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In the beautiful world of film, there are varying brands and film stocks that you can choose from. Two of the largest manufactures of color film are Kodak and Fujifilm. With the two brands you have film stocks that compete with each other at specific price points. For every Kodak Portra 400 you have Fuji Pro 400H. For every Kodak Ultramax you have Fujifilm Superia. The same only partially applies for black and white film stocks.
It is in my experience that black and white film is much more limited when it comes down to the variability in price points. Where the differing price points and types of black and white film tend to differ is in the Iflord family. Ilford Photo has a huge variety of black and white film stocks. They have HP5, Delta, XP2, SFX, Ortho Plus, and Pan F to name a few. In addition, they have acquired Kentmere offering cheaper black and white film compared to their Ilford line.
Though Iflord offers an extensive set of stocks to choose from, it doesn’t matter when you find the one black and white film stock that can do everything well at a price point you find works. Considering you’re only dealing with a monochrome photo, you’d expect this to be easy. Due to the very nature of film, even black and white stocks can vary quite a bit. Some film stocks have more grain, others have a greater dynamic range but may lack contrast, some are sharper than others (or appear to be anyway), and some are super punchy in their blacks and whites.
This is where Kodak’s line of black and white comes in. Two of Kodak’s popular black and white film stocks are Kodak T-max and Kodak Tri-X. The latter of the two is the one I enjoy to shoot the most. The grain is much more prevalent compared to Kodak’s other offering, and I really like the grittiness I get compared to Ilford’s competing film stock HP5. I also find that Tri-X has much more contrast overall compared to other brands. It’s through the contrast that I can really focus on composition. It also tends to make photos look a tad sharper.
I think another contributing factor that leads me to choose Tri-X is the historical significance. It feels barebones and helps me connect to the roots of photography – especially to photojournalists. This was THE film for photojournalists and I think my love for street photography is founded in photojournalism. It’s the people that make me enjoy photography. Tri-X feels raw and it’s what’s needed to show people’s real side.
Much like the film stock is gritty and full of contrast, it can reflect the situation I find myself in. It makes it much easier to express photos in a certain way that digital photography and other black and white film may not be able to do as easily or effectively. Tri-X just feels much more natural. You can be creative in composition, or if you take photos of your daily life, it can really add to your image – especially with those dark obsidian tones. It’s a film stock that’s easy to just pop in to the camera and shoot away. As a 400 speed film, Tri-X is very well rounded and can be used for many situations – both indoors and out. It just never fails.
What’s your favorite black and white film stock? And if you haven’t shot in black and white before, I definitely recommend trying out Kodak Tri-X. If you haven’t already, give this blog a follow if you enjoyed today’s post. I have written a couple of posts around film – especially black and white. I think for my next one I will be writing about my Digital photography. Stay tuned!