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Filters for Black and White

Discussion in 'Colour or Not' started by FoldingCamera, Aug 19, 2010.

  1. FoldingCamera

    FoldingCamera Active Member

    When I started B&W photography in the 1970's and for many years thereafter I Have from time to time compared the effects of using either yellow, orange or red filters, generally the results of these comparisons were disappointing except that red filters always made the shadows very dark (shadows being blue). Recently I have been using folding cameras without filters of any kind and find that the sky does not just go white as the popular wisdom of the 1970's and earlier suggests, this is likly to be as a result of modern films having a more extended red sensitivity?

    I have even gone to the extent of trying my Canon lenses on FTb with a UV filter only with good results, good shadow detail and enough detail in the sky. I am not in a position at the moment to do much photography but this requires more trial to make any constructive opinion possible. I wonder I anyone else has tried B&W film without filters or with only a UV and their opinion of the result?
  2. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Modern black and white films are mainly panchromatic and as such have a more balanced spectral response with enhanced sensitivity to red light and thereby less bias toward blue and green. The white skies in old photograhs are usually the result of using either orthochromatic film - which is not red sensitive and has a strong blue/green bias - or early panchromatic types with only a limited amount of response in the red region.

    I've used modern films without colour filtration and have gotten clear sky definition. Red/orange filters do improve the conrast but more in the respect that they give a better starting point for contrast enhancement in the darkroom.
  3. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    I tend to shoot with a yellow filter (Cokin) permanently attached if I'm out in the hills. I like the overall tonality it provides and , I believe, provides a spectral response similar to that of the human eye. Using this with a polariser gives a nice blue sky without the empty shadows you'd get with using a red filter. It's true though, modern panchromatic emulsions are better in this respect than their older namesakes. Have a go with Ilford SFX; this has a useful extended red sensitivity with tonality and graininess similar to ordinary emulsions when used unfiltered.
  4. FoldingCamera

    FoldingCamera Active Member

    I was under the impression that Ilford SFX had been discontinued but had a look at the film list at my supplier and see that it is listed at double the cost of ilfor HP5 which is the film I have been using most of all for the last 30 years and at the same time found that the film that I have been trying out, Fuji Neopan 400, has now been discontinued. this is a major disappointment as Ilford choose to print the frame numbers on the back of 120 film so feint that they cannot be seen through the red window.

    This is very annoying to say the least, I suppose it is because not enough people buy the film to make its manufacture viable, is this because it is not a particularly good film? I have seen somewhere the suggestion that B&W film sales were increasing or is the 'credit crunch' killing of sales?
  5. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Stick with HP5 then. It's been my favourite film since I was grass-high to a knee-hopper. A yellow filter works well on skies and doesn't distort the other tones in the scene (I'm sure I said that in my previous post :)). A bit of basic darkroom manipulation will pull out the detail in the sky - esp. if you print split-grade.
    As for sales of trad b&w emulsions on the increase, I'm sure it will be a very small increase. I think more important is the fact that sales aren't decreasing any more indicating a small but loyal following to the trad. camp.
  6. FoldingCamera

    FoldingCamera Active Member

    There is another factor here in the use of uncoated lenses of prewar cameras, and perhaps early coated lenses, in conjunction with the increased red sensitivity of modern black and white film, in this case Ilford FP4, which I frequently use on 6x6 producing a different tonal range to a 1970's multicoated lens? yet another factor may be that all of my negatives are scanned into my computer with an Epson 4990 scanner (Flatbed), with the majority of image adjustment done before scanning.

    As a point of interest I was having a look in my copy of BJP annual for 1967 and notice that quite a few B&W glass plate negatives were still available, most neg mats were panchromatic with a fair amount of ortho still available, perhaps most surprising is that blue sensitive glass plate by Ilford was still available!

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