I discovered Ultrafine Xtreme in 2020. It never occurred to me to stock up on it. It seemed plentiful, and everyone raved about it, so there was no reason to fear its loss. Since I used it mainly for testing purposes, I bought only the 12-exposure rolls. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to its clarity, grain, and tonal range. It met my needs by being cheap and saving from not having to shoot 36 images to test a camera or lens.
Somewhere after roll 12 or 13, I was reviewing old images, and on comparing the UFX 100 to HP5, Tri-X, and XP2, I realized how much I liked the Ultrafine. At the time, I ordered a few more rolls and thought nothing more about it. Then, at some point, I noticed that people online were asking if Ultrafine was back in stock. When I checked the PhotoWarehouse site, UFX 100 was out of stock and has been since. Panicked, I called them only to be told they had no idea if the film would ever return. I still have a few rolls, but had I known it would disappear, I would have bought a lot of 36-exposure rolls. Well, no use crying in my beer.
Having read so many times that Ultrafine Xtreme 100 was Kentmere 100, I decided to try a few rolls of Kentmere. I bought both 100 and 400 ISO rolls. The tests did not go well, but not because of the film. The rangefinder of my new Hi-Matic 7s required calibration, so every image was out of focus. After developing the Kentmere 400 negative from the SR-T SC II, I discovered the meter was underexposing, especially in low-light scenes, resulting in thin negatives.
Whenever I want to be sure about metering and focus accuracy, I use my big gun, the Maxxum 7. Spot metering is accurate, and I have never had a missed focus shot with the camera. Being paranoid about lighting, I elected to use the lightbox so that the only variables would be the lens and the film. I eliminated the lens as an issue by going with the AF 50mm 2.8 macro. It is sharp with little to no distortion.
Having gotten my test set up ready, I chose various subjects based on texture, tones, and edges. Twenty-four frames seemed sufficient to answer the question, so I loaded the Maxxum 7, mounted it on a tripod, and as a final precaution, mixed a new batch of DF96.
As the saying goes, the good old days always seem better. I don’t want a romantic notion of Ultrafine Xtreme 100 to cloud my judgment, nor do I wish to ascribe exceptional qualities to a film I used mainly for testing newly-arrived gear.
Today, comparing the Kentmere 100 images to the old Ultrafine 100, it is difficult for me to decide if they are different. Grain, sharpness, clarity and tonal range seem about the same, and that means Kentmere 100 is good enough. As a bonus, now that I split 36-exposure rolls between two or more cameras, the Kentmere is actually cheaper. Time to move on.
As for the Kentmere 400, I find that I have the same love-hate relationship with it as I do with the Ultrafine 400. Somehow, that’s comforting…