Film Photography

Shooting Kosmo Foto Mono

When Kosmo Foto announced its first film, Kosmo Foto Mono, last year I was among the first to preorder. Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, has been a longtime friend to film photography and to this blog. I was very happy to support his venture and try his film!

This ISO 100 black-and-white negative film is an existing emulsion, repackaged for Kosmo Foto. Dowling hasn’t been forthcoming about what film this is, except to say that he’s shot it for years and loves it.

KosmoFotoMono

My Olympus XA was sitting on my desk when my order arrived, so I loaded a roll right into it. And then Margaret and I spent the following weekend in Chicago. The XA spent the whole weekend in my inside coat pocket — except when I got it out to shoot a scene.

I see why Dowling loves this film: it gives a wonderful classic black-and-white look.

Looking up from Daley Plaza, Chicago

This gray, dim weekend presented quite a challenge for the XA on ISO 100 film. I have a pretty steady hand and can dip down to around 1/15 sec. handheld without camera shake — but even at a shutter speed that slow the widest I opened that lens was f/4. My in-focus patches were correspondingly shallow. To compensate, I mostly chose distant subjects and focused at infinity. It worked out. Just look at all that great contrast! And while the film’s grain is detectable, it’s not pronounced.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

I felt emboldened to try some street photography. I use that term loosely: I was on the street, there were people, I made some photographs. I focused on the built environment and waited until the arrangement of people on the street was not uninteresting.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

This is my favorite Chicago street shot. I wanted the fabulous Oriental Theater sign in my frame, and aligned it roughly on a vertical rule-of-thirds line. Then I put the crowd’s faces on a horizontal rule-of-thirds line. It really worked out.

Chicago street scene

I shot about half of this 36-exposure roll in Chicago, and the rest closer to home. The grounds of the former Central State Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis is near where I go to church. The Christel House Academy charter school was built on the grounds a few years ago. The mural on the wall reads LOVE, but the film had trouble picking up the V and especially the E.

L O something something

Here’s my church, West Park Christian Church, in its context: an Indianapolis neighborhood built around the turn of the 20th century. The church building is steps off the National Road.

West Park Christian Church

Looking out from the church building’s steps, here’s Addison Street. Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods all have names; this one’s is Hawthorne.

Addison Street, Indianapolis

Where Hawthorne is a working-class neighborhood, you’ll find central Indiana’s well-to-do in the village of Zionsville. Its charming main street is lined with little shops and restaurants and even one little hotel.

Brick Street Inn

Any time I’m in the village with a camera I photograph the Black Dog Books sign.

Black Dog Books

Shooting in poor light as I did, Kosmo Foto Mono rendered moderately lit areas well but tended to lose detail in the shadows. I’d like to shoot my next roll on a bright day to see how it behaves. Other old-school contrasty films I’ve shot, such as Fomapan 100 and Kentmere 100, have tended to blow out highlights in bright light. I’ve learned to meter for the highlights to compensate. That’s what I’ll try with Kosmo Foto Mono, too. I look forward to it.

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Film Photography

Shooting Konica Chrome Centuria 200

When Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto launched his new site World on Film last summer, he asked me to contribute an article for its debut. That sounded like fun, so I wrote about my Route 66 trip, which I shot on a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye; read it here. To say thanks, he sent me a few rolls of expired slide film. The first one into my Pentax Spotmatic F was 2003-vintage Konica Chrome Centuria 200.

You never know what you’re going to get with expired film. That goes triple for slide film, given its narrow exposure latitude. Conventional wisdom says expose one stop less for every decade a film has been expired. But I’m not conventionally wise: I shot at box speed.

Each frame was badly washed out. Fortunately, Photoshop was able to make usable images out of the entire roll.

At Crown Hill

I started shooting this roll before I moved from Indianapolis to Zionsville. I wanted one more walk through Crown Hill Cemetery, which was so convenient to my former home.

Please sit

I’ve shot this view from Strawberry Hill, the highest elevation in Indianapolis, many times. But never before has it looked like it came straight from a dystopian apocalypse movie.

At the top of Indianapolis

Reading up on this film, I learned that it had a reputation for grain. I got plenty of grain, all right! But these heavily Photoshopped images aren’t a fair representation of what this film could do when it was new.

Down the hill

The 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens I used was just right for the cemetery’s wide-open spaces and interesting details.

They served

As a whiskey fan, the very thought that a pump might freely deliver delicious Woodford Reserve bourbon charms me no end. (Check the stamping on the pump body.) My sour mash dreams were dashed when I learned that this pump is from the Woodford Manufacturing Company of Colorado Springs. This looks like their Model Y34, which has been manufactured continually since 1929.

Pump

I finished the roll on an evening walk through Zionsville Village. It’s become tradition that I photograph the Black Dog Books sign. Then Margaret and I stepped inside for the first time, where I found and purchased a book of Edward Weston photographs.

Black dog

This expired stock let every color fade away — except red.

Oak St.

This film was still in my Spotmatic when Margaret and I traveled to Versailles, Indiana, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. We met in a stunning Art Deco church. Look for photos of that church on this expired film in an upcoming post!

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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Superia 100

Long story short, UK film-photo blogger Dan James offered to send me 25 rolls of Agfa Vista 200 he bought for £1 each at Poundland, which is to the UK what the dollar store is to the US. Poundland has since stopped selling the stuff, to the anguish of film shooters across the sceptred isle. Dan offered in the nick of time! And Agfa Vista 200 is just Fujicolor 200 in disguise. That’s my everyday color film! Even after I reimbursed him plus shipping, each roll was far cheaper than I can get Fujicolor 200 here. Win!

And then Dan generously dropped two rolls of long-discontinued Fujifilm Superia 100 into the box. Bonus win! He said, “It’s probably the single most impressed I’ve ever been with a colour film. Beautiful colours and subtle grain.”

North of 80 degrees

While I did see solid results on several frames, many others were a little disappointing. But I don’t think I have my scanner and my Silverfast settings sorted after my computer’s hard drive committed seppuku recently. Scanning is fussy enough even when the Silverfast settings are perfect. So I’m reluctant to pass negative judgment on this film.

Still, the shots that hit, hit big. Glory be, yellow! I don’t know of any other negative film I’ve tried that captures yellow worth a damn. This alone makes it a shame that Fujifilm discontinued this film.

Yellow flowers

And just check those dusky colors on my dianthus! Heavenly! (By the way, I shot this roll with my Nikon F3 and my 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor lens. That lens lets me focus from just a few inches away.)

Dianthus

After having the mini-forest of dead ash trees removed from my yard two years ago, two catalpa trees tucked in corners of my property have begun to spread. Their blooms don’t last very long. I was very happy to have noticed them.

Catalpa blooms

When I bought my house I was not thrilled it had a deck. My head was filled with visions of power-washing and re-staining it every few years. Ick. Turns out the one time it needed done I was able to pay someone for the job. Otherwise, it’s been lovely to sit out here on cool evenings and take in sunsets. The Superia 100 returned true-to-life color here. Spot on.

On the deck

Here are a few shots that don’t impress me much. Perhaps I was still wrestling with Silverfast’s settings. I don’t know. All I know is that the colors are meh. This is one of the Marsh Supermarkets that didn’t get purchased after the company went bankrupt. It and all the others closed for good last Saturday. One of my sons worked for Marsh; he’s now unemployed.

Experts in Fresh

Given that I personally spread the mulch in the shot below, I can attest that it’s not actually red-brown. It’s more black-brown. But the hosta leaves are the right colors.

Hosta

Dan suggested slight overexposure of this film to bring out its best, and in these last two shots I can see why. I had to bring up the shadows in Photoshop to make them usable. And in the shot below I got that weird glowing effect on my hedge trimmer. I’m sure there’s an official photographic term for that effect; if you know it, enlighten me in the comments. By the way, trimming my hedges is my all-time least favorite home-maintenance job.

Yard work

Ah, for the days when Fujifilm offered a complete range of consumer-grade films. They were all very good for the money. Thanks, Dan, for giving me a chance to shoot this one.

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Film Photography

Shooting Ferrania P30 Alpha

What a remarkable time for film photographers, with brand new film emulsions coming to market! And I was fortunate to be among the first to receive five rolls of the first production batch of one of those films: Ferrania P30 Alpha.

P30

Ferrania was an Italian company that produced film from 1923 to 2009. For a few decades it was a 3M subsidiary. I shot some store-branded film as a kid where the fine print on the box said it was a 3M product. I never knew it was actually made by Ferrania.

In 2013 a new company took the Ferrania name, bought the old Ferrania plant, and started a Kickstarter to help fund the return to film. Their original goal was to resume production of an old color slide film, Scotch Chrome 100.

I was an early backer of the Kickstarter. And then Ferrania experienced a litany of woes that set their plans back for months that turned into years. The pushed through, and long story short, early this year they announced that their first product would be a black-and-white negative film to be called P30. Even better, backers would be given first dibs to buy some. I plunked my money down straightaway. How often do you get to try a brand new film?

This new film is, however, based on a movie film the old Ferrania used to produce, also called P30. And it’s lovely, with no discernible grain and blacks so deep you could just fall into them.

Flowers

I shot the first of my rolls in my Pentax KM with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens on it. That 55/1.8 is an astonishingly good lens and was a great choice for putting a new film through its paces. Ferrania’s advice was firm: shoot at box speed. So I did.

Railroad Signal

I shot most of the roll on strolls through downtown Fishers, Indiana, where I work. The blazing sun was directly overhead — suboptimal conditions for any film. But P30 handled it all right. I did have to pull out some of the shadow detail in Photoshop. As scanned, the lenses in the blinkers above were completely black And the bed and nightstand in the photo below were largely hidden.

Bedroom Window

Actually, P30 biases toward highlights in a high-contrast situation. I couldn’t bring out any meaningful shadow detail in this photo of a wall light in my family room. Perhaps next time I shoot P30 I will use a camera with more sophisticated metering than the KM’s center-biased averaging system, and see if that helps.

Light

But this characteristic leads P30 to create smashing shadows in daylight. Its low grain creates crisp lines.

In Direct Sunlight

Those shadows are so good! Here are some more for you to admire.

Bike Rack

I’m also impressed with the detail P30 captures. In real life those bricks are a deep red. This rendering of red as deep black appears to be characteristic. An orange filter would probably soften the effect. But here I rather like it.

Apartments

And when you get a little bokeh with the P30, it is ultra creamy.

Twigs and Tea

And I adore the grays I get on mid-toned subjects. I did, however, have to tone the highlights way down to bring out the pavement markings.

Parking

When it comes to black-and-white film, I’m a Kodak guy through and through. I love T-Max and Tri-X. I’ll probably never get over Kodak discontinuing Plus-X. I’ve tried other black-and-white films, and with a couple rare exceptions I haven’t liked any of them.

I’m deeply impressed with Ferrania’s P30 Alpha. I am eager to shoot more of it, hopefully on an overcast-bright day to see how it handles lower-contrast situations.

This film is still experimental, however. Ferrania cautions shooters not to use motorized-winding point-and-shoot cameras, for example, as they’ve been known to break the film. And given the film’s cinema heritage, it requires specific handling. Finally, Ferrania recommends home processing of the film and favors D76 or D96; full details are on this pdf. But Ferrania has worked with a handful of labs worldwide in determining best practices, and for shooters like me who don’t process their own Ferrania recommends sticking to these labs. Fortunately, one of them is Old School Photo Lab, one of my favorites. That’s who processed and scanned this roll.

Meanwhile, Ferrania is still in line to create its color slide film, and I’m still in line to receive some as part of my Kickstarter reward. All kinds of goodness is yet to come!

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Film Photography

Shooting Foma Fomapan 200

I guess lots of film photographers look down their nose at ISO 200 film. Get off the fence, they say: go ISO 100 for best sharpness in daylight and ISO 400 for low light. 200 is the ISO of uncertainty and compromise.

After having shot miles of inexpensive, highly available Fujicolor 200, I don’t understand the bias. There are absolutely times when ISO 100 or 400 is a great choice, but ISO 200 has delivered fine results for me time and time again.

I’ve been searching for an inexpensive everyday black-and-white film for a long time, and lately have been trying the Foma films. I tried Fomapan 100 first and liked it okay. Then recently I put a roll of Fomapan 200 through my Nikon F3 with my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens attached

Lookit, lookit! Sharpness, clarity, detail, and a wide range of tones!! And glory be, it’s an ISO 200 film.

Meridian St.

I was mistaken in my Fomapan 100 review that all Foma films use classic grain structures, because Fomapan 200 is a tabular-grain film. Yet somehow, under some circumstances, it takes on a classic grainy look. The city shot above is sharp and clear, while my portrait of Margaret below shows a little of that wonderful classic grain. How does this film do it?!!?

Margaret

I shot most of this roll on photowalks with Margaret, including one to the war memorials downtown. Ever had a day when you couldn’t get a bad shot if you tried?

Iwo Jima

We also walked through the cemetery near my house. I just love the tones in this shot. I also got a lot of good sky with the Fomapan 200 despite not using a yellow or orange filter.

Thingy

I’ve shot the cemetery’s Liberty bell replica over and over and never get tired of it as a subject. The Fomapan 200 resolved it well. I shot this whole roll at ISO 200, but Foma claims that this film can be shot anywhere from 100 to 800 without changing anything about how the film needs to be developed. That would make this film hugely versatile, and I’m eager to try pushing it to the max when the light is low.

Pass and Stow

Here’s the housing for that Liberty bell replica, with some glorious sky backing it. I got this film on sale at Amazon and paid south of $4 for a 36-exposure roll. Freestyle Photo rebrands it as Arista.EDU 200 and sells 35mm 24-exposure rolls every day for $3.39, and 36-exposure rolls for $3.89.

Black-and-white film prices just don’t get lower than that. And this film’s value-to-price ratio is super high. Just look at how this stuff resolves detail!

Swans and Fountain

All of my gushing aside, the one criticism I’ve encountered around the Internet about Foma films is possibly iffy quality control. I’ve shot exactly two rolls of the stuff, both trouble free. That’s hardly a statistically significant sample, so all I can say is so far, so good.

I’m stocking up. Unless persistent quality issues crop up, I believe I’ve found my everyday black-and-white film.

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Film Photography

Shooting Foma Fomapan 100

I want cheap, decent film when I shoot casually or test an old camera. Fujicolor 200 fits the bill on the color side. It’s pretty good and I can get it for $2.50 a roll. On the black-and-white side my go-to, the wonderful Arista Premium 400, was discontinued and I recently used up my stock. Time to look for a replacement!

You might not expect to find a film manufacturer in the Czech Republic, but Foma has been at it there since 1921. They make black-and-white films under the Fomapan brand, at ISO 100, 200, and 400, in 35mm and 120.

Their films are about as inexpensive as you’ll find in black and white, a little more than $4 in most places I’ve found. Amazon recently offered 36-exposure rolls of 35mm Fomapan 100 for about $3.50, so I bought several while the price lasted. And it’s generally understood that Freestyle Photo’s Arista.EDU Ultra 100 is Fomapan 100, and as of spring 2016 Freestyle consistently offers 24-exposure rolls for $3.19.

I just shot my first roll of Fomapan 100; I used my Nikon F2AS. The quick verdict: it’s not bad. My test roll photos showed more contrast and less tonal subtlety than what I experience from T-Max, Tri-X, and Neopan Acros. But the film also never misbehaved with things like blown-out highlights, which I’ve experienced with other inexpensive black-and-white films (coughKentmere100cough). Here’s a selection of Fomapan 100 shots.

I started out with my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens. The office building where I work is lined with callery pear trees. They briefly each April. Briefly, thank goodness: the flowers smell like rotting shrimp.

Callery pear

The golf course behind my house went bankrupt and is essentially abandoned. I need to do a whole photo series on it, as watching it decay has been fascinating. This is the cart path behind my house.

On the abandoned golf course

Deeper inside the golf course I photographed this footbridge. I feel sorry for the people who bought houses on this course thinking they were living in a golf community. My house predates the course by 20 years; it’s happenstance that I have a golf view.

On the abandoned golf course

Back at home, I shot my daffodils in full bloom. I like the clarity and detail this film returns.

Daffodils

I switched to a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens I just bought for the rest of the roll. This shot in particular shows how contrasty this film is. I like the bottomless blacks.

Welcome

This film performed well enough in all kinds of light, but I liked it a little better under overcast skies than in direct sun. Diffuse light brings out greater tonal subtleties.

Shut

The sun came out for this photo, which made the whites mighty white. I toned them down a little bit in Photoshop to make them a little more pleasing.

Benches

Apparently, Foma’s b/w films all use old-fashioned grain structures. Some reviewers around the Internet liken these films to emulsions common during the 1930s and 1940s. But Fomapan 100’s grain, at least, is not prominent.

Tree shadow

I like this film. I can see myself using it for everyday black-and-white shooting. But before I stock up, I want to try the ISO 200 and 400 versions.

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