Analogue lifestyle, Film
Comments 13

Five films to shoot with in 2014

ghent_tri-x

A mannequin on a street in Ghent, Belgium, shot on a Voigtlander Bessaflex TM and Tri-X

The 21st Century has not been kind to film photography. As digital has become more and more widespread, the number of films available to analogue snappers has dwindled with every passing year. The casualties have included some of the most iconic films ever produced – like Kodak’s Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide films – and others less notable but still sadly missed, such as Agfa’s original CT 100 Precisa slide (the best film for cross-processing) or Fuji’s fantastic Neopan black-and-white print film. With every passing brand of film, you could believe that analogue photography will soon be no more.

But the show isn’t quite over yet. While some of the big players, such as Japan’s Fuji, appear to be edging out of the film business, the likes of Ilford and Kodak appear committed to making film for quite some time yet. And there’s smaller companies too, such as the Czech Republic’s Foma, which also show no sign of shutting down. Some companies are even returning to film; Ferrania, the Italian company which used to produce Solaris print films and the Scotch Chrome slide films, have announced they are returning to film production this year.

There might very well be similar stories in the future – in the meantime here are five films still in production that every film photographer should try in 2014.

Kodak Ektar

bowls_ektar

Ektar is one of the last ISO 100 print films still in production – a very useful speed when it comes to shooting in strong summer sun. Ektar began life in the late 1980s before being replaced by the Royal Gold lines of print film in the 1990s. In 2008, Kodak announced it was bringing Ektar back. It’s an incredibly fine-grained film, and particularly good for scanning. If you’re shooting in strong sun, this should definitely be in the camera bag. Prices are around the £6 mark per roll in the UK, but you can get discounts if you’re buying in bulk. I always try to make sure I’ve got a few rolls of this if I’m heading away somewhere in spring or summer.

Fomapan 200

shard_f200

There are no shortage of black and white films still available – this is the healthiest part of the film market. Fomapan is one of the lesser names on the market – from the Czech Republic, they produce a range of black and white print films in formats from 35mm to large format. The most interesting is their 200-speed film; aside from Ilford’s SFX 200, which is an infrared style film, this is the only 200-speed film you can get these days. It’s particularly useful if you want really fast shutter speeds on sunny days, or want to take pics in open shade on overcast days. It’s also one of the cheapest films you can buy; here in London, some stores sell it for as little as £3 for a roll of 26 in 35mm. It’s a good film to scan too – there’s plenty of detail captured in the bright tones and rich blacks.

Kodak Tri-X

josh_tri-x

Kodak may have retired its National Geographic staples Kodachrome and Ektachrome, but one of its most iconic films is still with us. Tri-X, a 400-speed black and white film, is more than 50 years old, having been introduced in the 1950s. Its chemistry changed little from then until 2007, when it was re-engineered to give it finer grain. Kodak’s continued survival despite its recent bankruptcy protection has given a new lease of life to it film line-up, and Tri-X is likely to remain at the forefront of it. If I could shoot on one black and white film for the rest of my photo-taking days, this would be it. Tri-X is incredibly pushable – I’ve had excellent results pushing it as far as 6400, and it’s got great contrast. Tones are bright and blacks deep and rich. Expect to pay around £5 a roll.

Fuji Superia X-Tra 400

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Fuji appears to be slowly but surely disappearing from the film business, retiring great films such as Neopan and its Provia 400X slide film, and jacking up the prices of those remaining in its stable. There’s every possibility we’re in the last decade of Fuji making film. If that’s so, make sure you shoot a few rolls of this; it’s a 400-speed print film with a slight magenta cast, making it great for atmospheric shots in afternoon light or indoors. It might need a bit of post-processing after scanning to get rid of a slight red tinge in faces, but is a good film to have in the bag for when the light goes down low. I’ve made a resolution to shoot a few more gigs with it in 2014, after getting some lovely results shooting Calexico on a Pentax ESII last year. It can still be had for under £5 a roll, but is now only made in 35mm.

Agfaphoto Precisa CT100

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Agfa’s CT100 Precisa was the ultimate cross-processing film, and one which the Lomography movement owes a great deal; when xpro’d it created deep blues and biting contrast, deep blacks and vibrant reds. Agfa pulled the plug on it around 2005, much to cross-processing fans’ dismay. But, there is a film still on sale called Precisa; Agfaphoto Precisa. It’s a slide film, but not the Agfa film of old. It’s Fuji Provia 100, one of Fuji’s last remaining slide films, and the Agfaphoto rolls are ones which haven’t quite met Fuji’s quality control standards. In reality, you’d be hard to find any fault with it – it’s a slide film delivering bright punchy colours. The big plus point though, is the price. A roll of Provia now costs over £10 in the UK – Agfaphoto’s rebadged version sells for around £6.

They will only keep making this stuff if we keep buying it and shooting with it…

letterbox_precisa

Autumn sunlight on a Minolta SRT 100X and Agfaphoto CT100 Precisa

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Candles in Cologne Cathedral, on an Olympus 35RC and Kodak Ektar

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The Ace Cafe in north-west London, shot on a Zenit 3M and Agfaphoto CT100 Precisa

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Brighton shadows on an Olympus XA and Fomapan 200

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Chap Olympiad pipe on a Chinon Memotron and Kodak Tri-X

* This is a piece originally written for Film’s Not Dead, who sell cameras, film and other photographica at their shop in Clerkenwell and weekend stall at The Backyard Market at Brick Lane. They also host regular photographic exhibitions.

13 Comments

  1. I discovered how wonderful Ektar is this summer– hoping to pick up a bunch more, it’s so punchy! And the Superia X-tra 400 has been my default color film for quite a while now, I really love it.

  2. Great list! One little correction about Fomapan being the only non-IR 200 speed B&W film… I’m sitting here with a freeshly-developed strip of Rollei Superpan 200. Fantastic detail and quite fine grain. I’m far from an expert, but it’s been one of my favourites to play with…

    • Thanks Matt – good to know. I’ll have to try it. There’s a great local camera shop that stocks a lot of the Rollei stuff. I’ll have to see if they have it.

    • Thanks James – Superia 400 is lovely, I aim to shoot a little more with it this winter. It’s really nice to accentuate winter light.

  3. iamamro says

    Thanks for a great article. I’d been using a Fuji’s Neopan film for black and white, but I guess that’s on it’s way out, so I’ll try Kodak Tri-X.

    It’s quite sad how Fuji got rid of so many films. But one was able to buy it from 7 day shop at a reduced rate

    What is your view on Fuji’s Superia (1600 ISO say)? Is it worth the money?

    • Thanks Amro – I haven’t shot on the 1600 for a very long time, though I remember getting some nice natural light stuff in a bar one night at my friend’s 40th… I think this was discontinued a while ago, and the rolls that my local camera shop still carry are around the £10 mark. I will buy one one of these days to do some colour low-light shooting one winter night.

      • iamamro says

        I think it’s still available and you can buy the Japanese version via eBay called “Natura”.

        Yes it’s about £10 a pop unless you buy 10 or so.

        Thanks.

  4. I shoot Ektar, Portra and HP5+ in 35mm. Now I’ve bought a Mamiya 645, I’ll give a try to the x-tra and foma.

    BTW Do you know about foto-r3.com? It’s a spanish e-commerce of film and related products. I thing is cheaper than the prices you said.

    • Thanks Gil – I’ve not tried that site, actually, I will check them out. Most of the film I buy now is expired or brands that have been discontinued.And there’s very little room in the freezer at the moment!

  5. revdocjim says

    Thanks for the good reference info and commentary! Have you tried the ridiculously cheap Arista Edu Ultra? It seems to be an in-house brand for a store in N. Hollywood called Freestyle. I bought 10 rolls last winter and have a couple left. I’m pretty sure it’s just repackaged or OEM branded Fomapan 400. My results have been mixed so I’m curious to hear the experiences of others.

    • Hi Jim… I’ve not tried that actually. Fomapan 400 is brilliant though, very nice to scan aswell. Not as contrasty as Tri-X but still has rich tones.

  6. Juraj says

    Hi, nice article and especially the photos. Very clear. Would You please advise what scanner You use? Juraj

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