5 Frames… Of Kodak Plus-X Aerecon II 3404 (35mm format / EI 50 / Nikkormat FTN) – by James Harr

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I bought this film in a “group buy” with a couple of other people over on Filmwasters.com and honestly, I didn’t know anything about it. I remembered shooting Plus-X back in the day and liking it, but that was the extent of my “knowledge”. As it turns out, I think that this is NOT Plus-X emulsion on a thin estar base designed for aerial reconnaissance.

It has extended red sensitivity to cut down on atmospheric haze and the emulsion is thin and “highly hardened” to permit rapid processing. The thin base cuts down weight and space used in the aeroplane and adds dimensional stability and tear resistance. The original Plus-X was ISO 125. This film is rated at 200 on the aerial ISO scale (different than that used for pictorial films).

There is a Kodak publication (AS-10) out there somewhere that elucidates these two different scales, but I can’t find it. Considering that this film expired in 1989, I rated it at EI 50 and figured it would all work out one way or the other. That’s the kind of photographer I am. I trust the film to compensate for my ineptitude and laziness, and generally, it does. Well, let’s take a look at some photos.

The rose, the bottle brush and the coral tree flower are all red, so you can see what the extended red sensitivity is doing here. They look very pale. The grain is evident, but not obtrusive (to me). I like a little grain in my photos, hence the abundance of expired film in my fridge.

The low speed makes it a daylight/flash film, but that’s where I live anyway. This film (developed in HC110b for 6.5 minutes) has a pleasing combination of grain and acutance that gives the photos a sharp look to them. The close focusing range of the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Non-AI completely blasts the OOF areas into pleasing doldrums that bring attention to the subject.

A note on developing this film (or others like it with thin bases). It is difficult to get this film loaded onto a plastic “E-Z Load” reel like you see with Paterson system tanks. The base is not rigid enough to push its way through the groove and inevitably somewhere along the line, it jumps the groove and sandwiches with the film adjacent. In that situation, the chemistry cannot reach the emulsion and you end up with patches of undeveloped film. This can be seen in the photo of the gossamer on the juniper bush.

For the future, I will use stainless steel tanks and reels for this film. I scanned the pleasantly flat negatives on an Epson V600 at 3200dpi using the native Epson Scan software. Not much to do by way of curves. The histograms were nice and well distributed. I will enjoy the rest of this film that I have and possibly look for some more when my supply gets low.

Give it a try if you come across it.

~ James

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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