I did not intend to shoot my first roll of EZ400 pushed a stop on a bright and sunny day, but the previous weekend I was out in London with the intention of shooting a few frames, and it was pretty overcast. A proper ISO 800 day. I fired off one or two photos and then stashed the camera in my bag as I spent the rest of the day in good company, with good beer.
And so the next weekend, at the last minute, I decided to grab my trusty Leica M6 for one of those long solo hikes you take to get away from the bustle and reset. I also grabbed a second roll of EZ400. I decided to continue shooting the roll already in the camera pushed a stop, and the second at box speed. The idea was to develop both rolls using the semi-stand method, using some Ilfotec HC. This (along with the M6’s maximum shutter speed of 1/1000) gave me quite a bit of wiggle room with regards to exposure. I was curious how the film would perform when metered differently, but developed in exactly the same manner.
The photos ended up being of a wider range of subjects than I planned for. The hike ended up presenting a range of opportunities that would also be a good test of the exposure latitude of the film. Exposures ranged from f16 at 1/1000 when I was shooting those luscious landscapes from the North Downs, down to f2.8 at around 1/60 on tree covered footpaths kissed with that magical dappled light. I even squeezed in a bit of street photography at the end of the hike.
Before I get to the results, the recipe I used for development for both rolls are as follows:
1. Ilfotec HC (or Kodak HC-110) diluted 1:119 at 20°C 2. 1 minute of agitation at the start 3. 10 seconds of agitation at 30 minutes 4. Stop bath (a thorough rinse with plain water will do just fine) at 60 minutes 5. Fix as usual
Very straightforward, and perfect for busy (read: lazy) film photographers like myself. The results? The results took me totally by surprise. Both rolls produced negatives with a density that is equally easy to scan as they are to work with in the darkroom. And there is a lot to work with. I could pull out much more detail than I had expected from both shadows and highlights.
The roll exposed at ISO 800 is, as expected, noticeably grainier than the one shot at 400, but nowhere near as harsh as I thought it would be. In fact, I find it quite pleasant and wouldn’t hesitate to push EZ400 a stop (or two) next time I need to. I’m pretty sure using semi-stand development had something to do with this. The characteristic bloom this film produces in the highlights also seems softer than what I’ve seen in photos from other photographers that have posted results from their first rolls.
I also printed three frames in my darkroom. I chose them according to how difficult I thought they would be to print, from pretty easy to “why would you do this to yourself?”. I hadn’t been in the darkroom in more than two years, and wanted to get some practice in as much as seeing how this film prints. Dialling things in and understanding the characteristics of the film, matched with my enlarger, maybe took two or three test strips and a couple of test prints. I could have spent a little more time with the final prints, but as you can see, the negatives shot at ISO 800 produced great results.
I know two rolls isn’t an ideal sample size, but I personally think that EZ400 paired with semi-stand development is the perfect combination. I’ve shot many films, and tried many developers and developing methods over my many, many years of shooting film, and these two rolls have given me photos with a character that really appeals to me personally. If you plan to a pop a roll of EZ400 in your camera, I’d highly recommend giving semi-stand development a go.
Addendum: Since I originally wrote this, I accidentally shot a roll of EZ400 while exposing for 1600, because I thought my camera was loaded with some HP5. I developed it using the same method as the two rolls above. While there were some shots that were passable, this is not something I’ll go out and do deliberately. The shadows are quite muddy and have little to no detail. Not my favourite look. See a few examples below.
Note: This article originally appeared on the New Classic Film blog. I full well know what stock EZ400 is. I had been shooting a lot of it before EZ400 was released, and it’s become one of my favourites using this development technique. I’ve decided not to “expose” the stock out of respect for Ribsy and all he does for the film community. If you’re complaining about the rebranding here, you’re missing the point.