Author Topic: BW film speed in the past  (Read 5875 times)

T42

  • Old fool in a hurry
BW film speed in the past
« on: October 28, 2016, 08:39:17 am »
Watched an episode of a serial last night in which a 1980s spy used an OM-something to take BW shots in very low light, and got results that suggested modern digitals.

The fastest BW film I used back then was HP5 400 ASA. Even pushed to 800 or pre-sensitized, I can't imagine it managing that.  It made me wonder just what the fastest over-the-counter 35mm BW film might have been back then - was I missing something?
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2016, 08:45:39 am »
You could buy 800 - but it was grainy.

How long an exposure did they use? If they had a stonking huge lens and a big aperture then it might have been possible (but I bet it was a miniaturised camera).
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clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2016, 09:51:56 am »
Fastest OM lens would have been the 55mm f1.2 (which was reputed not to be very good fully open, but excellent stopped down to f2).  The 50mm f1.4 was the fastest standard, and could have been used open.

OM-1 has shutter settings down to 1s (Plus B, of course); Later OMs had up to 4min auto exposure, but that is way beyond hand held.  With a standard lens, it would be reasonable to have 1/30s as the longest exposure that is practicable for any sensible results.

Coming back to film, Ilford XP1 was launched in 1980, so was a plausible medium.  It used a different technology to other B/W films, and had the latitude of colour print film (an advantage and a disadvantage in use).  I have pushed it to 3200 ASA successfully for interiors of theatres.  But, while not grainy, it was a bit of a strain for detail.  If they showed the negatives in that classic darkroom shot after dev, the negs look distinctly sepia or purplish, depending on the process.

So, 1/30s @ f1.4   ISO3200 I think are the practical limits.

I'll let someone else do the maths on how dark that handles.  Ftr, I used my 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 zoom for the theatres.  Some results were better than others :/
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Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2016, 10:16:28 am »
Fuji Neopan was 1600, I'm sure I remember using it at school - it wasnt great.  We're so spoiled with Dslrs.


clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2016, 10:27:21 am »
Neopan 1600 was introduced in 1989.

Linky

That article mentions Kodak TMax 3200, which I'd forgotten about, though it is clearly more grainy than the Neopan, even when rated at 2500.
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clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2016, 10:30:03 am »
And here's a link from 1988 about the unveiling of TMax 3200, and how far it can be pushed!

But does the 80s of the programme in question extend to 88 or 89?

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T42

  • Old fool in a hurry
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2016, 10:37:48 am »
It looked as if the bloke in the film was using the 50mm f/1.8 that came as standard. He was using it hand-held. Looked like an OM-1 or OM-2, but I don't know if the OM-2 was ever produced in an all-black version. His was, as is mine.

Given that directors regularly show us 200-mm lenses that allow the capture of a gnat's stubble at half a mile, ISO 25000-equivalent performances with 1980s film isn't such a strain, I suppose.  It would have been nice to see him getting home with a set of black frames, though.

Film was set in 1981-82.  And oh aye, people were being "tasked". Oh my aching.
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2016, 10:46:35 am »
It looked as if the bloke in the film was using the 50mm f/1.8 that came as standard.

Since we're in Pedant's Corner here, ISTR that my OM-1 standard lens was 50mm f1.4, much more betterer than the f1.8 other manufacturers offered as standard lenses at the time.

T42

  • Old fool in a hurry
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2016, 11:12:02 am »
You were lucky, then. I bought my OM-1 new in 1978 and there was a 1.8 in the box.
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2016, 11:28:50 am »
Mine was bought in 1981, for a School Trip to Iceland.
So it must be that they introduced the f1.4 in the intervening time.

Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2016, 11:32:57 am »
I have a 55 1.2 that will fit on my AE-1. You can just about get Tri X to 3200 - some would say faster - but shadows tend to block up. Tmax or Delta 3200 probably do better, but both are already being pushed at that.

Although digital is remarkable, it was only with the recent generation of Sony sensors that I really got happy with 3200 as a usable iso. Not for noise, but dynamic range falls away very quickly as you up the amplification.

Mike

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2016, 11:37:21 am »
f1.8 was the usual standard lens.  f1.4 came at a premium (source: dimly remembered ad in ancient camera magazine)

By 1982, the OM camera options were: M1; OM1(& MD & N); OM2 (& N); OM10.  All three were produced in black.
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clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2016, 11:39:08 am »
I note an error in my earlier specs.

In 1982, Olympus introduced the 50mm f1.2.
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clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2016, 01:04:01 pm »
So we could be thinking:

1/30s f1.2 3200ASA

Which gets closer, but not, I think, far enough.
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Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2016, 01:19:43 pm »
HP5 was sold as 400 but marketed as 400-3200. Shooting at 3200, even if developed in ID-11, was grainy but acceptable. It wasn't unusual to push to 6400 (or more) and if developed in perceptol or microphen the results were fine, as long as you weren't looking for a gallery print. Not just the grain but the poor tone reproduction. But frankly, if you were looking for a gallery print you wouldn't be using 35mm.
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that's not science, it's semantics.

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2016, 01:51:31 pm »
I suspect spies don't look for gallery prints ;D

But they would need a level of detail.
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fuzzy (retd.) AAGE

  • SWMBO's Toy Boy.
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Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2016, 02:43:40 pm »
the devil isn't always in the detail.

In a previous life I was an anti tank platoon detachment commander and instructor. Part of my role was armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) recognition instructor. This was done using slides of various vehicles and demonstrating the identifying features (fume extractor location on main armament, snorkel stowed position, exhaust location, shape etc). Many of the slides were copies of black and white images of enemy vehicles clearly clandestinely taken, perhaps at risk to life?. Some of the images were of poor quality but, the detail was sufficient to be able to show features.

Spies aren't all about getting fine print images. Sometimes a grainy silhouette is enough (to send a country to war.....) 
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If it ain't bad for you it ain't worth doing

Kim

  • An appetite for the epic, but no real stamina
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2016, 03:09:01 pm »
Hollywood physics; you're lucky to get gravity.

Scriptwriters have routinely been using the MovieOS 'enhance' button since the 1980s.  Stands to reason that the same effect can be achieved with darkroom incantations if the plot demands it.
I do find anything involving ball bearings oddly satisfying

T42

  • Old fool in a hurry
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2016, 03:45:33 pm »
Yebbut sometimes you're led to expect better. :(

@fuzzy: he was taking mugshots.  No grain at all in the "results".
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

fuzzy (retd.) AAGE

  • SWMBO's Toy Boy.
  • Apprentice Leathery Old Git
    • The Secret Cyclist blog
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2016, 04:05:23 pm »
That'll be the TOP SEEKRIT OHMSS Spy filum specially developed by Desmond Llewellyn so that perfick shots can be taken inna dark innit.
Quote from: tatanab
The mark of a true cyclist - prepared to try anything on offer

If it ain't bad for you it ain't worth doing

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2016, 04:22:16 pm »
Surely you've seen the film "Blow-Up"
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2016, 11:25:38 pm »
Scriptwriters have routinely been using the MovieOS 'enhance' button since the 1980s.

Button? 'Enhance' has been voice control since the 1980s...

Enhance. Stop.
Move in. Stop.
Pull out, track right. Stop.
Center and pull back. Stop.
Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop.
Enhance 34 to 36.
Pan right or-and pull back. Stop.
Enhance 34 to 46.
Pull back. Wait a minute. Go right. Stop.
Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop.
Enhance 15 to 23.
Gimme a hard copy right there.


Kim

  • An appetite for the epic, but no real stamina
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2016, 12:21:20 am »
You can use voice or (beepy) keyboard commands to process images in MovieOS.  Never a mouse.
I do find anything involving ball bearings oddly satisfying

T42

  • Old fool in a hurry
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2016, 10:06:50 am »
I suppose in the end it's no different from the rest of the Hollywood ethos.  I used to know a bloke who ran a company that built sets for Hollywood films, who said that it was common practice for the studio to cut a vital scene to shorten an over-long film and just let the audience think that they'd missed something.

But wouldn't it be wunnerful if just once they'd make a completely accurate film?  OTOH it'd probably be a flop.
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Wombat

  • Is it supposed to hurt this much?
Re: BW film speed in the past
« Reply #24 on: November 01, 2016, 08:19:31 am »
I had a try with Kodak 2475 recording film at its rated speed of 1600ASA, back in about 1976, can't remember the developer I had to use, but although it "got the shot" it was bloody grainy.  When I think what I can do now with the demon A7RII, at 6400 and even more, I'm glad of some advances.  I think the 1976 experiment would have been with my Pentax SP1000, with the 50mm/f2 lens.  I haven't gone up much in aperture, as its no good having an ultra-narrow depth of focus in dance photos of groups of people.  As it is, with the 85/1.8 wide open, one person of a couple is invariably not in focus unless I succeed in catching them at the right stage of a move so they are exactly equidistant from me.  One person asked me why I hadn't coughed for the Sony 85/1.4, my response was that although I'd get the shot, at 1.4 I'd be lucky to get more than one hair in focus, and the damn thing is twice the weight and twice the price of my 1.8 Zeiss.

I did also try HP5 at 1600 - once....  It takes quite a bit of experimenting with developers and precise timing to get it right, and I certainly didn't have the money for that.
Wombat