Slow film

From the time I started developing black and white a year or a year and a half ago up until very recently, I only shot two black and white films (excluding C-41 B&W films) — Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X. Those were the first I used, they seemed to be good for pretty much everything (with the inclusion of push-processing Tri-X), and I liked the way they looked. (Well, I’m not as passionate about box-speed Tri-X as I am about Plus-X.)

But between the odd purchase here or there, some film that came with a camera I bought, and I recent gift of some film, I’ve developed quite the sampler of other films — generally just one or two rolls or so of each, but I decided it was time I started shooting some of them to see if I liked them.

For no special reason — other than good, old-fashioned curiosity — I decided to go slow. By which I don’t mean taking my time getting around to it (well, I had already done that). I mean experimenting with ISO 50 and 25 film. Ilford Pan F Plus and Efke 25, to be specific.

The Pan F I had in 35mm, so I ran it through my Olympus XA — always a good choice when I don’t really know what I want to do with a film. The results were illuminating.


The slow film encourages you to shoot wide open, which really encourages the XA to vignette, and the slow speed of the film makes the vignette quite unmistakable. The result is rather lomo, somewhat to my surprise, and is very at odds to the results I’m accustomed to getting from the XA — probably because I usually feed 160 or 400 speed film through it.

And, indeed, when there’s enough light to stop well down, the results are quite sharp and clear, with only a tasteful degree of vignetting.

A | Laundromat

It seems to be well at home for city scenes. Hard lines and sharp shadows seem to really click. (I’m starting to sound like those film mystics who read psychology and aesthetics into chemistry, aren’t I? Oh well, it was bound to happen…)

Next up, I tried Efke 25. I had this in 120, so I used my RB67. The results are really, really old school.


It reminds me of nothing so much as what I’ve seen of Atget — not in terms of the photographer’s skill, obviously, but the tonality of the film. (Of course, Atget was shooting on glass plate, not film, but you get the idea.)

I stupidly forgot to look up the times before going to develop this film, and I wound up accidentally pushing about a stop. Fortunately the highlights held up rather well, for the most part. However, the film is an incredibly curly bastard — the strips would literally snap into tubes and leap about the room, much to my frustration. Thank god for the betterscanning holder for my 4490, or I might have just given up on scanning it…

And just as well I didn’t, because I like some of the results…


I carried the trend forward today with a roll of IR820 Aura. I haven’t developed it yet, so I have no idea whether it’ll prove to be at all successful. It was certainly entertaining to shoot at ISO 3, though…slow exposures in broad daylight definitely seem a little bit perverse.

I’m normally very much used to thinking in terms of speed — fast films for low-light shooting, fast shutter speeds to stop motion, etc. Because I’m accustomed to thinking in terms of human and animal subjects — things that move at a certain pace.

Slower films — especially when they’re used with slow lenses, or require filters that force even slower exposures — make this sort of thinking/shooting difficult or impossible. Time becomes a resource you dole out in quarters of a second or even several seconds at a time, instead of in hundredths or thousandths of a second, and situation, form, and texture come to outweigh the pursuit of the decisive moment.

It’s quite instructive. Of course, not all live subjects are inconsistent with slow films…I even managed some wildlife photography with the Efke 25. Of course, it helps to have a certain sort of subject…

Turtletacular (View Large)

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