Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Efke Fotokemika 400: What it is not...
Well, well, well looks like Fotokemika Efke 400 "short date special 05/09" from Freestyle Photo Supply has come under fire (drama!) for posing as a "new" film when in reality, so the conspiracy theorists will tell you, it's (duh!) repackaged Ilford something-something-or-another. Of course I find this out after I purchased 10 rolls of the stuff ($3.99 for 36 exposures! Whoa!) and went looking for developing advice.
Now the prospect that I've been duped into buying Ilford film (which I don't buy because it dominates my local camera shop shelves to the detriment of variety) really had me irked. The selling point of the Efke was that it was a "new" formulation. I don't mean to dog Ilford film, it's just not me. Ilford is kind of like the PC of the computer world. Sure us Mac (Kodak, others) users are tedious and nerdy, but we like what we like. Don't hate!
In any case, I went to a last minute shoot, and all I had on hand was Adox CHS 100 - which would be too risky to use exclusively since these were going to be interior shots - and a new shipment of Efke 400. So off I went to Dead City Sound Studio to document my friends The Born Liars. I shot three Efkes and one Adox in the span of about two and half hours or so. Well, after coming home and putting the film in the can I can definitively say...drumroll please...
FOTOKEMIKA EFKA 400 FROM FREESTYLE (SHORT DATE SPECIAL)IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT REPACKAGED ILFORD PRODUCT. How can I be so sure? Spectrometers? Side by side comparisons with control subjects? Freedom-of-information-request-obtained emails? Nope. THE MOTHERFUCKING CURL GAVE IT AWAY.
Hey, some people think watching paint dry is boring but not me. I'm eyeing my Efke film dry on the vine - in my case watching the film hanging on the back of my bedroom door from a hanger, anchored at the bottom by wooden clothespins. And what I see is a film that is slowly, surely, rebelliously curling in on itself widthwise. Uuuugh.
Wai, wai, wait...Let me back up a second. I had my suspicions from the second I put the film in the camera that we weren't dealing with an Ilford film. It just felt different. The membrane itself was very thin and I had a hard time getting my Nikon to even load it. IN FACT, thank god I shot three rolls since the first roll I loaded jumped off the sprocket tracks and didn't record but the first two frames (of my the coffee table). Lesson here: When loading Efke 400, advance the film a few (at least three or four) frames with the camera back open to make SURE that the film is advancing properly. So anyways...
When it's dry enough to paw, I feel up my film and find that it is thin, almost papery, and as stiff as a metal measuring tape.. Not good. Good lord I'm having a heck of a time putting it in the scanner carriage. It simply won't comply. I'm having to weigh it down with one hand while elbowing the other strip into the film guide. Admittedly, the wine isn't helping but that isn't ever going to change...DON'T JUDGE!
One thing you can say about Kodak, Ilford, and Neopan...we may all have our diehard love and hates about these brands...but one thing they do have in common is the tactile suppleness of the film. They may be thick, which is a challenge for scanning the negative, but BY GOLLY, they lay flat on their back and do as their told on the scanner. By comparison, Efke 400 is curly and unruly. And before I forget!... opening the actual film canister was alarmingly easy. I barely had to use the can opener to pop the top off and it was open and exposed and ready to be loaded onto the reel. From now on, I'm going to be super careful about transporting the film since it seems like one good jostle and the film canister might bust open, that's how precarious the film roll seems put together. Now let's get to the goods.
For expediency sake, I developed it in the Diafine soup I already had laying on the kitchen counter. I was shooting interior shots with low light so I took a chance that this film would push at least one stop. Diafine is the LAST developer you want to use with Ilford film since it slows the film down slower than a foam cup of syzurp on a sultry Houston summer night.
Are you still with me? Are you waiting on me to dog this film? Is the anticlimax killing you? Fear not dear readers, I don't like to disappoint. The verdict on Fotokemika Efke 400 is this: RECOMMENDED. WHUHHHHH??!!!!
Nikon FA, 1/30 of a second, f1.4
OK! so I won't be developing alot of it again. OK! The curl will make you want to commit hare kare. OK! there is zero solid evidence that this isn't repackaged anything. But what I can tell you is the Efke 400 developed in Diafine has a satisfying big grain, which to this naked, durnken[sic] eye has a push of ~about~ one stop, and as with alot of annoying thin films, seems especially suited to scanning.
My advice? Do you need a cheap film that you won't be developing or scanning yourself? Do you want to exaggerate the fact that you are using film via larger-but-not golfball size hail? I mean grain? Are you on the rebound? THEN EFKE 400 IS FOR YOU! Knock yourself out...
Lighting note: This was also at 1/30 of a second, on a tripod, shot through the glass of the control room. The lighting is from the computer screen and from an open closet door on viewer's right. The cymbal stand is a reflection on the glass.