5.22.2015

Fun with Film: Efke 50

Black and White films tend to be the broadest of the pack when it comes to variety in the analog film world.  Much unlike the selection of slide and color negative films, Black and White images can be shot on films ranging from ISO 25 all the way up to ISO 3200.  They come from manufacturers such as Kodak, Ilford, Fuji, Foma, and Rollei/Agfa.  One can easily view this as the healthiest part of the analog film market.

Still, this doesn't mean that it is all (silver) roses in the world of black and white film.  There have been a number of products that have gone by the way side.  Kodak Panatomic-X and Plus-X, Fuji Neopan 400, and Agfa Scala transparency film are among just some of the monochrome casualties that have occurred in the digital era.  

And then there is Efke. 

A product of Photokemika in Eastern Europe, Efke was pretty much the epitome of "old school" film production. Whereas other manufacturers had used modern technology to incorporate tabular grains into their emulsions, and had multiple coatings, Efke was much more traditional in nature. Unfortunately, it was this same tradition that ultimately cut its film coating and cutting days short, when in 2012, its 60-plus year old coating equipment failed, and the manufacturer called it quits.  The fans of Efke film snapped up what they could of its stock of films, and the supply of Efke film began to dwindle.

Though I was hardly in the mindset of shooting film at the time it was discontinued, I had the chance to pick up a few rolls of Efke 50 a few months ago from a gentleman who had some stocks of it.  It seemed like it would be a nice experiment, and I'd appreciate having an alternative to Ilford Pan F 50.  I took a few days to shoot one roll of this film in late March, electing to use my Balda Pontina for the purpose. This would be the Balda's first "assignment" for me in black and white. Below are some of the results. 



At the same time I took a color photo of this scene on a 122 format Autographic, I also captured this scene on Efke 50 using the Balda at f/5.6.  I do like how the Efke film left a somewhat magical lighting effect to this sunlit scene, and a nicely aged effect.


I deliberately did not seat the lens board properly on this image, resulting in what I call the "Balda Blur."  However, I find that the effect of one headlight razor sharp and one out of focus to be a bit disconcerting.  I do like the detail and sharpness in the focused parts of the photo. 


A gracefully aged tree stands in contrast to more modern surroundings in Downtown Washington DC.  Though the sharpness is pretty good, I'm a little underwhelmed by some underexposure on the shadowy tree.  


Yet another view of a scene rendered in my cross-processing experiment.  The Efke rendered some great tonality and fine grain in a fairly drably lit scene.  


Part of the appeal of slow speed films is shooting wide open to get a very selective focus effect.  However, the contrast to pull off such a thing is just not there in this image, lit almost entirely in shadow.  Maybe a second try is in order with Efke 50. 


An impromptu 1 second time exposure at Union Station shows a nice tonality, while the Balda snapped up some great detail.

Since I shot in 6x9 format, I didn't have a lot of chances to get many examples.  However, I still have two rolls of Efke 50 yet to use, and having gotten these samples, I can hopefully find some good use for this classically composed Silver Halide film.