Fun with Film: Film X by Washi in E6 Chemistry

From the Lomography Site:

If you believe that life is best captured in color, then give Washi Film X a try. This panchromatic negative mask-less color film delivers high saturation, crystal clarity and an overall warm tone. Originally designed for road traffic surveillance, this emulsion yields a distinct texture to give your photographs beaming with character. What’s more, you can also process it as a slide film for even more vibrant hues!

Imagine a 400 speed color film that you could elect to process either as a color negative for printing, or in E6 chemistry as a vibrant transparency with amazing color.  This is pretty much what is claimed of Washi-X, a new film offered by Lomography.

The name derives from a hand made Japanese paper, and indeed the purveyors of Washi-X are actually trying to summon the spirit of hand making paper in another of their products, Film Washi, an ISO 25 medium made in small batches for the analog market.  This French made product is certainly unique in its nature and made with a great degree of pride.

But what of their Washi-X product?  Is this some miracle product made from scratch that might forever change the dynamic of analogue photography?  Is it even possible to make color film from scratch with any degree of consistency?  Is it possible to make a version with a Kodachrome palette? Can I get "less filling" and "tastes great?"

Packaging of Film X is admittedly pretty slick, with a sleeve bundled by a label rather than the typical plastic film can. 

All told, I am contemplating this product's depiction on the Lomography site as either overblown hype or the reveling of an amazing hybrid?  The cynic in me expects the former, but the curious photographer in me could not help but to try a roll, just in case it may show signs of the latter.  Below are my results and thoughts.

Sure enough, when FilmX is processed as E6, the results look very much like color slides! This is largely thanks to the lack of the rose-magenta colored mask common on the vast majority of color negative films.

A daylight shot appears interesting to say the least, providing somewhat muted colors that still portray a good degree of color saturation. 

Oddly though, in daylight, the film can render the look of a vastly underexposed slide, leaving me to think the exposure latitude of the product is particularly narrow when developed in E6 as a slide.

As dusk approaches however, the rendering of Film-X becomes particularly extrordinary, managing to pull out a good degree of contrast and tonal range in this image. 

Another shot taken just after sunset again reveals a great range, showing the perfect amount of detail in the illuminated window while giving enough detail in the more dimly lit parts of the scene to make this shot work well. 

A fully lit morning shot however shows a lack of detail in shadow and darkly lit areas, and highlights that tend to look blown out. 

Under full darkness, the film struggles a bit more with dim lighting, but still pulls out a workable image. 

Rendering of incandescent lights is surprisingly neutral as well after dark.  This bokeh testing image of a string of lights through a Domiplan lens renders only slight warmth in its portrayal.

Another open lens shot taken early in the morning shows some outstanding color portrayal in this scene.  The green of the tree looks lush while the store windows are only slightly warm.  Most films would render this scene with much more of a yellow red cast.

Yet strangely, when illuminated by full sun, the green is no longer as lush looking as it appears after dark, being muted to a darker shade, as seen here. 

Shadow detail in this image gets deeply obscured, resulting again in an image that, despite not having too drastic a tone curve in the original scene, looks washed out and underexposed in the same scene. 

An underexposed night shot manages to barely be passable as an image, though the underexposure leaves little in the way of distracting elements in the backdrop.

Finishing the roll with a daylight shot, I'm pleased again to see some great color saturation in this image, though again the shadow areas wind up being badly obscured. 

Thoughts: Overall, I'm somewhat pleased by this Jekyll and Hyde film.  It performed better than the cynic in me expected, but still has its weaknesses, particularly in any daylight images with shadow details.  For night, dusk, and low light shooting, I was highly impressed with the color rendition and saturation.  Despite an ISO rating of 400, the grain is not at all objectionable, even in 35mm format.  I'm not sure I'd take the plunge on this again, but I would at least consider it.