On vacation with a roll of JCH Streetpan 400

It seems like it’ll be every two years now, that my Ohio State friends from Blackburn House (now sadly demolished) get together for a weekend of shenanigans and nostalgic activity.  I’ve sort of appointed myself official weekend photographer (can’t trust anyone else anyway so why not?) and took more pictures with the SLR this time.  Not that they’re anything special, but it’s good to have some output to post here.

This roll of film is courtesy of my fellow blogger/film shooter (and really nice guy) Mark Ewanchuk. We were having some discussion over problems scanning it with the Pakon F135.  I’ve asked the Pakon group on Facebook, and they tell me that it has to do with being a polyester base, and that only machines with a true black & white mode can handle it (there are workarounds and patches to PSI for the F135, I’m told).  Well, my F335 is currently in storage while I try to thread my way through a housing crisis, but since the local camera store uses an F235, I wanted to see if they’d have problems with it.  I didn’t talk to them about it, but evidently it turned out fine.  They run the machine on automatic so the scans (especially those where the exposure isn’t quite on) probably aren’t quite as good as they’d be if I were doing them myself, but still good.  Mark, whatever problem you’re having with getting your F135 to scan it, I’m sorry, if you care enough to ask on Facebook, I’m sure that they could help you out.

JCH Streetpan 400 is an AGFA traffic surveillance film from the ’90s that has been brought back to life, not a brand-new film emulsion.  And in reality, we’ve probably reached the end of technological progression in chemical imaging with Kodak Portra 400 and Ektar 100.  No new R&D is being conducted so I don’t expect that there will be any more advances now.  I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing, however: we have over a century of different films that have been gone for a long time, that my generation never got to shoot with, and the possibility of delving back in time with long-discontinued emulsions is an enticing thought for me.  That’s what JCH is, that’s what Ferrania will be.  The possibility exists of a Kodak Etkachrome revival (I hope this happens, I’ve never shot Ektachrome).  It’s interesting times we live in.  The Resurrected Camera meets The Resurrected Film.

My first thoughts are that it doesn’t handle incorrect exposures all too well, seems to be pretty high-contrast (at least in D-76 1:1 which is what the local camera store processes), and while occasionally grainy, is quite sharp.  Not unlike Double-X, but faster–a good film to shoot with older lenses.  The newest film on the market right now, JCH Streetpan 400 is lovingly brought to us by Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter.  I’ve had thoughts about this film before, and that mostly revolves around the question of competition.  Off the top of my head, we already have: Tri-X, T-Max 400, Delta 400, HP5, Bergger Panchro 400 (on its way in 135 size), Bergger BRF400, ORWO N74, Kentmere 400, Ultrafine Xtreme 400, Rollei RPX 400, Rollei Retro 400, Fomapan 400.  Maybe more that I don’t know about.  Did we really, really, need another 35mm 400 speed black & white film?  Was that really what the majority of photographers expressed a need for?  I don’t know a lot about AGFA films, maybe there weren’t a whole lot of choices available, but I’d think something more toward the high or low end of the speed spectrum would do better and be more relevant, where there are much fewer choices.  Maybe a native-1600ASA film?  Or how about AGFA Scala?  Something more unique.  Something that fills an empty niche.

Maybe I don’t want to judge too quickly having only shot one roll of the stuff, but it’s not going to replace Tri-X in my camera.  And that’s the main problem.  I think it’s an uphill battle to convince people that they need this film, and with the rising exchange rate of the Yen, it’s going to get more expensive to buy.  Right now, expect to pay somewhere around $8.50 a roll.  I’m not saying it’s not worth it to buy, it’s just that I don’t see why we needed it in the first place.  So why should you buy it?  Because it’s there.  Because it’s there at all.  Because someone cared enough to pull a long-discontinued film out of the pages of history and give it another chance at life.  I plan on buying a few rolls soon and putting them away, just to have them, and also because I want to support Bellamy in his efforts.  I hope he is successful, and that more emulsions follow.  I just hope that next time, it’s a film that’s actually worth making is a bit more unique.

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