A while back my friend Dave (@dbloomsday) gave me two vials of Neofin Blue. “You’ll see” he said, “this is the good stuff”. Fine grain and extreme acutance, perfect for low speed film and detailed work. Indeed, results with studio-lit 120 Rollei Retro 80S were outstanding.
But naturally, being a founder of the PUSH collective after all, I decided to push it. A lot. I’ve been fond of pushing FP4+ to 500 ISO for a while, resulting in contrasty crispy-grained negs that just look insanely good. FP4 being a fine-grained film, it doesn’t get too grainy either, and the grain structure is one of a kind.
So I set out to ignore all manufacturer recommendations and well… common sense, loaded up my trusty Olympus XA with a roll of FP4 (not even sure there was a +), set the meter for 800 ISO and got to work.
If you don’t know the Olympus XA, well shame on you. Joke aside, it may very well be my all-time favorite camera. A technical masterpiece that fits in the palm of your hand, or your pocket, packs a surprisingly sharp 35mm f/2.8 and has a very – VERY – accurate meter. As I was aware the film / developer combo I was using wouldn’t be very forgiving, a good meter was a smart choice (although maybe the only one I made).
Camera in hand, I did my usual everyday life shooting, as I like to make photographs on my daily errands and wanders. I didn’t pay much attention and shot it very much as usual, looking for contrast, geometry and some street photography opportunities. The XA may be the perfect camera for street shooting, as it’s inconspicuous, wide enough, bright enough, and doesn’t make a sound when triggering. I can shoot it from the hip and no-one ever notices an exposure has been made, even up close.
When I got to develop the roll, I eyeballed the times using the classical 1.5x/push increase in dev time and slow agitation to try and contain the grain a bit. I — again — didn’t pay much attention to the fact I was using a stupid combination, as I wanted to be able to compare my results with my usual developing.
And… It worked. Pretty damn well too!
Looking back, I’m pretty sure the FP4 had no plus, has the edge markings say “Safety Film” and there’s visible fogging, all good signs of an old film stock. Which makes the experiment even more… (stupid) interesting.
Fogging apart, the results are up to my expectations. Insane contrast, crispy grain, blown-out highlights and inky blacks.
Which proves time again that yes, when in doubt, you should push it!
I’ve been messing around with film for a while now, but it keeps amazing me just how resilient the stuff is.
Anyway, that’s it for now, keep pushing folks!