Film Photography

First roll impressions: Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow

Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis

Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, is a friend of this blog. When he launched his Kickstarter for an ISO 400 black-and-white film, of course I immediately invested. The new film was to be called Agent Shadow, and it was promised to be pushable to at least ISO 3200. I’ve come to enjoy pushing black-and-white films and so was eager to give this film a try.

Photo credit: Kosmo Foto

Stephen makes no bones about it: the Kosmo Foto films are existing films repackaged. But what fun packaging he creates! The packaging for his previous film, Mono, invoked the Russian space program, and the Agent Shadow box has a film-noir aesthetic.

My investment netted me a brick of Agent Shadow upon its release. I gave away six rolls to film-shooting friends to try and kept four for myself. I shot my first roll at box speed in my Pentax ME SE with my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens mounted.

Scenes at Second Presbyterian

I started the roll at the gorgeous Second Presbyterian Church on the Northside of Indianapolis. Then I brought the camera to work with me Downtown and shot the rest of the roll on mid-afternoon walks.

Railroad Underpass

The sun was fully out every day I had Agent Shadow in my camera. Normally I turn to ISO 100 films on bright days. At ISO 400 I knew I’d get small apertures, leading to everything being in focus. This faster film also let me confidently shoot in shadowy situations such as under this enormous railroad underpass.

Underpass

I developed this roll in HC-110, Dilution B. The development chart Kosmo Foto provides for Agent Shadow says to develop five to six minutes at 20° C. The upstairs bathroom where I develop my film is warm in the summer despite our central air, and my distilled water checked in at 23.6°. A proper time conversion for six minutes at that temperature led to a development time of 4:28. The conventional wisdom is to avoid development times of less than five minutes with HC-110. I shrugged my shoulders and developed this roll for five minutes. It worked out: the negatives looked great coming out of the tank.

Toward the JW Marriott

The negatives scanned easily on my Plustek 8200i. They didn’t attract much dust while drying, either, which made for a lot less work in post-processing. I boosted contrast and reduced highlights on these negatives, and of course applied a little unsharp masking, but needed to do little else to make the images look good.

Holy Rosary

Agent Shadow offers good tonality across the gray spectrum with obvious but pleasing grain. This is all in good order for a good cubic-grained ISO 400 black-and-white film!

Mary

The light areas on these images were quite white straight off the scanner, I’m sure thanks to the blazing sun bearing down on my subjects. But as I fiddled with the images in Photoshop I found that those areas weren’t blown out. There was plenty of information in the scan that let me bring out the nuance.

Henry St.

I was also pleased to get good blacks from Agent Shadow. Dark areas didn’t respond wonderfully to my attempts in Photoshop to pull details out, however.

ForTwo

Shot at ISO 400, Agent Shadow looks to be a good, versatile black-and-white film. I look forward to pushing it on my next roll, however. I’ll try ISO 1600 next, and make candids of my family around the house.

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23 thoughts on “First roll impressions: Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow

    • That’s the fun of the Kosmo Foto films. There’s a lot of criticism for these films being rebranded other films, but I think what Kosmo Foto is doing here is a lot of fun.

  1. matt says:

    Love the freeway over pass shot. The fact you were able to pull some nuance out of the whites in such conditions is actually an awesome testament to the film (and, certainly to you as well since you captured them).

    I’ve more or less given up on 400-speed film since it’s far grainier than I’d prefer most of the time; but I may have to give this a go.

    • It’s mostly the film – the camera I used was auto-everything and I just let it do its thing!

      I don’t mind a little grain to get extra speed in film. Of course, on the sunny days I had when I shot this roll, I could easily have used an ISO 100 film.

      • matt says:

        Ah, well, I won’t tell if you won’t tell… oh wait.

        The grain bothers me in enough situations I’ve opted to move mostly to 100-speed film for most things medium format. I’m still shooting through a 100-ft roll of HP5+ in 35mm. I like the HP5+… but it often makes me wish I had the ability to switch film backs or something.

        • Matt, if you are brave, try one the Rollei 3001 or 3003 cameras from the 1980s. They used rectangle film backs, like a mini Hasselblad. I do not know if these Rolleis have battery or electronic issues nowadays.

        • matt says:

          Wow, thanks. I’d never heard of these before. I have lusted a little bit over Hasselblad systems in the past, with this feature being among the top-5 reasons for wanting one. I didn’t know there was a 35-mm system.

          I will certainly look into those. My self thanks you; my wallet probably won’t.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          Have to say guys, be very afraid of anything electronic and Rollei! The 3000 series 35mm stuff, and the 6000 series 120 stuff, were all a horror story. I remember my local pro shop being a Rollei dealer back when I had my advertising studio, and the person who handled shipping repair out being awash in Rollei 6000 and 3000 series equipment waiting for ship. (Bronica ETR stuff too, but that’s another story). We have a couple regional department stores in our area, and they talked one of them into Rollei 6000 stuff, and they eventually had to buy 4 bodies just to make sure one was working when they were shooting fashion! Do not make the mistake of transferring the love and respect for the Rollei TLR to anything else they made,and mostly their electronic stuff!

        • matt says:

          Superficial searching suggests this is the case; a few really ardent supporters, but mostly horror stories. Like anything else, it seems it’s a luck of the draw sort of thing. Pity.

        • Andy, you are right. I recall reading about failure problems with the Rollei electronic cameras back in the 1970s-1980s. The first 6×6, the SLX?, was a total mess. The slightly simplified 6003 from the late 1980s may have been a bit better. The 35mm SL2000F, the first of the module units with separate backs, was a mess, too. The SL3003 and SL3001 sold so few units in USA, I rarely read of anyone using the system.

          Cameraquest had a short article:
          https://www.cameraquest.com/rol3003.htm

        • Andy Umbo says:

          Kodachrome Guy…nice jump to the story at Camera Quest, it’s great to look at the luscious Zeiss lenses. They say in the article that the Zeiss sytem for Rollei was the best 35mm glass ever offered; but as a guy that owned the Contax RTS plus Zeiss glass, I have to say that those Zeiss for Contax lenses were the best I ever used. Believe it or not, closely followed by a few specific Pentax offerings!

  2. Seems like a nice stock. Based on the story given about the maker, I assume this to be an ORWO film either N74 (Lomo Berlin) or the upcoming Wolfen NP400. The Kosmo 100 is Fomapan.

    I don’t mind rebranded films as long as they add value, such as CineStill making Kodak 5222 available in medium format or the new 400D.

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