OK. Let me get this out of the way… I love shooting digital cameras just as much as I love shooting film cameras. That’s to say…a helluvalot! So I’m not here to take a side in the digital vs. film debate…they’re both great! For me, the choice of whether to shoot film or digital on a given day or for a given project comes down to the aesthetics of the media and the image creation experience I’m after. Digital is sharp, quick, and unambiguous (i.e. chimping is allowed). Film feels more artful, more deliberate, and takes a while to see the output. In either case, my working file is digital since I ultimately scan any “keeper” film images.
Now…all that having been said, I’ve been shooting a lot of film lately. I really do love the look of certain films. I’m just not a proponent of using the same film for everything; different films & different developers give different results. So, I use a variety of both color & B&W film, and I’m always on the lookout for something interesting to load into my camera. Case in point – I recently picked up a few rolls of Adox Silvermax 100 to try out.
Why Silvermax? Well…Adox makes some pretty interesting claims on their site – fine grain, higher silver content, and a very wide exposure latitude – they claim a 14 zone tonal range! I’ve gotta admit, it was the latter that initially caught my interest. Who couldn’t use a bit more exposure latitude shooting in LA’s contrasty urban canyons? Besides, I also wanted to see whether there were any additional visual differences that the higher silver content would deliver.
So I ordered a few rolls – at $9 per roll! Yup. 9 Bucks! For black and white film, that’s kinda’ steep. I was thinking if it turns out Silvermax is really good, it would only be used for REALLY special occasions, like Barrack Obama’s third inauguration or something like that. I later discovered that if I buy the 100 ft bulk roll, the cost is a bit more wallet friendly…moot point – unless it’s really good.
Film in hand, I headed into DTLA, on a particularly sunny Saturday* to burn a couple of rolls. Since I hadn’t shot the area north of the downtown library in a while, I decided to roam there. Oddly, there didn’t seem to be as many people as I’ve become accustomed to seeing on Saturday DTLA walkabouts. But, with a few skyscraper shots thrown in, I made do.
I was really eager to see the results, so I began processing the film as soon as I got home. Of course, Adox suggests the only way to get the maximum exposure latitude is with their own Silvermax developer. At 9 bucks a roll, I wasn’t taking any chances, so I adhered to the manufacturers recommendation. In less than 20 minutes, I was looking at wet, but beautiful, platinum-colored negatives. It was clear even from the dripping neg’ that there was descent detail captured in most images. “Most” because, of course, stuff (aka user error) happens.
So, what do I think about the results? Well…they’re fantastic! After scanning the negatives, I was wowed by the tonality and detail. Theses images are crisp & sharp with minimal grain. The tonality is continuous from dark black to whites with a very smooth transition of shades. Simply stunning. I can’t say definitively whether it’s the film or just the confluence of luck and great light, but I’m inclined to give the nod to the film. I like the look of the images. Although I didn’t measure it, there certainly appeared to be more shadow and highlight detail available during post-processing. The ease with which I could bring the highlights and shadows in or out was pretty impressive. IMHO, Adox isn’t blowing smoke with the claim of 14 zones of latitude. All of the attached images have been adjusted to present as higher contrast images, but trust me, there was plenty of exposure latitude to play with.
Yeah, I kinda’ dig this film and think it meets my criteria for really good. Hmmm…I just found a new “favorite” film. Moving forward, I plan on trying it in a variety of lighting situations and maybe with a different developer or two – just to see what happens. And, yes, before you ask…I am definitely going to purchase that 100 ft bulk roll. 🙂
I hope you enjoy the images and thanks for visiting my site.
- Leica M6ttl
- Leica 50 Summilux ASPH
- Leica 35 Summicron ASPH/Orange Filter
- Voigtlander 28 Ultron II
- Adox Silvermax 100 rated at 100
- Developed in Adox Silvermax developer
- Scanned with a Plustek Opticfilm 120