CatLABS is an interesting company, their X Film lineup hit the markets several years back, and I reviewed X Film 80 and loved the stock. But they also included an X Film 320 in their initial lineup. I didn’t review that one because it was only available in 35mm and turned out to be Eastman Double-X 5222, with tweaked developing times. But last year, they announced new versions of both X Film 80 and X Film 320. I will be reviewing X Film 80 later this year, but in the colder, darker months, X Film 320 Pro is the film that will suit the duller grey days. What’s best is that this film is available in 35mm and 120 formats and has a wide latitude. Plus, the recommended developer is 510-Pyro, so what’s not to like about the film?
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Original Film Stock: Unknown, Possibly ORWO
Film Base: Acetate
Film Speed: ASA-320, Latitude 100-1600
Formats Available: 35mm, 120
Roll 01 – Kodak D-76
I threw the F5 and X Film 320 Pro into a tough situation with the D-76 roll as I headed out into the woods after a beautiful first snow here in Southern Ontario. And X Film 320 delivered the good stuff! Grain is visible, but not too bad, and adds to that lovely edge sharpness. And actually, I’m surprised at how sharp these images are, much more than I expected. The contrast was a little higher than expected also. But I think the harsh conditions with the bright new snow and the dark woods had a lot to do with that! So I’m glad I went with a 1+1 dilution over stock, and even in different conditions, the 1+1 dilution would be the better choice.
Roll 02 – Ilford Ilfotec HC
I’ll admit I did not give the film a fair enough shake for this combination. It was a heavily overcast day, adding rain into the mix. But I was surprised at how well the film handled the poor conditions. According to the CatLABS website, this combination offers high acutance, fine-grain, and low contrast. And the film lived up to those three descriptors. First, you’ll rate the film at ASA-200, only a slight over-exposure from box speed. The biggest surprise is that the stock dilution is 1+47 (Dil. E), not something you often see, and no other dilutions were offered up on the datasheet. And I loved the results, the contrast was higher than I expected, and the edge sharpness was excellent. The one thing I did note is that the grain is reasonably visible, a bit more than I was expecting. However, this does help with the acutance and, combined with the contrast, makes for sharp negatives.
Roll 03 – Adox Rodinal
I hesitated using Rodinal with this film when planning this review. But after seeing the results I got out of Ilfotec HC and remembering the excellent results I had from Bergger Pancro 400 (when pushed), I thought about using a 1+50 dilution to give the film the best chance. But being pressed for time, I went with something stronger, 1+25. I knew I had a winning combination when I pulled the negatives out of the tank. While there is certainly an uptick in visible grain, it isn’t overly noticeable and adds to that edge sharpness plus, despite the dull overcast skies when I was out shooting this roll, the contrast is deep and rich, with excellent tonal separation. The edge sharpness and tonal separation make for a beautifully sharp image across the board. You might be able to knock that contrast back by using the longer 1+50 dilution times or add a level of compensation by stand-developing this film.
Roll 04 – 510-Pyro
Right on the main page for X Film 320 Pro, it hailed 510-Pyro as the recommended developer for this film. And I’ll bet James Lane over at Zone Imaging is happy that a film is saying that a developer he makes and markets is recommended. But this isn’t a marketing gimmick, but because the film looks fantastic. Everything you like about X Film 320 Pro comes from that exceptional edge sharpness while retaining fine grain. The tonality is impressive, which only adds to the sharpness of the images, with excellent contrast. There is excellent imparted staining on the negatives, which will probably enhance your darkroom printing. Plus, you can pull out some amazing details from the shadows if your times are off a bit.
So the big question everyone is probably asking is, what is the original film stock for X Film 320 Pro? I don’t know, and CatLABS is keeping that a secret. Both the 35mm and 120 films washed off a deep navy-coloured anti-halation layer, which does look familiar, but that colour does come on many different B&W films. The edge markings are branded CatLABS, meaning the film is made specifically for CatLABS. All four developers I used for this review produced exceptional images, but my favourites are Rodinal and 510-Pyro, as they produced the results that I found the most pleasing. I also see this film performing well in XTOL (or similar clones), TMax Developer, and Berspeed. The film dries flat, and almost no cupping in this dry winter air. I did not try any rolls through my Nikon Coolscan V ED. X Film 320 Pro is easy to scan, with my V700 and Silverfast 9 SE handling the film with ease and editing is smooth and easy. I could see this film being excellent for processing as a reversal film, as the base is clear and has no sign of base fog.
Don’t just take my word on XFilm 320 Pro; you can check out the reviews by other excellent camera reviewers!
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