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.
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.
This is my favorite shot from the roll. The oak tree in my front yard is a compliant and frequently very pleasing subject.
But in that photo you can start to see what comes through loud and clear in the photo below: 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.
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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