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Wednesday, May 7

Firstcall 400S developed in Acurol-N


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Country Bus Stop

Back to my favourite haunts again, shooting similar subjects in the same weather but this time with Firstcall 400S getting the Acurol-N treatment. After loving the look of Tri X rated at box speed and developed in the Spur developer for a little contrast boost, I thought I'd have a quick look to see if the brew worked its magic with the UK's cheapest roll film.

The two Spur developers I mainly use, Acurol-N and HRX, tend to lose a bit of speed with many films.  Obviously it varies from film to film but, on average, the ISO you set on your camera or exposure meter should be roughly half the box speed when using these developers.

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Cattle Drinking Trough

I haven't got a problem with this as most experienced photographers tend to downrate the films they use almost as a matter of course. Unlike some companies who like to pretend that the box speed is accurate, Spur take a more realistic approach.

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In an earlier post I included a similar shot to this but with the bottles
in a different position. I wanted to get them down in the bottom right
corner for this pic but a persistent breeze kept blowing them over to
the left so I gave up and snapped them as they were.

If you're not a regular reader, then you might have missed my earlier post here where I had a quick look at Firstcall 400S developed in HRX, a combination that yields very nice results. In both Acurol-N and HRX, the Firstcall film takes a massive hit in terms of film speed dropping to just 40 ISO from its nominal 400 ISO.

If you have a look around the web for Rollei Retro 400S topics - Firstcall is the same film rebranded - you'll probably notice that the film can suffer from overly high contrast and a lack of shadow detail. Well, the good thing about the Spur developers is that both of those are easily overcome.

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Field Drainage

The recommended development time for Firstcall 400S in Acurol-N is 13.5 minutes at a dilution of 1+50. Since the lighting for my shots was flat, I gave the negs 14 minutes. They emerged looking good but a little on the dense side so I should have just stuck with 13.5 minutes or even a little less.

There's no doubt Firstcall 400S is capable of very good sharpness and grain is well controlled but I don't think the negs have the same sparkle as Tri X. It's difficult to put the difference into words. Maybe I just have a genetic preference for Tri X?

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 Rural Intersection

Here (below) are a couple of pics for comparison. Nothing was done to them at all apart from scanning and setting the black and white points and adjusting the mid tones (the Firstcall neg was slightly denser) to get them looking pretty much the same. The weather conditions were similar but not identical. The top one was shot using a 24mm Nikkor of some vintage and the bottom a 24mm Zuiko.

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Firstcall 400S rated at 40 ISO in Acurol-N 

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Tri X rated at 400 ISO in Acurol-N

I prefer the tonality in the Tri X shot although they're almost equally as sombre! Now 100% crops of 3200 dpi scans to show the grain:

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Firstcall 400S

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Tri X

The Firstcall grain is a little less obvious and slightly smoother. I prefer the crispness of Tri X. There are lots of ifs and buts in this wee comparison - different film speeds, different lenses, different weather - and it certainly wouldn't make some APUG-ers happy but it represents how I would use these materials in the real world. All of these tests I do are mainly for my own interest. If you get something from them then that's great.

So, the conclusion I reach is that both films do well in Acurol-N but I prefer Tri X. There's just a little bit more snap which is a boon in this sort of weather and its 400 ISO rating makes it easily hand-holdable in dull light where Firstcall's 40 ISO is straining things quite a lot.

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8 comments :

Eric Slater said...

Hi Bruce. How do you manage to get so much atmosphere into ypur photos? I wish I knew what the secret is. If I take shots like these they just end up looking boring. Is it in the printing?

Bruce Robbins said...

It's a hard thing to explain, Eric. When I go for a drive through the countryside I'm always on the lookout for certain elements of composition that will make a photograph and give it "structure" for want of a better word. These elements jump out at me straightaway. After that it's down to the weather. If you want a lot of atmosphere in a pic you need to have a lot of atmosphere in the air, so to speak. Burning in the edges of the print and the sky finishes it off.

Michael Stevens said...

I'm with you on marginally preferring the Tri-X, but I'd love to see a comparison with my favourite film, HP5+!

Herman Sheephouse said...

I agree with Eric, Bruce - pure gloom and atmosphere - it really is a great signature. And yes it is hard to capture atmosphere AND render it in the final image - yet again . . well done.

Bruce Robbins said...

Michael, how do you find HP5+ for dull lighting conditions? I used to use a lot of it developed in dilute Perceptol but never in gloomy conditions. I always think of it as being silvery rather than gritty like Tri X. When I tried it on a dull day and developed it in HRX it was a bit flat for my liking.

oscarcarlsson said...

I think I prefer the 400S here, on my monitor it has a better midtone contrast than the Tri-X.

At what ISO did you shoot the 400S? 40?

Michael Stevens said...

Bruce, I was just wondering what HP5 would look like in the Acurol-N in comparison to the other 400 ISO films.

I tend to use HP5 rated at 200 and D76 for pretty much everything as I'm too lazy to do extensive testing. (I'll leave all that to you and just reap the rewards!)

Bruce Robbins said...

Hi Oscar,

Sorry I'm late with my reply. Yes, the Firstcall was shot at 40/50 ISO (can't remember for sure now) for development in Acurol-N.