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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Karen Lewis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/2/2003

Black and White Film

Can some one tell me what the difference is between the true B/W film and the B/W film (c-41) that you process the same way as colour? Is the quality the same as true B/W?? What are the pros and cons?
Any info would be great. I have never used B/W film and would like to try it.

Thankyou to everyone, past and present who answers my Q's. I'd be lost without you!

6/22/2003 3:47:15 PM

doug Nelson

member since: 6/14/2001
  I'm told the grain characteristics and tonality of the c-41 black-and-whites is excellent.

If you want to learn the Zone system and will be including your own development as part of the process, you can develop your own silver-based black-and-white, but it's best to leave C-41 processing to the shop.

One big advantage to C-41 B&W is that it scans much better. Silver halide crystals in silver-based film give most film scanners fits.

6/23/2003 5:34:45 AM

Karen Lewis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/2/2003
  Thanks Doug for your response. Greatly appreciated!

6/23/2003 11:35:12 PM


member since: 4/12/2003
  I have found that most local labs process B&W C-41 with poor results (muddy looking, very grey tone). I had decided not to use this type of film again until I had seen it correctly processed. Ask your lab to see samples of this type of work before trusting them to your film. You can print your own prints with the negatives, it is mostly the incorrect use of paper. Good Luck

6/24/2003 6:38:55 AM

Melissa Williams

member since: 3/29/2003
  I used to shoot traditional B&W all the time, but now I just use the C-41 because it's so much more convenient. And when printing, the printer machines like it alot better because they can read the DX coding better. I don't have any problems with muddiness. Maybe the place you took it to just wasn't printing them well? Most local labs print everything blah unless they take the time to color correct the pictures. They're too lazy and set the machine to auto and everything comes out a kind of blah. I've seen color pics come back so blue everyone looked like Smurfs! You'd think they'd care...

6/24/2003 8:08:40 PM

Karen Lewis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/2/2003
  Thanks for your responses Melissa and Sharon. After getting my first roll just back from the lab I wasn't doing hand stands over the result. Although they were exposed correctly, I found them murky and flat. As I've never used the good old fashion b/w I had nothing to compare with. I'll try a few different labs and see how those come out in comparison. Thanks!

6/25/2003 5:34:31 AM

Nicole  Daniel

member since: 6/2/2003
To add to the other responses: when I use c-41 B & W film there seems to be no true black and no true white, there are just various shades of gray, dark, light, etc. However true B & W film almost always has very clear black and white areas. Below is a picture using c-41 B&W film as you can tell there is no true black or white areas.

6/30/2003 3:12:55 PM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000 is where you want to go. For $21 you get an incredible slideshow with added music. It's very easy to use.

7/1/2003 5:33:10 AM

Jean-Hee Lee

member since: 10/22/2002
  If the results are murky, check if the film was developed in c-41 chemicals. In a beginning darkroom class I took, one person brought in c-41 b+w by mistake, and was developed in b+w chemicals, which turned out murky.

7/1/2003 10:48:18 AM

Robert Bridges

member since: 5/12/2003
  C41 B&W film cannot be processed (well) by the traditional developers you bought off the shelf. It is b&w film which is made to be developed in COLOR film developers.........Basically I suspect it is a way for film manufactures to give the buying public the illusion they are getting true black and white film when in reality they are getting deeper into your pocket book. I teach in a community college and always warn the students DO NOT BUY THIS STUFF for a couple of reasons 1) it screws up our chemicals 2) it seldom develops fully in either D 76 or T-Max or god forbid some of the two part developers we use. 3) Prints from them always look bad (i.e., poor contrast - muddy) and lastly while fine for special effects in my mind its sort of like trying the make a purse out of a sow's want b&w there are many great b&w films available.


7/1/2003 3:54:13 PM

Melissa Williams

member since: 3/29/2003
  Did you know that if traditional B&W is run through a c-41 machine, not only will it ruin the chemistry, but it will leave black stuff in the machine and mess it all up. I haven't actually SEEN it happen, but it's what I've heard.

7/2/2003 12:06:58 AM

Jean-Hee Lee

member since: 10/22/2002
  To clarify, when I developed the film in b+w chemicals, it was an experiment, not something I normally do. It is possible to have very acceptable prints on b+w paper from c-41 film, and it is a more affordable way to have black and white photos for those people who don't have ready access to a darkroom.

7/2/2003 8:42:42 AM


member since: 1/15/2002
  I have to agree with Robert(Bridges). I have my own darkroom and develop "TRUE" B&W film...T-Max 100. I am very leary about these companies messing around with my stuff and have no desire to use c41 processed B&W film. I know that others don't have the time ,money,or desire to mess with developing their own film(it's not for everyone I know).But i'll tell you it sure is a blast having creative control over what you are doing and going for that perfect picture..i guess you can call that "quality control".I can spend hours in there doing what I love to do.

7/7/2003 2:55:26 PM

Melissa Williams

member since: 3/29/2003
  Yeah, I WISH I had my own darkroom. It'll be years before I can afford it. And then I'd never come out. I love printing my own stuff (when I'm not pulling my hair out angry at stubborn dust particles). There are so many neat things you can do. I still want to play around with liquid emulsion some time. When I had access to a darkroom I'd stay in there as long as possible and after a while my contacts would get irritated so my eyes would burn as soon as I walked outside into daylight. It kept getting worse so I had to go buy regular glasses. My contacts were absorbing the chemical vapors and over time it became a big problem. But I still miss the dark room.

7/7/2003 4:11:29 PM

Seb N. Sikora

member since: 10/10/2003
  I used to work at a jessops, and you should see the damage 'proper' b&w does to an automated development machines with c-41 chemistry in them :( The film comes out sticky, as if the emulsion has been partially etched away!

As for b&w film, I really like hp5, and neopan 1600 / kodak tmax 3200. I really like the moody grainy shots they give without flash, especially when pushed 6400+


10/10/2003 9:12:01 AM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  If you're digital, desaturate the color, adjust the contrast/brightness or use curves and your done. Burn to a CD and send to a lab or print from your computer.

Very simple.

10/10/2003 1:13:39 PM


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