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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.