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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.