Whilst at the Photography Show in Birmingham last September I had the opportunity to meet with Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto and the promoter of two black and white negative films – Kosmo Foto Mono, rated at 100 ISO – available as 35mm and 120 roll film and the recently released Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow 400 ISO film, available as 35mm film which is being reviewed here.
Neither film stock is a new emulsion, Mono is made by a European manufacturer (Foma) and Agent Shadow by a respected manufacturer with over 100 years experience. More about that later.
There are those who would say that a rebadged film is a waste of time, but look at it this way – Ford does not make every component for their vehicles, a large number of parts are bought in from specialist manufacturers and nobody complains!
On to the testing of Agent Shadow. I exposed one roll at the box speed of 400 ISO and a second roll at 3200 ISO. Agent Shadow is advertised as having the capability of being pushed to 6400 ISO. Both films were processed in 510 Pyro developer using the appropriate development times. Agent Shadow is marketed a being an emulsion harking back to the Film Noir Era, low light levels, lots of contrast and deep shadows. Both the rolls I exposed were taken under fairly flat lighting conditions, so contrast would be a bonus.
For the purpose of the test I used a Nikon FM with either a Tokina 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 or a Nikkor 28 – 70 f2.8 lens. Exposure was set using a Gossen Lunasix lightmeter.
How did the film perform?
Having scanned both films at base settings I examined the results at 100% magnification in Photoshop. Both films displayed good contrast, a bit higher with the 3200 rated film – but this was to be expected and grain more evident but never obtrusive. Both films showed good levels of sharpness, combined with excellent shadow and highlight detail. Put plainly this film will work well under most conditions subject to correct development. If the film is processed in something like Rodinal, then expect more grain and a bit more contrast, but that is the nature of Rodinal and that is a matter of individual taste.
The above photographs were exposed at box speed of 400 ISO
The above photographs were exposed at 3200 ISO and processed accordingly
How does Agent Shadow rate against comparable films?
In practical terms, Agent Shadow has a slightly coarser grain structure than Ilford HP5 and Kodak Tmax 400.
Agent Shadow is described as ‘similar to Ilford HP5 but a little less silver content’. This is also the description given to Kentmere Pan 400 ( a clue to its heritage?) The processing times are identical another clue? Similarly Agfa APX 400 and Rollei RPX 400 also share the same processing times and are also both marked as produced in the UK, likely to indicate that they are the same emulsion all produced by Harman (Ilford). However since everyone has a personal favourite brand this is hardly an issue.
If you are looking for a good all round film that will push process well, look no further than Agent Shadow.