Unsolicited editorials on cameras, lenses, film, developer, and black and white photography in general.

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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Afga APX 400 in Panthermic 777

Whenever I have wanted to shoot something dark, wet, and gritty, Agfa films and papers always came to mind. When I had a real darkroom for printing, I considered Agfa paper to be darkest, blackest, shiniest semi-matte paper available in town. I didn’t use it for faces as it seemed to make every pore on the nose stand out. Fred Picker often spoke disparagingly of chalk and soot prints. In my older years, I guess I have to agree with him that the effect is often not flattering. I shouldn't even have any Agfa films as they are discontinued and only a few places still have any. Before Hurricane Katrina, I got impulsive and bought about 300 rolls of APX 400 and APX 100, stored them in my office, and forgot about them in all of the turmoil. Six months after the hurricane, I returned to my office in the now moldy and rotting administration building and found four boxes that were falling apart. There stood the Agfa film I bought over a year ago and was storing at work. Too funky to sell on Ebay, so I might as well start using it.

I tested Agfa APX 400 with some PMK Pyro a few weeks ago. The results were awful unless you are looking for salt and pepper grain or wanted to document the appearance of workers shoveling coal into the boiler of a ship. PMK Pyro usually masks grain fairly well, but with Agfa 400 it met its match. Since my other favorite developer is Panthermic (or Harvey’s) 777, I decided to give it a try with Agfa 400. TRI-X and 777 work extremely well together, giving rich tonality under what I consider to be rather bland shooting conditions. I was hoping that Agfa 400 and 777 might produce something spectacular.

Panthermic 777 is one of the least-documented developers I have ever used. I didn’t have a starting time for Agfa 400, so I guessed at about 10 minutes at 75F. The density of the resulting negatives was good, so 10 minutes at room temperature is a good ballpark developing time. This was the first time I have used 777 without first pouring it through a Melitta coffee filter. I won’t try that again. The negatives were covered with small flecks of crud, presumably the junk that floats around in 777 in the bottle. I recommend always giving the solution a quick filtering.

After scanning the negatives, I will have to admit that they are grainier than I expected, nearly as grainy as Agfa 400 in PMK Pyro. In a match between TRI-X and Agfa 400 in 777, TRI-X wins. I will probably have the local B&W lab develop my Agfa 400 from now on. They can make just about anything look good with XTOL.