Slide film is a very difficult concept for me, as my experience of it so far has been the options currently in production – quite a bit more expensive than negative film, and featuring prohibitive ISO speeds, which make them difficult to justify in London unless I know for sure the weather will be accommodating. With much lower latitude I need to nail the metering dead on, which means adjusting my settings much more frequently than when shooting something like Delta 400, where I simply fix for the shadows and expect to lose the highlights.
The only slides I’ve ever been really happy with were the handful of keepers from a trip to Morocco at the start of this year; the Ektachrome gave me lovely National Geographic reminiscent tones. As much as I want to try and incorporate shooting slides alongside my regular workflow without a more reasonable speed I simply can’t justify it.
When I heard about Retrochrome 400, I knew I had to put the effort in and see whether this was the answer for me. I bought two rolls from Analogue Wonderland, and shot the first over the course of three days: one very sunny, and the other two quite overcast.
Retrochrome 400 is supposedly Ektachrome 2253, long expired but cold stored well enough for useable results – government surplus from a US Government testing site. It is described by FPP, the group who are responsible for rebranding, rerolling, and testing this film, as having “subdued colours, warm tone, increased grain and [an] overall pleasing vintage aesthetic.”
Having the option to shoot a higher speed slide film was alluring – 400 is my favourite “do everything” speed, as I have to make the fewest exposure compromises in the fewest situations. I knew that the results from Retrochrome would not match my use of Ektachrome, and that there could be some “character” (defects) – possible light leak, weird grain, colour cast; all down to the age of the film, and not really predictable until you’ve tried it.
I metered as dead on for my subject as possible, and only had two rolls I think failed due to bad exposure. This meant constantly adjusting my settings as I moved through variable light, as I could have spotted something in light or shadow at any moment. This was quite distracting, and reaffirmed my preference for shooting on overcast days. I didn’t adjust the EI of the meter, and read for 400 at all times.
I was actually really happy with the results of this roll – I think you can tell that the ilm is expired, but it has an aesthetic quite unlike any expired film I’ve shot previously. It has as consistent a look as you could want, although some frames definitely worked better than others. I think the midtoned scenes definitely worked better than anything with high dynamic range.
Grain was much less noticeable than I was expecting, and there weren’t any of the other flaws I had been expecting.
I made an effort to shoot as many colourful scenes as possible, which was a lovely exercise considering the amount of black and white I’ve been shooting recently. I’m saving the second roll of Retrochrome; now that I understand how the film looks and operates I think I’ll wait for a cloudy but rain free day and take it to Brighton. Hopefully the moody grey skies and dark blue of the ocean offer some interesting scenes!
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