On the hunt for alternatives to the almighty Kodak Tri-X, I stumbled upon the APX 400 from Agfaphoto. The story of the company is quite complicated, but from what I understand, the films are still being made in Belgium. Which also happens to also be where I live. One more reason to try this one.
I loaded the film into my beloved Nikon F3. A gift from my dad, which he previously used for many years with full satisfaction. A Japanese camera designed by an Italian: the best of both worlds. This camera is a joy to use: reliable, fantastic ergonomics, spot-on metering, beautiful to look at. The feel is quite unique when you hold it. Remove the prism finder, and you’ll find yourself believing that you are dismantling a firearm. My F3 is coupled with a Nikkor 50mm f/2 lens, which may not be the fastest on the range, but has great character and is very sharp once stopped-down.
I shot the roll of APX while wandering a remote region of Belgium, with very limited human imprint. At that time (January 2020), the weather conditions were very damp, dense clouds were preventing any sun to come through, and a light fog was present all day. This highly contributed to the gloomy, dark and deserted look of the photographs, which was exactly what I was aiming for. Once shot, I chose to self-develop the film in Rodinal for its grain-preserving and high acutance capabilities; two features that makes this developer one of my favorite. The film was then finally scanned at home on an Epson V600 Scanner.
Despite the very dull light, the APX delivered beautiful high-contrast images while retaining details on both shadows and highlights areas. Speaking of the highlights, this film gives a very distinctive and unique look to them. Even when blown-out, they are very diffuse and very soft, almost silky. It helps building an intriguing look to the photographs.
Finally, the grain of APX 400 is very interesting. Compared to the Tri-X, it’s a bit less present than Kodak’s, but coarser. This should make it beautiful when printed on FB paper.
Agfaphoto APX 400 definitely has its unique character. For me, it’s a film worth shooting in flat lighting conditions, and when the weather is not on your side. This is where I think it’ll shine.
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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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