Pentax P30n and Kentmere 100 film
5 frames with...

5 frames of Kentmere 100 on a Pentax P30n Developed in DF96 – By Mike Boffey

August 5, 2020

I’ve had an old Pentax P30n hanging around for about 10 years that hasn’t seen any real use. Despite the camera being dead cheap, the cost of processing and scanning film was a bit scary and after running one or two rolls of colour film through it, the P30n was set aside.

As coronavirus descended upon us, I found myself out of work. Stressful as this was, it was the catalyst to get me into film photography proper. The same barriers remained, however. Processing and scanning was just too expensive. Home developing seemed attractive but after some research, it seemed a little complex. Not to mention a starter kit and chemicals would run to over £100 with no guarantee of success. Online forums appeared to be a roster of beardy white men explaining how simple it all was before going on to list umpteen bits of kit, chemicals and processes that were essential to the process.

I stalled for a few weeks until I came across CineStill’s DF96 monobath through Stephen Shaub’s articles on Emulsive. Here was a product that promised easy results. Pour the stuff into the light-proof pot, stir for three minutes, done. It was as easy as making a pot noodle (and at this point, I was eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I was pretty confident I could master the monobath). I ordered the DF96, a developing tank and a changing bag. That’s it. That’s literally all you need with this stuff.

White flowers on K100

Kentmere film is pretty much the cheapest stock available in the UK and, frankly, my decision to use it started and ended there. I bought 10 rolls for under £30 not expecting too much from it. An opinion widely held on internet forums is that you need a “professional” film stock for decent pictures. T-Max, Tri-X or Delta was the right choice, according to the forum dwellers. Perhaps they’re right and my photos would be better if I’d spent twice as much on film but looking at the results, I don’t regret my choice at all. The film has a dreamy look to it. Medium contrast, a little halation, grain and softness that all work together beautifully.

Tree trunk on K100

Having collected the bare essentials for my first film foray, I headed out with my girlfriend for our daily walk with the P30n. This camera is a joy to use. It has a big, clear viewfinder with a simple meter. There’s one dial to adjust the shutter speed and the aperture is on the barrel of the 50mm standard kit lens. Both shutter speed and aperture can be set to auto – great for either care-free snapping or handing the camera to a friend (both of which I’ve tried and the Pentax has delivered great results in each case). ISO is set by DX code with no option to override. This is a shame but I’m not going to run before I can walk, so box speed works just fine for now.

G in the old graveyard

The old graveyard

G crouched on steps

The DF96 delivered on its promise of quick, easy development. On my first attempt, I pulled out 24 beautifully developed frames. The images you can create with Kentmere 100 and DF96 are more than acceptable. I wouldn’t describe the look of this combination as “retro” but these images are certainly distinctive and very different to what my DSLR spits out thanks to the softness and gentle contrast. The film bug has bitten me hard and it’s thanks to the easy entry point that budget film and easy monobath developer offers.

Leaf and glass on K100

A still life taken back at home

More Kentmere film experiments on my Instagram. Get in touch to say hi, leave me some advice or inspiration.

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrea Bevacqua
    August 5, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Hi Mike,
    well done! I found this film working a treat and to be honest I am quite a fan ofFomapan as well (which could be even cheaper than Kentmere).
    I started bulk loaing my rolls, and a part the advatage of beign cheaper, is very convenient because you can decide how many shots you want for every roll.
    I used the Cinestill monobath as well and I think it works very well. The only suggestion from me, would be to filter it after 2/3 developed rolls (you can use coffee filters). Doing like this you can remove the deposit which unavoidably will deposit on the bottom of the bottle and you will obtain a better and clearer developer.

    Happy shooting!

    Andrea

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 5, 2020 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks Andrea. I’m intrigued by this bulk rolling business (so intrigued that I’ve started collecting old film canisters with enough film “tail” to reuse). Have you have any issues with light leaks, or scratches? That’s the only thing that puts me off.

      I have used the coffee filter trick. It seemed to work but some sediment definitely got through and ended up on my negatives. I need to test this a bit more I think.

      • Reply
        Andrea
        August 5, 2020 at 8:07 pm

        No issue at all. For a few quid, I bought quite a lot of canister on eBay, and I started immediately bulk loading.
        Of course you have to be careful, but after a few canisters you will be very familiar with the process.
        And you will be even happier when you are going to start developing with the “classic method” 😉

  • Reply
    Eric Norris
    August 5, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    I love DF96! Be sure to follow the instructions and add 15 seconds for each roll of film processed. The chemicals do lose some potency as they are used, and this compensates for that.

    Good luck, and keep shooting!

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 5, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      It is great stuff, isn’t it? Interesting that you mention the loss of performance. I ordered a second bottle of monobath and the seal failed in the post (apparently a common problem that Cinestill are aware of). It was pretty dark amber when I opened it up and I felt pretty pessimistic about it being of any use. Luckily, because extending development time has no effect on development I was able to just add a couple of minutes to the development time and I got good results again. Its a great safety net.

  • Reply
    Michael J
    August 5, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    Great work, and thanks for sharing your story. I was already a bit of a film nerd and lockdown just sent me a bit further round the bend… I don’t think we are alone! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cheap film, and I hope you keep shooting the stuff!

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 5, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Michael. “Round the bend” is a good description of where I am right now. Even in the budget range there’s a lot of film to discover, I like the look of Kodak Colour Plus. Then of course there’s expired film…

  • Reply
    Kevin Ortner
    August 5, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing. This has been a stressful time for many people and being able to find new/old ways to release stress or anxiety is important. Film photography is an excellent outlet!

    I’ve shot with Kentmere 400 (also the cheapest film here in Canada that I am aware of) and have always been pleased with the results. I think you will notice greater difference between developers than you will between other b&w films of the same iso (unless the film is intended for something very specific). Developed the same way, I don’t see a huge difference between hp5 and Kentmere 400.

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 5, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      Yes! It’s only now that I realise how important creating these photographs was for me.

      Great insight about developer vs emulsion. This is the kind of great advice you don’t know you need until you have it. I guess I’ll have to start testing some developers.

  • Reply
    Jeff
    August 5, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Lovely photos – Yay! I’ve heard DF96 could be considered expensive and not scalable if you’re developing a lot of film all at once, but if you’re developing one or two rolls per week it’s absolutely perfect (expires after 20-ish rolls or ~6 months). I’ve tried a bunch of dift films in DF96 and a lot of them come out overly grainy but Kentmere 100 always works amazingly well in DF96.

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 7, 2020 at 9:57 am

      I get through 2 rolls per week maximum at the moment as I’m quite judicious with the shutter release. I would like to try other developers though. Mainly to experiment with different aesthetics but it would be nice to bring the cost down even more.

      Anything you suggest? Apparently Ilford HC is economical..

      • Reply
        Jeff Werner
        August 15, 2020 at 7:08 pm

        One other unusual developer where you reuse the same solution over and over and you can be lazy about the timing, mixing, and temperature is Diafine. It has the additional feature (complication?) of pushing most films – which you have no choice or control over. Eg you *have* to shoot Tri-X at around 1000, HP5+ around 600, Kentmere100 around 200, there’s a big table of speeds to use with Diafine. Tabular films like Tmax and Delta can be shot at box speed and come out pretty fine-grained with decent dynamic range. The traditional grain films that get pushed will, of course, come out more grainy, but not as bad as you think. It creates pretty low-contrast negatives so it works well for scanning.

  • Reply
    Wayne
    August 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    Your great results are encouraging me to try home developing and scanning too. Can you tell me which scanner you used?

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 8, 2020 at 10:39 am

      Definitely give it a go! The number one reason I wrote this was to share an easy, cheap way to start home developing.

      I scanned these with my DSLR, the entry level Canon (2000D, I think), the 40mm 2.8 pancake lens and some extension tubes on a cheap light table. This was another super-budget solution to a task that at first seemed daunting, complex and expensive. With some care I can get “scans” that are really pretty impressive.

  • Reply
    John S
    August 10, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for your post- your comments about developing are precisely what keeps me away, but seeing your results they give me confidence. Would love to see more stories like yours on economy film photography. Hope you managed to find some work or support <3

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 10, 2020 at 11:31 pm

      Glad you liked it John, this is exactly why I posted it.

      There’s more I’d like to share or discuss about photography on a shoestring. Watch this space.

  • Reply
    Castelli Daniel
    August 12, 2020 at 1:51 am

    Ouch! I’m one of those beardy (old) white guys! Thank goodness I’m not recording tutorials on film development, making pasta sauce or sourdough bread…
    When you develop your own film, you exercise control over your photography. I was taught to think of the photographic process is an unbroken chain from exposure to final print. Each step holds equal weight. It was somewhat distracting at times as the dinosaurs were still roaming the earth to keep our tripods from shaking too much…something you youngsters don’t need to worry about :-))

    • Reply
      Michael Boffey
      August 14, 2020 at 7:51 pm

      Haha!

      I’m not sure how much control I exercise over the development stage at the moment but even so I feel more involved with the whole process and that’s rewarding in itself.

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