Looking for a classic grain structure low cost black and white film? Keep reading!
35mm Kentmere 100 Film
In my last blog post I discussed Kodak black and white film, specifically Kodak Double-X. Another B&W film that to my eyes gives a classic look is Kentmere 100 film. Kentmere film is only able in 35mm format and comes in two speeds, 100 and 400. I have only shot with Kentmere 100 but I liked the results enough that I didn’t look to try Kentmere 400.
Buying Kentmere 100 Film
I bought my first rolls of Kentmere 100 film in the US at either Adorama or B&H I think during a photography workshop I was running in New York. What I didn’t realise at the time is Kentmere film is actually made by Ilford film. It was first available in the US as a budget alternative to Ilford films but is now available in the UK also. With all the great black and white films available on the market I have not bought another batch of Kentmere film yet as I am still experiementing with new films. The latest film I tried was Ilford Pan 100 so I will share some samples and thoughts once I have shot a few more rolls of it.
Kentmere 100 Film – Available on Amazon – Check for latest prices! (UK) / (US)
(As mentioned above Kentmere 100 seems much more readily available in the US. I bought my 10pk to get the lowest price per roll but I struggle to find that same deal for sale in the UK).
Kentmere 100 – Flickr Photos
(Click any image to see the camera used)
Kentmere 100 Film Summary
Originally I bought this film because of the low price plus I like to experiment with different film stocks. I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and fine grain of Kentmere 100 when compared to other classic film emulsions such as Ilford FP4 plus and Ilford HP5 plus. I find 35mm FP4 a little to grainy for my portraits and similar to 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 in that regard. That said I happily shoot 120 format HP5, FP4 and Tri-X in my medium format film cameras such as the Hasselblad and Mamiya 6 / 7 / RZ67 as the grain in the larger negatives is less pronounced.
35mm Kodak Double-X Film (“Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222”)
Matthew Osborne Photography – August 2018
I think it was a couple of years ago when I purchased a 400ft bulk roll of 35mm Kodak Double-X 5222 film. Fresh stock in a Kodak factory sealed tin as shown above. Kodak Double X or “Kodak XX” is black and white negative film produced primarily for the movie industry “Kodak Motion Picture” film. (*The colour Kodak Motion Picture film is called Kodak Vision3 film stock which I also use and will cover in a later blog post).
Movies such as James Bond -“Casino Royale” had scenes shot on the classic Kodak Double X B&W film which I believe is unchanged from the 1960s. Unlike the modern T-grain Kodak T-Max black and white film stocks that have a much finer grain structure and more modern look, Kodak Double-X has a classic grain and more vintage appearance.
Kodak recommend rating Double-X at ISO 200 in daylight but I have shot it at anything from ISO 100-1600 (I think) and still received great results. I feel it is much better in low light than Kodak Tri-X 400 film or Kodak T-Max 400 film and believe it should have a native ISO closer to ISO 640.
I bulk load the 400ft film onto 35mm cassettes to use in my Leica film cameras (and other 35mm film camera).
Below are some sample images of me shooting Kodak Double-X in my various film cameras. All film was home developed and scanned with a flatbed Epson V800 scanner. (*Some film negatives have scratches on from a cheap bulk loader I used).
Kodak Double-X Flickr Photos
(Click any image to see the camera used and what I rated the film at)
As you can see I use Kodak Double-X quite often. You can find more examples images in my various model photography overseas photoshoots – Poland, Hungary and Paris (especially). I have used Double-X during multiple Leica photography workshops in London and also for one of the Leica workshops I ran in New York (using the Hasselblad XPan). For my Leica wedding photography and bridal shoots I find Kodak Double X great for low light photography or varied lighting conditions. I guess in summary I like the film a lot!
Some different Kodak B&W film stock photos as a very rough comparison
35mm Kodak T-Max 100
35mm Kodak T-Max 400
Kodak Tri-X 400
35mm Kodak Plus-X 125
I have opinions on all the film stocks listed above but in summary I find 35mm Kodak Tri-X too grainy for my taste so I have used it the least. The sharpness and fine grain of 35mm Kodak T-Max 400 always impresses me and I use it a lot. Discontinued Kodak Plus-X is a fantastic film but sadly I got into film photography too late and Kodak had already ended production in 2011 (I understand). Kodak Double-X gives the best classic look of the listed Kodak films, to my eyes.
35mm Cinestill BwXX film
If you would like to avoid the hassle of bulk loading your own 35mm film or you don’t think you shoot enough film to use up a 400ft roll then there is another option. The Brother’s Wright, aka founders of Cinestill film, sell a rebranded version of Kodak Double-X simply called BwXX which can be bought in individual 35mm cassettes.
I will review more film stocks when I get chance and add them to the Film Photography tab at the top of this site where a list of film stock links already exists. Coming soon!
After enjoying my cycling and photography on my last solo visit to Fuerteventura in December 2017 I decided to go back again for more of the same! (Written back in March on my flight home).
Voigtlander Bessa R3A 35mm film camera
Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens
Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens
Voigtlander 21-25mm External Viewfinder
Fujifilm GA645 Pro MF film camera
39mm and 52mm yellow filters
A strange camera choice you might think!? Especially if you knew that my Bessa R3A needed recalibrating! There is some method to my madness.
35mm Film Camera
On my last cycling-photography trip I enjoyed traveling light with a 35mm Leica film camera and four 39mm filter thread Leica lenses. I thought how can I go one better than that? The Voigtlander Bessa is quite a bit lighter than a Leica M film camera (by me holding it anyway) and is more plastic feeling. I thought if I wanted to go even lighter than a Leica this my best option for an interchangeable lens film camera. (I think my Olympus 35RC is my smallest lightest fixed lens 35mm film camera but has a fixed lens). My Bessa R3A has needed recalibration for a while hence I don’t normally use it. For landscape photos however when I am stopping down the lens to F11-F16 hopefully it won’t matter too much if the rangefinder is not that accurate.
Next was lens choice. Although I enjoyed the choice of lenses last time, having a 28mm, 50mm, 90mm and 135mm meant more to carry and more faffing changing lenses at the side of the road. I wanted to ideally use one camera one lens so I packed my recently purchased Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens which is my smallest lens of any camera system. To be able to compose I would need to use an external viewfinder as the widest framelines on the Bessa R3A is 40mm. I already owned the Voigtlander 21-25mm hotshoe viewfinder so that was perfect for the job. I know I wanted to try using one lens but I was also aware that the Fuerteventura landscape is quite open and ‘empty’ looking so 21mm might be a little too wide. I therefore decided to pack my second smallest lens, the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens.
The Voigtlander Bessa R3A camera I was using for the trip (very similar in size to a Leica M film camera) (Archive photo – Bessa R3A with the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens)
I noticed after my last visit that some of the photos had darkened corners from using two lens filters stacked together. I was using a yellow filter and a circular polarizing filter (“CPL”). The CPL lens did make the clouds pop in the sky but it was also a faff taking it on and off to check orientation before taking a photo. With a 21mm lens using two 39mm filters stacked together would certainly darken the corners of each image so I packed the yellow filter and left the CPL behind.
Medium Format Film Camera
When I developed the 35mm black and white film from the last trip I thought it might be nice to shoot the same scenes on a larger negative to capture more detail. I just had two very nice cameras back from recalibration that would both do the job perfectly, the Fuji GF670 folding 6×7 film camera and the Hasselblad XPan panoramic 35mm film camera. The reason I didn’t take them is after being recalibrated the focus is spot on with both cameras with the lenses shot wide open and up close. I didn’t want to risk knocking them out of alignment again by carrying them in a small rucksack and cycling and running over bumpy ground for four days. I therefore packed my smaller lighter more plastic feeling Fuji GA645 Pro medium format camera. It may look like a toy camera but it has a fantastic lens. It is also not a true rangefinder and has autofocus so is less prone to the usual rangefinder miscalibration problems I face with the Leica M cameras and other RF cameras.
With regards to film choice I packed only black and white film. I chose finer grain film and decided on 35mm Kodak T-Max 100 for the Bessa R3A to get both fine grain and Kodak black blacks. For 120 film I went for Ilford FP4 Plus film as grain is less noticeable with a larger negative.
I won’t bore you with day one, cycling, day 2, cycling, day 3, more cycling but I will summarize the photography aspect. I packed the Bessa R3A and the 21mm Color Skopar lens for the first full day. Due to me leaving the apartment later and sunrise being earlier at this time of year I sadly/ stupidly missed the golden hour most days. The landscape didn’t look quite as wow as last time when the days were shorter plus Fuerteventura wasn’t new to me anymore so I probably lacked the excitement aspect of a new place to explore. I took perhaps 10 photos on the first day ride and that was all. It was windy riding so I think I was more focused on making progress along each road/ up each hill and/ or trying to stay on the road (I got a two corners on the decent badly wrong). I think less attractive light was the main reason for less pictures though. The next full day I took another 10 photos and again kept with the Bessa R3A/ 21mm Skopar combo. My choice of subjects for the majority of the images was completely different to my last visit but I just photographed whatever caught my eye. The wind was increasing each day so for the last day I didn’t take a bag or camera with me and just did a shorter ride before I had to check out. That meant I didn’t even try using the Fuji GA645 camera nor the 35mm Skopar lens. I think the wind and less pretty light meant my focus was more on cycling than photography this time. Maybe I should have watched landscape photography videos on YouTube ahead of the trip like I did last time to get the juices flowing but I wasn’t disappointed either way. Cycling is my second favourite past time and doing anything in the warm sunshine is enjoyable so I have no regrets.
Map to show two of my Fuerteventura bikes rides and it’s location in the world –
Thoughts compared to last time
I enjoyed the one camera one lens setup and would happy leave the 35mm lens and Fuji GA645 behind next time. I was happier with my use of time for this trip as I cycled every day and ran three of the four days (walked 20k steps on the first day instead, exploring and a big grocery shop).
I hired a road bike from Jeff at Caletta Cycles again and it didn’t miss a beat. Thanks Jeff! My apartment was closer to the bike shop so I could run/ walk to it yet far enough away from the mass tourists in the LEGO land style tourist resort. I was living amongst locals out the way a bit so was happy.
I shot some colour film on the last trip but still haven’t had chance to catch up with all my backlog of colour film developing/ processing. Here are a few shots i’ve scanned that I shot on Kodak Ektar 100 film.
Kodak Ektar black and white conversion
I generally prefer black and white photography but my eyes did keep spotting the opportunity for some super saturated popping colour photography. I might have to consider colour film again for the next visit. The main contrast to my visit in December is in December the Fuerteventura landscape looked very dry and baron with the mostly red dry rocky landscape. Visiting in March I was greeted by fresh green grasses blowing in the wind along the side of the road, lots of different daisy type flowers and tiny red succulents growing out the gravel at the side of the road. It took me back to my macro photography early days when most of the images I was seeing were the tiny details rather than the wider landscape.
Until the next one! On my flight home back to the snow and cold in the UK. Yey! (Not).
..I often ask myself why I have not moved to a warmer climate with proper sunshine when most of the my hobbies rely on dry weather and being outside. I would be as fit as a fiddle as they say as I would be outside enjoying it so much more. (The first thing I noticed when landing in Fuertevenura is how everything looks so much more photogenic in direct sunlight. Even the most ugly looking concrete walls). I think any photographer blessed to be able to work and live in a country with days of endless sunshine would really struggle shooting in a country like the UK where often the light has no or little direction. I’m 99% sure.
Kodak Ektar 100 vs Kodak Portra 160/400: Film Portraits
Film Comparison: Film Portraits taken on Kodak Ektar 100 vs Kodak Portra 160 & 400..and a few with Fuji Pro 400H!
Black and white film
Kodak Ektar vs Kodak Portra ? My love for film photography is growing day by day. To date I have shot perhaps 85% black and white film vs. only 15% colour film. I like black and white as depending on how you develop the film you can make some nice high contrast images with a broad dynamic range. High contrast can give increased apparent image sharpenss so B&W photos tend to look sharper than those in colour. B&W tones tend to be more flattering for portrait photos and I also develop the negatives at home myself so it’s both economical and easy. I tend to shoot mostly Kodak T-Max 100 B&W film and push it to ISO 200/400/800 if needed without issue.
For 35mm film I use Kodak Portra 160 and for medium format film normally Kodak Portra 400 and more recently Fuji Pro 400H again. Kodak Portra is said to produce the best skin tones and I did agree but now I am starting to prefer the pinky-green tones of Fuji Pro 400H vs yellow-orange tones of Portra. 35mm Kodak Portra 160 is much cheaper than 135 Fuji Pro 400 and sadly Fuji Pro 160NS is only available in 120 format (not 35mm).
Film Portraits – Wedding Portraits
Medium format 120 ISO 400 film such as Portra is plenty sharp enough for wedding portraits when shot with a lens wide open. This is especially apparent when using sharp camera lenses such as the Contax 645 + Zeiss 80mm f2 or Fuji GF670 Pro. 135 Portra 160 however to me is almost too soft at wide apertures even when using sharp lenses such as a Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 on my Leica M2 or Carl Zeiss Pancolar 80mm f1.8 on my Nikon FM.
Film Portraits – Fashion Photography
120 Kodak Ektar 100 film is very sharp when used with good cameras/ lenses. It is almost unflatterringly sharp for female portraits for anything other than perfect model skin. However if you look deeper you can pull positives from this situation. To date I have only shot Kodak Ektar 120 film with sharp lenses stopped down. I try to use sharp lenses for film photography as images tend to be softer than when shooting digital. If 120 Ektar is almost too sharp for medium format portraits then it will also give me sharper 35mm portraits. If I find 35mm Ektar is great for sharp fashion portraits using modern ASPH and APO lenses but not very flattering for wedding portraits then I can just use older Leica lenses such as the Noctilux 50mm f1, Summarit 50mm f1.5 or Summaron 35mm f3.5 for a softer photo.
Kodak Ektar vs Kodak Portra Skin Tones and Saturation
Kodak Portra is often the benchmark to aspire to for both film and digital cameras when it comes to natural skin tones. I have raved about it in the past and wrote a post on it. The less saturated Portra colours can really suit wedding photography hence it’s popularity (along with Fuji Pro 400H). When I shoot digital I only shoot in colour if I think colour adds to an image (or it is requested by a paying client such as a wedding).
Portra colours are subtle so perhaps don’t do a colourful scene justice. Kodak Ektar however is a more saturated colourful film that can be too much for some portrait images taken in a coloured light such as next to a tungsten lamp. That said if the colours are considered and used as a creative element in the photo you then have a set of fine grain vibrant images to give a splash of colour against the B&W photos. If the Ektar skin tones are too much in some photos I can simply reduce the saturation a little when scanning the negatives. I much rather capture more detail with a finer grain film and desaturate (if needed) than try to sharpen softer negatives scans and increase saturation (if desired).
As a result of my thinking I have ordered a pack of 135 Kodak Ektar 100 film to try in my Leica M3 for model photography / fashion portraits initially. If I like the results then I might load some Kodak Ektar for my next wedding. I will share the results and my thoughts once I have some sample images. For now below are some samples using some of the film types I have talked about.
Buying Kodak Film – What I Buy (Amazon)
I try to always buy multi packs of the film I use as it helps to reduce the unit cost (each single roll of film is cheaper). I often find Amazon as cheaper as anywhere when buying film and I do my best to find a bargain (especially as the cost of film seems to creep up year on year!)
Kodak Portra 160
I find Portra Kodak 160 is the best value of the 3 Kodak Portra films available but I rarely have enough light to shoot Kodak Portra 160 at box speed in the UK. I love the finer grain of Portra 160 and for 35mm I normally prefer it to Portra 400. If I am doing a hot and sunny destination photo shoot (like my trips to Tenerife) I tend to use Kodak Portra 160 as it is the most economical option. With the big cameras like the Hasselblad and Mamiya RZ67 (with their amazing big waist level view of the world) if you get a very attractive model to photograph it’s easy to get trigger happy and shoot off a whole roll of film within minutes! Beware! (Take plenty of film so you don’t run out like I did!) 🙂
Kodak Portra 400 is my go to film for all of my various medium format cameras (especially). Portra 400 is said to be sharper than Porta 160 and more saturated also. The colours are amazing for portraits without being over the top. For colour film photography I use Portra 400 film the most as I often shoot cameras at ISo 400 if working with available light for portraits. This is especially true for my analogue wedding photography but for model shoots also. I use 35mm Portra 400 for weddings with the Leica cameras as I need that extra amount of light to help minimise motion blur for moving subjects.
Kodak Portra 800 can be a life saver for analogue wedding photography (especially with medium format cameras that need more light as the lenses tend to be f2.8-f4 fastest vs f1.4 for my Leica lenses). Portra 800 is more saturated than Portra 400 and Portra 160. I use it the least though as it is expensive but luckily they sell 35mm as single rolls for those special occasions!
Unlike perhaps popular believe, Kodak Ektar film can be great for portraits and skin tones. I find it works best for faces with a less red complexion and also out of direct sun. Ektar 100 saturated colours adds a nice pop to an image especially on a grey day. The super fine grain is also amazing and perhaps my favourite feature of Ektar, both 35mm and 120 versions. The price is also good which helps me like Ektar 100!
As noted above then it’s worth remembering that ISO 100 speed Ektar (and Portra 160) requires more ambient light than Portra 400/800 and Fuji Pro 400H films. That’s why me and others tend to use ISo 400/800 films more and why Portra 400 and Pro 400H are probably the 2 most popular films for weddings photography. Both these films also have greater latitude so cope better for under/ over exposure (vs Ektar especially if under exposed).
A wide latitude can be a real benefit on a bright day if I want to shoot at apertures like f1.0, f1.2 or f1.4. All these films can be over exposed a crazy amount (Portra especially for me) yet still retain the highlight detail where digital would clip the highlights way before. Film cameras also tend to have a slower maximum shutter speed vs digital so it is more difficult to shoot a lens wide open and be able to darken down the available light sufficiently. Exmples: Film – 1/1000 (Leica M2/ M3), 1/400 (Mamiya RZ 67), 1/500 (Fuji GF670) vs Digital – 1/4000 (M9), 1/8000 (Nikon D800).
Finally I reveal how I make my Portrait Images!
If you want to know the exact photography equipment I use to make my film portraits, other than the film and a camera see the links below. I used to avoid writing about my non-camera gear but I thought it was time to reveal all! I detail the speicific speedlights and wireless triggers I use together with the other photography gear needed for my portrait photography.
Fuji GF670 Pro / Voigtlander Bessa III – Medium Format Rangefinder Film Camera
Looking to buy a medium format rangefinder camera? Here I detail why I bought the Fuji GF670 and 11 reason to buy one! Awesome camera!
1. Medium Format Rangefinder camera (Fuji 6×7 Rangefinder)
After recently buying a 1980s Fuji GS645 6×4.5 rangefinder camera I have fell in love with both medium format again and also the size of the folding cameras such as the Fuji Professional film camera range. I used to shoot quite a bit of medium format film before I bought my Leica M9, using cameras such as Pentacon Six TL, ARAX-CM, Contax 645 and Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Since getting the M9 film my photography all but stopped for the first 6 months and is slowly making a come back. By having a medium format film camera that is a similar size to a Leica camera I feel I am much more likely to shoot more film.
For portraiture I find the 6×9 format of the popular Fuji GW690 a bit of an overkill. I already have a 6×9 folder, a 1930s Russian Moskva-5 and it is nice for landscapes but I tend not to use it for model photography (or weddings). I reviewed many other rangefinder medium format cameras – Mamiya 6, Mamiya 7, Bronica RF645 to name a few but I like the size of the Fuji 6×7 GF670 / Voigtlander Bessa III. It seemed the best 120 folding camera for my needs.
2. 11 Reasons Why You Should Buy a Fuji GF670!
6×6 and 6×7 film format options – Works as a 6×6 rangefinder and 6×7 rangefinder camera! I love 6×6 format especially, same as my ARAX-CM
Accepts 120 and 220 medium format roll film – will use 120 as cheaper and more available
Rangefinder focusing – After using Leicas I now much prefer rangefinder camera focusing. This Fuji 6×7 rangefinder will be like a high power Leica!
Bright clear viewfinder with auto 6×6 / 6×7 lines – the GS645 is tough to focus wide open
Leaf shutter lens – flash sync speeds up to 1/500 (great for strobist work)
Compact Size – super slimline 120 folding camera design means I can now shoot with medium format on my travels
Reliability – a modern film camera offers better reliability than vintage cameras for weddings
Crazy Sharp Optics – EBC Fujiion 80mm f3.5 lens for high resolution and contrast wide open
Built in light meter – unlike my Fujica GS645 or Leica M2 so nice to have for emergencies
Medium formatrangefinder camera – Fuji 6×7 (& 6×6) formats offers superior details, resolution, tones and lattitude to 35mm format
Leica feel – it reminds me of a big Leica M2 and will suit my style of photography
Strictly speaking rangefinder cameras are more popular for street photography, travel photography and landscape photography. That said I shoot mostly with Leica rangefinder cameras for all styles of photography, and especially portraiture, models and weddings. Yes the fixed lens GF670 rangefinder do not offer the shallow depth of field of say my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II with a Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 lens attached or the popular Contax 645 but if you understand DOF and how to shoot I am quietly confident I can get some nice shallow depth portraits from the GF670. The GF670 focuses as close as 0.9m and the lens is approximately equivalent to a 41mm f1.8 lens on a 35mm film camera when shooting 6×6 film. That means it focuses closer than many of the Leica M lenses (1m) such as the Leica Noctilux and Zeiss ZM Sonnar.
4. Advantages of a Small Medium Format Camera
The size of the GF670 means I can now carry it with me in addition to my Leica M9 for trips to London, Poland, further afield or even somewhere closer to home. Any location shoot is made easier with portable equipment. I think I will use the GF670 differently to my Mamiya RZ67. The bellow focusing of the RZ67 lets me focus very close so tends to pull me into my subjects to get that super shallow DOF. This means for many photos the background of the image is completely blurred so I could be taking a photo anywhere. With the GF670 I cannot get as close to my subjects so it will suit environmental portraits with the background still being recognisable.