Saturday, April 11, 2020

Stretching Film

The economics of shooting film has taken on some added importance lately.  It is not a new concern and I have adapted procedures over a long period to keep my interest in film use viable.  The easiest solution, of course, is to just shoot digital, but I'm not there yet.

In regard to general cost containment, home processing makes film use orders of magnitude more economical than sending out film for commercial processing.  With careful technique and attention to adjusting C-41 times to account for use, a roll of color can be processed at home for about a buck per roll.  Using high-dilution black and white developers like Rodinal and HC110 along with stand development can make processing costs nearly negligible.

Because of the rising costs of old favorites like TMAX and Tri-X I have already switched to using some lower-cost alternatives like HP5 and Kentmere which work well with HC-110, L110 and PMK Pyro developers.  I am also looking forward to experimenting more with some other film choices like Ultra Fine Extreme and Fomapan. Buying any of those films in bulk will also help to tame costs.

A simple way to cut cost per exposure is through the use of half-frame cameras.  Many film camera producers came up with compact and elegant camera designs which allow getting up to twice the number of exposures normally available on a roll of film.

My Certo Dolly SuperSport has removable frame masks which give me either twelve 6x6 negatives or sixteen 6x4.5 frames.  The SuperSport's film compartment is also big enough to accommodate a 35mm cartridge, which produces an interesting sprocket hole border and a lot of exposures per session.

My humpback Mercury II-CX is the only 35mm half-frame I have at present. The camera doesn't quite double the number of frames from a 35mm cartridge because of the added spaces between frames, but it still takes me quite a while to work through a full roll.  The Mercury's rotary shutter is ultra-reliable and accurate, and it has a 1/1000 top speed. The  f2.7/35mm Tricor is coated and produces surprising sharpness.

My Zeiss Ikon Ikonta A 520 was an early acquisition when I got back to film photography.  Using only the 6x4.5 format, the camera can fold up to fit easily into a pocket and yet provide medium format negatives from 120 roll film.  My example has the uncommon combination of a Compur-Rapid shutter with an f3.5/7cm Tessar. Most of the black trim paint on the little Ikonta wore away a long time ago, but the camera's high-quality construction and reliability make it an enduring favorite.


Jim Grey said...

I very much enjoy Ultrafine Xtreme 100 and Fomapan 200/Arista EDU 200. They are fine low-cost films. I have yet to find a low-cost ISO 400 film, but I haven't been looking very hard.

Mike said...

Some of the cheap films got hard to find when Kodak jumped its prices. I have mostly found what I need at either B&H or at Freestyle.

JR Smith said...

I stocked up on some of my favorite films around the first of the year and got some pretty good deals from B&H and The Shot On Film Store. I also have quite a bit of Double-X, Plus-X and Agfa APX 100 expired but frozen. As for color, I still find Kodak ColorPlus to be relatively reasonable.

Mike said...

Free shipping on orders over $50 often gives B&H the edge, though negotiating their holiday schedules can be a challenge at times.

Kodachromeguy said...

I tried Fomapan 100 classic in 120 size a few years ago. I bought it at Fotoimpex in Berlin at the recommendation of the gent at the counter when I asked about a traditional type of film. Nice film and reasonable price. I really liked it for some conditions but had trouble with other scenes. I finally concluded to go back to Tri-X 400, which has about the same grain as the Fomapan. But my experience is not to disparage Fomapan 100 by any means.

Mike said...

I've enjoyed the opportunity over many years to explore the potential of many old cameras, films and processing options. Just looking at films, I think TMAX and Tri-X have always given me the best results. Those Kodak films were always a little more costly, but I could always find a justification for the expense based on the quality results. Recently, though, the price increases for those films just seems to me to be excessive and exploitative.
At the same time, one also has to take into account the many dimensions to the practice of photography and the particulars of the individual photographer's experience. In my own case, a complication exists in the form of a decreased capacity in perception, judgment and performance associated with aging. I'm thinking at the moment that I am likely better off to narrow down my choices in gear, film and processing in regard to achieving some consistency in my results.