My first experience of Silbersalz35 film

I recently discovered a new colour film called Silbersalz35 (through one of my fave photography sites Thephoblogger). I say ‘new’ but it isn’t really new, technically speaking. Because it’s 35mm Kodak motion picture stock repackaged for stills cameras.

Now, this isn’t an original idea. Cinestill (and others) have been doing this for a while. But the difference is that Cinestill has certain elements removed so it can be processed in normal C-41 chemicals. Whereas this is just the pure film which has to be processed in ECN-2 chemicals. Does it make much of a difference? Well, I thought it was worth finding out…!

Silbersalz are a film production company in Germany. As far as I’m aware, they’re shooting on film and processing and scanning it all in-house. I’m guessing that somebody came up with the idea of repackaging the Kodak motion stock into stills film alongside the production company. And I’m rather glad they did.

You order the films in a batch of four, and they come in the following flavours (the D and T denoting Daylight or Tungsten balanced):
50D
200T
250D
500T

As it was my first test with the films, I thought I’d order one of each. There is also the possibility to order a batch which will be bleach-bypass processed. Silbersalz will process and scan the whole lot on a Cintel scanner and deliver the files via Dropbox as JPEGs and TIFFs.

First up was the 250D. The weather was still quite bright so I didn’t want to try out the 500 just yet, and the 50iso was much slower than I’m used to. Also, they recommend shooting one stop over; so rating the 50iso at 25iso is rather scary when I’m usually shooting at something between 100 and 400!

Now, I only have one shot from this whole roll. And I’m not sure what went wrong but I think there may have been some kind of operator error (ahem!). I have a lot of double exposures, sometimes triple exposures. I’m thinking that maybe I hadn’t loaded the film properly; it seems less forgiving with basic errors like that. But still, it looks pretty nice and the grain seems very good. I like the look. But having a bit of a ballsed up film, I’ll just park this one here and move on to the next…

Silbersalz35 250D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 250D, Olympus OM10

Next up was the 50D. It’s slow. But the sun was out. So I thought, why not?
Now, this film is absolutely gorgeous. Exactly what I was hoping for… it’s got this stunning depth and glow to it that is almost three dimensional. The colours have fantastic saturation. It doesn’t look like any film I’ve shot on before - it really does look like stills that have been pulled from a movie. Which is what I wanted.

Even inside using natural light it looks great!

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 50D, Olympus OM10

Next was the 200T. And first, the downside… I did have some problems with this one and it took me a while to work out what the problem was. Every time I wound on after a shot, the rewind crank didn’t turn. Was it winding on? Did I not load it properly? After opening up the back of the camera in a black bag, I could feel the film was wound on and there was tension, so I started to suspect that it wasn’t loaded in the canister properly.

But I also started to worry it was a camera issue. So, I carried on shooting but without having much confidence that I’d get any shots back!

At the end of the roll, it did turn out that the film was not loaded properly. However, I said to Silbersalz about this and they very kindly sent me out a fresh film all the way from Germany at their expense - so a big thumbs up for that. I’ve got that film loaded up at the moment, the below shots are from the problematic film.

As for the film itself, I once again loved the look. Understandably there was a little more grain than the 50D, but it was still nice and tight. It being tungsten balanced, I was unsure how blue it would be, but pushing the white balance back towards the yellows in Lightroom quickly popped it back into more natural colours.

Silbersalz35 200T, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 200T, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 200T, Olympus OM10

Silbersalz35 200T, Olympus OM10

Lastly, on to the 500T. This is the one closest in speed to my usual favourite colour film, Kodak Portra 400. For this film, I was still a bit unsure about my Olympus and whether it had a problem or not. So I loaded it up in my Yashica Electro 35. Most were shot in one day which was gloomy and rainy at times, therefore it was putting up a bit of a challenge when rating a tungsten film at 250. But I think this film held itself up very well.

It has noticeably more grain than the others. But not in a distracting way. What it does have is a lot of flexibility - I was able to pull out some good shots from some quite murky exposures.

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

Silbersalz35 500T, Yashica Electro 35

I think Silbersalz have got an excellent thing going on with these films. Straight away it has given me a different look to my shots - I think it’s closer to what I’ve had in my head for a while. I still need to experiment a bit more but my first impression is that all of the films look great, and all of them are extremely flexible for post processing. I’ve even tried knocking a couple into monochrome, and working with them just tonally has been great too.

The scans are also very good. Hardly any dust or hairs - Silbersalz have really looked after this. But be warned - the TIFF files they provide are BIG. The download was about 7GB per film. But worth it for all that lovely filmic detail.

And it’s an excellent price too. They’re currently selling four rolls including processing and scanning for €40. OK, there are shipping costs both ways too, but this maxed out at €60 which is still great value for what I’m getting.

Out of the four films, I think I’d probably say the 50D is probably my favourite. It is silky smooth and I love the rich colours. However, it is currently winter in the UK and trying to shoot at 25iso is very restricting, so I think I’ll save that one for the summer. For now, I’ve ordered up four rolls of the 500T but with the bleach bypass option, and I’m really looking forward to how that turns out with some nice wintery light.

This isn’t an advert whatsoever, but you should really have a look at what they’re up to https://silbersalz35.com.

Kodak Tri-X.... finally braved it!

Kodak Tri-X.
What do we know about it as a film?

Well, it’s been used by some of the most famous photographers to create important, fantastic, iconic images across all genres of photography. If you’ve seen a black and white photo over the past 60 years (or more) that has stopped you in your tracks, chances are it may well have been shot on this film.

It was originally released in 1940 in sheet format, with 35mm and 120 formats being released in 1954. Like other things that have stood the test of time of that era (like a Fender Strat or a Gibson Les Paul), some tweaks have been made since then. But fundamentally it is still the same. They got it pretty much right first time out.

Some of the photographers that have used this film are my benchmarks: Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Pennie Smith, Garry Winogrand, Vivian Maier, Anton Corbijn….. and many more. Apparently Sebastien Salgado wouldn’t even switch to digital until he was 100% sure he could emulate Tri-X.

It’s the kind of black and white photography I love. It’s not overly grainy, but still has a bit of bite and grit to it. It has life to it. But it also has a lot of history to it because of all those fantastic photographers. In the same way as picking up a fantastic guitar has, you know that you can’t hide behind any excuses. There’s no “oh, this film is a bit too grainy/doesn’t expose properly in the midtones/hard to scan” etc etc blah blah blah.

No. This film has been proven to be bloody awesome.
Which is why I think I’ve not tried it until now. I’ve been a bit scared of it.

So, I put a roll of it in my OM10. Rated it at 200, took a deep breath, and went out to play.

I’m not sure if I got my best ever shots whilst trying it out (more down to the usual things - light not being perfect, missing a particular moment etc) but WOAH!!!!!! this film is soooooo good!!!

I’ve said before how I love Ilford Pan 400. And I do. Really, it’s an ace film.
But Tri-X really is on another planet to anything I’ve shot with before.

Once I’d scanned the negs and popped them in Lightroom, it was an absolute breeze working with the shots. So much flexibility in the tones. I could crunch the blacks down but still keep loads of detail if I wanted (look at the blacks below! Yum Yum Yum!!!). There was massive amounts of detail in the highlights I could pull back down. The grain was nice and tight; just enough to give the shots a bit of life without being intrusive.

The missus even stopped what she was doing to say how good the shots looked (this is a rare thing - she likes my photos but rarely stops what she’s doing to actually come and look over my shoulder as I work).

This film just has life to it. It has something which you just cannot put your finger on.
It’s not cheap. So I’m not going to shoot a lot of it. But it’s going to be my go-to film for special stuff. (Honestly. I’m not going to order shedloads. Really!!)

Is picking up a 60s Strat going to turn me into Hendrix on Voodoo Chile?
Is picking up a 50s Les Paul going to help me make the sounds Clapton did with John Mayall?
No. Not a chance.
I’m not expecting this film to give me McCullin’s eye. There’s way more to it than just the film.
But shooting with this is a pretty damn good starting point to getting a gorgeous image.
Seriously hooked on this….

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Pushing film

I’ve recently experimented with pushing some film. It’s not a new idea but not something I’ve personally tried before.

For those that don’t know what pushed film is, I’ll explain it quite simply:
You underexpose the film and then push it back to what it should be in the developing.
For example, if you have a 400iso film and expose it as 800iso then you’re pushing it by one stop of exposure. This will allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed but the film will be one stop underexposed. Therefore when it is developed, it needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Why do this?
Well, it can be handy in low light situations. If you only had a 400 film you could shoot it at 1600 in bad light.
Also, as an aesthetic decision: when you’re pushing film in this way then it increases grain and contast. So if that’s the look you want then it’s a good way of getting it in camera.

I had some rolls of my favourite films from the summer left in the fridge: Ilford Pan 400 and Kodak ProImage 100. Having shot quite a bit on these two films, I thought they’d be pretty good to experiment with.

Both of them I shot pushed by two stops. So, the Pan 400 I rated at 1600 and the ProImage 100 I rated at 400.

First issue I found which I didn’t expect at this time of year: really bright sunlight. Not just the occasional bright Autumnal morning. Nope - bright, contrasty light all day for a week or two. It was lovely for catching shadows… but I was rating my 400 film at 1600. Which meant I was pretty much stuck on an aperture of f16. Which isn’t the end of the world but I do prefer a bit of flexibility!

To be honest, I’m unsure if pushing the Pan 400 really added much. Apart from some grain. I think it’s fine to use for pushing and I’m happy with the results (and it ends up being cheaper to push this than buy some faster film!) but I don’t think it really added anything to the shots.

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When pushing a colour film the saturation levels should also increase. The scans from the pushed ProImage had noticeably more punch to the colour. Not that the colours were washed out before. It’s just there was a noticeable difference after having been pushed. More contrasty colours; possibly good to play around with during the winter.

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Overall, it’s been handy to try pushing a couple of films and I will probably try some more. However, the downside is that the whole film has to be push processed, so you are tied in to doing that for the whole film. Which - as I found with the 400 speed film - can limit you from time to time. However, I’m quite interested in trying it out for a gig I’ll be shooting next month.

All shot on my Olympus OM10. As far as I remember, these were shot on either the Zuiko f1.8 50mm or Panagor f2 35mm.

Fomapan 200

Recently I've been playing with some Fomapan 200 film in my OM10. I've previously tried Foma 100 before in 120 format and read some good reports about the 200 speed variety, so thought it might be good to try out as it's a pretty cheap film.

As with pretty much all my photography on film nowadays, I tend to rate the film so I overexpose. Having read that Foma 200 had a couple of stops of latitude, I rated it as 100. And I'm liking what I'm getting (although some reports say rating it at 160 is even better).

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It's got a nice bit of grain to it, which is something I quite like in black and white film. And it has what I'd consider quite an old look; slightly vintage. It doesn't have the precision that some newer films have, it sort of has the feel of street photography or documentary photography from the 1950s/60s, of which I'm a bit of a fan.

Tonally, it was really nice to play with afterwards. I could get some nice deep blacks whilst keeping a nice range of greys up to white to give the kind of contrast I like. I think I'm a bit of a fan of this lovely Czech film!

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