2008-09-06

Diving into film

I haven't added anything significant to BWD in quite a while. The reason is that I've kind of run out of ideas. Building the site up to now has been pretty easy. Most of the information on this site is readily available elsewhere on the Internet. I've simply brought it together in one site and organized it in, hopefully, a coherent way. I was thinking of doing a page on contrast control, but that information has already been covered in Curves and Levels adjustment.

I wanted to do a page on simulating film response. I found some info on how to set the channel mixer to mimic the response of various types of film. If you're really interested here are the channel mixer RGB values for various types of film:

Agfa 200X: 18,41,41
Agfapan 25: 25,39,36
Agfapan 100: 21,40,39
Agfapan 400: 20,41,39

Ilford Delta 100: 21,42,37
Ilford Delta 400: 22,42,36
Ilford Delta 400 Pro: 31,36,33

Ilford FP4: 28,41,31
Ilford HP5: 23,37,40
Ilford Pan F: 33,36,31
Ilford SFX: 36,31,33
Ilford XP2 Super: 21,42,37

Kodak Tmax 100: 24,37,39
Kodak Tmax 400: 27,36,37
Kodak Tri-X: 25,35,40

I've tried them out and, to be honest, the differences are so subtle as to be almost meaningless. Also, the more I thought about these numbers the more questions I had. Where did these numbers come from? Did they come from the film manufacturer? Did someone actually scan negatives?

I wanted to see if these numbers were accurate so I started digging. I couldn't find any info so I started researching black and white film processing. I quickly realized that these numbers are essentially meaningless. Accurate film simulation is not just a function of what type of film one uses. More important is the darkroom process. The type of developer, whether push/pull processing was used, even the temperature of the developer. All these factors determine the look of just the negative. Then there's the final print and the size of the enlargement, which affects the size of visible grain. The more I read about b&w film processing, the more I realized that I can't just read about this. If I'm to put together any useful information about simulating film, I'm going to have to step into the darkroom.

The problem is, the last time I shot film was probably 5 years ago. That was before I got into photography as a hobby. I was using p&s cameras, consumer grade film and one hour processing. I don't even have a film SLR. And the last time I was in a darkroom was back in high school, over 20 years ago. As far a film goes I'm basically starting from scratch.

I'm currently looking to get a film camera. I'll probably get a used medium format. The used market right now is flooded with medium format, and I found some pretty good outfits pretty cheap. I also found a local darkroom co-op where I can book darkroom time. They also offer beginners classes on b&w processing. I'm also looking to get a scanner to scan the negatives and prints. I think this will be an interesting long term project.

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