For the Sake of my Wallet
By, Ernst-Ludwig von Porz
It needs to be said. Complaining about film prices is stupid. I’m sick and tired of it. I’ll admit, it’s a trap that I’ve fallen into, and I too need to stop.
It’s true that film is expensive, I’ll present you with no arguments to the contrary. Instead I’d like to point about something which the more seasoned among you will have likely already realised. While the cost per roll of film today certainly is higher than it was in the past, film has never been particularly cheap. Film photography is an expensive passion.
Which does’t really matter, since there isn’t anything that I or anybody else can do about it. Kodak will continue to raise their prices, whether I shout about it or not. Thus, I have come to the realisation that I have a choice; which may apply to you as well.
I can either shut up and pay up, buy the film stocks I want to shoot and keep enjoying this hobby. Or, I can give up and start shooting digital; as I’ve observed several other film photographers do. Fujifilm after all does represent a promising alternative to shooting film with their in-camera film simulations. By shooting .jpg, and pretending I don’t have an LCD I might even be able to delude myself into “feeling” like I’m using my Nikon FM. Or I could get a Nikon ZFC.
Since Option A would hurt my wallet more than I would like, and Option B seemed a tad depressing, I began to rack my brain for option three.
As in the business world, I figured a good approach to try would be to seek out a way of reducing my “overheads”. I already develop and scan film myself, which leaves little room to economise in that aspect. Logically then, reducing the cost of the film itself would be a good place to start. This would mean looking beyond the catalogues of Kodak & Fujifilm, and setting aside my much beloved favourites from Ilford for now for the sake of my wallet.
While researching budget film stocks I ran across an inexpensive offering from a name that I recognised, but wasn’t aware still sold film. AGFAPHOTO. In reality AGFAPHOTO doesn’t actually make the film. Ever since they bankrupted in the early 2000’s they’ve been licensing their products out to another German company by the name of Lupus Media & Imaging GmbH & Co. KG.; I don’t recognise the name either.
The films are manufactured in the EU, and seem to be fairly well reviewed. Time to take the plunge.
I decided to try AGFA APX 100, which I was able to order locally for about $6.00 per roll. For reference this about half of what a comparable roll of FP4+ costs, and a third of anything comparable from Kodak; at least if we’re talking about prices local to me. It seemed like a reasonably decent bargain. And so, naturally I was very eager to see how the film performed, which is why I promptly loaded a roll into my Nikon FM and exposed it.
It would not be a stretch for me to say that I found the results to be impressive, to say the least.
I present to you a sampling of the images from my first roll of AGFA APX 100, all shot on the aforementioned Nikon FM with my 50mm f1.4 AI-S lens, developed in Ilford ID-11 for 10:30 minutes at 18°C, and scanned with an Epson V600. Judge for yourself what you think of the images.
I would like to point out how clear and sharp the images are. For a 100 speed film I found that results to be very pleasing. Yes, there are sharper films, and there are films with more resolution, but those also cost much more.
The dynamic range of APX 100 was also more than satisfactory for me. I was easily able to maintain significant shadow detail, and almost never encountered blown highlights when metering for my subject using the FM’s internal meter. The exposure latitude of the film is also quite good. I underexposed the odd frame on the roll, trading off a bit of exposure in an effort to eliminate some camera shake with higher shutter speeds; even those images came out very nicely.
In particular I was impressed with the both tonality of the film and it’s grain. I really like the way that the grey tones rendered, and found that it was easy to get pleasant looking images with decent contrast throughout, without much effort when scanning. And, without making a particular effort or using specialised chemistry the grain rendered very small and fine on the negatives that were exposed to sufficient light. If underexposed the grain is as expected comes out a bit larger.
What can I say? AGFA APX 100 is a panchromatic black and white negative film with nice characteristics that make it not only easy to handle but, also help the film lend itself well to many different types of photography.
Translating AGFAPHOTO’s website will reveal that they recommend APX 100 for Architecture, Landscapes, Reportage, and Still Life photography, and I tend to agree with that.
Overall I was very impressed with the performance of this film. I would be erring if I claimed that this film produces images with the same quality or characteristics as some more expensive films, however, for the price, APX 100 offers exceptional value. I loved every singe image that I got off of my first roll, and look forward to shooting much more of this film in the future.
There is however one potential disappointment associated with this film which may affect some of you. It’s only available as a 135 format film, either in 36 exposure cassettes or as bulk rolls. The lack of 120 format option is a little sad, since some other similarly budget friendly films that I’ve also researched did have a 120 option. However, I pretty much exclusively shoot 35mm anyway, so I can live with the limitation.
I would give this film my heartfelt recommendation. It performs well, the images are very pleasing and high quality (if exposed well), and it’s nice to the wallet.
If you find yourself disgruntled by the rising costs of film, or are starting to shoot less of the stuff in an effort to conserve funds, consider giving AGFA APX 100 a look. I think you’ll like it, I know I do. In fact, I’ve decided to make it my go-to 100 speed black and white film, not only because it’s friendlier to my pocket book, but because I truly love the way this film look.
If perhaps you’re not too keen on AGFA APX 100 isn’t you’re cup of tea, or if it’s not available to you locally, another excellent inexpensive option is Fomapan Profi 100.