I have adopted stand development in Rodinal 100:1 as my developer and process – easy, cheap, reliable, not fussy about temperature, and producing high acutance (strong edge contrast) negatives. This costs a few cents per film, and I use a plain water stop shaving a tiny bit more off the cost. But in the past my goto film was FP4 and I was a little concerned by the more prominent grain (because of the high acutance of Rodinal) in for example clouds and sky. I was interested to find out if I preferred a finer grain film like Delta 100.
Exposing at box speed in my Leica MP with Zeiss 50mm Planar and Voigtlander 15mm lenses with yellow and red filters, I took a collection of sky shots and a few building shots trying to explore the characteristics of the film in different lighting situations and contrast ranges. The featured image was shot in bright sunlight. Some adjustment to the contrast curve to darken the image as a whole but lift the highlights on the wall was needed to produce an image to suit my tastes, probably at least as good as could be produced on FP4.
The second image was shot at about the same time but in open shade. Even with considerable curve adjustments I find the rendition less satisfying than I get from FP4 or some other traditional films.
The following image shows bright sky next to the sun (which is hidden by the pillar) and the very dark interior of the viewpoint building. The straight scan showed the interior as black and the sky burnt out near the pillar. Curve adjustments recovered a satisfying amount of information inside the building and revealed clouds near the sun. Would FP4 have done better? I suspect it would but I’ll retake this shot to be sure.
Now a sky shot to check the grain. Yes, its finer, but I can get a punchier image using FP4 so in one way satisfied but another not.
Finally low light performance, sky after sunset. Looking at the other sky shots I took I’d say while accurate renditions they somehow seem to lack something I get from FP4.
So what is my conclusion? Based on results so far I’d say I still favour FP4 despite the more apparent grain, but it’s early days, I clearly need to retake the high contrast shot on FP4 while for the others I have very similar shots on FP4 which I prefer. I have four more films which I’ll use over time before finally deciding. One question is ‘do I like FP4 simply because I’m used to it?’ I think there is only one film I have fallen in love with after only a few rolls, and its not FP4, but Fomapan Classic 100! Technical accuracy is one thing – great for scientific or record keeping work – but character is another.
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