Cue the secret agent movie music. A mysterious package arrived in the mail last week. Inside, a box of Agent Shadow, a new 400 speed black-and-white 35mm film from Kosmo Foto, the popular film photography website that previously brought us Kosmo Foto Mono 100.
Kosmo Foto (the site and film brand) are the brainchild of Stephen Dowling, whose love of Soviet rangefinders led him to turn his passion into a business. And now he’s attempting to release another film through Kickstarter. This new film is the culmination of many years of planning and is the perfect accompaniment to Kosmo Foto Mono 100, the first film Stephen brought to the market in 35mm and 120.
One thing I really enjoy about film photography is trying different black-and-white films and seeing how they compare to my favourite films, Ilford HP5 and Ilford FP4. I wasted no time loading the film into my trusty Pentax MV and reached for my Fedora and raincoat. It was then that I realised I didn’t own a Fedora and it wasn’t raining, but this is Wigan and it’s June, so any weather could happen. As it happens it was cloudy, which made it perfect weather for a 400 speed B&W film.
Full disclosure before we begin in earnest; I have personally backed the Kickstarter campaign at Agent Shadow Briefcase Box level. If Stephen’s campaign is successfully funded I will receive five rolls of Agent Shadow 400 and a graphic novel inspired by 1950s “Film Noir” spy movies, all packaged in a nice presentation box designed to look like a briefcase. To be clear, my experience and opinions on this film will remain objective. Read my experience, look at my shots, and decide for yourself whether you’d like to fund Stephen’s campaign.
The detail that Stephen has gone into to present this film to the world is a testament to his love of film photography and his belief that folks who back him should be rewarded with a quality product. You can see the Kickstarter campaign and all of the many funding tiers and rewards, including one which nets the funder a Soviet rangefinder camera in a real briefcase, at the end of this article. But all that aside, the most important thing is this – how does this film perform?
I will freely admit to shooting my roll at box speed even though Stephen’s intention with this higher speed film is for users to shoot it in low light, rated faster than it is, and to then push process. How far can it be pushed? 800? 1600? I will get to find out if and when my backing is fulfilled and I get five rolls to play with. In the meantime there are other sample rolls out in the wild which have been shot and developed in these more specialized ways. For now, I wanted to get a base reference that I can compare with the other 400 speed films I have used.
I am a sucker for urban photography. I like ornate buildings, back streets and alleyways that don’t often get seen. It didn’t take me long to check out some of my favorite haunts around town and it seemed all too soon that my roll of Agent Shadow was finished.
Stephen kindly gave me some development times and I went with HC-110 dilution B. I wanted to see if this film could be a daily driver, a reliable and easy to get along with film, which influenced my choice of camera as well – my Pentax MV and Hoya HMC 35-70mm f4. It’s an Auto Exposure camera, something everyone probably has in their collection as all the manufacturers made them, and it made my experience just that little bit easier. I could happily switch between f/11, f/8 and f/4 and let the camera worry about the shutter speed for a change.
I am very happy with how my shots on this sample roll of Agent Shadow 400 turned out. I got a roll of useable images that looks likely to include a few keepers amongst them that I will probably print and hang on my wall.
Stephen’s Kickstarter campaign and press release really lean into the “Film Noir” motif, with Stephen’s own excellent sample photos showing heavy contrast and crushing blacks. The photos look great, but how much of that distinctive look comes from the film and how much comes from the way it’s been shot and developed? Well, as my samples show, most of it comes from the latter. And that’s a good thing.
It’s good because his samples show that the film can be effective when shot in low light, rated at 800, or 1600, or even 3200 and then push processed in development. But my samples show that the film can also be used as an all-rounder. A normal film with respectable exposure latitude, fine grain, and nice tonality. It seems, at least for now, that Agent Shadow 400 is a more versatile film than even Stephen’s Kickstarter would have us believe. Good stuff.
[Samples below provided by Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto]
Stephen states in the campaign overview that he sourced the film from one of Europe’s oldest and most respected film companies. What that means to me is that by supporting the Kickstarter we’re support two businesses that are keeping film alive in the 21st century, and that can be nothing but a good thing in my humble opinion. But of course, the choice is yours.
If inclined, follow the link below to see how you can support Kosmo Foto and get your hands on Agent Shadow 400.
[Some of the links in this article will direct users to our affiliates at B&H Photo, Amazon, and eBay. By purchasing anything using these links, Casual Photophile may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. This helps Casual Photophile produce the content we produce. Many thanks for your support.]