When I first started shooting film, I quickly learned that the days of cheap film development and processing were long gone. The biggest shock was that B&W cost two to three dollars more than color, anywhere from 15-17.00 per roll. Development times were also longer. Of the local shops, Dunwoody Photo, pre-pandemic, did B&W only once per week. The PhotoSpot sent theirs out. Looking online, prices for B&W were even higher than the local shops, and the wait time was the same or longer. Trying to save a few bucks, I started using Ilford XP2 (chromogenic film) because it uses c41 chemicals like color film. This worked out well for a few months, so I laid in a supply of XP2, of which I have five rolls remaining.
As regular readers know, I went on to take a darkroom class. Once the pandemic hit, I started developing and scanning at home. I had been warned a few times by darkroom classmates not to use XP2 because scanning and printing it could be problematic. As a result, I’ve had XP2 sitting here for almost 18 months, and it is time to use it.
I shot one roll outdoors and indoors, then developed it using CineStill 2-step color kit at 102o F for 3.5 minutes with an 8-minute archival wash. The negatives came out OK. Since I can’t do any darkroom printing, scanning will have to act as a proxy for now. The scans made using the 16-bit grayscale had far too much contrast for my taste. Having read somewhere about scanning B&W film in 48-bit color mode, I decided to try that. Using Epson’s scan software with my v600 yielded better results when scanned with the 48-bit color setting than when using 16-bit grayscale. Using the color settings, the negatives seem to have more depth as well as less contrast. I have tried scanning Kodak Tri-X in color mode but did not notice any difference. Notably, all images scanned in color mode, but five failed to scan in B&W mode. Anyone have an idea of why the B&W scan included fewer images?
Here are the images with the most significant differences between B&W and color scans.
Now that I develop film, XP2 is no longer a necessity. I find that Ultrafine Xtreme 100 and HP5+ give me great results. I will try Arista EDU and some Ilford Delta emulsions soon. But unless they blow me away, it will be Ultrafine Xtreme 100 and HP5+ for me. I will use up these XP2 rolls, and as soon as I manage to get the vaccine, I will try using the community darkroom once again. I’m curious to find out if printing XP2 is really a pain or if that warning is one of those examples of wisdom passed along that isn’t wisdom at all. I want to use these rolls, but until I clear up the scanning/printing issues, I’m wary of using them for anything other than gear tests.
If you have tried scanning or printing XP2 in B&W, I would like to hear what happened.