Choice can be a wonderful thing, even if the details of some choices can be troublesomely obscure. One need only look at Ultrafine Online's "Extreme 400" film in 35mm format to get a good example of this.
A private label film of uncertain origins, Ultrafine Extreme 400 is a film option available in 35mm format in both long and short rolls for a very reasonable price. I was generously bequeathed a small number of these 12 shot rolls by my buddy and fellow camera buff Mark who features his collection at The Gas House, and have really come to like this film.
Questions linger, most notably "who makes this film?" One might presume it is Ilford Private label film, which may make sense. As I seem to recall, a known Ilford product marketed as "Kentmere" has similar dot-matrix style film edge markings. Still, I've tried Kentmere 100 before and found it didn't have quite the contrast that I've noticed in the Ultrafine product.
Below is a test roll, shot on the Darth Vader camera, the Konica Aiborg, showing this film in action in various lighting.
In bright light, highlights can be hard to tame on the Ultrafine Extreme 400. However, in this case, the result is a very nice glow to this swan at Hagerstown City Park.
For a subject obscured in shade, with bright backdrop, the Ultrafine film did a good job of retaining shadow detail while not excessively blowing out the background.
Some subjects won't have quite the isolation that is often desired, but some of this came from using a film with a slow lens. The building in the backdrop is only somewhat muted on the Aiborg.
I was actually quite surprised that this shot came out as well as it did. A heavily shadowed pool with bright streams of light made for a very contrast laden scene, but the Ultrafine film creates an almost ethereal scene rich in both deep tones and glimmering highlights.
More evenly sunlit scenes tended to render a bit flat at times. There are no real black tones noted in this shot, only deep shades of grey.
Another challenging scene with bright and dark areas doesn't render as nicely, largely because, unlike the pool scene above, I didn't set the Aiborg to overexpose by 1.5 stops.
Cloud rendering is pretty nice with this film, though I'm not quite certain how the light spot originated on this exposure. The railroad tracks tend to get a bit too obscured and tree details are lost in this image.
Back to bright sun and water, the Aiborg seems to have found a very suitable film for use in decent lighting.
Correct focus on the fiddly Aiborg can be a challenge, particularly as I try not to irritate the ornery goose.
Sometimes, contrast could be a bit excessive. Still, the sharp rendering of the details in this scene on this film gives me an interesting amount of appreciation for the maligned Aiborg.
For landscapes in varied lighting, Ultrafine Extreme 400 can be a good choice. At its nicely discounted price, it's a nice option for casual shooting.
Closing this set in the same way in which it started - swans.
Overall, I'm particularly pleased with the Ultrafine 400 film. It makes an affordable choice for casual shooting on slower cameras where 100 speed film may be a more risky option. The availability of 12 shot rolls, while only slightly cheaper than full length rolls, makes a great test roll length when trying out new cameras in a quicker manner.
One word of warning is that the 120 film under the same label appears to not be the same product, and has been reported to be prone to quality control and grain clumping issues. It would appear the supplier of the medium format film marketed under the same moniker is not the same as that for the 35mm film.