Eiffel Tower in the fog at sunrise on black and white film

Ilford Kentmere 120 – A Review in Paris – By Molly Kate

You might have seen the news already, but if not, today is the launch of Ilford’s Kentmere range in medium format. Kentmere 35mm 100 and 400 ISO films have been available under the Ilford umbrella since 2007 as a quality budget option for photographers. Now, the film is being stepped up in size!

Earlier this year, I tested the 35mm format (both 100 ISO and 400 ISO options) for the first time and was duly impressed. A few weeks ago, I also had the opportunity to test out the new Kentmere 100 and 400 films in medium format and can happily say I arrived at a similar conclusion.

To read the news about the launch, head over to the post over here. This article is a full review of the film which includes a trip to the city of amour, Paris!

Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Havane Cafe in Paris

Film features & price

The film is expected to retail around GBP 4.90 but Ilford does not set a retail price. This will be left to the individual retailers to finalise depending on their relative costs. Of course, writing this before launch day, I do not know yet what those prices will be, so I will be looking forward to comparing what retailers set to other medium format film priced in the same range. I expect price comparison to be a strong factor for many photographers considering which film to invest in this winter. For me, I’ll be wrapped up in all the thermal blankets and clothes this winter with the heating off as much as possible so I can afford a little more in the film budget. Kentmere 120 offers another affordable option for medium format shooters at a time when price is scrutinised more heavily for many.

The characteristics of the film are much the same as they are for the 35mm equivalent versions. Kentmere 100 will have finer grain and higher contrast and sharpness while the 400 edition will own the grainier end of the spectrum and lower contrast.

Kentmere 100:

  • Panchromatic
  • Fine grain
  • High sharpness
  • Higher contrast
  • Lower latitude

Kentmere 400:

  • Panchromatic
  • Moderate grain
  • Lower contrast
  • Wider latitude
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Underpass near Corvisart station

A Historic Company

Ilford is known as a quality film manufacturer delivering consistent black and white film to both professionals and amateurs. The company was initially founded in 1879 when Alfred Harman started with dry plates. In 1912, they were producing roll film and known as Ilford Limited at the time. The factory in Mobberly where the film is confected and manufactured today was purchased in 1928. That’s almost 100 years of making film in the same place they do today.

FP4 has been around since 1968. HP5 since 1976. The initial versions at least. Plus versions were introduced later on.

(Source: Ilford Photo History)

They will need to add one more line to this page now with the introduction of Kentmere 100 and 400 speed films into medium format.

Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Apartment building in strong sunshine – Paris, France

Paris Journal & Sample Images

The opportunity to test out the Kentmere medium format 100 and 400 films came at the same time as a weekend trip to Paris. A mainly black and white concept was already in the works for my personal work, so adding Kentmere 120 into the mix fit nicely.

My most reliable medium format camera, the Zeiss Ikon Nettar F6.3 was added to the small suitcase that would be wheeled through Eurostar train security with ease from London’s St. Pancras International to Gare du Nord, Paris. It is a fitting camera for the film as I bought it for around $30, making it one of the cheapest cameras I ever scored in great condition.

The Nettar does not have a light meter as it is a 6×6 folding camera made sometime around the 1950s (source: Camera Wiki & Butkus). There is beauty in the simplicity of not having a light meter and exposure readings can be figured out either by learning the Sunny 16 rule or using the Light Meter app on a smartphone. However, miscalculations do happen occasionally as we will see later.

We had excellent luck with the weather for the first two days of the weekend. The sun was out in form and I loaded Kentmere 100 quickly into the Nettar as we stepped out of a cafe after our first “petit déjeuner” (breakfast), grinning ear to ear. It didn’t take me long to finish the first roll in the streets of the Montparnasse area as we headed towards the Jardin du Luxembourg. Whether this was because I was irrationally afraid the weather would turn on us or because I was overwhelmed with the architectural beauty of the city in the angled winter light.

paris street photography using black and white film
Train track gate walking towards Corvisart station – Paris
paris street photography using black and white film
Metro tracks walking towards Corvisart station
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Paris Streets – by Molly Kate
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Reflections in Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Outdoor cafe eating in Paris near Glacière station

Finishing this initial roll at the Jardin du Luxembourg, which included a classic cheese and bread snack, I then loaded the first roll of Kentmere 400. A couple of frames in the park and then we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for an intentionally timed sunset boat cruise.

Jardin du Luxembourg on black and white film
Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris
Jardin du Luxembourg on black and white film
Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris

As you can see, the first few frames came out wonderfully, but a few of them were a tad too dark, exposing poor exposure readings or the fear of low shutter speeds and blurry images.

Eiffel Tower in black and white with clear skies
Eiffel Tower from the boat – Paris
Paris buildings on the side of the Seine River in black and white film
Paris buildings on the side of the Seine River
Paris Bridges on black and white film
Paris Bridges from the cruise boat – bit of scratching here but believe was due to processing!
dark black and white image of people on a boat
Sunset cruise – exposure was much too dark

The next morning, as we planned to head over again to the Eiffel Tower, this time for sunrise, the weather turned grey and foggy. Normally this would disappoint any photographer getting out of bed at 5am and trundling off into the cold Parisian streets to be greeted with a misty half view of one of the most famous landmarks in Europe. But having loaded the Kentmere 400 roll from the previous night that had two images remaining, I was happy with the look that would be burned onto the black and white emulsion. Black and white film and fog are a match made in Cupid’s office.

Eiffel Tower in the fog at sunrise on black and white film
Eiffel Tower in the fog at sunrise
Trocadéro square at sunrise on black and white film
Trocadéro square at sunrise

As the day went on however, the fog cleared and the sun appeared. The forecast was rain in the afternoon so I wasn’t frugal in shooting through the 12 6×6 frames as we walked in a heavy amount of Vitamin D from the Champs-Élysées to the edge of the Louvre museum.

Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Petit Palais – Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Petit Palais from behind looking towards the Grand Palais – Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
L’Abysse au Pavillon Ledoyen – Paris
black and white image of a flower stand
On the Champs-Élysées, Paris
paris restaurant in black and white film
Restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Place de la Concorde – Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Fontaine des Mers, Place de la Concorde – Paris
Paris streets and buildings on black and white medium format film
Bassin octogonal at the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

This film was developed at home in Obsidian Aqua and also scanned at home using the Pixl-Latr alongside the Fujifilm XH-1 and an adapted Nikon 55mm macro lens. The Obsidian Aqua is a catechol developer, similar to 510 pyro but a little less toxic from what I’ve read. Of course, a shout out to the Pixl-Latr which made the scanning very easy and quick. Within 10 minutes or so, I had all four rolls flipping into positives in Capture One software.

For a fun video shooting the film in Paris, head on over to my Youtube channel here! I can promise loads of b-roll and cool Parisian-themed music.

Final Thoughts

I am impressed by the Kentmere range of films. Both the 35mm and 120 formats.

The grain is very fine with Kentmere 100 and produces a lush crisp negative. I printed a few quick tests on Kentmere VC glossy paper before my enlarger timer proceeded to fail, but they look promising. With more work in the darkroom, this film and paper could make excellent quality prints at a budget level. Something which I am going to do once I can print again!

black and white prints
Tests made on Kentmere VC Glossy just before my enlarger timer bit the dust

Kentmere 400 provides more flexibility in terms of lighting and exposures available to the photographer. This speed is helpful during the shorter and often rainier (UK based) winter days. It’s also great if you want faster shutter speeds in general, even if the day is bright. For the Zeiss Ikon Nettar, in anything less than clear skies and sunny days, it is helpful to have the extra speed given that the brightest aperture on this camera is F6.3.

It’s great to have the Kentmere option now in medium format for cost-conscious photographers. At a time where spending is being reined in across many budgets, the film is well positioned to offer a great value to those that still favour the larger negative over the economy of 35mm. Also, as film photography continues to expand to new beginners who want to experiment or learn, having companies investing in film that supports learning and experimentation without breaking the bank is very encouraging.

To find more information from Ilford Photo about the film, head over to their website here. The film should be available at your local retailer, depending if they have placed and received an order from Ilford by now.

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About The Author

10 thoughts on “Ilford Kentmere 120 – A Review in Paris – By Molly Kate”

  1. Love the photos, great work. You really made the most of the old Nettar and played to it’s strengths!

    Have to say I’m impressed with Kentmere. It doesn’t *look* like a budget option.

  2. That photograph of Tour Eiffel – chapeau madame!
    So much better than the xth image if it in full and in beautiful sunshine.
    Overall that’s a very nice pedestrian trip experience through Paris.

  3. Nice review Molly. I use Kentmere 400 35mm a lot and a useful feature is that it pushes well to 800, or even 1600, without the contrast getting out of hand. Very useful in the old folders with a maximum aperture of f6.3 and one usable shutter speed. Your results with K100 are excellent too – must give that a go. Regards Martin

    1. Hey Martin! Thank you, so right about 400, nice to hear you have great results pushing it to even 1600! Would love to give that a go next. Yes, the K100 surprised me by how crisp it was, have fun shooting!

  4. Some nice shots and of course it never hurts to visit Paris. Last time I was there specifically to take photographs I had two days of rain albeit in early January. Good review – from the photos here I’m leaning more towards the 100 ISO but wondering how it compares with it’s stablemates in FP4 and HP5. Do you think it’s an easy switch or is price the main attraction (and we certainly need some price points now).

    1. Hey Richard! Thank you and so right that it never hurts to visit Paris 🙂 Easy on the eyes! Sorry to hear about the rain though, winter months are dodgy with weather. Price for me would be the main attraction but if Kentmere yields similar results as what folks can get with FP4 or HP5, then its a win win. I’ve shot HP5 quite a few times but not so much FP4 so would be interested to compare to that!

  5. Great review, Molly, and an excellent choice of location. Winter gives the city such a different feel to the usual look of the place. And not obviously a budget film by any means. I must try it against FP4+, my favourite mono film.

    You can always resort to One..and..two..and..etc? Or there are always the elephants until you get the timer fixed. I never used one in my darkroom days, The closest I came was a tape recording of my daughter’s metronome set to a second!

    1. Thanks Tony! Let us know what you think when you do! 🙂 Would love to see the comparison, I have yet to try FP4+ in 120. haha great suggestion to count, but unfortunately the issue is the timer controls the light bulb as well and won’t even turn on :/ but actually, I’ve heard of folks using a bare bulb so I might try to DIY something in the meantime and then do the 1-mississippi 🙂 What a great idea with the metronome!

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