Friday, November 22, 2019

Film... lots of film!

some slow speed films
Last week I received a package in the mail containing some new (to me) films that I ordered. Three of them were Rollei-branded films, Ortho 25 Plus, RPX 25, Retro 80 S; Catlabs X Film 80, and Bergger Pancro 400.  I have previously reported on the Bergger film.  On top of that, I have an order of the Ilford Ortho Plus 80 coming to me.  All of these are b&w films, and I am totally amazed at the number of film stocks now on sale.  Even accounting for the re-branding of films by Kosmo, etc., it's obvious that we have more b&w film stocks available now than I can remember in the past 20 years.  The Darkroom has put up a handy guide to films that should be useful to the typical person shooting film.  The chart there shows 46 films, and those are all ones that The Darkroom can process.  It's obviously missing the Kodak Vision films (ECN-2 process), the odd emulsions that require special developers, and many of the b&w films that the Film Photography Project has brought to market.  So, when anyone asks "Can you still buy film?"  You can tell that person that there are over 50 different films available now.

We don't have the plethora of  positive color films that existed 20 years ago, and that can easily be explained by the fact that pro shooters accounted for the majority of E-6 and Kodachrome sales that were quickly taken over by the digital onslaught.  For the publishing industry, digital was a real boon, as the workflow no longer involved the darkroom as being the intermediate step.  For the art photographer, it was a more personal choice.  However, the mere fact that Kodak released Ektachrome once again last year is a good sign that a major gap was being filled. 

As far as C-41 films, there are enough choices out there to make most people happy.  While I shoot color film, it still represents a minority of my film usage.  I do use digital for a majority of my color work -- and my Nikon Df is one hell of a camera.   My first choice is b&w film, for a lot of reasons.  I like the moods that I can get with different films, I like being able to experiment with using low-ISO films and odd emulsions, and I like the way b&w film shows the world that I photograph.  In addition, film grain - the lack of, as well as the presence of, can really add another dimension to an image.  I think back to some early shots that I did with Kodak's high speed recording film - it had grain like nothing else, and I wish that I had used it in the right situations to make that grainy stuff work as an asset to the image.  On the other end of the grain scale, Ilford Pan-F and Kodak Tmax 100 are really excellent films.   To me, the allure of so many different films is that a film stock becomes part of my creative process. 

One other thing to note, is that I am working on a zine devoted to monochrome shooting.  I'll say more about it as I get closer to a final product, but I hope to have it ready by January 2020.  The first issue will focus on low-ISO films. 

As these November days move into December days, I am very happy that I moved to western North Carolina.  We have far more sunny days than cloudy ones this time of year, and those low sun angles represent more opportunities for shooting b&w film!

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