There's a reason why the best black and white films out there are not for C-41 processing. I thought I got a good deal on a box of Four Corner Store's "world famous" monochrome film, but the results are rather underwhelming and unimpressive.
C-41 black and white films are hard to come by these days so I like to try different ones out in hopes of finding my go-to monochrome brand. When I stumbled upon Black and White (“it’s our World Famous C-41 Process Monochrome film”) at Four Corner Store, I decided to give it a go.
I used a roll when I went to the beach with my girlfriends in January. We headed to Tali during Chinese New Year weekend and I thought it would be nice to shoot in B&W. But several factors make the Four Corners monochrome film quite disappointing.
Firstly, it’s overpriced at $15 for a box of four. It wasn’t indicated in the listing if it was fresh or not, but, looking at the results, they seem expired to me. Now I love expired film as much as the next person (80% of my photos are shot on deadstock) but I didn’t know I was paying that much for four expired 24-exposure rolls with scratches and dust marks. I could’ve easily gotten a similar deal for much less.
I normally wouldn’t mind those nuisances except the film quality wasn’t getting any better. Generally, the shots are washed out, almost overexposed. That could be because it was a sunny day but expiration normally compensates for that.
It’s also not as high-contrast as the sample photos led me to believe. The palette looks more gray and silver than black and white and I was really looking forward to seeing some depth. Of course, I didn’t expect it to be as solid as Lomography’s B&W, but Earl Grey is definitely more black and white than this.
You’ll also notice light leaks, lots of it. Maybe because it’s been around for a while or maybe the sun was extra radiant. 400 ASA expired film usually yields nice results for me but this B&W almost seems like 800 ASA, as seen in these seaside shots.
The optimal setting for it is medium indoor shots with flash. There’s obviously more contrast and finer detail but the tones are still too dull for my taste. Good enough but I only have two of those shots from the entire roll. Lucky birthday girl!
I wouldn’t recommend it for outdoor or pitch-black flash photography with your subjects farther as the chances of the images not turning out is high. Or if they do, a lot of detail will be lost.
Although “aged” and “worn out” wasn’t the look I imagined from this roll, I wouldn’t say it was a complete bust. I still like the photos but I could be partial to the great time I had with my girls. The results are a surprise, I just wish it were more of the pleasant kind.
But wait, there’s actually a plus! I almost forgot to note that this film works well underwater. I guess the water diffuses some of the light so its not as washed out. That’s as much as I can tell you about this film as I gave my other rolls away (before I knew of its quality) so I won’t get to try it out on my other cameras.
In the end, I’d still choose pricier but more dependable B&W options—even if they’re not for convenient C-41 processing—because then I’d be guaranteed remarkable results. I’m glad I tried Four Corners Black and White but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing again. They oversold it a little too much with the “world famous” tagline, when it left much to be desired.
Earl Grey, anyone? :-)
Lomography’s Earl Grey is an exquisite black and white 35mm ISO 100 film that will surely give your shots an extra dose of style and class. Whether you’re taking landscapes or portraits, you will get jaw-dropping results with Earl Grey super-fine grain and wide tonal range. See our selection of Lomography films here.