Photography

Shooting Eastman Double-X 5222

Kodak makes just nine kinds of still films today. That might sound like a lot, but it’s a pittance compared to days gone by. They’ve discontinued a whole bunch of films, including their entire slide-film line. Only negative films roll off the Kodak manufacturing lines today, six in color and three in black and white.

Kodak also still makes motion-picture film under the Eastman name. Demand isn’t what it used to be, but enough filmmakers still insist on the stuff to make it economically viable for Kodak to produce it. 35mm is a common motion-picture film size, and sometimes those films get spooled into canisters for use in still cameras. The Film Photography Project buys black-and-white Eastman Double-X 5222 film in bulk, hand spools it into canisters, and sells it. I got a few rolls recently, and put one into my Nikon F2AS with the 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens on board.

I shot most of the roll Downtown near Indianapolis’s last camera shop, which has been getting my color-film processing business lately. Just check out the rich black in that urn, and the textures in those buckets! I want to reach out and feel the woodgrain, it’s so good.

Urn in a Basket

I’d say Double-X is made for contrasty, textured subjects. Standing on the corner of Pennsylvania and St. Clair, I shot the street names etched into the corner building. Again, dig those textures!

St. Clair

But I notice a tendency for highlights to blow out with this film. I was able to correct it pretty well in Photoshop, but that part of me that likes to get it right in the camera wants to set exposure compensation back a half stop next time.

Penn

You can see this tendency pretty well here. The red bricks are well defined and contrasty, but the concrete steps and the limestone block is missing some detail in the highlights — and that’s after I fixed it as well as I could in Photoshop. It probably doesn’t help at all that I took these shots on a blisteringly bright day.

Central Christian.

This is Indianapolis’s Central Library. Fortunately, this shot needed nothing more than a crop to improve my composition. I love how this shot looks like it could have been taken in 1955, 1935, or 1915.

Central Library

I have more to learn about Eastman Double-X. In this shot of some dark purple petunias, I would have thought the flowers would have popped much darker against the green foliage. Instead, the shot turned out not to be very interesting, save the great detail on the right flower.

Petunias

This year, instead of schlepping my sons off to a portrait studio, I’ve been practicing portraiture on them myself, with various cameras and films. I’ve also handed the camera to both boys so I can have new photos of myself. It was cool to explain the F2’s basic workings to my youngest son, who’s 16, and have him listen carefully and then take a pretty competent shot. My boy might never understand how significant it was that his first film SLR photograph was taken with the iconic Nikon F2. But it’s all right, his dad knows.

A portrait of the photographer on his deck

True to Double-X’s form, the textures in my brown polo and my (slightly out of focus) black hair are the most visually interesting elements of the photo. My face was fairly blown out, but fortunately Photoshop’s Darken Highlights tool brought it back from the brink.

I have a couple more rolls of Eastman Double-X 5222 chilling in the fridge. Next time I shoot one, I’m going to look for dark and textured subjects. I might also shoot on a dim, overcast day. Experimenting like this is a big part of what makes film photography fun for me.

Standard

16 thoughts on “Shooting Eastman Double-X 5222

  1. eppaar says:

    Have you thought of using Ilford film. They produce, I believe, eight different films. When I was shooting film regularly I preferred them to Kodak. Most camera stores that stock film carry Ilford.

    Like

  2. It’s sad that there are only nine Kodak films left, but saying that I’m more optimistic about the future of film right now than I have been for years.

    The library’s definitely the best exposed of these shots. Was that one in shade I wonder?

    Like

    • Yes, I think the decline of film has just about stabilized, as supply has about reached the demand of the film-shooting core.

      I just don’t recall the conditions of the library shot, but it does look like the sun had gone behind a cloud.

      Like

  3. Shot a roll of this myself a few months ago on my Pentax Super A. Had very similar results, textures were great but the highlights did tend to blow slightly. I do like the film though and will definitely use it again. That Nikon lens of yours is lovely and sharp.

    Like

  4. This was truly interesting, and kind of melancholy. Hard to imagine Kodak down to 9 types of still film. Still, you and people like you are either drinking the last cups of a passing vintage, or you’ll be the reason film photography lives on till some renaissance down the line.

    That photo of Christian Central was truly wonderful. The subtlety of the shading is enviable. And I agree with you about the shot of the public library, ah, but with one caveat: the number and arrangement of the stars on the flag. ;) Could be changing again if Puerto Rico finally bolts on for real with you guys. :)

    Like

    • I think film has a future. It will become a niche play, for hobbyists and certain serious photographers, but I am struggling to imagine a time in my life when I won’t be able to shoot film. What’s over is the time when a huge selection of films is available. For that matter, we are probably not finished seeing Kodak and Fuji discontinue films, as they are set up to manufacture film at enormous scale and the demand for that scale has waned. It is very encouraging to see Italy’s Ferrania reestablish itself. It is preparing to make film in smaller batches. I think that’s the ticket.

      And they’ve been saying Puerto Rico will become the 51st state for as long as I can remember. I have every doubt that it will ever happen!

      Like

  5. Bill Bussell says:

    I had all the XX that anyone could use when I was a teen. A photographer for a local paper would receive a 1000-foot roll at every 500 race. He received this as payment for something he did in turn. I used to go to his house and wind up as many rolls as I could. He loaded a 100-foot spool into a daylight loader. Truthfully, I did not really like this free film. I have thought of trying it again with Rodinal or equivalent developer. Blocked highlights were my complaint. It used to be sold in sheet form, and I may have some frozen. You did a good job with XX. Cheers

    Like

  6. hmunro says:

    You’ve almost made me nostalgic for the days when a photographer needed to know his/her film and its limitations almost as well as his/her camera, Jim. You’ve gotten some wonderful results with the Double-X. So good, in fact, that I’m already looking forward to your next post. Beautifully done!

    Like

    • I still do need to know my films. Increasingly I’m settling on a consistent set: Fujicolor 200, Ektar 100, Tri-X, and T-Max 100 and 400. I know just what I’m getting with them. I do shoot other films but these are my go-to choices.

      Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s