film stocks

Shooting Berlin in Berlin, a few rolls with Lomography Berlin Kino Black and White

It was pretty coincidental that Lomography would release Berlin Kino Black and White negative film around the same time that I would be traveling to Berlin to continue the tattoo project. When taking a big trip like this it's probably advisable to bring along tools that you are really comfortable with and that you can rely on. While I mainly shoot Ilford HP5 at 1600 for the entire project I really couldn't miss the opportunity to use some Berlin in the city it was named after.

The tattoo project is a great way to stress test black and white films. I'll need to push Berlin Kino to 1600 to use it indoors where I'm never sure of what type of lighting I'll deal with. I used one roll indoors and at Erntezeit Tatoiwergun and another roll exploring Kreuzberg, the neighborhood that I was staying in, and also took a few shots in Austin, TX.

Lomography touts the Berlin Kino being a cinema film with high dynamic range. I was a little surprised about the images from the tattoo shop coming back a little soft, flat and grainy when pushed at ISO 1600. The images outdoors shot at box speed faired a little bit better and highlight some of the advantages of Berlin Kinoç. Images have a pretty flat contrast profile and expanded dynamic range, giving you the ability to really adjust your images in post. Out of the box your images with Berlin Kino are not going to be extreme in either look or tone.

I couldn't find any real faults with the images that came back, but I also didn't feel like they fit my preferences for low grain and high contrast. Lomography has a knack for understanding the market and making films that constantly surprise me. While my feelings using Berlin Kino are less joyous than Lomography Color 800, I still feel proud that they are putting out news films and takings risks.

Lomography 800 Color Negative Review, Versatilely with little Compromise

My local camera store always has Lomography film in stock and I was surprised to see they had a new 800 speed color negative film in medium format. I've been shooting with Lomography 800 Color for a few months now and it's been something that has really surprised me.

Lomography 800 Color is a really great value. At only 6$ a roll it's an affordable film that gives you a much needed higher ISO for shooting with slower lenses. I reach for 800 speed film when I'm shooting in situations that I'm unsure how great the lighting scenarios will be. In the winter and fall this is pretty much anywhere outside and indoors in Texas.

During the summer and spring months it is also a great tool for shooting with toy cameras like the Diana and Holga. The extra stop of ISO gives you a little wiggle room for clouds and shadows. Spending a few extra dollars a roll for more exposure gives me a lot of peace of mind when developing my film too, and I'd gladly take a slightly overexposed shot than losing a shot or details to underexposure.

I was also surprised with the look of Lomography 800 Color. While Lomography has a reputation for giving images that looks like expired film I found Lomography 800 Color to be a wonderful performer. It gives you a slightly warmer tone and the emulsion constantly gives you brilliant oranges and yellows. Color rendition is accurate and never loud, it's less saturated than Ektar but doesn't lose anything in accuracy or detail either.

At the end of the day Lomography 800 Color is my second favorite color film, Kodak Ektar 100 being first, it's the 120 color film that I use the most because it's versatility allows me to shoot with more cameras and in more situations. I'll admit it's not the greatest color film in medium format but it's found a permanent spot in my current film rotation.

Kodak Ektar 100, My Favorite Medium Format Color Film

When it comes to 120 film you don't have as many choices with color film, or even black and white film for the matter. When you think medium format my tendency was to first consider slide films but the flexibility and cost savings of C-41 make it fit my workflow much better. What I look for in every film is versatility, consistency and value. And after 3 years of shooting various color films in 120, I've landed on Kodak Ektar 100 as my favorite color film for medium format.

Versatility

It seems a bit counterintuitive that a 100 speed film would be really versatile but the thing that makes Ektar great is the ability of it to be overexposed 3-4 stops with little downsides. When shooting medium format cameras like Hasseblad 500CM and Rolleiflexes, I'm less inclined to make quick changes in focus, aperture and shutter speed. My favorite combination at the moment is to have a 50mm lens on the 500CM and keep the aperture fixed at F4 and shutter speed at 125. This exposes the shadow fine in direct sunlight and allows me to hand hold the camera. It also adds the risk of overexposing the film multiple stops.

With other C42 films like Lomography 800 pushing the film 3-4 stops results in a pretty big loss of contrast and saturation. Ektar absorbs the extra stops well and only gives you a slight color shift, deep blues turn turquoise, and the images keep their characteristic contrast.

When shot at box speed and accurately exposed the film is saturated and contrasty. I especially likes how vibrantly Ektar renders reds and greens. It's a perfect film for landscapes and nature. Ektar is a natural extension of Kodachrome, albeit with toned down saturation and vibrancy.

The one downside of Ektar is that its ISO is so low. I only shoot Ektar when the sun is out and I have a lens that can stop down to at least F4. If it's cloudy out or getting later in the day I'll have to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable with Ektar. Either using specific lenses with larger apertures or lowering my shutter speed and hoping my hands don't shake.

Consistency

I haven't had a bad roll of Ektar yet even while making mistakes. The film reacts consistently to all lighting scenarios and is something I'm comfortable using in many different cameras. It's something I trust the more I use it and now something I can predict how how images will come out. That gives me a lot of pacee of mind in using it as a film for every scenario. Basically I grab it and go, it'll be fine.

Value

You'd think that a film this consistent with such good color rendition would cost a lot but Ektar currently hovers around $5 a roll and $25 for a five pack, a bargain. With Ektar I get a characteristic look I really enjoy at a really great price point. It's a great film to start with and a great film to get stuck with in the long run.

In the end Ektar comes out on top because it behaves nicely and gives me a consistent image that I'm happy with. While there are maybe better options out there in terms of color rendition and possibly quality I don't think anything matches the value proposition of Ektar. It's the film you'll find me shooting on most days with nearly every medium format camera I own.

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.  

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? 

Shooting Color Film at Night: Cinestill 800T and Superia 1600

One of the best parts about the tattoo project is that I usually don't have to think that much. I grab some HP5 push it to 1600 and shoot away. One of the main reasons I did this was it was easy. Black and white film pushes easily, cheaply and it's way better under weird lighting conditions. Sometimes you need to mix it up though.

Friday the 13th is a special day for tattoo shops. When a Friday lands on 13 most people are worried about bad luck but in Austin it means you can get a great tattoo at a really low price. Shops will make special flash, pre-designed artwork, that they will tattoo at a prices below normal. People mark their calendars and come out in droves for it. It's like Black Friday for tattoos. 

I knew I would be shooting in the afternoon under normal indoor lighting conditions. At 1600 I'm typically at 1/125 and moving my aperture between F2.0 and F8.0. Indoors you don't have a lot of options, if it's really bad I'll push to 3200 and apologize to my film developer later. 

Most of the light I would be dealing with was fluorescent so I asked my film monger at  Austin Camera what film stocks I should use. We decided on Cinestill 800T because I heard so many good things about it, but they warned that since I was shooting under flourescent light the images could be a little cool. They also recommended Fujiiflm Superia 1600 since flourescent was much closer to daylight and wouldn't need as much adjustment. It would also be a fun way to test out which one worked better. 

The Cinestill really surprised me. After color correction I really didn't notice any weird color shifts. The grain which can be an issue an higher speed was really pleasant and not distracting at all either. I always prefer a higher contrast negative and the Cinestill delivered here again. I had little to no adjustments to make in post. 

The only issue I had with the Cinestill was halation. The history on Cinestill is that it's Kodak motion picture film with the remjet removed. If the remjet layer is not removed it can cause havoc in the developing process. The Wright brothers have been working a long time on perfecting the remjet removal process. On a very weird side note, I knew them back in high school and only this year realized they were behind Cinestill, small world. The one downside of the removal of the remjet is that the film now suffers from halation, which looks like halos around lights. I saw a lot of it in my shots and while it didn't ruin anything it still looks a little weird. 

See Halo's around the lights

See Halo's around the lights

Superia 1600 on the other hand handled extremely well too. The grain and color here were great. The Superia 1600 colors overall felt a bit more warm and the grain was smoother as compared to the Cinestill. Having an extra stop is nice too, allowing me to increase my shutter speed and getting sharper images. 

I thought shooting color at night would be a pretty tough process but with the availability of Cinestill 800T and Superia 1600 you really have some great and affordable options. I give a very slight edge to Superia 1600 because it doesn't suffer from halation but I'm interested in pushing Cinestill a couple of stops and seeing how well it holds up. With whatever stock you choose it's nice to know you can get some usable images at night and that these films are still being made.

If this review helped you please use these links to purchase Cinestill 800T and Superia 1600, this helps support this page and my work.