It’s been about 10 months since I last wrote about my experiences trying different film stocks so I thought it was high time for a new article. This time I’m also going to cover some expired films as I was given a hoard of old deep frozen film by a friend so have more experience with it now.
Black & White
Agfa Agfapan APX 400 (expired)
This film hasn’t been manufactured in over a decade now, the roll I shot expired in 2005. I shot my roll of this film at ISO 320 to compensate for loss of sensitivity. The film has a traditional style emulsion that produces a noticeable but not unpleasant grain. I feel like it renders light quite softly, but still produces a good detail and sharpness. I shot this roll in my Rolleicord Vb.
Lomography Earl Grey (ISO 100)
Earl Grey is rebranded Foma Creative 100. It’s a really nice, fine grained ISO 100 classic emulsion. I enjoyed shooting Creative 100 so it follows that I also like this rebranded version. Results from my SQ-Ai look crisper and sharper than from ETRS, but I’d put this down to differences in the lenses rather than any improvement Foma may have made to the film itself since last year. Sold in handy 3 packs it’s a really solid black and white film, and provides a cheaper alternative to say Ilford FP4+.
Ilford FP4+ (ISO 125, expired)
As part of the film stash I was given I got several rolls of FP4 plus, all dating back to the early 2000s. I’ve now shot a couple of rolls, exposing it at ISO 100 to give the old emulsion a slight kick. The results are great, it all looks as good as new producing lovely, fine grain negatives with a lovely tonal range. I also have some older non-plus rolls of FP4, including one dating back to the 1980s which I’m hoping to try over the summer.
Kodak Portra 160
I really like this film! It’s flexible, very fine grained and with a lovely warm palette. Compared to Kodak Ektar 100, it’s much easier to work with – you don’t need to worry about shadows turning blue, colours are a bit softer and more natural. You also get 2/3rd of a stop more light to work with over Ektar. It handles over exposure well giving you lots of headroom if you want to shoot at ISO 100 or slower speeds. You can sometimes find a five pack of Portra 160 for as little as £25 on Amazon which makes it a bargain for such a high quality film.
I’d wanted to shoot this film for ages – then after finally buying a roll, it spent several months sat in my fridge as I didn’t know what to do with it! The trouble with CineStills film is that it’s seriously expensive. A single roll of 800T cost me £15 – that puts a lot of pressure on you to make good use of it. I ended up taking it to Amsterdam with the hope of getting some good night shots around the city. Unfortunately it turns out Amsterdam isn’t a very brightly lit city! So I wasn’t that happy with many of the shots I got because I struggled to find brightly lit subjects to fill the frame, oh well c’est la vie! Still I like the look of this film, the glow you get around the highlights due to the removal of the anti-halation layer looks cool. Grain is incredibly fine for such a fast film, easily rivalling Portra 400. If I buy any more it will probably be in 135 format just so I don’t have to stress quite so much about the cost of each shot!
This is an interesting film, unusually without an orange mask, making it slightly easier to digitise. Unfortunately my test roll didn’t turn out brilliantly, resulting in some of the shots having areas of uneven development. The film has a noticeable, but fine grain and good sharpness. Shadow areas can tend a little towards purple and it doesn’t give you much leeway for underexposure in the shadows. It’s probably better to exposure it at ISO 160 to give yourself more headroom. I was hoping to get some more of this film to play with now I’ve got my C-41 process better nailed down, but sadly it seems to be discontinued.
This film has been a really pleasant surprise. I bought it just because at the time I’d never shot an ISO 800 colour film, and at £15 for 3 rolls it seemed like a bargain. Shot at ISO 800 it produces nice colours and reasonably tight grain. But shoot it at ISO 400 and it produces lovely punchy colours and a very pleasing soft grain that makes it rival native ISO 400 films like Fuji Pro 400H. Having a film that works well from ISO 800 on down is incredibly handy if you know you’re going to be in quite mixed lighting conditions. I don’t know who makes this film (it’s sourced from China), but I highly recommend trying it.