Film Reviews

Superia-Light a review of Fuji Pro 400H

I usually shoot with the cheapest color films available. In the beginning the main reason was that it was cheaper. I didn't really have a grasp of what slide film was and everything I was shooting was going to get developed at the local Walgreens. I was lucky to land quickly on Superia 400 and loved it's strong contrast and saturation, especially of greens and reds.

Conversely, professional color films promise a more realistic color rendition and less contrast so the photographer has a bit more control over the images. I found box of 5 rolls Fuji Pro 400H (expired 2013) in 120mm and jumped at the chance to try it out. To truly experience any emulsion I'd recommend trying it in 120mm. The larger format allows you to see the film on a larger scale that really tames any variation you may have from frame to frame on 35mm. 120 is going to make any strengths and issues with an emulsion apparent very quickly.

My approach with Fuji Pro 400H was to continue the same color and subject analysis as I had been doing with 35mm. I was shooting 400H with a Yeshica D TLR and a Hasseblad 500CM. I also added a roll of 220 (expired 2008) that provided very similar results as the fresher rolls.

Fuji color films always lean warm. 400H has the same characteristic saturation but it's much more subdued. While the reds and greens popped, they didn't take over the scene like they did with Superia. Blues and yellows weren't as fun but accurate and in control. Overall everything was accurate but flat.

The negatives that came back gave a much lower contrast profile that looked like I overexposed the images. I had to add contrast adjustment to most images I posted with 400H to get the typical look I preferred with Superia. It's interesting that Kodak's current color professional negative emulsion, Ektar, has strong contrast and warm profile that you'd expect from Fuji.

This leaves 400H in a weird spot. It falls into a no man's land for color emulsions. If you want the most accurate color emulsion you are going with Velvia while you can find it. If you want to shoot a negative film with more character you're better off with Ektar. If you want pleasing and accurate skin tones you go with Portra. If you want to save a few dollars you can try Lomography 400 which will give you accurate colors and a washed out look. That leaves 400H being the king of the color negative with a flatter contrast profile and slightly saturated greens and reds.

Color films should have a look that distances them from color digital where saturation and color are set on being as accurate, and boring, as possible. The emulsions that we associate with most with color film, Kodachrome, knew back then it wasn't accuracy that was king but enhancing what was already there. For me, Fuji Pro 400H doesn't do enough enhancement to stand out from it's peers.

Lomochrome Purple Review, the Fun in Fuchsia

In 2009 Richard Mosse took his camera and Kodak Aerochrome film into the Congo to capture the war and fallout in a vibrant and other worldly palette of purples, pinks and reds. The infrared film which was notoriously difficult to work with; needing to be kept refrigerated and extremely expensive, made his images stand out from the traditional ways conflicts were covered. His work and the book of his photos not only changed the way that we looked at how you can cover a conflict but was a very influential way of using color to bring new light to an old story.

 Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012. PHOTO: Richard Mosse

Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012. PHOTO: Richard Mosse

While less obvious, the introduction of video and the heavy usage of filters enable photographers to add texture and shape to an image by simply shifting the colors in post production. I don't believe images should be defined by it but having an interesting use of color doesn't hurt. For Lomography whose whole MO is to create cameras and films that leverage the organic and random nature of film (light leaks, color shifts with expired film, and more room for mistakes) introducing a Lomochrome Purple (LMP) that mimics Kodak Aerochrome makes a lot of sense.

While shooting with LMP is not a cheap experience it is a fun one. Lomochome purple is a variable ISO film, meaning at higher ISOs with less light hitting the negative scene's have less colors and more contrast. I'm usually shooting to overexposure all my films, I like the look at a really low ISOs (25-50 ASA) with LMP where the images are well exposed, contrasty, and the color shift effect is greatly controlled.

Compared to the vivid colors that Mosse obtained with Aerochrome LMP is much milder. The images clearly are shifted to brilliant purples and reds but aren't as radioactive as Aerochrome. Shooting LMP I'm looking for the greenest areas of Austin that I can find and try to mix in complementary elements like dirt, water and buildings. Luckily Austin is very green and the images came out pretty great.

Here are some tips to get better results with LMP. Shooting LMP later in the day near golden hours gives you much more contrast and stronger colors. If you want a usable image shooting the film at much lower speeds (25-100 ASA) and overexposing is going to give you an easier image to manipulate. To get a much more contrasty and graphic image I'd recommend shooting at ISO 400. Lastly using a lens hood at whatever speed is going to keep contrast high.

Lomochrome Purple is more than a gimmick. It's a useful tool to change the color of a very green world and a versatile film that can express different looks on the same roll. That's not a simple task and something I love that Lomography supports and pushes. While it's hard to find LMP in 35mm I think it's much more effective and beautiful in 120 where the negatives are much larger and forgiving.

If you found this review helpful please use this link to purchase Lomochrome Purple. It helps support this page and allows me to use and shoot other films.

A bunch of Rolls with Fuji C200 A Review

Shooting film is not necessarily a cheap endeavor so I'm always looking for ways to save money. Fuji C200 or Fujicolor 200 is a very affordable film and is one of cheapest options to shoot color film on 36 frame rolls. I've been shooting heavily with C200 over the past year, taking more than 600 frames. When I’m looking at any film emulsion I want to consider just a few things, how versatile is it and how does it look. 

When you nail your exposure correctly Fuji C200 it is contrasty, rich and engaging. Similar to Superia 400 it leans towards red and green and represents color in a vivid and saturated way. It's not neutral but rarely comes off as extreme or gimmicky. This is the best strength of C200 and it's ability to enhance natural colors. It's a perfect film to take with you on a trip and even though it's only ISO 200 I didn't find too many scenarios where the film couldn't be shot. 

One weakness of C200 is that doesn’t overexpose well. I naturally overexpose my images, to error on the side of having too much light rather than not enough, and C200 didn’t respond as nicely to overexposure as Kodak Ektar or Superia 400 does.  C200 loses both color saturation and contrast if overexposed more than one stop. The effect gives your images a washed out look that I don't really care for. I was able to reproduce the overexposure issue with different cameras and in different places, so it wasn’t isolated.

On the other hand, you have to go out of way overexposing Ektar to get a loss of contrast and saturation, usually at 3-4 stops, and even with overexposure you’ll get some really interesting color shift and little loss of contrast.

At the end of the day this is a cheap film that works well in a variety of settings. It’s not designed to have the kind of versatility and range as Ektar or even Superia 400 and that’s ok. In my workflow and shooting style I found it fell a little outside of what I would say is ideal. I’ll pick up this film in the future again but it's not something I'm particularly excited to reach for.

If you're interested in purchasing Fuji C200 please use this link to help support this site as well.
 

The Six Infinity Films

We usually rate film emulsions by their ability to chemically render the world around us. We also know that there are some films that go beyond this and are magical. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe can have infinity stones, film shooters might as well have their infinity films. 

Space Film - Power of space and the ability to teleport between worlds. 

This should be a film that could take someone from the digital universe to the film universe. With it's availability and great potential, the Space Film would be Kodak Ektar 100. The ability to easily develop via C-41 and the gorgeous color rendering of Ektar will have you jumping from digital to film pretty quick. 

Mind Film - Control the minds of others.

Maybe you don't want to go film and feel that digital can give you everything film can. Which film would I show you to change your mind? Ilford HP5. 

The ability of HP5 to go from ISO 400 to 3200 and adapt as it's pushed and pulled is extraordinary. When I began shooting black and white film I was stuck on the great Tax 100 but used HP5 out of necessity. I'm so glad I did as HP5 can be used in almost every situation well while still maintaining it's signature look and feel. 

Reality Film - Ability to Manipulate Matter. 

Lomography's Lomochrome purple is an amazing film to shoot with.  The power to turn green landscapes into pink and purple worlds shocked me. I shot a few rolls earlier this month and was stunned to see how strong the effect was and how fantastic it could turn standard green scenery.  

Power Film - Energy, enough to destroy worlds. 

Kodachrome was a film used in some of the most powerful images of our times. A favorite of Steve McCurry, William Eggleston and Alex Webb. The color red especially popped off the images. It was also a very dangerous film to produce and develop, with harsh chemicals and toxins. Although it was beautiful and powerful it was just as dangerous.

Time Film - Go back and forth in time. 

Kodak Tri-X has been is use since 1954 and is the defacto street photography film Tused by greats like Garry Winongrand, William Klein and still a favorite of modern photographers like Andre Wagner. The contrasty images and telltale grain structure make it a timeless film that works well in any era. Your grandfather was shooting with it and one day your kids could easily be shooting with it too. 

Soul Film - Control Souls. 

No spoilers but this film should come at a great cost. Fuji Acros was discontinued earlier this year. A black and white emulsion that is beloved by those who shoot with it. I've never seen as much pure adoration and hurt when I heard the film was cancelled earlier this year. That's the tough part of Acros, you can start shooting with it but you know it's only going to be here a couple more months.

Any film that I missed or decisions that you didn't like? Let me know in the comments.  

Kodak P3200 Old and New

When Kodak announced it would re-release P32000 I was excited. I had only shot a very expired roll of the film last year and the results weren't great. You should expect that from a high speed film that has been out of production for over a decade. I also wanted to know if shooting a true 3200 speed film was a better option than just pushing 400 speed film. 

My original roll of P3200 came out insanely grainy and I underexposed quite a bit. A good rule of thumb is to add 1 stop to every 10 years a film is expired for black and white and 2 for color. High speed films, anything over 800 ISO, degrades even faster so an extra stop is good. A golden rule to negative film is overexposure hurts a lot less than underexposure. I shot at 1600 and wish I shot at 800 to get better results. 

Now armed with a fresh new roll of P3200 I could now see how the film was supposed to work. I planned on using it at night in a tattoo shop and exposed for 3200. I was pretty happy with the extra stop it gave me, giving me F2.8 at 1,125th indoors. When I got the scans back I was a little disappointed to see that I had underexposed a little, and the exposures were pretty thin. 

The images turned out fine and I liked the look. When pushing HP5 this to 3200 the contrast increases greatly but P3200 gave a  very mellow range of tones. The grain itself was subdued and in all the images I made that day the grain didn't stand out, good or bad. Having more dynamic range at 3200 is a real strength of P3200 and a really good reason to have an emergency roll around. 

Kodak P32000 is a film to to shoot in pretty dark scenarios and need to keep contrast and grain low. Pushing 400 speed film is going to be more economical in the long run but you can't subtract the contrast you add by pushing, if you have a way let me know. I'm also excited to see a niche film like this get its due again. While P3200 won't be in constant rotation for me it is still a very specific tool that does its job well. If I'm ever shooting portraits by moonlight it's my first choice. 

Bergger Pancro 400 Review

Bergger Pancro 400, released in 2016, is a relatively new black and white (B&W) film. I'm pretty particular with B&W film, relying heavily on Ilford HP5. I push HP5 to 1600 to obtain my indoor shots for the tattoo project and results is great consistency and images. It never hurts to try new things, so I picked up a few rolls of Pancro 400 to shoot.

Pancro has been described as a low contrast and a fine grain film and my results matched this. Switching between HP5 and Pancro there was a drop off in contrast and increase in dynamic range. Pancro shows more details in the shadows and allowed me to have more control over contrast. The downside of that control is a pretty flat image that requires me to do some contrast adjustment.

When shooting film the less I need to adjust in post the better. I rarely need to do anything with my images from Ilford HP5 at 1600 and it will continue being my main choice for B&W film. Pancro 400 would be a good option when the subject requires more dynamic range, like medium format and portraiture, times when you need more dynamic range and latitude.

Bergger deserves credit and praise for bringing a new film to the world. As a community we romanticize the days when there was a bigger variety of emulsions. We should continue supporting new efforts to bring emulsions to the world. They won't always replace my favorites but they don't have to. By just existing they give us the ability to experiment and new options for shooting.

Ultimate Black and White Film Comparison Guide

I went through a couple months in 2016 trying out a lot of black and white (B&W) emulsions before I finally settled on Ilford HP5. I dug up these image examples and give my take on what I enjoyed and disliked about the films. Hopefully you'll find this helpful and links to purchase the films are in the titles. 

Fomapan 400

It's a little bit muddy and dull. I pushed 2 rolls to 1600 and really didn't like what came back, it could be that I underexposed some images but even properly exposed images didn't have any punch or character either. Not a fan. 

Ilford FP4

At ISO 125 FP4 is a great film for landscapes and still life subjects. It is perfectly fine but never really captured me. It's classic and simple but lacks the punch in contrast that I'm going for. 

Ilford Delta 400

I had one roll come out spectacularly and another come back a dud. Delta 400 is a step up from HP5 with a finer grain and possibly more dynamic range. Is it $2 better than HP5? I'll have to try a couple more rolls to be sure. 

Ilford HP5

My favorite and I've covered it in depth before. It gives my images a look I really like and I rarely have to do any adjustments in post. For me that's enough. 

Ilford XP2

It may sound like blasphemy to have a C-41 B&W film in this list but I liked the look of what I got back. Images were extremely contrasty with a quick gradation from black to white. It looks and feels a bit noir. Disadvantage is that you really can't push it easily. 

Kentmere 400

Made by Ilford this is the cheaper version of HP5. Looking at these images now make me want to go back and give it another try, the images have a similar character as HP5 with nice contrast and tone but one issue is a little less dynamic range.

Kodak Double X 5222

Kodak Double X is a motion picture stock that was given to me by David Hancock. I've had a great time with Double X, and the images have a flat overall look but show great detail and character. One of the more subtle films I've tried and it would be great for still life images and portraits. This has also been rebranded by Cinestill as bwxx. 

Kodak P3200

The roll I had was super expired, 10 years, and I should of shot it at 800 rather than 1600. These aren't the best examples but do show what expired high speed film looks like. 

Kodak Tmax 100

I had purchased 20ish rolls of this for $2 a roll when I left Kansas. Being the first B&W film I used I really loved the smooth gradations and classic tones it produced. It's a versatile and forgiving film as well, it looks pretty good pushed at 400 and handled all sorts of weird photo assignments I did very well. 

Kodak Tmax 400

While I loved Tmax 100, I never fell for Tmax 400. The images came out fine in terms of detail and sharpness but I felt there were a bit lifeless in impact and contrast. Even when pushed it felt a bit too restrained for me. 

Kodak Tri-X

While I didn't like Tmax at 400 I really like Tri-x. It's a classic look that borders on being too contrasty but I prefer a B&W film to have a bit of punch. It pushes really well too and is incredibly sharp. The only reason it doesn't beat HP5 is because I like the tonal range of Ilford slightly more. 

Ultrafine 400

It could of been the day but my images with Ultrafine 400 were a bit flat and muddy. I prefer a bit of tension in the negative and this didn't deliver. 

Thanks for making it this far. If you have any other B&W films you'd like to see me try please put it in the comments. Also what's your favorite and why? 

My Favorite Films

I like to try new things and new places but once I find something I like I make it into my routine so I don't have to think as much. It's the same with restaurants, cameras and film. Here are some of my current favorite films and why I love them so much. I'm going to focus on color, contrast and saturation. The titles are also links to purchase the film so if you're interested in supporting this page feel free to pick up some rolls.  

Fuji Superia 400

I'm a bit sad that Fuji is pulling back on it's film production but at the very least they created some great emulsions and supported them as long as they could. I love Superia 400 because you can get it at anywhere, it's a bit oversaturated and handles greens and reds in a way that stands out. It's what sold me then and always brings me back. 

Kodak Ektar 100

Ektar is known for being a great landscape and travel film and it's been Kodak's de-facto successor to Kodachrome. I love the way it handles reds and borders on over saturation. Ektar is versatile as well, you can overexpose a lot and get away with it. Images with Ektar have a very pleasing and natural color palette as well. 

Ilford HP5

I had messed around with a lot of black and white brands but once I tried HP5 I knew I had found my look and have stuck with it since. I push HP5 to 1600 because I shoot indoors and that increases contrast and grain. It gives my images a really specific look and feel that work well with the tattoo content. It's also very affordable and Ilford hasn't shown any signs of slowing down it's production. 

Kodak T-max 100

T-max 100 is little less edgy then HP5 and versatile as well. I don't shoot a lot at ASA 100 but this is the film that made me love black and white. Images have a classic feel and look. Kodak has shown restraint with contrast and their is a lot of gradiance between black and white. 

So those are my current favorite films. Since this was so fun to write and cull through my images I'll do a larger post on all the films I've shot with some quick quips and examples. Let me know if there is a specific film you'd like to see me cover. Have fun shooting!