Thursday, October 17

Adox CHS 100 II: First Look




UPDATE: Mirko Boddecker of Adox, a name well-known to many people on the forums as a strong supporter and enthusiast of film photography, contacted me to make a very good point about his film's "old-fashioned" look. If you read on, you'll see that it's not something I've noticed much online or in my own photography. It seems that could be, in large part, the result of the type of subjects I photograph.

Mirko said, "You can see this difference very easily if you shoot outside. Try FP4 and CHS 100 II next to each other on a sunny day with some clouds in the sky or in portraits of a light-skinned person - of which you should have plenty in Schottland :). The old-fashioned look is caused by the way the film is sensitised with the gap in between blue and red (green). This separates the clouds from the sky, the lips (and spots) from the skin, etc. It would be great if you could reconsider this part of your article as it is somewhat misleading given the fact that you shot a subject where you cannot see it."

Since I hardly ever shoot on sunny days or do portraits seems I've missed it altogether! Happy to put that right, Mirko.


I'm hoping to a do a proper review of this film, comparing it with Adox Silvermax, in the near future but I thought I'd post some negative scans and print scans from my first 35mm roll of the new CHS 100 II along with my general impressions. It's the successor to CHS 100 which Adox said could no longer be made for a variety of reasons mainly concerning clapped out machinery and the unavailability of the spectral sensitiser.

I've got a soft spot for Adox as the brand's trade mark brings back a lot of memories. My late dad used to shoot Adox slides in the 1960s and there are a few of me when no more than a toddler that I'll keep in reserve with the threat of publication if readers don't start leaving comments again! I've been feeling a bit lonely and unappreciated since the comments have tailed off - but I digress.


Back to the new CHS and it's suitability as a general purpose, medium speed film. It's nominally rated at 100 ISO which means that photographers who frequent the forums will immediately expose it at 50 ISO or less and then start stand developing to control denser than normal highlights. Well, I'm a bit cheesed off with this approach. I've been getting beautifully-controlled highlights in almost all the film I've been shooting recently - and no zip at all in the mid-tones and an overall lack of contrast. Pulling a film is maybe a good idea if you live in California but in dreich and damp Scotland, where we still sacrifice sheep nightly in the hope the sun will shine the next day, a huge contrast range is normally not a problem.

Therefore, my first roll of CHS was shot at the box speed and developed in good old Rodinal at 1+50 for the 10 mins indicated on the Massive Dev Chart. Result? Pretty much spot on I'd say. The negatives have decent shadow detail, a good range of gutsy-looking tones, good sharpness and grain that is no problem at all on 6x9, full-frame, darkroom prints. I would have printed some at larger sizes but I ran out of paper (Tetenal Baryta Vario FB)! I'll do some blow-ups for the review.

Grain looks very reasonable under the grain magnifier. It's clearly nowhere near as fine as the likes of Delta 100 but it's not supposed to be. I'd say it's on a par with Agfa APX or HP5+ downrated to 200 ISO and developed in dilute Perceptol. I only shot a few rolls of the old CHS 100 but the new film looks a little better in respect of grain. What that means in practical terms is that it's hardly visible on the 6x9 enlargements I was making and would be noticeable but far from objectionable at 8x12.

Grain is a very personal thing and while some people like it by the shovel-load, others will take it drip fed from a pipette. You'll need to try it yourself to see if it fits the bill. I quite like a bit of grain but not an awful lot and I'd happily use this film for all my medium speed black and white work.


I've no complaints where sharpness is concerned, either. The first three photographs posted here are all (unspotted) print scans (all the rest are negative scans) and were shot on a tripod-mounted Contax 137 MD and 28mm f2.8 Distagon. The negs are very sharp. The subject of these three prints was the common stairwell or close of an early 1900s tenement building. This is a project that I've had in mind for some time and I've written about it here and here. I had intended using Fomapan 100 for the project but it must have the worst reciprocity failure of any film I've ever come across, meaning I'd be standing around for about 15 minutes per shot. Bugger that! I think, with Adox CHS 100 II, I've found my tenement close film.

I haven't done any testing yet but I'd say it needs no more than about half a stop extra exposure at shutter speeds of up to a few seconds and maybe a stop approaching ten seconds. What also makes it good for this sort of low light work is what appears to be a very nice ability to handle the extremes of light and shadow (this is the nearest we get to California).

However, on one frame a plus two-stop bracketed exposure led to window light bleeding beyond the confines of the 35mm frame and actually encroaching on an adjacent frame. This sort of thing can be a problem with some emulsions coated onto a clear PET base but Adox say the new film has an "optimised backside coating to fully prevent light piping".  Still, it's there and you can see it in frames 50 and 52 on this pic below which is a "contact sheet" (actually a D700 shot of the negatives against a computer monitor). The frame numbering looks like it's for half-frame cameras which is a bit weird on a new film.


On the subject of the contact sheet, quite a few of the negs look thin but many were shot in low light situations where I just messed up the exposure and there are a couple of sunset-type shots with thin foregrounds. Where exposure was adequate, shadow detail is there.

Old CHS 100 was often praised for giving photographs an old-fashioned look. I can't say I've ever noticed this special quality consistently in any online pics I've seen. There's a tendency on the internet for people to just pick up on something like this and repeat it parrot-fashion until it reaches urban legend status. I didn't see this quality in the rolls of Adox CHS I shot (although I don't suppose I was looking for it at the time) and I can't claim to see it with the new film. Maybe it will become apparent with further rolls. A couple of the tenement close shots have a vintage look to them but that's probably just the subject matter.

Adox CHS 100 II just strikes me as a good, solid, reasonably fine-grained and sharp general purpose film. It dries with a nice, clean finish and there's hardly any curl at all to mention. Hopefully, I'll be able to compare it against one or two other films to give you a more objective view when I get round to a review so please remember to look back.

In the meantime, here are a few more scans, this time of the negs, to keep you going.


A section from the 3200 dpi scan of the negative above.






23 comments :

Jan Moren said...

I just tried Rodinal for the first time (PanF50, diluted 1:50 at 11 minutes). Very happy with the results, and the midtones and highlights look great.

But it does seem (to my amateur, untrained eyes) to quickly lose all detail in the deep shadows. If not actually downrate the film, it seems you might at least want to consistently err on the bright side of exposure when using Rodinal.

Posted about it here: http://janneinosaka.blogspot.jp/2013/10/rodinal.html

nwlorax said...

Thanks for reviewing this film! I'll pick up a few rolls next month and see how it compares to my memory of APX100. Is there any information on when this emulsion will be available in 120 and sheet film sizes?

I would say that unless one is looking at grain images at very high magnification, it is hard to say much of value about comparing films via digital scans of negatives that vary in compression/scan quality (and orientation) that are viewed by and large on uncalibrated low-end monitors under uncontrolled conditions.

For whatever it is worth, I shoot mainly 120 and 4x5, which I do generally rate at half box speed and soup in Rodinal/Adonal/R09 @ 1:62 for 14 mins @ 68F. This has proven to be the sweet spot for most of my b&w films.

ULF-er said...

Thanks Bruce. Nice images. I think the "old" version of this eilm was also Efke 100. When they shut down, production for the Adox brand stopped. Looking forward to trying this in 5x7.

Rick

ULF-er said...

Hi Bruce ... thanks for the write up an nice images. I think the old version of CHS100 was also Efke 100. When Fotokemika stopped production in Croatia, Efke and Adox branded films ended. I am glad this is back and looking forward to trying in in 120 and 5 x 7. If they run 8 x 20, will try that also.

Take care!
Rick

Derek Scully said...

Thanks for this review Bruce. In view of your comment on the weather in Scotland whats the equivelent of Sunny 16 for you?

Michael said...

I'll gladly leave a comment Bruce. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this blog. I can't wait for the next post and often check daily looking for an update. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'll gladly leave a comment Bruce. I really appreciate your blog and postings and really look forward to each new entry.

marty said...

Hi there.
Thanks for sharing your impressions on this new emulsion. I like very much the sample pictures, singularly and as a project, this is a subject I like myself, capturing those small corners an particulars of architecture although I don't seem to be able to follow a photographic project but rather just shooting randomly whatever gets my attention. I agree with your reasoning about the halved exposure index, been there done that... Only to discover that really works on the frames shot in very high contrasty light while the rest of the frames looking just flat, grayish, with compressed midtones... And I found out that in most cases the shadow detail problem is just related to poor metering technique on my part. So from now on it has to be for myself more discipline when metering coupled with a bit of testing : -))). But I'm digressing... Indeed this film and developer combination is giving out what looks adequate shadow detail at box speed. If I may I'd ask you how did you find printing the highlights out side the window in the second picture, did they come out easily or took a heavy burning procedure?. As far as I can see from the scan the grain is nice and not intrusive, I like a tiny bit of grain because I find it makes the print to look sharper, I know it's just an impression but my eyes are more satisfied : -)))). Again thanks for the review.
Cheers, M.

Jon Ogmundsson said...

Thank you Bruce for this promising review.
I am, like many others, looking for a good replacement for APX100. Hopefully the new CHS film is it. It would be interesting to see how the film does in the Acurol.
Thank you for this great blog. I visit many times a week, for enlightment and enjoyment, and I am never disappointed.

Jon

Paul Glover said...

Great write-up. I often wonder about some of the forum/Flickr claims made for films: "old fashioned look" and the like, when the process of getting the image onto the web is the biggest factor in how it appears.

As for stand development, I gave up on that a long time ago. Too many problems, not enough consistency. I've been getting decent results lately by pulling Tri-X and HP5+ a stop and shortening development, but haven't printed much of anything from those rolls yet.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Thanks for all the comments guys. They're much-appreciated. Was the threat of seeing pics of me as a toddler really that scary? :)

Derek,
For much of the year probably somewhere between f8 and f11 at the ISO reciprocal would be about right for a sunny day.

Marty,
The highlights were dead easy to burn in. I used grade 0 for the burn in to avoid telltale halos. I'm going to write another post along the lines of Omar's normal fare for the three prints featured here.

Jon,
I'll see if I can develop a roll in Acurol. I'd like to see how it comes out as well.

Richard Wintle said...

Good looking stuff, thanks for the review. Must investigate if it's reasonable to obtain this here in Canada.

[visit via Flickr/I Shoot Film discussion]

Michael Stevens said...

Thanks for the review Bruce. I loved the old CHS films so I'm looking forward to giving this stuff a go.

Omar Özenir said...

Some nice photos there, Bruce. Love the one looking down the stairwell, and the section from the vertical. The bleeding from the highlights doesn't look too bad. I get similar bleeding with tmax400 (depending on the density of edge highlights).

Mirko's emphasis about the 'classical look' is reason enough for me to order a brick of ten rolls, along with some Silvermax. I'd like to see the difference from FP4 ( a superb film imo) myself. As a matter of fact, I tried to order Silvermax from Fotoimpex some time ago but couldn't get past the ordering system. Maybe it coincided with a particularly stupid moment of me. In any case, I didn't follow it through and left it at that. Anyway, I'll give it another shot.

morris1800 said...

Now you have been 'enlightened' :-) ' Bruce look forward to your test shots and for you to invite opinion on the mystical old fashioned look of film. . I was a fan of the old Adox film but also a fan of its value for money . Seems to have been introduced in the UK as a 'full price' product.

John Carter said...

I'm from sunny California and I do shoot at half speed on sunny days. But when the occasional overcast day comes along in the middle of a roll, I step up to full speed for better contrast. I know it isn't the way to do it, as I use my normal development time, but it seems to work.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Wish I had your problem, John!

John Carter said...

Bruce, sorry to say, speaking as a photographer, I do wish we had a more varied weather. Just not too much more.

Eddie Butt said...

Hi Bruce

Well, this post certainly got the comments running!

Lovely tonal quality to every one of those shots. I'm working my way through the last of my stock of FP4, then I'll need to give some of this stuff a bash.

I definitely need to make some darkroom time - I've got about 8 or 10 rolls still to process and nothing printed for the last couple of months at least! I'm getting withdrawal symptoms...

Keep postin'

Best regards

Eddie

Anonymous said...

Absolutely great blog Bruce!

You're now in my favs... alogn with APUG!

Rafael Frontado Gómez said...

Dear all.

I would like to know where I could buy Adox CHS 100 II, 120 format.

I would like to ask about the difference of Adox Silvermax and Adox CHS II in terms of latitud. For example, having as a reference the difference between Tri-X 400 and T-Max 400.

Thanks.

Rafael.

Regular Rod said...

Nice balanced report. Thank you.

It beats me why ADOX decided to bring out a 100 ISO film though. Why try to compete with so many other films of around that speed? They missed a trick. Instead of going for a new CHS 25 Art (preferably in sheet sizes as well as rolls) and facing no competition at all, they are now trying to compete against very good films and with not even a price advantage to help them. Now it's tyo late to steal a march in the 25 ISO market, certainly in rolls, as the branded Rollei RPX 25 is here and it is very, very good...

RR

Bruce Robbins said...

Maybe the 25 ISO market is just too small?