I always loved the original Agfa Scala 200X black and white slide film when it was available back in the late ‘90s. So I was thrilled when Adox pulled a rabbit out of their hat and released their version of Scala to the film stocks available to photographers. Living in Canada makes using Scala 160 a bit of a logistics challenge. Order from one location in the US and then ship back to a different location in the US for processing. Both firms do a fine job, but sometimes the wait seems interminable. Still, it is worth it in the end.
These shots were taken with my Nikon F5 using my Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF lens. I’ve had this lens since well before I got the F5 and it remains one of my favourites. There is no theme to these photos and almost all of the shots shown here were from various rolls, all exposed in 2019.
I find that Scala 160 has a creamy look to it, a smoothness that transitions nicely from shade to shade. It loves strong light but shadow detail is strong and clear.
The Scala 160 film canisters have no ISO coding so the camera’s ISO setting must be set manually. Of course, my memory has lapsed more than once – or should I say that my habit, my routine of many years using the F5 lulled me into inattention to this detail. This, of course, means that my next roll (if not Scala) will almost certainly be under or over exposed! So, perhaps it would be wise to only pack some Portra 160 as your alternative emulsion for that day’s shooting. Whatever your reason (excuse) it would be a good idea to set some kind of ISO reset reminder.
I like to shoot a variety of subjects. Frame 1 was shot at an old building site. I like how the similar colours were portrayed in B&W. As you gaze at the photo the detail seems to emerge. Frame 2 was shot during a maintenance job on a working farm; the skin and veins have a lovely look to them. Frame 3 was taken on a bright day while on a hike in a nearby Provincial park. I find that the contrast is highlighted nicely by Scala 160. The fungus in Frame 4 illustrates the way Scala 160 pulls out the slightest variation in shade. The ivory-coloured fungus is far more three-dimensional than it looked in real life. The old wooden fence in Frame 5 was situated just off a side road north of Toronto. Here Scala 160 shows the shadow detail quite well, while the portion in open sun is not blow out.
I did not manipulate any of these shots. This is how they looked on film. All were shot using the F5’s matrix metering in either Program mode or Aperture Priority mode.
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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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