When buying new film today it's rather simple, actually. If we look at the B&W side of the matters there's only a very few left to choose from. You got the english company, the american one, and a few choices from the eastern part of europe. Maybe there's still something made over in russia, but I don't know too much about that. Oh, and yeah, you got some chinese stuff, of course.
So, compared to back in the days when I started to snap things on film the size of the available assortment is a bit limited.
Still, and even though I have gone through quite a number of rolls the last few years, I have not tried everything available.
Why? Because I don't feel like I have to... that's why.
In my opinion there's no point (at least not to me) in testing everything, and here's why I think that way.
Films simply look far to similar to each other to start picking on details, and the chance I will get everything out of the film the way it was intended is actually microscopic. I will never be able to get the same results as them hotshots doing "everything right" to get their fantastic spotless and wonderfully exposed negatives, prefereably in a size most of us never even knew existed. These few people are the big champions of the trade, and nothing most of us would have a snowballs chance in a hot place to even partly compare ourselves to.
Now, that said, it's nothing we should worry too much about either. I mean who would work with film if a sterile "perfect" negative was the goal everytime you snapped a photo?
Nah, that sounds like too much hassle and work and way to many sleepless nights to me I must say. I like good negatives, and for a reason, but I'm not addicted to getting a state of the art result every time I open a shutter for a shorter or longer period of time.
Which film you end up liking the most, compared to the next one, will wery often boil down to a feeling more than things you can put concrete words on.
If you want your snaps to look very different there's a better way to achieve that than keep thinking you're gonna find the film that does it all for you. The answer lies in the darkroom paper and the treatment you give that paper, my friends. That's where you can really get lost in time and space by testing different inventions, old and new. I need to talk about that some other day.
A scan of one of the prints from my latest darkroom session, and my latest trip to my small island on the coast of Norway. Snapped on 120 film using the Rolleiflex, printed on some quite tricky Emaks 5"x7" K883 Grade 2 baryte paper from Zabreg, Croatia. Tricky in the way that it's more or less not sensitive to light at all compared to the contemporary papers around, but a lovely surface and well worth giving a test if you get hold of a few sheets of the thing. I think this was exposed around 2 minutes at f5,6 or something like that. Compare it to the one beneath snapped from the same location on the same film but exposed for something like 4 or 6 seconds at the same aperture. Both negs were similar, and therefore compareable. As always, the scan looks horrible compared to the real print...
So, here's a quick sollution and guidance on how to find your own film of choice:
You run through a couple of different films with standard old fashion grain, develop and check.
Then you do the same with the more contemporary T-grain, or Delta grain. Again, develop and check.
Then you simply find out which style you like the most, and go for that sort of film. Period.
Personally I like the old fashion and traditional type of thing, which means I got a few different films to choose from. The only thing I need to worry about is if I want a fast or a slower film. The same issue will be valid for people running for the other type of film as well, but they usually got a nice choice of high ASA films to choose from.
To put this very simple I'm kind of stuck with the old Ilford films (HP5 and FP4), Kodak Tri-X, Fomapan and a very few others. All of them would be nice films, and all of them should be able to give you a good enough result. There's also a fair chance you gonna ruin everything. We are not called film wasters for nothing, as you should know. This applies whichever type of film you settle with.
Some of my best snaps was actually done on some very cheap chinese film I bought years ago having been stucked away inside a drawer inside a warm room for a long time. OK, you can see some flaws, but that's just adding to the feel of the negatives in some weird way.
The big difference between films will really surface when or if you get hold of some old film. I mean the stuff that went out of production years and years ago. That's where the real fun starts to some of us, and I can and will not blame them.
And then you got the old and since long expired specialist kind of films, very often with an extreme contrast hidden inside. Loads of fun can be had if you find a roll or two of that sort somewhere.
Another one from the darkroom, this time on Ilford FB Classic paper. A bit contrasty, I know, but I still like the result, probably mostly because of the lighthouse and them clouds up there. I ripped the orange filter off my rangefinder lens and just held it against the old Rolleiflex lens. Worked flawlessly I would dare to say. Some gaffer tape and it could easily become a more permanent sollution should I need it at some point.
And yes, I know that there's more variables to add into this subject such as which developer for what film and so on. If you really want to dig deep into that area please help yourself. There's a lot out there to read, but not very much visdom to gain I'm afraid. Personally I'm a man who likes to keep things simple, as you should know by now, and therefore I usually throw my films into whatever I got inside the house when I feel the urge to wash a film or five. Most of the time we're talking Rodinal, D-76, Xtol or HC-110. Simple!
So... no worries folks! Keep it simple and go snapping... that would be my best advice to anyone new to this old fashion way to do things. After all, it's not exactly rocket science!
OK, it's close, but not quite there.