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 on Kodak BW400CN

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, on Kodak BW400CN

My neighborhood CVS Pharmacy processed this roll of Kodak BW400CN. 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 responses to “Goodbye Kodak BW400CN”

  1. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    A similar B&W film you can still get that uses the C41 process is
    Ilford XP2. Nice photos btw.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! I guess Ilford uses a different base that requires more scanning trickery. But at least there’s still an option.

  2. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    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 :-(

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Tell the professors to switch to the C-41 B/W Ilford!

  3. Fresh Ginger Avatar

    Very crisp.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Like a fresh apple!

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    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?”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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.

  5. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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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