A picture of a roll of Kentmere 400 black and white film
5 frames with...

5 frames with Nikon F3P and Kentmere 400 – By Hans Gustafsson

October 12, 2022

Arrived in a hotel room shortly after 11pm on a monday  after a 5 hour drive. I’m fortunate to drive a very comfortable car so despite being a bit tired from a long drive after a working day, I wasn’t ready for bed just yet. Also there was a heatwave at the time so an hour or two of ventilating the room seemed like plan. I decided to load my F3P with a new aquaintance, Kentmere Pan 400, and start writing this post.

I’ve read the reviews, I know it is often referred to as a great film stock despite also being referred to as a lower quality HP5 as it is also a Harman (Ilford) product, so I was excited to try it out for myself. My hope is to get a few hours off the coming day to shoot the 24 frames on the roll (I almost always choose 24 exp film instead of 36 as I tend to be a slow shooter and always have been). The picturesque area I’m currently in should provide more than enough material for 24 frames. My only concern is a review, I don’t recall by who or where, that said the emulsion had a tendency to separate from the backing. I guess I’ll find out about that.

The F3P on the other hand is nothing new to me. I’ve had that camera for, i think, about 15 years. It’s an absolute joy to shoot with its big bright viewfinder, and the modified controls are really thought through.

Some days later: The few hours didn’t happen. The heatwave is still on though so instead I joined my fiancé and her daughter for an evening swim, they were less than exited about being in this article though so I shot the last couple of frames around the house the day after. Occasions like this makes me think a bit different than I usually do when I’m out photographing wildlife. No lightning fast AF, no Auto-ISO, no Image Control, no chimping, no nothing more than aperture, shutter speed and composition. Documenting, making memories stick as permanent images on a piece of celluloid. It’s back to basic photography. The best kind, pardon me for beeing sentimental.

So how about that film then? Well, it’s a medium-high ISO-film. It produces grainy black and white images. No more, no less. It has a murky feel to it  that I can’t really say I like. This roll was processed in Tetenal Paranol S, maybe Ilford DD-X would give better results. Maybe I’ll give it  a try, maybe not.

Shoes and a dress on a pile of stones

It handles shadows quite well and the contrast is quite alright…

Lakeside view

…however the highlights isn’t all that great. Especially large areas like the sky becomes very rough.

Backlit flowers

Therefore I was a bit surprised to see that it had no problems with backlight, with nice gradients across the midtones here…

Two laptop computers on a table

…and also here on the balcony on a warm afternoon…

Sitting chair in a 50's inspired living room

…but again, large bright areas with rough gradients.

Find me on
Instagram (fotografhassegustafsson),
VERO (fotografhassegustafsson),
Grainery (swededreams)

or http://www.hassegustafsson.se (In Swedish only).

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Kamil Leszczuk
    October 12, 2022 at 10:42 am

    To be honest I like the highlights in the second shot (the tree and rocks by the sea). Exposure is generally spot on, with both shadows and highlights where they should be. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Hans Gustafsson
      November 5, 2022 at 9:49 am

      You’re welcome! The F3 is rarely off on the exposure, that’s one reaason I really love that camera.

  • Reply
    Phil Harrison
    October 12, 2022 at 11:06 am

    Your photos do seem a bit grainy, Kentmere benefits from a fine grain developer, Ilfotec DDX would be a good choice. My Kentmere is lab processed in Ilfotec DD which gives a fine grain, I even push processed it X3 (1600iso) with excellent results.

    • Reply
      Hans Gustafsson
      October 12, 2022 at 1:09 pm

      I actually shot another roll afterwards and processed in Ilford DD-X with much better result. Also I’ve realized that I’ve been agititating a bit too aggressive over the years as I tried a roll of HP5 in Fomadon R09 with less agitation and got grain much closer to DD-X than I ever expected.

      That said, still not a fan of KM 400. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    October 12, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    My go-to 400 speed film is HP-5. I first used it when it was HP-4, back in the mid-1970’s. I can safely say I know how what results I can expect with this film. It’s my emulsion yardstick. I wanted to give K400 a workout, so I bought a few rolls a couple of years ago.
    Here’s my impression (culled from my notes):
    1. Buy the developer recommended by the film manufacturer and follow the instructions for development. You can deviate from the norm later.
    2. Shoot the film at box speed. Don’t experiment yet.
    3. If possible, use a 18% gray card to set exposure.
    I found the film to be more ‘demanding’ than HP-5. You need to be spot on your exposure. If you are in the habit of bracketing your exposures, you’ll quickly see it doesn’t tolerate over/under exposure.
    3. When developing, try to keep your temp. near 68F/20C for all chemistry. Agitate according to the directions given. Follow Ilford’s recommendation for washing the film.
    It’s a great film. Quirky. But it requires more attention in terms of exposure and processing. It’s not for photographers who are sloppy in their practice, nor for the occasional shooter. I’ve had no problem enlarging the negs in my darkroom.
    Don’t think of it as student grade or inferior to HP-5, Delta 400 or XP-2. It’s not.

    • Reply
      Hans Gustafsson
      October 12, 2022 at 3:32 pm

      I normally only use FP-4 or HP-5, but got a couple of rolls of KM400 as a subscription gift. My go-to developer is DD-X but I keep a bottle of cheaper chem for when I need to do test rolls for shutter speed test etc. I never said it was inferior, that was other peoples opinions that I picked up when I read about it, I just that i don’t like it, not when processed in DD-X either. 🙂

      • Reply
        Justin Midwest
        October 12, 2022 at 7:25 pm

        I also shoot HP5 and FP4 primarily. Simply from research I’ve done online, I dev with DDX only when pushing HP5 +1 or +2 stops because I’ve read taht DDX handles grain and shadow detail better than my primary box-speed developer, Ilfotec HC. I’ve started tagging my Flickr photos with ISO and dev details if you care to see HC and/or DDX in action in those scenarios: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

        Do you have an opinion of DDX versus HC when developing a roll of HP5 shot at box speed?

        I’ve never used Kentmere, but I like the photos you’ve shared here. Even though your criticism of the highlights is definitely warranted, I think they still look quite nice. Cheers.

        • Reply
          Hans Gustafsson
          October 12, 2022 at 10:27 pm

          I’ve never used HC so I can’t comment on that, but I did love your photos!

  • Reply
    Kai
    October 12, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    I always liked Kentmere 400 when developed in Caffenol-CH for 15 min/20 °C. In my experience this is a dccile combination where one gets good results that are not too grainy and show a rather medium contrast which i found especially suitable for taking portrait pictures. Maybe you want to give it a try.
    I’m wondering, what developing times did you use here for Paranol S? The manual reads that Kentmere 400 needs to be developed 14 min @1+25 and 35 min @1+50 respectively, which i find very strange. Are the developing times really that long?

    • Reply
      Hans Gustafsson
      October 12, 2022 at 10:24 pm

      I developed for 14min in 1+25 so yes, the times are really long.

      • Reply
        Kai
        October 12, 2022 at 10:37 pm

        Interesting. I always thought that Paranol S is the same as Rodinal, but obviously it is not. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Hans Gustafsson
    October 12, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    I’ve never used HC som no opinion from me there. Definitely gonna check out your photos!

  • Reply
    Hans Gustafsson
    October 13, 2022 at 8:53 am

    In reply to Justin: I’ve never used HC so I can’t comment on that, but I did love your photos!

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