Choosing Film, Exploring Emulsions

Since I started doing photography in 2019, my focus has been 90% on film and gear tests. Occasionally, I mixed in a purposeful image or two that I hoped to be ”art” worthy. I now have about 15 pictures I want to print and am about to start selecting my preferred emulsions. Three years ago, choosing what to shoot seemed obvious—the choices seemed to be fast or slow, black and white or color. Well, experience brings finickiness and preferences and failures.

So far, I know Ektar will be used for floral portraits, but not red. Ektar is sharp and great for colors, except red. Ektar takes a lot of care to avoid blowing out reds. One can spend time bracketing and being paranoid about metering and shooting 1.5 to 2 stops under or simply use Portra 160 instead. Portra handles reds using my camera’s meter. It is sufficiently sharp, and the colors are pleasant. Shooting red with Portra can be done in 30 minutes with a reasonable expectation of being happy with the scanned results. With Ektar, it has been one disappointment after another. I suppose the day may come when the “artiste” in me becomes sufficiently peeved and demands Ektar. But, until then, Porta 160 is fine. This means I still need to decide what to use for landscapes, around-the-city shots, studio still lifes, and macro shots.

I don’t do people portraits—it simply has no appeal for me. No idea why. Given that fact, skin tone issues are not an issue and have no bearing on my film choices.

I am beginning to like the gritty B&W German cinema look, so I will be experimenting with cine film—Lomo Potsdam and Berlin and Kodak 5302. Now that I am able to move about the city more, I am eager to see what I can capture, what moods I can evoke.

Still life remains a significant interest and driver, not only when buying film but also in buying gear. I will be using both B&W and color for still-life shots and experimenting with fine-grained selections from Ilford — Pan F 50 and FP4+. Grit might also be interesting here, so I will try Lomo Berlin with its 400 ISO to see what happens.

For color, I want vibrant and sharp, which means Ektar will be given a second audition. I’ve also added Lomo 100 ISO color. I have never tried the 100 ISO, but I liked the Lomo 400 color. I also have Fuji 400H, which I have never used and will try. Since most (>75%) of my color shots have been with expired Fuji 100, I have only a vague sense of what can be accomplished with the other emulsions. I know Portra 400 leans more toward pastels, but I have no idea what that might mean for still-life images. To this group, I am adding Lomo Metropolis.

I have seen multiple sets of images from Lomo Metropolis. My favorites look like vintage color shots from 70 years ago. The worst of them looked washed out with odd color shifts. The film can be shot from 200-400 ISO and developed without pushing or pulling. I intend to shoot 1/3 of the roll at 100, 1/3 at 200, and the final 1/3 at 400 to see how it responds. The second roll will be done to compare sunlight to studio lighting. We’ll see what happens. Depending on how that experiment turns out, I may buy an additional roll.

I am looking forward to more local travel. State parks, the north Georgia mountains, and waterfalls are calling me. I hope to give my medium format cameras a workout doing landscapes. Of course, I have no idea what would go best with Georgia scenery. I wish Kodak Ultramax came in 120 format. To me, Ultramax is the most neutral film I have used. The colors tend to be true and clean. Perhaps the Fuji 400H 120 will shine here. As for B&W, I think HP5+ might be suitable for outdoors.

Studio shots will include a lot of lighting experiments, so I won’t be testing those with Fuji 400H, Ektar, or Portra. Expired Fuji 100 is still king here, and the old Fuji 200 that I had given up on because of curling issues will jump in here too. I solved the curling issues by rerolling the negative inside-out. (Also, since the new Fuji 200 is rumored to be Kodak Gold, curling will not be an issue.)

I’m hoping to make the best of feeling normal, so all of the above should keep me busy for a while. Oh, and I just got a black Hi-Matic 7s—the blame being duly assigned to him who shall not be named from out in the Pacific northwest.



  1. I’m not really looking at the 7sii, as I have an Olympus 35RD already. They’re about the same size and have roughly the same features (shutter-priority with manual mode). I don’t mind having a few cameras with auto-exposure. The AL-F looks interesting because it looks to be smaller than the Hi-Matic 7/7s/9/11 but still has some control over exposure, whereas most of the smaller Hi-Matics that came after the 7/7s/9/11 were auto-exposure with the exception of the 7sii.

    1. Author

      Got it. I wouldn’t mind having a 6×6 or 6×4.5 folding camera. But finding one of those that works at a reasonable price seems impossible.

      1. Yeah, folders can be tough. I had an Agfa folder that worked (no light leaks in the bellows!) but I never got results that I liked. I’m really digging my Ricohflex Dia. Yeah, a twins-lens reflex is not as compact as a folder, but I don’t mind.

  2. ” Oh, and I just got a black Hi-Matic 7s—the blame being duly assigned to him who shall not be named from out in the Pacific northwest.”

    What am I, Beetlejuice? 😉

    Anyways, hope you enjoy the Hi-Matic 7s, I love mine. And of course you had to find the rare all-black version since you’re extra.

    As for emulsions. I haven’t been a big fan of Ektar either, though I don’t mind it as much in 120 vs. 35. Have you tried any slide/E-6 stock? I can see it being good for flowers, so long as the lighting is good. Here’s some tulips I shot on Ektachrome in April:

    1. Author

      I haven’t tried slide film yet. I’m put off by having to buy a new set of chemicals. Maybe one day…

      Until you insisted I try rangefinders, I was focused on SLRs. Now I have five rangefinders. The black 7s didn’t cost much more than the regular ones that had working meters. Besides, the camera found me—-I had no choice.

      1. I’d give slide film a try, but send your first roll or three off to a lab before you commit to new chemicals.

        Besides the Hi-Matic 7s and 7sii, what are your three other rangefinders?

        1. Author

          Minolta A and Minolta Super A (2 bodies, 3 lenses).

          Once I tried rangefinders and liked them, I decided to do a mini survey of Minolta offerings starting with the A.

          The Super A is my interchangeable model, the A, the first in the line. I’m considering getting an AL, as the bridge between the A line and Hi-Matics. If I find a V2 at a reasonable price, I may try one. But finding any but Hi-Matics that work is difficult.

          The Super A is amazing, and the lenses excellent, except they flare easily.

          Weight is no longer an issue. It’s amazing how much better I feel.

          1. Nice. I’m not actively looking, but I wouldn’t mind a smaller Hi-Matic, even the ones that are auto-exposure. The AL-F also looks intriguing.

          2. Author

            There are so many Hi-Matic models that it is confusing. I try to buy cameras that work in manual mode as much as possible. The AL-F, seems nice, but the 7sII is small and has full manual. BTW, you can get a 7sII without paying a fortune, if you are diligent. I got the my first 7sII very cheap because it was etched on the bottom, but fully functional. I bought a second one with a broken meter for 60.00 mainly because I wanted to use the base plate as a replacement for the etched one. Taking it apart, I found the meter doesn’t work because of a battery spill. A little solder and I have have two working 7sII for less than the typical price of one. The interesting thing is I find that after taking a few measurements, I rarely use the meters. So, even with working meters, I switch to a sunny 16-ish approach. Film has so much latitude, it is nearly impossible to over expose, and one stop under is still usable.

        2. Author

          Since I’m shooting more, may give slide film a try out in the fall.

    2. Author

      I like the flower shots! very colorful and the yellow is not blown out. Nice!

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