View Full Version : Old fashion film

17-Apr-2004, 00:38
I visited a web store that says "Old fashion film...gives the early to mid 20th century look". Well I wasn't born in that era, so may I ask what is the characteristics of those early films and what can be gained from it working with modern papers (MG/VC) & developers, etc.. Which is the best recommended old fashion films, currently available, for landscape and portrait work? Thanks.

Jay DeFehr
17-Apr-2004, 01:48
"Early to mid 20th century look" to my eyes, has a lot to do with the uncoated lenses of the period, orthochromatic films and contact printing papers/processes. All of those things can be duplicated to one degree or another using modern equipment and materials. I suppose that one should have an idea about what part of that "look" one is trying to acheive. If you want the ortho look, you can buy some ortho film, or use a blue filter with panchromatic film to render your skies white and women's red lipstick black. Uncoated lenses are pretty easy to come by, but the accumulated quality of a large format contact print on albumen, or Platinum, or any of the mostly gone for good contact papers will be tough to duplicate without following the same path through LF/contact print/Azo or Platinum or Albumen etc.. I think the advertisement you read was more marketing than practical.

Tim Curry
17-Apr-2004, 07:23
Jay, with all due respect, I beg to differ with you. I was under the impression that if you use this film, your clothing, eyeglasses, automobile and general appearance will be what actually changes, along with some forms of speech and family situations.

For example, your clothing will suddenly turn from synthetic to natural fiber. Your car will run on leaded fuel. Your children will become more respectful. Steve Allen will be back on tv. You won't be able to buy radial tires for your car and your computer will stop working. Your digital spot meter will no longer function, things like this can be expected.

Aaron, try some of the Efke 100 for landscapes and Efke 25 from J&C for portraits and see if this isn't true. tim

Ralph Barker
17-Apr-2004, 08:14
I would agree with Jay regarding the emphasis being on marketing. Using current "traditional" emulsions, such as Pan F, FP4+ or HP5+, perhaps on warm tone papers, perhaps with toning, will give similar results. Lenses also tended to be a bit softer in the early days, but that, too, can be simulated with a bit of diffusion.

For illustration, here's a scan of a portrait of my great aunt from 1907. The scan is pretty close to the actual tone of the print.


Gem Singer
17-Apr-2004, 08:14
Hi Aaron,

J&C Photo have been using the advertising phrase "old fashioned films" to designate the films that they import from various European countries. Unlike the newer "fabricated grain" films, like T-Max and Delta, these films are conventional, "random grained" films.They are supposed to have have a higher silver content, a thicker emulsion (some are double coated), and are purported to respond better to Pyro developers than modern films. They are manufactured the "old fashioned way". I don't believe they are referring to the look of ortho films.

Bergger BFP - 200 film is a good film to use for landscape and portrait photography, if you desire to try some for yourself. It's available at many photo supply outlets.

Tim Curry
17-Apr-2004, 11:10

One other aspect of the "Old Look" which I never hear mentioned is the fact that film speeds many years ago were slow. Compared to today's films, a snail would be faster than some of the older elulsions.

I'm convinced that some of the "look" was not due to uncoated lenses or soft focus, but simply because the longer exposures tend to blur a hard image and give it a softer look. A coated, sharp, properly focused modern lens will not give a tack sharp portrait if shutter speeds are measured in seconds.

I'm sure you can duplicate that look if you wish on modern papers, but it may take a bit of experimentation with film, developers, toning and printing.

View Camera magazine has some fascinating articles about older techniques, lenses, printing and artists who have moved back in time to do work which is very nice. With some of this work, it is impossible to say in which time period it was done. Take a look at the last few months and you will see good examples of various techniques.

18-Apr-2004, 06:01
"I suppose that one should have an idea about what part of that "look" one is trying to acheive".

Jay, you're right! You put me back on track. Thanks.

Tim & Steve, actually I'm thinking of trying out either Bergger, J&C or Efke film. I've read that Efke film scratches easily. Do you have this problem?

Ralph, thanks for the nice portriat. I'm surprised her lips are not darker. Was she in the nursing profession?

Thanks you for response.

David A. Goldfarb
18-Apr-2004, 08:16
Marketing hype or not, Efke PL 100 is a nice film based on the old Adox thin emulsion formula. It does scratch easily, but one can just be more careful when tray processing or use a method that's less prone to scratching like tanks/hangers, daylight tank, or drum processing. Here's a test shot I posted a while back on APUG:


and here's a detail from the same frame:


Jay DeFehr
18-Apr-2004, 12:30
Good luck Aaron. I really don't think there are any bad films, but the differences are often overstated, I think. Jay

Tim Curry
19-Apr-2004, 06:39
Efke film does use a "soft" emulsion and will scratch if not handled carefully. I would say that you won't have problems if you learn to handle it with care. Technique is very important. Just be consistent and use a little common sense when it is wet. I do like the look I get.

19-Apr-2004, 22:45
Thanks again everyone for your generous contribution. Really appreciate it!