Frequently Asked Questions V

Selected questions and answers, based on the collective wit and wisdom of contributors to the original Black & White Photography Forum. Be sure to visit our Community and participate in current discussions. Our thanks to all who have contributed!

Dichoric (and other Enlarger heads) Defined

Q: I know what a B&W condenser head looks like and how to use it ... I know what a B&W diffuser head looks like and how to use it ... But ... I have read a few about DICHROIC head, and I have a hard time trying to find information on it. The same for cold-light source.

What are they used for?

A: The term "dichroic" refers to the type of filters that is used between the light source and the negative; they are interference filters (as opposed to coloured glass or gelatin filters), where the transmitted colour and the reflected colour are opposite. e.g., a yellow interference filter shows a blue reflection, hence the term dichroic, "two-colored". They are used in colour heads (Yellow, Magenta, and Cyan filters) and for b/w variable contrast heads (Yellow and Magenta filters), where you change the paper contrast with the light colour. Diffuser types with a "mixing chamber" and a piece of white acrylic above the negative are most common with these heads, although some manufacturers do use additional condensers. Light source is usually a halogen lamp, often with an additional reflector. The latter type is sometimes called cold mirror lamp (because it only reflects visible light and transmits the infrared) but should not be confused with a real cold light head!

A cold light head is for b/w only and the light source is a fluorescent tube. The fluorescent tube does not heat up the negative very much (very little infrared), hence "cold" light. In comparison to the other heads, the spectrum contains a large amount of blue, resulting in comparatively short exposure times with graded b/w paper. Cold light heads are much more common in the US than in Europe. The light characteristic is also diffuse, the light from the tube(s) is scattered through one or two sheets of white plastic above the negative. Since a few years, models with two differently colored tubes are available for use with variable contrast papers. Hope this helps,

--Answered by Arne Croell

Dichoric Defined (Followup question)

Q: The following are not quite affirmations ... they are rather supposition ... please tell me if they are correct : So, in color enlargers, you have three filters, a Yellow one, a Magenta one, and a Cyan one. In order to enlarge a color negative, you have to the three of them. But you also can use such an enlarger to make B&W prints, by only using the Yellow filter and the Magenta one ... Is that OK?

And if so, what is the very difference between a "color" head and a "dichroic" one??? Only the kind of filters they use??? Are they ised for the same purpose? Is one considered better ?

A: Yes, a dichroic head can easily be used for b/w and b/w varariable contrast paper. It might be an expensive option if you only want to do b/w. In most cases, color head and dichroic head are synonymous. There are a few colour heads around working on different principles, e.g. those using three light sources (blue green red additive filtration) which might not use interference filters, as opposed to the common ones with the subtractive interference filters and one light source. One advantage of interference filters as compared to others (gelatin filters in a filter drawer) is that they cannot bleach out, as the colouring is due to interference effects within thin layers on the glass support (the same as an antireflection coating on a lens) and not due to absorption.

-Arne Croell

A: In the discussions about printing B&W -Variable Contrast it should be noted that Aristo has produced a new cold light bulb that is faster than their previous product and is balanced to use conrtrast filters 'normally'. That is, without the yellow filtration that was needed for VC printing in the past. You can buy this bulb Model V-54 as a replacement or in a new head. for me it has made a great difference in my printing speed and results.

-Stephen Lahman

TMAX vs. PlusX & TriX

Q: There seems to be much debate and strong feeling about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the PlusX and TriX films vs. the TMAX films. I've heard much maligning of the TMAXs especially from photographers who have used PlusX or TriX for years, with the complaints ranging from the general ("I just couldn't work with it (TMAX)") to the specific ("TMAX can't be pushed and pulled in development"). But I've also read of others who adore TMAX. I've used TMAX 100 a lot (and some 400) and love the fine grain and the "sharpness" of the prints. In contrast, I dislike the larger grain of TriX, and while PlusX is ok grain-wise I don't feel somehow that my prints are as "sharp", e.g., the fine detail and edges don't seem as clean to me. I should note I use 35 mm; it seems that film format could be an important variable in the comparisons...

Does anyone care to comment? Is there something inherently "wrong" with TMAX that I just haven't come to appreciate, or, as I suspect, is this really a personal taste/practice thing with many opinions and no one right answer? Why do you favor PlusX or TriX or TMAX 100 or 400 over the others?

A: This is an interesting topic and my opinion is that it all gets down to habit.

Back in the early 1970s I established Tri-X with HC-110 (B) as my standard combination. Before that I had been using a basic mixture of Plus-X, Panatomic-X, and Verichrome Pan with Microdol-X and D-76 as my standard developers. Back then Tri-X gave beautiful results and it was very versital.

When Tmax came out I ignored it until last year. When I finally tried it I found it was an excellent film but I was having trouble getting used to it and establishing my exposure and development combinations. At that point I deceided the best thing to do was go cold turkey. I stocked up on Tmax film (bascially TMY400) and I haven't looked back. I did have trouble at first because I couldn't decide between HC-110 (B) and Tmax developer. Tmax won. But then I found Xtol and now that's all I use for all my films (with a few exceptions). I am very happy with all the Tmax films and Xtol and I am just about finished establishing my development times.

I've also noticed an added advantage. Along with a real darkroom I also use a digital darkroom. I never liked b&w scans, even with Tmax film and Tmax developer. However, with Tmax film and Xtol I am pleased with the quality of the scans. They have excellent detail, good contrast, and don't need a lot of adjusting. Although, I still don't scan them in grayscale but scan in color and level out the color to look like b&w.

As far as pushing and pulling goes I don't bother in b&w, only color. If I want something faster than TMY400 I use TMZ3200, or TMX100 if I want to be slower. So, as I said in the beginning, I think it's habit, along with a lot of personal likes and dislikes.

-Ted E. Felton

A. I have been using T-Max 400 for the last 5-6 years. I've found that it is very fine grained, and you can control contrast through downrating or increasing development times. I develop it in T-Max developer, HC-110, or even Rodinal. I have produced 20x24 exhibit prints from 2 1/4 negatives with no trouble. The stuff is very sharp and remain grainless even at great enlargement. Personally, I think it is a very great improvement over that old grainy and contrasty Tri-X. I have never regretted using T-Max, even though, like others, I resisted it for a long time.

-Rick Athearn Photography

A. Most of the complaints I've heard about TMax result from not being consistent enough with agitation. TMax is much more sensitive to agitation than TriX. With a Jobo processor and XTol developer, I love the results I get with TMax.

-Tina Manley

A. TMax is capable of manipulation and excellent results. But as one other respondant said-it takes care. If you aren't consistent you will be disappointed. If you realize they are pro films and process within tight tolerances you will get excellent and repeatable results. I have used them for news, NFL football, and all kinds of sports. Pushing TMax 400 to 3200 yields good results and the type of available light images that you can sell and be proud of. So why do I use HP5+ for the sports work I do now? I just like the 'look' I get from it. To get the best from your TMax, use a jobo processor as the film loves agitation. But as to how good it really is-look at John Sextons work. Yes, it is large format-but that is TMax at its best. As for 35mm-I have printed 20x24 regularly from TMax 400 and they look good. As for push/pull-it is a lot more responsive than TriX or HP5+ or any older emulsions. It is its ability to really be manipulated that makes it so good, that and its ability to render sharpness & shadow detail. Like anything else, use it and get to know it. It will do what you need, and then if you want to use something else, you will know why you are doing it as your experience will enable you to recognize the creative need in change.

-Dan Smith

A. I haven't compared TMAX films to the other Kodak films because I primarily use Ilford. Although I haven't made a technical comparison myself I understand that Ilford Delta 100 is the equal of TMAX 100 for sharpness, since it is also a T-grain film, but it is far more forgiving during development. I'm surprised that I never see it being discussed. I think it might be more popular here in Canada where Kodak is not as prominent.

-Andy Laycock

A. I have to agree with Andy Laylock, Ilford Delta 100 at E.I. 50 is almost identical to TMX while being much less sensitive to processing. If you don't have a rotary processor I think that Delta 100 should be the film of choice. Only problem is that Ilford Delta 100 is sometimes hard to find locally. This is strange because I have no problems finding Delta 400. I also think that Delta 400 is a much superior film when compared to

-Garry Teeple

A. On the Delta 100 Pro as an option to TMax 100. I use both, and Delta 400 for some 4x5 as well. The Delta 100 I use for 35mm, mainly due to its easy manner-less touchy than TMax 100 for me. But, in 4x5, I use TMax 100 90 percent of the time, with Delta 400 making up most of the rest. The TMax 100 for 4x5 is due to its reciprocity characteristics. After 15-30 seconds of exposure, it becomes 'faster' than most 400 speed films out there. No matter what you use, work with it to get the results you want. Some films friends use, I won't touch because for me and my personal way of doing things, they don't speak to me in my language. No doubt I could make them work and do OK, but they don't "do it" for me as what I have found does work well. I don't really know why, it just happens that way. For my 35mm sports work, it is 99% Ilford HP5+, and I have shot all the others, but come back to the 5+ because it 'does it' for me. I keep hoping to find the 'magic answer', but learning to really use what I have works. Good luck.

-Dan Smith

A. I don't like TMax films because you can't develop by inspection, which is what I do all the time.

-Alan Magayne-Roshak

A. After years of shooting TriX as my primary film, I began using Tmax last year. What caused me to change at that time was The availability of 45 readyload sheets. I've gotten good results with the film using Photography Formulary's BW-2 developer. I get good N+1 and N-1 and grain from this combination. I still have not given up TriX.

-Ron McElroy

A. I have used Tmax 400 and pushed it to 1600 with great results. Tmax film is very versitle. I do not like the purple die that The Great Yellow Father (Kodak) puts in their film. It does wash out with Hypo Clearing Agent. T-Max film is one of the few things that Kodak has done right as of late..I have used Ilford HP5 and Fuji Neopan.. Fuji should stick to color which is what they know best. I did not like the results I got with the other films. I will stick with Tmax. The only exception would be Agfa Pan.

-Harry Brisco


Leitz Enlargers: The Best?

Is the Leitz enlarger still No. 1 for 35 mm B & W? My guess is that I'd still be best off with an older Valloy II or 1c enlarger than anything currently available.

Any suggestions for a future acquisition?

A. I have the Leitz Focomat and love it. The automatic focus is a real time-saver.

-Tina Manley

A. The only enlarger that matches the quality of a Leitz enlarger is another Leitz enlarger. Add to this the ability to accomplish precision focus with a helical focusing mount rather than the rack and pinion focusing mechanism found on every other manufacurer's enlargers, and you have no contest. The coup de grace, however, is autofocus. This is important especially for those of us who have bad eyes, bad necks, bad backs and a short fuze. If you are doing volume work, this is a time saver. I any event, it is a joy, and for me a necessity. As far as I am aware, no other manufacturer provides a precision autofocus 35 mm enlarger. Be advised though that in order to use the autofocus ability of the C and V35 models, you must use a Leitz enlarging lense and a Leitz, or another brand, 25mm thick easel.

There are several Leitz Focotar lenses, and they are all excellent: however the best 50 mm Focotar is the last formulation, the f4.5 Focotar-2. It outperforms the earlier formulas at f5.6 and at smaller apertures, and at greater magnification than 10x. It also features, according to Leitz, better color correction. In my tests, it also outperforms the best current lenses from major manufacturers when examined on the Focomat 1C, which features a condensor illumination system, especially in terms of contrast. The Focotars at f5.6 and smaller apertures show no flare and color fringes like the new faster enlarging lenses from other manufacturers - this means better blacks and brilliance in your prints. I have not used or examined the f2.8 40mm Focotar for the Leitz V35 enlarger, but expect that it is superb.

If you are planning on working with multcontrast B&W and color papers, you should get one of the 1C Color models which have a filter drawer above the negative stage, or, preferably, the Leitz V35 which features interchangeable multicontrast and color heads. The V35 is the equal to the C models in terms of quality, and according to Leitz, is sturdier. Be advised that replacement parts, especially the negative carriers, are hard to get, and if available from Leica, are very expensive. So buy an fully equipped enlarger that includes the negative carrier and a Leitz easel (these are available on the used market at reasonable prices, except for the ones larger than 8x10). Another piece of advice is that the Focotars are prone to hazing. This can be removed, but it will cost you $50 to $100. One other advantage of the IC modes is that the Leitz easels can be locked in position. This means no lost prints because the easel was inadvertantly moved during the paper insertion process. My conclusion: Leitz enlargers are still the best.

-Ferrel E. Anderson


How do you photograph an indoor concert?

I was hoping someone could give me a few tips on taking some pictures at an indoor concert. The venue is quite small, about the size of a bar. The lighting will be constantly changing and the band members will most likely be moving around. I have never taken pictures at an event like this and would appreciate any advice people could give me.

A. No 1. Better make sure its OK to shoot in there. Many concert locations won't allow it. If it is, what film, lens combination are you using? Get a spot meter & use it to determine exposure. Another option is to get access early to take meter readings in all the light variations so you will be ready for the performance.

-Dan Smith

A. When I shoot live performances in Night Clubs and on Stage performances, I always coordinate with the musicians and the club owners first.. It is a great advantage when the entertainers anounce "So and so is one of the top photographers in the Music Industry and is here to shoot (tell them what)." I also pre set three strobes on stands to cover the different face angles of the Musicians on stage. Make sure that the strobes are Infra red Synched, but have the Modeling Lights turned off. You can meter remotely before the music starts.. This flood effect gives a good background light, because the light that isn't directly on the musician usually falls behind them and lights thru the depth of the shot.

One caution: Get the shots EARLY in the Performance.. Sweat on faces and wet hair dulls the Snap of the shot. Also, the cigarette smoke in a poorly ventialted Club will often times reduce the effectiveness of the Infra Red Synch.. You end up with wierd affects as the main doesn't fire and the Musician is side lit or back lit. Also, Shoot medium format.. I use the Kodak PRO 400 film in the 120 format.. Good sharp images thru the smoke, and a full stop better than VPS. Feel free to discuss the pro aspects of this with me. The latest Album/CD Cover and liner which

I was hired for contained 10 Images and One morph.... It only took 7 rolls of film at three locations to produce. Good Luck! Bill

-Bill Olson

A. I shoot available light performances (mostly jazz musicians) at concerts and in clubs where I have permission to do so. I use Kodak TMZ 35 mm film shot at its rated speed of 1000. I develop the film for 7.5 min. in T-Max dev. (1:4 dilution at 68 oF). To do this successfully requires reasonble stage lighting and very fast lenses (min f2.8). To catch the action it is ideal to shoot at 1/125 but have achieved acceptable results at 1/60 or even 1/30 in a pinch. I used to bring a spot meter and expose for the flesh tones, but found the in-camera meter in my Nikon FM2's was accurate enough. Check out some of my work at www2.magmacom/~rbour/fowler.htm

-John R. Fowler

A. I'm not an expert, but I've had some good results with Tri-x pushed to 800 under similar conditions. Develop in D-76. Should produce some classic shots.

-Luke Phillips

A. I've done quite a bit of concert photography.I tend to use Tri-X 400 with a flash. Some places won't allow flashes, so I tend to push it to 1600 and hope for the best. Standard shooting time is 3 songs. But it all depends on the venue and the band. Check with the band first, most don't care. If not get some 1600 and haul it around with you just in case. Concerts really suck without a flash cause 75% of the light comes from behind the performers.

-Alex Crick

A. Available light shooting I have done a lot of experimenting in concert photography and this is what I came up with so far. I basically shoot with Ilford HP5+ pushed to 3200 or 1600 depending on the lighting conditions.I always have a flash ready to save the shots if the light is extremelly poor or is a backlight. But real concert photos are flashless so mainly I use the flash for fill in or for stoping the action(with slower films). I've used also the TMAX 3200 and the results were great especially if you like grainy stuff. But all in all some of my best shots were made on the HP5 without flash.You just have to get lucky with the timing of the action and the lighting.



Ethol LPD: Is it a good paper developer?

Q. Does anyone know anything about LPD paper developer? How does it work with vc papers? How does it work with graded papers? Is it an on the shelf developer?

A. I've been using LPD for about 15 years & love it. Diluted at 1part LPD to 2 parts water, it works almost exactly like Dektol. At 1:4 however, it provides becomes a warn tone developer (if you are using warn tone paper), with no change in contrast. The only one to do that to the best of my knowledge. Shelf life is a little short, I've kept itat stock strength in a browm glass bottle for a month, when very tightly sealed. Working strength does not to seem to last as long as Dektol or some others, but diluted 1:4, its still very economical to use.

-Doug Lester

A. I have used it for years. In my experience it has a long working time and the stock solution lasts for many months in full glass bottles.

-Morton Klotz

A. Here's a Tip that is so simple and to my way of looking at it bulletproof. Buy or scrounge a 5 liter wine box with the bladder that makes you glader and you can have fun at the same time. When empty take and pull the rubber tap and wash blader with detergent and rinse a number of times mix your developer, pour in the developer force the eccess air out pop the tap back on and put back in original box and your good for a long time. No aireal oxidation. try it you can't go wrong.

-Ron Gulsvig

A: I've used LPD for various projects over the past 12 years and love it. It replenishes well, and changing dilution really does change the tonal temperature of the paper. I use it with Ilford MG papers (both plastic and fiber) and like the results.

-Mason Resnick

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