5 Frames… Of Santa RAE 1000 at Christmas in Berlin (35mm Format / EI 1000 / Nikon F3HP + Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI-S) – by Oleg Popelyaev

December… The magical time in Germany. The time when the streets are starting to bloom again… Well not exactly to bloom in a natural way like the trees and other plants do this in spring but in a kind of artificial one. December is the time of Christmas markets, Christmas lights, and decorations. You start to notice that something magical is coming already at the beginning of the month and has this feeling during the whole time until the Christmas days have come. It is a perfect time to try out some low-light photography on film!

That’s how my thoughts were when I was hanging on yet another analog online shop and stumble upon the Santa RAE 1000 black and white film. ISO 1000 film a rarity nowadays. You don’t have that many high-speed films left. It’s actually only two of them – the one from Kodak and another one from ILFORD that’s it… “Well, you have always an option to push the HP5 PLUS or TRI-X for two stops and have your high ISO film”, you might say. And you will be right. You can but it is another story.

To my luck, the film was also on sale beginning of December. So, I’ve decided to give it a try with my Nikon F3HP and Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI-S! The film comes as a pack of 4 rolls, which is also good because you have room to play and try it out (especially if something goes wrong with the first one).

I had no idea how the results could look like, so, I googled them before I made my final decision. And they were… attractive, at least to me: contrasty and grainy. Sold!

So, the perfect film (remember it’s called Santa?) for Christmas time! But… not this time. As we all know how things are going (there were some ups regarding the restrictions during the summer) starting from the mid of November Germany went to a “lockdown light” mode. That meant almost all public gatherings were canceled. And that also meant no Christmas markets this year! Bam… The plan was ruined. Well, almost. There was still one main street in the city center of Berlin that was decorated and there was one very small market there.

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That was enough to try out the film.

I shot the roll with that trusty Nikon F3HP handheld. Regarding development times there are actually some recommendations on the Santa RAE website for the most common developers. I took the one that was for Kodak D-76 developer (the one that I’m currently using at home).

Before you get to the development process you have to deal with one specialty that the Santa RAE film has. And this little thing costs me some nerves and time. The problem is that the film has a very thin base. And loading it onto a reel can be a huge problem (it took us a while before I could manage it)! But when you get it the rest is no problem.

All in all, I liked the overall result I got from the roll. I can definitely say that the pictures you will get are… moody, that is the right word I think. I still have 3 rolls left and we still have winter and nighttime is longer than daytime. So, I’m definitely going to shoot it again!

Stay safe and keep film alive!

~ Oleg

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About the author

Oleg Popelyaev

Hi! My name is Oleg. Born and raised in Siberia, Russia but have been living already more than 10 years in Berlin, Germany. Absolutely in love with this city and for about a half year with film photography....

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