I’ll admit to being taken back a bit by the two new film announcements so far this week (Kodak Gold in 120 format and CineStill 400D), and it looks like we’re capping it off with a third: brand new FuguFilm 400 colour slide film in 35mm format from Japan Camera Hunter and Street Silhouettes.
I was lucky enough to shoot an early-ish test roll in late 2020, which I have some test frames from below but before I get to that (and a little Q&A I had with Bellamy Hunt), let’s take a quick look at the film itself.
FuguFilm 400 is a color slide film that will initially be made available in 35mm, 36-exposure DX-coded cassettes. The film is made in the EU (not in Japan), will be available for purchase this year through global retail channels and — as confirmed by Bellamy directly by me — is not a rebranded, rebadged, defrosted or “found film”.
In other words:
FuguFilm 400 is a totally new, fresh film, that is being manufactured just for this project. It is the first completely new reversal film emulsion in nearly 2 decades.
The film has been conceived and made completely from scratch, and has taken a great deal of time to reach a level we are happy with. And this was certainly hampered by Covid, which ended our plans for a release in late 2020, and again in mid 2021.
The story goes back to 2019, when Bellamy and Horatio Tan at Street Silhouettes decided to bring a new ISO 400 slide film to market. Bellamy’s love of Provia 400X is what you might call an open secret and I was curious to know how much that love influenced the choice behind making an ISO 400 film specifically:
We were initially inspired by Provia 400X and wanted to recreate that look, now the film has been discontinued. That lasted for a while but it was very difficult to get it the same, so it ended up being its own film.
ISO 400 slide film is special to me and something that’s not being made and doesn’t really stand a chance of being made by the larger incumbent manufacturers, so it was an obvious goal to aim for
I went on to ask Bellamy about their plan for further formats, and what specifically they wanted to avoid with the release — the film photography road is paved with many failures and long-delayed projects over the past decade or so.
Yes! We plan on all formats if possible, and that includes 4×5. Making a truly new film is hard and you have to juggle so many factors, from the look of it, technical structure, shelf-life, production, consistency…all that before you even get it into a box and in a store.
Our biggest concern was that we’d mess it up and release too early, before it was ready.
On the latter part of Bellamy’s note above, anyone who has shot early run film stocks will be aware of issues that can occur, from light piping into the roll, static electricity discharges on the film (as with my 4×5 CineStill 800T), to blemishes with the emulsion itself — an example of which you’ll see in the 4th frame of test shots I took on an early roll of FuguFilm 400 above.
I went on to ask Bellamy if the release of the pink JCH film case was originally intended as a pairing with the film. I was assured that it was just a happy coincidence and that Fugu is not part of JCH, it is its own brand.
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We went on to speak about other Fugu filmstocks and if we can expect other speeds. The bottom line?
Yes, there are plans for other speeds based on the success of FuguFilm 400. It would be a labourious process but we have already laid the groundwork for this.
Which brings me back to when we can expect this first iteration to launch. The current version (FuguFilm 400) is nearing the end of its final test iteration, which means that once it’s complete, the film will be sent off for mass production, packaging and distribution. That’s something which (barring further worldwide lockdowns), they hope to have done this year, with the film available for purchase by year-end 2022.
Did I mention that Fugu is entirely self-funded? According to Bellamy and Horatio, the development costs for FuguFilm 400 have been totally out of pocket, an expensive direction to take, especially given the Covid situation that emerged during its development, and that a slide film is a very, very different proposition from colour negative or black and white film.
I promised you a quick comparison and while not 100% like for like, I can tell you that the frames below were shot on the same day, with the same gear and scanned by the same lab on the same scanner using the same IT8 targets and same scanning settings.
Here’s the first frame of you’ll see of Kodak EKTACHROME E100 (left) being directly compared to FuguFilm 400 (right). Both frames shot on a Nikon F6 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF-D).
And with that, all I have left to tell you is that Bellamy and Horatio are aiming to make the film competitively priced and that if you want to read a little more and check out some more sample shots (that are NO DOUBT better than my poor attempts above), you should visit the Japan Camera Hunter site directly.
Thanks for reading,
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