What Film Emulsion Should I Choose? A Guide for Analog Photography

There’s never been a more exciting time to start shooting analog. In our latest original infographic, find out which film emulsion is right for you.

The reports of film’s death are greatly exaggerated. In fact, there’s never been a more exciting time to start shooting analog. If you’re new to the world of film photography, welcome! Plenty of film cameras can be had for a fraction of their original price. There’s bound to be one that will suit your particular needs (Check out our handy guide to the 6 Best Film Cameras for Beginners). Unlike with digital, you don’t get to change your ISO on the fly. Once you load a roll or spool of film into your film camera, you’re locked into that particular roll’s ISO until you finish the whole thing.

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Four Super Sharp Black and White Film Emulsions Worthy of a Good Lens

Film photography is highly valued for the certain sense of softness it can deliver vs digital. But under the right circumstances, black and white film can be used to create and capture photos that are incredibly sharp. In fact, they can easily rival what digital is capable of. Believe it or not, lots of the methods that one uses for digital photography to make a sharp photo can easily be applied to film. So if you’re looking to get some of the sharpest photos you’ve ever shot, check out these four fantastic film emulsions.

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Review: Kodak TMax 400 (35mm and 120)

Kodak T-Max 400 doesn’t get all the love, love letters, and overall adoration that Kodak Tri-X 400 does simply because of the fact that a ton of the most iconic photos in the world were shot on Tri-X 400 vs T-Max 400. However, part of that has to do with the fact that Tri-X has been around for a longer period of time and T-Max 400 is designed to do something much different. While Tri-X 400 is known for its characteristic midtones and grain, T-Max 400 is instead known for its fairly high contrast (in the highlights and shadows), its incredibly fine grain and its overall sharpness. It’s touted to be the sharpest black and white 400 speed film in the world. Indeed, there has been a movement in the black and white photography world towards the high contrast, crispy, sharp look. And that’s essentially what Kodak T-Max 400 can do while still retaining a fair amount of details in the midtones. It does it in a much different way from a film like Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400–which is a near infrared film. Yet it also differs from many of the Ilford emulsions.Before you go on, more of the specific technical details of using Kodak T-Max 400 can be found in this Kodak PDF file.

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The Puna: The Desert in Kodak TMax 400

All images by Christophe Thillier. Used with permission.

“You know Robert Delpire a french photograph said one day that, ‘What I like in a photograph is the silence and black and white is silence.'” says Photographer Christophe Thillier, who states that he’s a big user of Kodak TMax 400 film in an email to us. Mr. Thillier is a geologist who works in remote places. He shares with us that he’s generally in deserts and that that’s where silence prevails. Deserts, where the light is extremely sharp and hard, also does well with Kodak TMax 400.

Mr. Thillier is French and lives in Argentina. Where he works is called The Puna–and he says that it is cold with “naked” landscapes. “The sky is often empty and deeply blue.” he continues. “People live in adverse conditions. To transcribe this ambiance, black and white is by far the most appropriate way. It restitutes the hardness but also the authenticity of the moment.”Mr. Thillier continues to express that black and white doesn’t distract. You go to the essentials, whatever the subject may be.

With either his XPan II, Leica M6, or Nikon F6 in hand, the self described aficionado states that photography is a second tool only after a hammer. Mr. Thillier describes himself as contemplative when he shoots.

What inspires you to create photographs?

The scale between man and nature, the survivance of man in his environment through his work, his beliefs, his pairs. The duty to show, to make understand is also guiding me when I create a photograph.

Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world ?

Do you know how important the standard meter is as reference for science, geography and civilization? Well, black and white photography is a standard, a reference in art. It is ageless, resists time and fashion because it is noble. As I said above, with black and white you go straight to the essentials and people need to get back to the essential in different moment of their life. So it is for Art.

Comparing The Most Popular Black and White 400 ISO Films

Screenshot taken from the video.

Some of the biggest questions on the mind of every film photographer has to be how different black and white films perform in a similar setting. So with that in mind, the crew over at Brooklyn Shooters Channel have done a comparison of some of most popular 400 speed Black and white films out there. The films mentioned are Ilford Hp5, Ilford Delta 400, Kodak Tmax 400, Kodak Tri-x 400, and Rollei RPX 400. They’re all shot in medium format; which means that for lots of photographers out there who create vs capture this will be very interesting.

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