Old Fashioned film for Old Fashioned Cameras

Credits: alex34

I’ve been on something of a black-and-white kick recently. But more specifically, the gradual appearance of brighter weather finally allows me to use lower-ISO films. It’s often forgotten that back in the day the film for most of the cameras I use-old Soviet or East German cams in the main-was very restricted. Generally speaking, you could have any colour as long as it was black and white, and film speeds were very slow-what most behind the Iron Curtain considered the best of the bunch, East German Orwo film, was ISO 20 as standard from what I’ve seen, and Soviet films were in the same ball park. All these films gave photographs which now have a very distinctive look. Such slow film speeds impose real restraints in some ways but open up the possibilities in others. I’ve recently discovered Adox film, which has also traded under the Efke label, and is made in Croatia to a formula dating back to the 1940s. The result are photos with a very distinctive look that reproduce what one sometimes sees in classic old-school photojournalism.

Credits: alex34

The other joy of B&W is that Ilford make a huge range of wonderful films, and B&W in general of course also allows for easy home developing. I’ve never yet used an Ilford film which I didn’t like, but some of it is really exceptional

Credits: alex34

In pursuing my low-ISO vintage kick I’m now working through some Adox in 35mm through my Zenit B (of course many of the ‘classic’ lenses, like the Helios and the Tessar, would also have been designed when B&W was the norm, another interesting point to consider), and I’ve also bought some Ilford Pan F Plus 50, one of their lowest ISO films. I must admit I can’t wait to see the results.

written by alex34 on 2012-04-07


  1. why-yu
    why-yu ·

    I recently also had the opportunity to try a b & w film Svema 32, expired in '82, I charge it in the LCA, and took as 16 ISO, but I spoiled that badly loaded up and got only 15 shots, but I was impressed by the result and quality.

  2. alex34
    alex34 ·

    @why-yu I believe many films of Soviet period were actually of excellent quality, not only East German Orwo-although that was allegedly the best. It's a real pity more of these companies did not survive the economic changes in 1990s, Ilford have restructured and survived and prove there is still a market for good B&W. In general I think there is a strong prejudice against many products of Communist era which is not ALWAYS justified.

  3. pomps
    pomps ·

    I love B&W but I've used mainly high-iso. surely I'll give a try to low-iso films :)

  4. mapix
    mapix ·

    thanks for this explantation! often used Orwo film (and wonderfull baryte paper) in the 70s and 80s, but Ilford always was the best chioce (but definite more expensive!) ...lower ISO has the advantage of small depth of field, which i often really like to use!

  5. jean_louis_pujol
    jean_louis_pujol ·

    Both article and discussion are very interesting. thanks