emulsion side up.

Clean the film holders and keep sealed.

Clean the camera insides.

Described is the cheapest way that works. Jobo expert drum is expensive and almost foolproof. 4x5 Nikor tank works . Hard to load and expensive. Hangars are nice but you need a large volume of chemicals and are best used with a hangar rack
so they do not hit each other or splay out. You end up with a box you raise & lower. Move in and out rapidly or film gets marked. Gas burst agitation makes this a Cadillac.

I never mastered interleaving sheets and tray. Asking for trouble.

STAY AWAY FROM ALL THE CHEAP LENSES. Your negs should look like 35 mm that prints well.
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Old 03-19-2017   #9
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I too, got into 4X5 big-time once I bought the SP-445 developing tank. As for film and developer, I've had great success with Tri-X in Xtol.

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Old 03-19-2017   #10
Gerry M
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+++For SP-445 tank. Makes life much simpler.
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Old 03-19-2017   #11
Ko.Fe.
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4x5 is very film economical format. I sold my last 4x5 with partially unused pack of film.
Going into the field trying to take one picture before sun is gone or too high. Getting this one film developed in regular tank which fits two reels. Cursing for one week after realizing what it was too much movement for standards to have the subject in the middle to looks nice. Getting over it another two weeks. And back to the field for another single film exercise.

I highly recommend HC-110 for developer. It lasts accordingly. Two 4x5 sheets per month, one year of this 4x5 saga and finally more than half of same bottle for two or more bulks of 100 feet normal film after 4x5 is sold.
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Old 03-19-2017   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
4x5 is very film economical format. I sold my last 4x5 with partially unused pack of film.
Going into the field trying to take one picture before sun is gone or too high. Getting this one film developed in regular tank which fits two reels. Cursing for one week after realizing what it was too much movement for standards to have the subject in the middle to looks nice. Getting over it another two weeks. And back to the field for another single film exercise.

I highly recommend HC-110 for developer. It lasts accordingly. Two 4x5 sheets per month, one year of this 4x5 saga and finally more than half of same bottle for two or more bulks of 100 feet normal film after 4x5 is sold.
Take some practice pic of your home & car before traveling too far.
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Old 03-19-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x-ray View Post

I'd suggest HC110 developer and either Ilford FP4 (ISO 125) or Ilford HP5 (ISO 400).
+1 - start with HC-110 and HP5 at EI200 and normal dev times for normal scenes. HC-110 will last a long time and is very economical per use. I also recommend the SP445 tank if shooting 4x5.
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Old 03-19-2017   #14
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HC110 is convenient since it's a concentrated liquid, very versatile with many films but more important is its ability to give full film speed with a few exceptions like Acros and it's ability to keep shadows full and open as well as keep highlights from blocking up. D76 is a great developer but tends to block extreme highlights in some cases. It due to the high sulfite concentration that acts as a silver solvent. The silver dissolved by the sulfite has polar properties and winds up being deposited on the silver in the highlight and high values. It effectively acts as a neutral density on the film. HC110, Rodinal and a number of others either have no sulfite or very little. Some people complain HC110 is grainy but it an Rodinal have been my standard developers for 45 years. I used D76 until 1975 when I went to HC110.

There are some stainless steel daylight process tanks for 4x5 patterned after the old Nikkor tanks. The new ones are Chinese and as I understand they're excellent. Also if you can find one the CombiPlan tanks destributed by HP marketing are excellent. They're plastic but well made and are e onomical on chemicals and hold 6 sheets. Unfortunately they're no longer made but show up once in a while. Don't waste your time with the old fr or yanke and similar tanks. They are hard to keep from getting agitation marks.

If you don't have a 4x5 and lenses look for a nice Wisner, Wista, Calumet wooden field camera, Nagioka or Ikeda. Theyre a number of reasonable wooden field cameras. Monorails are hard to use in the field. Linhof , especially more recent models, are great. I used a master technika and 2 technika V's in my work for for nearly forty years. They're expensive, a bit heavy and not great with wides. They are however built extremely well and precise.

Since the late 60's I've used several view systems for my commercial work. I still save my 4x5 Sinar Norma i bought new in 69. I also use 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 Deardorff cameras and have since the early 70's. They're great field cameras as well as studio. I've shot many thousands of sheets through my original 8x10 that was made in the late 20's or early 30's. I was the 3rd owner and the camera worked like new when I sold it a few years ago. It wasn't very pretty though. I replaced it with an essentially new one and still shoot with it along with my 4x5 Special. Unfortunately Deardorff cameras have become popular again and bring very high prices. The above listed cameras are much better values and very nicely made.

Buy yourself a couple of plasmat designed lenses like a 125/135 f5.6 and a 180/210 f5.6. Fujinon, Nikkor, Schneider and Rodenstock are superb. Calumet sold rebranded Schneider, Rodenstock and Ilex lenses. They are exactly the same as the brand names. Ilex is another good choice. They made many high quality Tessar types and plasmats. I would suggest a plasmat due to greater image coverage. Names to look for are Schneider Symmar or Symmar S, Nikkor W, Fujinon W (3 different W series were made so study the differences before buying) and Rodenstock Sironar N and S. study the different options within a manufactures line such as Schneider Symmar, Symmar S, Symmar HM, Symmar XL, Apo Symmar and Apo Symmar L. Prices between models can be extreme for little to no gain.

For a wide get a 90 f8 made by one of the above. Ilex made a copy of the Super Angulon that can often be bought for around $100. I bought one a few years ago and it was a great lens. The studio I apprenticed in in the early 70's used mostly Ilex lenses. Names to look for are Schneider Super Angulon, Rodenstock Grandagon, Fujinon SW and Nikkor SW. All are equally as good. Each maker except Imex made a variety of lenses in different speeds. Speeds ranged from f4 to f8 depending on the focal length and manufacturer.
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Old 03-19-2017   #15
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HC110 was my soup choice.

Quick & dirty (to check out a camera or lens) Dektol in a tray. (UGH!)
But... That's what most newspapers used in their darkrooms. B-I-T-D.

+1: Re-read Ron's advice!
+2: Re-Read X-ray's advice - and PRINT IT!
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Last edited by newspaperguy : 03-19-2017 at 08:52. Reason: X-ray posted while I was writing. Great advice.
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Old 03-22-2017   #16
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Thumbs up

Lots of good info, folks, thanks!
After some thought, I think to start out 400 ISO film makes better sense and that narrows down my options a bit from the fairly short list of current 4x5 film. Looking at the Massive Dev Chart, it appears that HC110 will work with the few choices there are.
Am now saving for the camera I will be using and have a lens to start out with sorted.

As usual, this is the time when I miss having a local shop the most: when I'm looking at a new to me part of photography actually handling and talking about the varied choices for stuff as part of shopping is not quite the same as doing that on line.

Of course, the positive effect of doing this on line is that I can get advice and knowledge from a much bigger group of people from a vastly wider area!

It is probably going to be a while before I get all the gear together to actually make some photos and I'm pretty sure I will be asking other questions along the way, so thank you all again for your help and time!

Rob
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Old 03-22-2017   #17
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This one's a no brainer.....Tri-X and D76. The two were literally made for each other, it's a classic combination and very forgiving with exposure and development, shall we say, "creativity". Tri-X in LF is a different animal in terms of smoothness in grain. While Tri-X has changed, in my opinion it has only gotten berre, if such a thing is possible. There's a reason why it's the most popular B&W film emulsion in the world. It's the best. And I highly recommend tray development. Very simple, you can shoot each sheet w/ a huge latitude of exposure, and develop each one to suit your style and the shot. That's what LF is all about really. The ability to tailor make each image to suit the environment/subject matter. All you need is a bathroom. I started w/ this film/developer combination, later experimented w/ lots of others, and came right back to Tri-X and D76 because I love the look, and the ease of getting great images. You can shoot Tr-X in 4x5 anywhere from ISO 50 to 1200 and still obtain superb results (w/ a yellow or red filter).

Otherwise there is not much reason to use LF. It's slow to shoot, expensive, the cameras are big and usually heavy, and smaller formats will give you sharper images. An old Optar lens will give you beautiful results and can be had cheaply. If you like the style of shooting, later you can buy a Heliar. I always recommend a Crown Graphic camera too as they are hand holdable, and usually come w/ a good lens and shutter to get you started. Besides, they're great cameras.
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