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Monday, September 18, 2006

Kodak BW400CN - The 'other' black&white film

If I were to guess I'd say 90%+ of all photos I take are captured on some sort of black and white film.
Not developing and printing myself it is sometimes a bit of a pain having to go to one of the labs in the city (San Francisco) that processes black and white film, pick them up a day or two later, look over the contact sheets and decide if there is anything that is worthy for scanning and/or printing. Living in a major city this is still not a problem as there are a number of labs available and it is still possible to get a few rolls turned around (including conctact sheets) during the same business day - but had I lived in a smaller city where my options were more limited (or if I was short on time) this could turn into more of an issue.

Enter Kodak's BW400CN. This is not a new film - actually it's been around since March, 2004 when it replaced Kodak's Portra 400BW (as well as Kodak's T400CN). What it is though is a pretty decent and fairly inexpensive black and white C-41 film that seems to scan well.

I picked up a roll of it this past weekend and was pleased with the results as well as the benefits that using a C-41 film brings with it. It felt so luxuriously lazy to be able to buy a roll (one roll approx $6, a four-pack approx $13. Hint: Buy the fourpack!), walk around and take some photos, drop the roll off and 60 minutes later pick up the negatives, print and CD. Now that's convenience!

Convenience is of course only one factor - how about quality?
I'm torn here. The prints I received all had either a faint purple or green tone and many of them were printed too dark and hid a lot of details that a scan of the negatives easily revealed. I didn't get a CD with scans for this roll but for samples of over-the-counter Wahlgreen's scan see the post below about the Olympus 35SPn - I'd say the quality is good enough for smaller web-postings but not much more than that.
What was really positive was how well these negatives seems to scan. The Kodak BW400CN film uses T-Grain technology and I have to say that the grain in the scans were hardly noticable - especially when comparing to C-41 colour 400 speed films.

So will I give up using Tri-X, Acros and Neopan?
Heck no - but it is nice to know that there are some options out there for when one need a quick black and white fix and need a C-41 film with fine grain and accepteable tonal range.

See below for some examples from the roll (scanned using an Epson 3200 flatbed scanner).

Olympus 35SPn Camera, Kodak BW400CN film

Olympus 35SPn Camera, Kodak BW400CN film

8 Comments:

Anonymous Jordan said...

It is nice stuff, isn't it? I've only used Kodak's version in 120, but I've used a lot of XP2 Super (Ilford) in 35mm. They scan very well -- ultra-smooth -- but can look horrid when underexposed. Rated at 200-250 though, I think they make ideal portrait films.

The colour of your prints, I think, stems more from operator limitations in the printing stage than anything else. It's technically very possible to make dead-neutral prints from these films.

September 19, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger RG said...

Ashtrays in California? Who'd have guessed... ;)

September 19, 2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger Rich Silfver said...

Jordan, thanks for commenting.

Actually the XP2 is the next C-41 B&W film I'd like to try so good to hear it behaves ok. I'll try to remember pulling it a stop as well to see how that comes out.

The print colours may be due to the operator or machine - the tones were quite bad and inconsistent within the same roll.

Thanks

September 19, 2006 11:31 AM  
Blogger Rich Silfver said...

>Ashtrays in California? Who'd have guessed... ;)

Actually there are a few places in San Francisco that allows smoking - even in some bars :)

September 19, 2006 11:32 AM  
Blogger RPA said...

Rich, the best option I've found is to get C41 negatives developed only. I don't even let the one hour labs cut mine. Both Longs and Wolf/Ritz have the uncut sleeves.

The color shift usually results from the lab not having a profile, or not setting the profile, when printing.

September 19, 2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger ms_motley :: eyni said...

I had tried BW400CN as well. It's very nice. But when I tweaked some shots during scanning to get more detail in the shadows, the images get a greenish cast.

Thanks.
:+:annie:+:

September 21, 2006 9:32 AM  
Blogger eric sales said...

Rich, thanks for visiting my blog, coming from an accomplished photg. like you, it feels good..now with XP2..i usually rate the film 75 to 100 asa, and print them in Ilford MG..gives me that creammy white, coupled with the right MG filter..
now scanning it.maybe it's a diff. story..

September 21, 2006 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

January 02, 2010 8:52 PM  

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