Shooting Kentmere 100

Some people say you have to get the processing juuuuust right to get the best results from Kentmere 100, a black-and-white film manufactured by the same folks who make the Ilford films. But I don’t process my own. My film is always at the mercy of whatever chemical soup my favorite processor uses. I’m willing to place some blame there for the disappointing results I got.

I shot the Kentmere over several days in July using my Nikon F2AS and my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens. My tiger lilies were blooming.

Tiger lilies

As were my daylilies. Both of these shots needed a quick hit with Photoshop’s levels and contrast controls to bring out some of the subtle details. So it went all through the roll. The details were there, they just needed to be coaxed out.


I took the F2 and the Kodak No. 2 Brownie Model D along when my sons and I drove out to Terre Haute a few weeks ago. This shot of the Clabber Girl billboard, which has welcomed visitors to town for approximately forever, looks pretty good – but only marginally better than how the 100-year-old Brownie captured it on Ilford Pan F Plus 50.

Clabber Girl

This is my favorite shot from the roll. The oak tree in my front yard is a compliant and frequently very pleasing subject.

Front yard oak

But in that photo you can start to see what comes through loud and clear in the photo below: blown-out highlights.

Blown out highlights

As the setting sun hung low that evening, it lit the back of my house. The Kentmere tried but failed to see my kitchen and dining room windows. I’ve shot this scene any number of evenings and have never seen the back wall wash out before.

Blown out highlights

I tried Kentmere 100 on the strength of positive reviews from bloggers R. R. Alexander (R.I.P.) and Derek Wong, both of whose photographic opinions I trust. They both got good results from this film, and so I hoped for much of the same, especially given the film’s low price of about $3 a roll. So maybe I need to give this film another chance, which will happen eventually because one more roll is chilling in my fridge. Maybe I just need to shoot it on a cloudy-bright day. Perhaps I should follow the advice of a commenter on my Flickr stream: use a yellow or a red filter. Or maybe I need to try a different camera. The lenses on my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK and my Voigtländer Vitoret LR are poke-your-eye-out contrasty; maybe they’d make this film sing. Or maybe I should go the other way and try it in one of my easy shooters like the Olympus Trip 35 or the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80.

But the next time I want to shoot a slow black-and-white film, I’ll probably reach for one of the two rolls of Kodak Plus-X Pan I still have. I know it’ll give me the look I want.

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15 responses to “Shooting Kentmere 100”

  1. dehk Avatar

    Send me your next roll of kent mere I will develop it .

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well then! That means I need to shoot the next roll in the F2 so that part of it is apples to apples. I will take you up on this!

      1. dehk Avatar

        You can scan right ?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yup. Epson V300.

          1. dehk Avatar

            We are all set then ! Scanning is more painstaking , I’ll leave you that part .

  2. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    It is likely this film would benefit from hand processing. Then again, on a different day, processed the same way, you might get some shots that please. It’s the magic of chemical photography.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      “Magic,” yeah, and also sometimes the frustration!

  3. pesoto74 Avatar

    I had a bulk roll of Kentmere 400 a while back and I thought it was a good film, however it took a while to find a way to process it that gave results that pleased me. I would bet that you will like the results that you get from sending the film to dehk.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Interesting. I’m used to sending T-Max, Tri-X, and Neopan Acros to wherever I want and it comes back fine. I guess I’m just not used to the vagaries of processing.

  4. sibokk Avatar

    I’m sure the highlights are there somewhere, maybe try rescanning and fiddling a while to pull the highlights in a bit and then attack them in PS.

    I’ve only ever used Kentmere 400 so i can’t really comment on the 100 stock. Good luck with the next roll!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You know what, I never thought of rescanning the negs myself. I did PS up the scans I got from the processor though. But anyway: maybe these negs are worth a pass on my Epson V300.

  5. Matt Avatar

    I suppose I’m late to the party here, but I highly suggest rescanning it. Try doign the HDR route and scan it twice, once for shadow detail and once for highlight detail.

    I shot a roll of Kentmere while on vacation and found the scans to be lacking. But when I printed it in my darkroom (or as my wife calls it “the bathroom”) I found there was a lot more detail in the highlights. You have to dodge and burn to get the most out of this film, but the highlights easily hold another two, three, or more stops of detail than I could get out of my V600.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the advice. I just shot a second roll of the Kentmere, this time in my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK. I accidentally broke the film out of the canister at the end of the roll, so I’ve got to sort that out first. Maybe meanwhile I can dig out the negatives from the roll featured in this post and scan them myself to see what I can do.

      1. mattkrull Avatar

        I look forward to seeing those rescans.

        Here’s one of the photos I mentioned:

        In my original scan, all the rock faces look like the one just to the right of my wife’s shoulder- blown out. This is actually a scan of a 8×10 print I made in the dark room where I burned in the rocks one, maybe two, I’ve forgotten full stops.

        I’m heading out to British Columbia for two weeks, and I’m bringing ten rolls of Kentmere 100. I made that decision based purely on how much I like working with K100 in the darkroom. I’m not convinced K100 is ideal for scanning, but then, I’m starting to feel that way about all 35mm films.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Nice to know my experience with Kentmere 100 isn’t unique. And it’s nice to know that with some work you can coax out the details with this film.

          That said, I’m probably sticking with T-Max 100 from here on out, as I more easily get the results I want with it. I was hoping for more with the Kentmere 100 since it’s so inexpensive, but alas.

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