Film Photography

Goodbye Kodak BW400CN

Kodak has announced that it has ended production of BW400CN, a black-and-white film.

Film manufacturers keep shrinking their product lines because digital photography has all but collapsed demand. Only technophobes, certain pros, and hobbyists like me still shoot film. That’s enough to support some film production, but not on the scale of just five or ten years ago. I think it’s safe to say that I will write more film “Goodbye” posts in the next few years.

BW400CN’s appeal was that any drug store could develop it in an hour because it was processed just like color negative film. Traditional black-and-white films such as Tri-X and T-Max use a different processing method that the one-hour labs couldn’t do. You always had to send traditional black-and-white films to a pro lab or process it yourself. But now that almost all of the one-hour labs have disappeared, so has BW400CN’s main advantage.

That’s not to say that BW400CN wasn’t worth shooting for its own sake. I shot a roll two years ago in my Olympus OM-1 with its wonderful F. Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens. After removing a slight purple caste in Photoshop, the photos were contrasty with rich blacks. BW400CN has a look that the traditional black-and-white films can’t duplicate.

Peppy Grill

With that F. Zuiko lens, I got plenty of good detail on BW400CN. I love how every word is crisp in this view of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is on the circle in Downtown Indianapolis.

To Indiana's Silent Victors.

My neighborhood CVS Pharmacy processed this roll. If they had not removed their one-hour lab last year, I might have shot more of this film. Alas.


Here’s an instant film that ceased production recently.

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10 thoughts on “Goodbye Kodak BW400CN

  1. bodegabayf2 says:

    Always sad to see any film go out of production, even one I rarely used. The demise of this one will most likely trickle down to my local mini-lab–they process lots of this stuff. There are robust photography programs at the local junior college and university and I’ve been told that the professors there start their students on this film to see quicker results. All that film has been going to my local lab, so it will probably mean the C-41 line runs on even fewer days now :-(

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  2. Excellent b & w images. The day will come, perhaps even in your lifetime, when the only film that remains will be the “film” that passes over the eyes as one searches his past for memories of photography as it once was. And the youngsters will say, “Film? What is film?”

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    • A couple of exciting developments (pun not intended) in film photography:

      1. The decline in film sales seems to have ended, and a certain amount of film seems to sell now year by year. It appears to be enough to support ongoing film manufacture, but some films will continue to get the axe if they are not profitable (enough).

      2. A smaller-scale film manufacturer in Italy is working to start production. It turns out that many of the problems that Kodak, Fuji, and the other major manufacturers have is that their equipment is all from the days when film was king and therefore is set up to make enormous quantities of everything. It makes it not cost effective to do a run of a particular film if it won’t sell through before it expires. It’s a big component of why those companies are killing particular films. A smaller manufacturer’s smaller equipment would allow for profitable smaller runs — in other words, scaling those runs for actual demand.

      I think it is still possible that one day nobody will shoot film anymore. But I think that these emerging trends are going to significantly delay that day.

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  3. Sad. My local grocery store carries Kodak film, but they stopped selling BW400CN a few years back, now it’s just Gold 200 and 400. I hate to see filmstocks go and I do my best to make sure my own demise comes before Film’s, but I only used BW400CN twice myself and honestly I like the look of Ilford’s chromogenic film better.

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    • I think it’s interesting to see which films don’t make the cut, but I sure hate it when one of my favorites dies. BW400CN probably wasn’t a favorite of mine despite its good qualities, as I prefer to shoot Tri-X or T-Max any day of the week.

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