It was raining in the city by the lake, a hard rain. A hard rain would wash the silver halides off any type of film. I was looking for something or someone for that matter. Someone contacted me about something new hitting the streets. A film stock would deliver the look of those old detective movies from the mid-century. I spent hours in the old one-screen cinema watching these films when I was a kid, growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. He called himself Shadow, Agent Shadow, although, given his love of cloak and dagger, I think the “agent” part was made-up, he let me know about the Thirty-Six Frames, and I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. Agent Shadow is the latest film release under the Kosmo Foto brand, and it’s something that I have a feeling I’ve reviewed before. But that’s the fun part about rebrands: if you’ve struggled with a film stock before, you can always give it a chance for redemption. Like Stephen’s last release (Mono 100), Agent Shadow features beautiful box art with a pulp fiction vibe!
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Film Base: Acetate
Film Speed: ASA-400, Latitude 100-3200
Formats Available: 135
Roll 01 – Ilford ID-11
I certainly made a couple of mistakes with this first roll. The first is over-exposing by a stop, shooting at ASA-200, and the second is going with the listed ID-11 times rather than the D-76 times. There’s a big difference between the ID-11 and D-76 times. I went with the listed ID-11 times, as that is what I was using. I honestly feel I should have gone with the D-76 (shorter) times, as the negatives were dense, and the scans almost had an over-cooked look. And I think it affected the final scans, which had low muddy contrast and a great deal of visible grain. These probably would have done better with the shorter times, and a yellow filter on the lens might have pumped up the contrast.
Roll 02 – 510-Pyro
Fire makes everything better, and while I didn’t light Agent Shadow on fire, I did develop in Pyro developer. Rather than using Rodinal (although it does a good job), I decided to give this film a bit more of a chance. And I’m glad I did; these are excellent results. First off, 510-Pyro is a magic bullet pulling out all the best parts of these images. First, you have a superb tonality about these with clean whites and good blacks. I could also pull out shadows and highlight details in a few. While you still get some grain present in these images, it isn’t too bad and lends well to the edge sharpness in these images. And with these shots at box speed, I think you get the full effect with that deep rich contrast that certainly lends itself to the spy branding on the film.
Roll 03 – Ilford Ilfotec HC
Let’s kick things up a notch; for this roll, I decided to shoot at ASA-800, and instead of diluting my developer to my usual 1+63, I used a 1+47 dilution based on the times that Kosmo Foto provided. I wanted to test a theory that Agent Shadow likes under-exposure and push processing. I feel that ASA-800 is a bit of a sweet spot for Agent Shadow, but I wouldn’t use Ilfotec HC, but rather something like XT-3 or 510-Pyro at this particular speed with a little more compensation. That said, the results surprised me. The tonal range is superb, with a bit more contrast but nothing too intense. The grain is controlled but adds to the edge’s sharpness. I think some of the negative things with this film are due to the dull day, but it certainly helped with that one-stop under-exposure; but where there is a vast difference between the sky and ground, I had to pump up the shadows to get some detail back.
Roll 04 – Adox XT-3
Emboldened by a fellow blogger who took their roll of Agent Shadow up to ASA-6400 and then developed it in Rodinal, I decided for the final registration to take things up to only ASA-1600 and then set in Adox XT-3 using a stock dilution. And the results surprised me; the tonality is right on the money! There is still plenty of contrast, with dark blacks and clean whites but also lots of excellent grey tones between them. Is there grain? Of course, there is, but in this case, I’m surprised at how nicely XT-3 smooths things out but keeps that edge sharpness intact. These are probably my favourites for the whole review.
I find it interesting to revisit film stocks that I’ve struggled with to try and figure things out, and Agent Shadow is no different. These reviews are also a learning opportunity for me, experimenting so that you, my readers, can apply and learn from my mistakes. Agent Shadow is a film that loves under-exposure and strong developers, with a sweet spot around ASA-800. So the real question is, who is Agent Shadow? What I do know is that it’s a rebranded Harman Technologies product. I like this film; it’s fun and presents a good fast option, which I think handles the faster speeds better than Delta 3200 or TMax P3200. The one thing I cannot recommend is over-exposure and pulling in development. With Ontario firmly in the grips of winter, this is a great film for those dull winter days or indoor applications. Plus, the box art is amazing, and who doesn’t love a good spy thriller?
Don’t just take my word on Agent Shadow; you can check out the reviews by other awesome camera reviewers!
Studio C-41 – Only the Shadow Knows: A First look at Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow
Casual Photophile – Film Review – Agent Shadow 400, A New Film from Kosmo Foto
Emulsive – For the new black and white film, say the secret codeword: “Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow” … but is it a film noir film?
Canny Cameras – 5 Shots in the Not So Dark, Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow 1 Roll Review
Silvergrain Classics – Testing Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow
Japan Camera Hunter – Film Review: Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow
Matt Loves Camera – Agent Shadow Review – Shot at ISO1600