Film, 35mm, and scans

Seeing red (in black & white) – and the 400S film enigma

Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Hoya 25A red filter. Firstcall (Agfa Gevaert) 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

I’m starting to brave the infrared b/w film world, as another step on the learning curve.  These photographs barely qualify – shot with a simple 25A red filter, onto Agfa Gevaert 400S budget film.  However, I’ve now got my hands onto an R72 infrared filter, and I have some Agfa Infrared 400S loaded in the Spotmatic.  It’s sitting there waiting for the right light and subject.  I might try it out tomorrow if they are still harvesting pumpkins hear to my home.  I’ll see what light and sky is available.

Actually, I have a question – should any readers be in the know.  I’ve been buying (and loving) FirstCall 400S budget b/w 35mm film for the past year.  It’s actually made by Agfa Gevaert in Belgium, and sold by FirstCall for £2.49 per film (time of publish).  I ordered another 10 films recently, but my provider has been having trouble sourcing them.  They’ve today sent me ten rolls of Agfa Retro 400S.  Now, is there really any difference between the budget FirstCall 400S, the Agfa Retro 400S, the Rollei Retro 400S, and the more expensive Agfa Infrared 400S?  Are they all the same emulsion and film?  Does the Infrared have any special properties to the other 400S versions?

As above image – SP500, 25A red filter, FirstCall 400S.

As I said – these two images were branded FirstCall 400S.  I know that it has near IR sensitivity.  Both of these images shot in the Spotmatic with the plain jane 25A red filter.

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Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

SLF to Love, FirstCall film, Caffenol, Gdansk, Leningrad

Screw Love. Olympus XA2 35mm film compact camera (cost 50p from a car boot sale). First Call (Agfa) 400S B&W film (low budget b/w film). Developed in ID11 stock 10.5 minutes.

My latest photo in Flickr Explore.  I’ve seen far better from others not make it into Explore, it really is a mystery.  Taken on my infamous 50p car boot sale camera, a pocket friendly Olympus XA2, loaded with FirstCall 400S film.  It was the first time that I’ve used this film.  Resold by a UK based photographic supply distributor called FirstCall, the plastic 135 film cassette states that it is made by Agfa-Gevaert Belgium.  It’s a low budget b/w film, only costs a few quid a 36 exposure film, which is about as cheap as I’ve seen for true black and white film recently.  Development times were a bit long – ten and a half minutes in full ID11 stock.  Not sure if I like it, it ain’t HP5 +.  Still it is cheap, so might buy some more.  Certainly suits budget 35mm cameras as a true b/w film.  I don’t really like cross processed C-41 in Ilford results.  They leave too much to the digital scanner to correct.

I’ve settled for another film process project.  I’ve not yet tried alternative home recipe developers.  I’ve been looking at Caffenol, the umbrella name given to home made developers based on coffee granules, and usually vitamin C powder, and washing soda.  I’ve even bought a jar of cheap coffee ready for the project.  Where am I going to get the other ingredients here in the UK?  Couldn’t see vitamin C powder or washing soda in the superstore just now.

Other news?  Ok, Iain Stewart is right.  My recent medium format exposures have been poor – often over-exposed, sometimes under-exposed.  Thing is, I broke my only light meter.  It was a cheap old Capital selenium thing that I got at the local car boot for 50p, after three Sundays of haggling down with some travelers (I can be tight fisted).  So I’ve ordered a similar used but this time, a Soviet light meter (a Leningrad 8) from an online auction site.  Hope it arrives before my flight to Gdansk!

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Film Dark Room, Monochrome, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Off Colour

Anita and the Post Box. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS/B 80 mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus 120 film. Developed in ID11

I know I keep putting off the C-41 thing.  I’ve got the chemistry, but right now, I can’t be bothered with colour.  I guess that my excuse is that I’m still scavenging five litre drums, so that I can properly mix all of my processing solutions, and store them properly.  So for now, I keep on loading those Ilfords into cameras.  Not all Ilfords though – I loaded a Firstcall 400S in my Olympus XA2 35mm compact today.  A very cheap, budget true black and white 135 film from Firstcall Photography.  I’ll see how it performs.  It’s the cheapest such film that I’ve seen on the markets, and 36 exposure.  Prices like that could almost lure me away from using the C-41 Poundland film.  Thing is you see, I’m really enjoying B/W film photography.  I’m not sure now if I want to dirty the bleach waters of C-41 yet.

For anyone interested.  For B/W processing, I use Ilford process chemicals, including Ilford ID-11, which I last bought in powder form, to make up five litres of developer solution.  Far cheaper than buying smaller packs, and it packs nicely into a recycled five litre drum (that contained car windscreen wash previously – well washed out), that you can squeeze quite a lot of air out, as you use it up.  The developer was muck cheap from an online dealer – but to make it even cheaper, I dilute my ID-11 down to 1:3 with tap water just prior to processing a film, at 20C.  This of course greatly extends process time.  For Ilford HP5 Plus film (my favourite) with no push, at ISO 400, it’s twenty minutes, with 10 seconds of gentle inversions in every minute.  Prior to developing, I’ve also started to pre-soak with tap water at 20C for three minutes.  Stop and fix solutions are re-used several times.  I use an extended Ilford rinsing technique – progressive inversions, and four rinses – with a fifth rinse at the end, containing a wetting agent.  I’ve stopped using a squeegee again (tram lines!).  It’s a long process, but it’s very cheap, and it’s starting to give me the developed B/W film negatives that I want.

Reading the above, I realise that yet again, I’m posting on techie issues, rather more than creative issues.  I recently read an opinion by someone, that photographers tend to divide into two different types – those that are very knowledgeable about photographic technologies, and those that are more artistic and creative.  I’m afraid that I’m more of the former.  I mean, why would anyone give a toss about how I process my films?

Cheapskate News

On a recent visit to the local refuse / recycling centre (what use to be tips), I spotted a load of old leather camera cases in the “Small Electrical” skip.  Please forgive my tight-fistedness.  I rummaged in the skip and found an old Kodak Box Brownie 620.  Whenever I spot an old box camera, I quickly open it up, check for used film and for 620 spindles.  This one had an empty 620 spindle.  I’ve posted on this subject before, but briefly, you cannot buy 620 film anymore, except for grossly priced, grossly expired rolls.  However, 120 roll film is widely available, and in a darkroom or film changing bag, can be rolled off it’s new 120 spindle, and with care, onto an old 620 spindle (lifting the taped end to release the slack), bringing any 620 camera back to Life.

I asked the refuse workers if they can sell cameras.  The reply was no, as they are classed as “electrical” and could cause an issue with health & safety.   I don’t know where that 620 spindle in my pocket came from.

620 spindle next to a 120 spindle, and one of my Box Brownie cameras.

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