Film Photography

First roll impressions: Kentmere 400

600 Kentucky Ave.

Kentmere 400 is a budget black-and-white film from Harman Technologies, whick makes Ilford films. It’s available only in 35mm, as 24- or 36-exposure cartridges or in 100-foot rolls. At the time I’m publishing this article, you can buy a 36-exposure roll for about five bucks. That makes Kentmere 400 the least expensive ISO 400 black-and-white film commonly available today.

Circle Tower

Fomapan 400 is another budget-friendly option, but it’s a dollar or two more expensive. My favorite ISO 400 black-and-white films are Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodak T-Max 400, but they cost up to twice as much as Kentmere 400. I’m happy to pay it when I’m shooting something serious where the output matters. But when I’m testing a new-to-me old camera or just shooting for pleasure, it’s nice to have less-expensive film options.

Lots of little windows

That’s why I bought a couple rolls of Kentmere 400 not long ago when I also ordered a brick of HP5 Plus. I loaded a roll into my terrific compact Pentax IQZoom 170SL in June and took it to my Downtown Indianapolis office. I often take short afternoon walks when I’m there, and it’s nice to have a small camera in my hand when I go.

PNC and Hyatt

As you can see, I shot a lot of architectural subjects on this roll. I developed the film in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Plustek 8200i scanner. Several of my film-photography friends get best results from this film when they develop it a little longer than what the Massive Dev Chart says, so I gave it about an extra minute. The negatives were appropriately dense when they came out of the tank.

Roach Bail Bonding

The film dried fairly flat and scanned easily. I thought the scans looked pretty good right out of the scanner, but I boosted contrast on them all in Photoshop anyway.

The Chatterbox

I’ve shot black-and-white in the IQZoom 170SL only one other time, and that was a roll of T-Max 400 which I developed in Rodinal. Check out those images here. I think those images are a little smoother and offer better sharpness than these Kentmere 400 images. I suppose that’s an apples-to-dump-trucks comparison, however; not only did I use a different developer, but a different scanner, on that film. Regardless, these Kentmere 400 images are perfectly acceptable.

Under the railroad

I hereby pronounce Kentmere 400 to be Perfectly Fine. I’d buy it again.

Lacy Building

Some of my film-photography friends have gotten reasonable results pushing this film as far as EI 3200, which makes Kentmere 400 extra versatile. Check out one photographer’s results here.

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28 thoughts on “First roll impressions: Kentmere 400

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I wonder what Ilford does to “budgetize” the film? Is it an older emulsion formula? Less silver? One always wonders what makes it cheaper…Wouldn’t mind seeing an A/B test of this in D-76 straight, vs. HC-110 dil.B; altho Tri-X style films have always performed well in HC-110 for me, the developer can be a ot so hot selection for some films.

  2. I exposed my first two rolls of Kentmere Pan 400 in March and June. I got them along with the plastic Harman Reusable Camera. I exposed the first roll in my XD-11 and the second in the Harman Reusable Camera. MY subject was the high-end shops at Palmer Square, Princeton (NJ).

    I think the lens in the Harman Reusable Camera is junk. I will never use it again. The results from the XD-11 were great.

    I think I’ll use the Kentmere Pan 400 in the winter to enhance the dreary feeling I get during January and February.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jim. I’ve used Fomapan 400 but never the Kentmere. Based on your results I’d happily give the Kentmere a go!
    It’s interesting that it seems to require longer development, sounds similar to the Fomapan which many rate at 320 ASA instead of the 400 box speed.
    Mike

    • I wonder what keeps them from making the Kentmere films in 120. It would be nice to have such a high-quality lower-cost b/w film.

      That little Pentax p/s camera with its deep zoom opened up some possibilities for me that I normally can’t get.

  4. Nice review and photos Jim! I’m always keeping my eye out for something inexpensive but decent to test cameras with. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for the review!

  5. As you say Jim, Kentmere 400 seems “perfectly fine”. However here in the UK, the price advantage compared to HP5+ is less marked; I can buy HP5+ 36 exp for £5.89 ($7.12) or Kentmere 400 for £5 ($6.04). I like to be able to use the same film in 35mm, 120, and 4×5 – hence I stick with HP5+

    • Oh how interesting. Here K400 is a bit more than $5 and HP5+ is a bit more than $8, both for 36-exp rolls. For a single roll the difference isn’t horrible but it really adds up when you buy a brick.

  6. brineb58 says:

    I have used both the 100 and 400. Your experience is account the same as mine. I just got a 10″ roll of the 400 to save even more money!!!

    • I’ve had mixed results with the 100 – sometimes it’s very good, more often it’s not so great. I wonder if I’ll have similar experience with the 400.

  7. Jim, I’ve tried Kentmere 400 twice so far, and I did not like it. However, both outings were on dark, dreary days, which likely contributed to my so-so results. I still have a few rolls, so I will try and day with better light.

    The Kentmere 100 seems decent. I’ve shot three rolls, and those were to my liking.

  8. Cool! I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t tried Kentmere 400 up until now. I’ve been using it a bunch since I got back into film, and like it. It’s not my fave, but it produces decent results. And unlike Fomapan, the other budget stock, it produces more predictable results.

    I also like the fact that Kentmere 400 is still cheap. When I got back into film two years ago, I could get a roll for $4.50. It’s now $6 at Blue Moon, 45 cents more than Fomapan. (They seem to rotate in the “cheapest” status.) Looks like B&H still has Kentmere towards the $5 spectrum, at $5.19 a roll. (Interestingly enough, the 24 exposure roll is ten cents more than the 36!)

    Don’t forget about the rumors/speculation that Ultrafine, Agfa APX 400, and Rollei RPX 400 are all repackaged Kentmere 400.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        We shot tonnage of Agfa APX 100 120 in the late 90’s BD (before digital). We specificed it as our studio film for fashion photography at the studio I worked in. I don’t remember it having any “look” near anything Ilford (especially FP-4+). It would be interesting if the current APX films, when you can find them, would be rebadged Ilford. BTW, APX 100 120 in the late 90’s was $1.80 a roll! Now that’s was a deal!

        • I believe that Agfa sold of their photographic business in the early 2000s but it filed for bankruptcy soon after. The Agfafoto brand is now used to sell re-branded films. e.g. Agfa Vista Plus 200 was Fujifilm C200.

    • My b/w stocks were pretty settled for a long time. Then came the shortage of color films. My go-to film for testing cameras has always been Fujicolor 200, at least in 35mm. That stuff isn’t as easy to come by right now and no longer costs just $3 a roll, so I went looking for a good lower-cost b/w stock for that purpose. Et voila, I’m trying K400!

      I have one roll left of Ultrafine Extreme 400. The rolls I’ve shot so far haven’t behaved as well as this roll of K400 in HC-110B. I ought to shoot that last roll soon to see what I get.

  9. Thank you for the review. I am looking at alternatives to the Tri-X that has been my regular ISO 400 film. Your results with the Kentmere in HC-110 vs Rodinal look similar to mine with HP5 Plus. In both cases I much prefer the Rodinal. I will include a couple of rolls of the Kentmere in my next order to Freestyle when (hopefully) they have Rodinal back in stock.

  10. Oops! Missed the point that the pictures used the same camera, not the same film. Never mind the comment about developers. I still plan to order the Kentmere though.

  11. I’m relieved to read that it worked well for you. I recently bought six rolls for a trip but ended up taking a digital camera. When the weather cools down a bit I’m going to try out the Kentmere. The usual price for HP5+ is 11,800 Won and the price of Kentmere is 7,500 Won. On sale now for 6,700. That’s quite a difference.

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