In total I ended up shooting with 7 different film stocks. Portra 400 was the main work horse, but here are my thoughts on the others.......
Kodak T-Max 3200 – I loaded a roll of this ages ago, but I only took a few shots, primarily as the uncharacteristically sunny weather started in the UK before I left for this trip, and it was way too bright to shoot with most of the time. I finished the roll in HK. I’ve never shot with a film this fast before, so I was curious as to how the noise would affect the images. I rated the film at 1600, and even at that, it was great to be able to have very usable shutter speeds in almost every situation. This, and the really quick to use spot meter function in the Olympus, made street shooting really quick and enjoyable. I love the tones of the images, and the grain is of course very noticeable, but adds that extra something to the image. This is definitely a film I will be shooting more with in the future.
JCH StreetPan 400 – This has been sat on my desk for months and months, as I bought it by chance when I was in a camera shop in Bulgaria earlier in the year. I read quite a bit of how to shoot with this film, and I stuck with a general opinion of sticking to the box speed. Even so, I used the same method of exposing the images, but I found many to be quite underexposed. This produced a very low contrast, almost muddy look to many of the photos. It’s a very different look to what I’m used to from other black and white films I’ve shot, and in a lot of examples, I really like it. I think I may need to shoot a couple more rolls to get the hang of it however.
Fuji Superia Venus 800 – This was the wild card of the trip. After entering my favourite camera shop in HK (Showa in Mong Kok), hopeful of picking up a few rolls of Cinestill 800T, only to discover they were still sold out, I couldn’t leave empty handed. I settled on this one as it was another colour ISO800 film, albeit very different from Cinestill, but something I could experiment with in more overcast weather. I was pleasantly surprised with the results, the colours are a little less saturated than Portra, but they have a very pleasant pastel tone to them. I rated the film at 800, so I was able to shoot a lot more at night than I would with Portra 400 (which I shoot at 200), and although I was still more interested in how Cinestill would look in these conditions, I’ve found a very flexible film that I can shoot with all day.
Cinestill 800T – Within two days of arriving in Hong Kong, I was scouting around for any shop that had some in stock. Luckily I found a place not far from where I was working, so one lunchtime I ran out to pick up a few rolls. It’s certainly not the cheapest film ever (I think I paid around £10 per roll), but I was certain that it would be perfect for the neon lit streets. I’ve rarely taken any photos at night with film, but this film (as well as the Fuji Superia) have changed that. The look of the photos were better than I was hoping for, and even the distinctive haloing that this film is known for, adds more character to the images. I was worried about how to expose the photos, but I shot at 800, and as usual, exposed for the darkest parts of the frame. This seemed to work perfectly.
Ilford Delta 3200 – I cannot for the life of me remember where I bought this film, but again it was one collecting dust on my desk. As I was taking Kodak’s 3200 film, I thought it would be a good comparison to see which I preferred. If you really wanted to pixel peep the images, you could probably determine which has the finer grain etc etc. I just went on which images I preferred the look of. When comparing images of similar scenes, I found that the Kodak images just had a nicer tonal range, and handled the brighter regions better. I still like the results of the delta film, but if I had to choose, I would pick Kodak……based on just this one roll of each.
Kodak Tri-X 400 - There’s not much I need to say about this film. I’ve shot probably over 20 rolls over the past year, including many for my 365 project. I have tended to push it two stops in the past, but this time I wanted to see it shot at 400. I think I prefer the less punchy and lower contrast look to the pushed images, not that they are in any way bad at all. It’s a classic film, and still quite possibly my favourite black and white option.