Black and white photographs have long been regarded as the highest expression of photographic art. When we think of great photographs we often think of Ansel Adam's Half-Dome or Edward Weston's Pepper.
Until recently, black and white was not an easy choice for the casual photographer. You either needed your own darkroom or spent significant sums at the local lab. Chromogenic film has changed all that. Chromogenic film produces black and white negatives using color processing. That means your local one-hour photofinisher can process your black and white film using the same equipment and for the same price as your color film. If you shoot APS, chromogenic is the only black and white film available to you.
Sounds great doesn't it?
Well, there are a couple of catches.
Chromogenic film uses the same dye based technology as color film. It must be processed in color chemistry, specifically the C-41 process. The negatives are fine grained and have excellent tonal range. Unfortunately, like color negatives, chromogenic negatives are not as stable as old fashioned silver based black and white negatives.
Your local one-hour photofinisher will probably print your chromogenic negatives on color paper. This may lead to some interesting results. Personally, I like serendipity. The prints I get back range in tone from green or blue to a sepia-like brown. Once in a while I actually get some that look like black and white. The problem is the color paper. The printing machine operator at the lab has to pay a little extra attention when printing chromogenic negatives otherwise the results can be very weird. Don't hesitate to ask them to reprint the ones you don't like, but have reasonable expectations. If you like sepia ask for it.
A few photofinishers are willing, usually for a little extra money, to print your chromogenic negatives on black and white paper. This produces true black and white prints. In fact, you can take your chromogenic negatives to any black and white lab or your own darkroom and print them just like traditional silver negatives.
In traditional black and white photography, colored filters are used to emphasize certain elements of the scene. A yellow or red filter will darken the sky and make the clouds stand out. The same is true for chromogenic film. Shoot it just like regular black and white. Chromogenic film can also be push processed. That means that you can shoot the film at higher than its rated speed and have the lab increase the developing time to achieve that speed.
Chromogenic film is available in a variety of sizes and speeds from Kodak (www.kodak.com) and Ilford (www.ilford.com) including APS, 35mm, 120, 220, and 4x5 sheets. You can tell chromogenic film from silver based black and white film by the notation "Process C-41" on the box, wrapper, or cartridge.