Exploring Film

At the start of the year I asked some members of the Film Shooters Collective for some different films to try in 2015. Prior to this year I had really been an Ilford film man. Mainly Pan F and FP4+. I was surprised by the wide range of film that was out there and so I have spent the year trying a bunch of them out. In fact I have tried out over 20 films in the last year. Some I knew existed from long term manufacturers eg Kodak, others were rarer films often based on motion picture film stock. I have developed them all myself and had a load of fun. However the experiment is nearing the end and I have to decide what films to concentrate on moving forward.

There was only two films I tried that I did not get on with. The first is called FT One-Two and is a very high contrast B & W film. I like contrasty films but I found this one way too contrasty for even my tastes – it could have been how I developed it but both rolls were disappointing for me. The other was ADOX Colour Implosion again huge bright, skewed colours and just not the sort of effect I was looking for.

This year marked a return to colour for me and I tried the following films, Kodak Portra at all speeds, Kodak Ektar 100 and Kodak Vision at 50 and 250 plus ADOX Colour Implosion. Almost straight away I found a favourite. I loved Kodak Portra in all it’s forms. I am not a saturated colour person and I loved it’s understated colours. I found that it really suits images of the Lake District and the surrounding area in winter.


Olympus OM2 – Kodak Portra 800

So moving forward my colour film of choice will be Kodak Portra. The fact that it is available in all the formats that I shoot is an added bonus.

Black and White was a bit more complex just because of the number of films available – as I said above there was only the FT 12 that I did not get on with. But a decision needs to be made as to what I will use going forward. This was based on the following requirements. I wanted a good quality 35mm film to document everyday stuff in my Contax T2 and Nikon FG. Then a good quality medium format film for a project using the Hasslblad 503 CW and finally a slow and fast film for the large format 5×4 Ebony that I have. Films in the frame were ORWO 54 and N74, Kodak XX, TMax 400 and Tri X, ADOX CMS 20, CHS100 and Silvermax plus the Ilford range of films. I loved the ADOX CMS 20 but it requires it’s own developer and I did not want to stock a developer just for one type of film. So for my walk round, documentary film I have chosen ORWO 54 for the summer and TMAX 400 for winter.

Image 9-pos

Contax T2 – Kodak TMax 400

For medium format I really liked the Rollei Retro 80s and 400s with an honourable mention for the ADOX CMS 20 which I discounted for the reason above. But while 35mm film is where I will document what I do on an everyday basis it is the medium and large format where I will be doing my creative photography. So I really wanted a film that I could use in both formats.

Colour was handled by Portra across all formats so what was I going to use for B & W. During the year between MF and LF I had used Rollei Retro, Adox, a range of Ilford FP4 and Delta plus Kodak TMax and TriX. I knew that the next stage in my development was to select one film and really get to discover what I could do with it. Most of my creative photography has a darker more melancholy feel to it. So for the next few years I decided I will be using Kodak Tri X for my creative medium and large format photography. I will pair them up with Kodak XTol developer and try and understand and get the most out of them.

Finally, in summary, after trying out just over 20 films this year I switched from Ilford to Kodak!! But it was a lot of fun.


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A 50 something film and digital photographer based in Kendal, Cumbria. Blogging about mental health, mental wellbeing, living with a colostomy and music memories.

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