Pressure Plate
The Whole Roll

The Whole Roll – Shanghai GP3 220 film in a Yashica Mat124G – By George Griffin

April 8, 2022

I recently acquired a Yashica Mat 124g and I put a test roll of Ilford’s HP5+ through it and everything looked good. It was time to go shoot some proper images.

I have always been wary of loading roll film. There is always the fear of dropping it and the whole thing unravelling and losing a film with only 12 shots. 12 shots also mean having to change the film more often.

What if there was a way to change film less often? Well, there is – instead of 120, the answer is 220 roll film. 220 film gives 24 exposures to a roll at 6×6; this will vary with different size formats. This also means half as many changes of film. 220 roll film was released in 1965 and was mainly intended for professional photographers. To get double the amount of exposures meant that the backing paper had to be removed and only a leader and tail were attached to the film.

This meant that the film could not be used in cameras that had a red window and needed to see the frame numbers. It could also only be used in cameras that had an adjustable pressure plate to allow for the thinner film without the backing paper.

Apparently, because of the lack of backing paper, the film was much easier to scratch and a lot of photographers didn’t like using it. By 2018 all production of 220 film had ceased, although a Chinese company called Lucky Film was producing hand-rolled 220 for a time, this now has also ceased.

Back to the present and I found out that Shanghai film had recently started producing B&W 100 iso 220 film. Now Shanghai film did have a bit of a reputation for film, what we might call a bit dodgy. Sometimes the emulsion wasn’t very good and the film did have a lot of problems with curling and cupping, which made it quite difficult to scan.

Recent rumours about the Shanghai GP3 were saying that it was a re-brand in some way using ORWO’s UN54 emulsion. Buying three rolls to try cost around £29 and was really only a saving of about 60p compared to buying six rolls of 120 but it was about the convenience of changing film less. WRONG!

Having set the Yashica’s pressure plate to the 220 setting and loaded the film, I set off to Greenwich in South London. CLICK! The first image was taken. I then go to wind on and nope, the film is jammed. I tried to force the film on but as you may know, the 124g has a fair bit of plastic in the construction and I didn’t want to break anything.

Tree

1st shot of Shanghai GP3 220

Back at home, the camera goes into a changing bag to try and figure out what has gone wrong. Once I open the back, I feel the pressure release on the film and winding arm and can wind on, I have no idea what has caused it to jam. I took a couple of shots in the garden and everything seems to advance O.K. For now.

2nd shot test in garden

1st test shot in the garden

3rd shot in garden

2nd test shot in the garden

The next day, another trip to Greenwich and the camera and film perform great until the final frame and again the film jams!

View of River Thames from Greenwich Park

View of River Thames from Greenwich Park

Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Memorial to a dead parrot

Memorial to a dead parrot

Again back home and into the changing bag but this time I realise what has caused this jam. Where the film joins the tail paper there was about a 10cm lip and this had caught on the pressure plate. Was this the cause of the first jam? I don’t know.

Tail of paper

The tail of the paper attached to the film, with creased end that caught on pressure plate

On to the development, I always pre-wash my film and the colour from the pre-wash can help to identify the brand of film, for instance, Foma is usually a neon green when emptied from the tank. The pre-wash colour of this film was neon blue. Now never having shot ORWO UN54 I don’t know if this is the usual colour of ORWO film but I’m sure someone will have an answer…?

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

River Thames

River Thames

Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson

Development was done in homemade D23, developed for 12 minutes in a 1:1 stock. The film has no edge marking. The emulsion looks very clear and nice, even tones across the whole negative and no problems with curling or cupping. So definitely not the old emulsion that Shanghai had previously used.

Scanning was done with my Google Pixel 4 phone, the pixl-latr and a LED lightpad.

Union Wharf Cottages

Union Wharf Cottages

Morden Wharf

Morden Wharf

Sculpture

Sculpture

I have to say that I really like the look of this film and would continue to use it but the jamming is a major issue for me. It wasn’t only this roll, the other two also jammed at the final frame and again caused by the joint between the tail paper and film.

Gondola lift over the Thames River

Gondola lift over the Thames River,

Gondola lift over the Thames River

Gondola lift over the Thames River

Ravensbourne University

Ravensbourne University

O2 Dome after Storm Eunice

O2 Dome after Storm Eunice

The problem may only be on my camera but three times on three different rolls seems like a big coincidence.

A Slice of Reality is a work of modern art by Richard Wilson

A Slice of Reality is a work of modern art by Richard Wilson

A Bullet From a Shooting Star, by artist Alex Chinneck

A Bullet From a Shooting Star, by artist Alex Chinneck

Grain Silos along the Thames

Silos along the Thames

Derelict Building

Derelict Building

The Abandoned Royal Iris

The Abandoned Royal Iris

Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier

Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier

The Thames Barrier

The Thames Barrier

Like I said there isn’t a great saving buying three 220 or six 120 rolls, only the convenience of not having to change rolls so often. The jamming makes it inconvenient and because of that, I have gone back to 120 and hopefully, Shanghai’s 120 is the same emulsion.

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    April 8, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Lovely to see someone else’s take on my local scenes. Great shots, inspires me to load up the TLR…

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 8, 2022 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks, Bob

      That walk is a favourite of mine but it has changed over the years.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    April 8, 2022 at 3:30 pm

    I worked in a camera store that catered to professional photographers – our product lines never had amateur/consumer products. Equipment was sold at mfg. suggested prices w/o any discount. You can imagine that the camera equipment was purchased by large companies, like aerospace, shipbuilding, etc. This was in the late 1960’s into the 70’s. I was putting myself through college at the time.
    When 220 film arrived, some of the photographers bought the Hasselblad 220 backs to use with the 220 film. They cursed the film from almost the very beginning. It jammed in the 220 backs on a regular basis. This was Kodak film, not some aftermarket product. Hasselblad took back the backs on a 1:2 basis: One 220 back for two 120 backs. It (220 film) was just that unreliable. It sold better on the advanced amateur market.
    I love the shot of “A Bullet From a Shooting Star, by artist Alex Chinneck,” it’s just so unexpected and humorous. All over good images. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 8, 2022 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks, Daniel.

      I did read that professionals weren’t too impressed with the 220 and I can understand why, after my experiences.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    April 8, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    George, great images.
    The film issue you have had is interesting, especially as it has happened with three rolls of film, and in virtually the same circumstances. It may well be, and you seem to have identified the “culprit” as the common denominator, the film. But the one true common denominator, and I’m playing devil’s advocate here, is the camera. It would be interesting if you could locate an outdated 220 film from, say, Ilford, and see how you get on.

    I used a fair amount of 220 film during the late 1970’s, when I got my first Mamiya C330, up to the early 1990’s, by which time I had a C330S. 220 film was very useful when I knew beforehand I’d be exposing the whole roll, but kept a 120 in reserve, just in case. For those using 220 film extensively and doing yheir own d&p, 220 had a distinct advantage in reducing the number by half of the number of films that could be developed. Yes, using a multiple Paterson tank, for example, would do the same, but loading and unloading the developed 120 film was still more of a bind than developing a single 220.

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 8, 2022 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Terry

      Agreed it could be the camera, I will keep a lookout for an old roll of 220 and see if things are different.

      I only have the single Patterson tank, so the idea of using this film made perfect sense to me, but for the time being it’s back to 120. and longer development sessions.

  • Reply
    Peter Roberts
    April 8, 2022 at 4:27 pm

    Nice work George.
    It’s always interesting to see what other people make of a familiar area.
    Your account of tribulations with 220 film were also interesting. I have trouble enough handling 120 film so goodness knows what a pickle I’d get into with 220. It’s reason why my Rolleicord Vb has a Rolleikin 35mm adaptor. It’s overdue for an outing so I’m sure it’ll end up doing the rounds of Greenwich in the near future.

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 9, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Thanks, Peter

      it is fun dealing with the extra length of 220 after shooting 120 for so long that the extra film is like wrestling a snake.

  • Reply
    Kevin Allan
    April 8, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    I had exactly the same problem, with the same 220 film in the same camera. It makes you realise that the finishing of the product, e.g the backing paper, is just as important as the characteristics of the emulsion. To be fair I loved the images I got but I’m reluctant to buy it again.

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 8, 2022 at 9:36 pm

      Hi Kevin

      Yes, the emulsion is wonderful and I love the look of it but like you say the whole package needs to work together and unfortunately at present, this isn’t happening with this film. I have a couple of rolls of the 120 and hope this works better.

  • Reply
    Huss
    April 8, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    Out of habit I remove the binding strip of paper that keeps the roll closed when I load 120 or 220 film.
    I have had no issues in film transport using Shanghai 220 in my Fuji GW690III. 220 is a big deal in a camera like this as you now get 16 shots instead of just 8.
    The emulsion in this version is excellent, much nicer than the original one which frankly was a mess. The only thing I noticed is that it develops very poorly using Cinestill DF96 Monobath. It leaves weird patches and makes the emulsion extremely soft. But no issues in regular developers.

    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/4B8920
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/NN32dY

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 9, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Hi Huss

      I’ve never used a monobath but have heard that it can throw up more problems than conventional development. I’m just hoping that the 120 rolls I have are the same emulsion as it produces great results.

  • Reply
    Arthur Gottschalk
    April 8, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Wow! I’ve been holding on to my Hasselblad A24 back in hopes that 220 film would make a comeback. I love being able to keep shooting rather tan having to stop to reload. The tonal qualities of the Shanghai film look great. I’ll bet they will find a way around the problem. When they do I’m a buyer,

    • Reply
      George Griffin
      April 9, 2022 at 10:49 am

      Hi Arthur

      Yes, I do hope they can sort this problem out as less changing of film suits me also.

  • Reply
    Huss
    April 8, 2022 at 11:01 pm

    I’ve had no problems using Shanghai 220 film in a Fuji GW690III, Mamiya 645 ProTL and Hasselblad H1.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      April 11, 2022 at 12:08 am

      Well, Huss, now you’ve convinced me to try a Shanghai 220 in my Fuji GW690II. Possibly the simpler film path in the big Fujis compared to the Hasselblad backs allows more error in the tape and paper

  • Reply
    PawSaw
    April 11, 2022 at 5:08 am

    Fajne ujęcia nieba, chmur. Pozdrawiam!

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