One of the bloggers I follow (I suspect it was Dan James) asked why I have five essentially interchangeable Leica thread mount camera bodies. I didn’t have a good answer at the time, but when I looked in the desk drawer where I keep my factory loaded film and saw that I had five varieties of film I decided to shoot a few test subjects with all five films using all five cameras. It would be the first time I ever had film in all of them at the same time.
I loaded Ilford HP5 Plus, FP4 Plus and Pan F Plus, Fuji Acros 100 and Adox Silvermax 100 in the five Leicas. I used the same lens and tripod location for all the shots. I shot all the films at box speed. I was fairly confident that FP4+ or Silvermax would be the winner, and more than a little worried that I would not be able to choose between them. And then, as if that wasn’t complicated enough, when I took some empty cassette cans out of the drawer I found a roll of Tri-X in one of them.
At first, I wasn’t going to bother with the Tri-X. My go-to film/developer combination back in my old darkroom days was Panatomic-X in Rodinal. The few rolls of Tri-X in Rodinal that I tried were too grainy, too contrasty and didn’t print well with a condenser enlarger. On top of that, the general consensus was that the change Kodak made to Tri-X in 2007 was not a good thing. But my curiosity won out and I shot the Tri-X in my Nikon F while I still had enough light to repeat the earlier shots.
The test process from that point was dead simple, if time consuming. All of the rolls were developed in Rodinal (1+50) for the times recommended by Adox or the film manufacturer. The test frames were digitized with a Fuji X-T20 on a Leitz BEOON copy stand. The RAW files were developed and minimally processed with Affinity Photo. The edited files were printed with the default neutral ABW settings of the R2880 printer.
I had already made prints of the Ilford, Fuji and Adox films developed in Rodinal in the past year and these new test prints were about what I expected. The surprise was the Tri-X. Each of the other films could clearly benefit from additional post processing work. I couldn’t think of anything I could do to improve most of the Tri-X prints and just a slight increase of gamma was all the others needed. (I might try a small increase of development time for the next roll of Tri-X.)
For now, at least, I have settled on Tri-X as my all-purpose film and I have a hybrid photo workflow that involves the smallest number of decisions at each stage. I’ve pretty much run out of excuses for not taking more pictures.