talkin bout camerasa blog by Branden Frederick

The Great B&W Showdown

Published 12 May 2018 – Updated 12 May 2018

Comparing eight different monochrome film stocks

One of those things that's been tickling my noggin for a good measure of time now is, exactly how noticeable is the difference between all those black and white films? I always like to say that I'm a fan of Kodak's classic Tri-X film, or that in Ilford's lineup that FP4 Plus is the most dynamic, but to be honest, those opinions are really just about which films I got to first.

Kodak Tri-X

Among my "favorites" there are some pretty sorry stories. Fujifilm's Neopan 400 z''l was the first thing I saw on the shelf when first learning film. Tri-X drew me in because of it's status as a "classic" and my affinity towards those types of things. Ilford's Pan F Plus attracted me because of its crazy low speed. And their Delta 3200 was a draw simply because of its crazy fast speed. But am I really shooting the best black & white film for the types of photos I take? I don't really know.

Fujifilm Neopan 100

And so, I now experiment. From the shelves of B&H I've had shipped exactly one (1) roll each in 120 format of Ilford's Pan F Plus, FP4 Plus, HP5 Plus, SFX 200, Delta 100, and Delta 400, plus a roll each of Kodak's Tri-X and TMax 100. I did not purchase any Fujifilm films because they killed off production of all black and white films a month ago (booooooo). I also skipped Delta 3200, XP2 Super, and TMax 400, as well as other brands, because I don't see myself using them anytime soon.

Ilford FP4 Plus

For the test, which is now in progress, I'm shooting each roll through the Fujifilm GA645Zi, not all of the same subject, for that is boring, but rather of the same types of subjects: I'm wandering the streets shooting various photos of suburbia. By design, this is not the most precise test; there are no exacting conditions or carefully arranged subjects – no, the intention is to shoot each roll in the same "style", then compare results based on which one "feels" the best. In short, this is a completely subjective comparison.

Ilford Pan F Plus

I will share my results here once they are gathered, but really, what I'd encourage more than looking at my test, is to go and conduct your own. Go out and shoot a bunch of different film of subjects that are important to you, and see how the film handled in your specific situation. Lord knows I've read enough comparisons of how strangers online have compared film, it is now time for my own.

Kodak TMax 100

about Branden Frederick

I am a photographer: I have fun taking photos, and I always have.

I've had a camera in my hand my whole life, a 110 camera as a kid, and the high school's 35mm SLR later. In 2008 I spent six months doing nothing but taking photos and loved it. From that point on I've had my camera surgically attached to my hand (I lie). I went digital in the year 2000, and I came back to film in 2013. My parents tell me my photos are "nice".

bf@branfred.com