Well I finally took the plunge, I have searched out inexpensive film and decided to try Efke 100. Not just try it but calibrate it and get to know it. As you may have gathered I am a Kodak film shooter for the most part. The reason I am searching for cheaper film is that I am working on a few projects that are requiring quite a bit of 8x10 film. If you haven't checked lately Kodak 8x10 is hideously expensive, not a big deal if I shoot a couple of sheets a month but I am planning on shooting a lot. I happened to search for low priced 8x10 film and can get Efke 100 at about half the cost of Kodak. Still not cheap but half of ridiculous is less than full ridiculous.
I didn't go full bore hog wild and acquire a couple hundred dollars worth of the stuff without getting to know it a little bit I took a short cut - a low cost short cut. I bought 5 rolls of 120 to test and calibrate it to my developer and my process. Here are a couple of things I have found so far and I am only finished the first roll. The first thing is that it seems to be a lot less red/yellow/orange sensitive than my regular 100 speed film (Kodak TMX). I found this out not by making a direct comparison but by making a couple of mistakes while shooting the first roll. Namely I instinctively shot a landscape with a green filter - usually appropriate to darken up the sky and brighten the foreground but in this case I saw that it was clearly the wrong choice after making a few exposures. The foliage was not green it was yellow and orange - it's fall. So I switched to an orange filter. Of course I shot the scene without any filtration as well. Based on my experience with the way these filters react and the way that I know TMX reacts, I can tell that Efke 100 is less red sensitive.
Of course the grain is way bigger than TMX but who cares in 8x10 - not a problem. The other thing that I learned is that the film looks way different when processing it than any other film I have ever used. It looked fine when I first hung it up to dry. After a few minutes when I walked back into the darkroom and saw it I thought that it was horribly flawed. It really looked like the film base was made from frosted glass. My instant reaction was that somehow I had reticulated the emulsion while processing it. I thought this because I knew that my wash was 1 degree F cooler than the rest of my process. Normally this would not be an issue to even consider but other peoples general opinion was that Efke 100 had a very fragile emulsion.
I took this with a grain of salt since most peoples development process is all over the map compared to what I consider careful handling. So I immediately said to my self that this level of fragility was idiotic and definitely wouldn't do if a 1 degree difference in the wash was enough to completely destroy the film. Here is the punch line - after the film dried completely overnight it was perfect with a perfectly clear clean base. So it maybe fragile but not that insane. The frosty fogginess while drying looks to be normal. Thank god - the 8x10 cheap Efke 100 is still a go.
Compared to TMX and PXP Efke 100 seems to be a bit slower maybe like 2/3 of a stop slower in the shadows a couple more rolls and I will know exactly what speed it is in the shadows. Of course this maybe developer dependent but I am speaking from a common developer for all three. I really do like the gradation and overall curve of the films response. I am going to shoot it against TMX so that I can accurately compare the two characteristic curves just for academic reasons but Efke has a very pretty upper midrange and rich midtone gradation in general.
The couple of things that I do not like about it can be managed. The first thing is that the film base is really thin, cheap and curly. The included scans are not even close to critically sharp because there was no way to get the film flat in my glassless holders for scanning - I am going to have to use a hydraulic press for like a week to get this stuff flat. The other thing that really doesn't matter but could is the lack of quality control is pretty evident even from the burned out blown out, and inconsistent edge numbers on the Efke. Obviously this is not in an of itself an issue but if it is a harbinger for other quality control problems that may be a concern. For now it is a go forward with the Efke 8x10 - if I run into specific quality or consistency issues I will post a note on what exactly they are later on.
I processed this sample in Pyrocat HD 1+1+100. My standard developer for a number of reasons - if anyone cares I will be glad to share why I use it. As usual the middle image is the obligatory "100%" at 40x magnification, can't really tell much about a film from looking at that besides it is grainier than TMX and it is sharp. I may go with a new policy on showing films under magnification, the last image is the image at 8x - that would be a tiny piece of a 20" x 20" print - most likely I will not even print this big, it just happens to be the biggest loupe I own and how I inspect film visually. Let me know what you think about the 8x vs the 40x - personally I think the 8x tells you a lot more about the film. The development was just about N (normal) based on my measurements and metering - that was a surprise given it was the first roll. I really like the way it separates subtle tones at N processing. The only manipulation was to make the film base black the rest of it is a raw scan. Even this crappy unfiltered test shot would look fantastic with about 2 minutes of dodging and burning. I declare Efke 100 pretty nice for half the cost of TMX - I think I will really like it in 8x10.
Wish me luck with the Cheap 8x10. Obviously I am going to shoot and calibrate the rest of the 120 before purchasing the 8x10.