London-based Kosmo Foto recently announced their Kickstarter for a new film stock: Agent Shadow, a 35mm ISO 400 black and white panchromatic film that can be rated to at least EI 3200.

The film is penciled in for a September 2021 release and I was lucky enough to be given a couple of rolls to try out. I’m here to share the results with you today. Before I get to that though, let’s take a moment to appreciate the absolutely gorgeous box art in this collector set:

All done? Excellent.

As a film brand, Kosmo Foto has been a valued part of the community for some three and a half years now. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing its founder Stephen Dowling as a fellow blogger and, over those three and a bit years, friend and valued member of the supply-side of the film photography community.

A few months ago, he mentioned he had something for me to try out, and just a week and a bit later, I received a small, unassuming box in the mail marked “TOP SECRET”.

The enclosed instructions told me a bit about its contents and in no uncertain terms informed me to keep my mouth shut until such time when I was told to open it again.

Message received and understood. Here’s what was inside:

Having spoken to him about it a bit after receiving the film, Stephen advised me to shoot the film at night and provided a few pointers on exposure and development. That said, he did say that it was up to me how to shoot my two rolls.

…So I shot them during the daytime on the following camera/lens combinations instead:

  • The modern-ish: Nikon F6 + Nikkor 85-1.8 AF-D.
  • The not modern at all: Leica M2 + Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 + Leica Y15 filter.

If you want to check out the sample shots created by Stephen and others for the Kickstarter campaign, I highly recommend checking out Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter and Hamish McGill over at 35mmc for more. Both Hamish and Bellamy have gone some pretty interesting takes on the new film stock. Mine is a little different:

  • EI 400 + B+W UV filter: Nikon F6 + Nikkor 85-1.8 AF-D with a +/-1 stop bracket.
  • EI 400 + Y15 yellow filter (devloped at EI 800): Leica M2 + Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8.

I developed both rolls promptly after shooting them in the relatively low-grain, low-contrast combination of ILFORD ILFOTEC LC29 at 20c / 1+29 dilution: 1-minute of initial (slow) agitations plus another 5 agitations every minute, followed by a normal stop bath, rinse, fixer, etc.

The results were surprising. Here’s a set of three frames taken straight from an intentionally flat scan on my Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED running from -1 stop of underexposure on the left to the metered exposure and +1 stop of overexposure on the right:

Not so noir, right?

If you take a look at Stephen’s announcement post over at Kosmo Foto, you’d be forgiven for thinking the new film was made for low-light shoots, and while you’d be right, to a point, the very flat scans above (especially the overexposed frame, right), tell me that the film is much more forgiving than most the examples provided so far.

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I truly appreciate Stephen’s vision for the film and my own tests at night or in low light show this film to be a solid, high contrast, very “noir” performer. Stephen’s own examples (shot with his Leica R8 are stunning:

…so the question begs, what happens when you work with an intentionally flat scan and then tweak this to get the result you want.

Here’s the same three frames with a bit of a twist in Lightroom. Gorgeous.

Not huge tweaks, but enough to pique my interest.

Here’s more from the Nikon F6 + Nikkor 85-1.8 AF-D. As above, we start with EI 400 -1 exposure on the left, move to the meter reading in the middle, and +1 on the right. If I did it all again, I’d have done +/- 2 stops not 1, as the difference is quite slight. All scans here are intentionally flat, straight from my specific Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED settings using VueScan.

Feel free to download/edit them or ask for the original scan files to have a play around. They’re nothing worthy of mounting on the wall but hopefully provide enough tone/difference to give you a feeling for what you can get.

How did Agent Shadow come about, exactly?

Stephen has been talking about a high speed black and white film since pretty much as long as I’ve known him. It’s been a dream that started to come to some sort of fruition in 2019.

As he notes on the Kosmo Foto website,

Agent Shadow is an established emulsion made by one of the most respected names in film photography, and it’s a film that has some seriously decent atmosphere when it’s pushed past its box speed. Just how far? Well, I had certainly seen some decent examples shot at 800, but what about beyond that? 1600? 3200?

Part of me wishes I’d tried out pushing the film out but still, am happy with the tests I performed for all you daywalkers out there.

Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow is available to back on Kickstarter as we speak and it currently over ⅓ of the way to its goal. It’s a lovely film that, as the examples above show is capable of producing a wide tonal range suitable for general, street and landscape photography, as well as those obsidian black preferred by film noir lovers everywhere.

For more from my two test rolls (this time on the Leica M2 and Elmar 50/2,8 with yellow filter), check out my tweaked examples below:

Go get yours. I have.

~ EM

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