In the category of gone too soon is New55 and their amazing film stock, Atomic-X. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve spoken on Atomic-X when they first started releasing just their negative material for their revival attempt at the iconic Polaroid Type 55, I grabbed a box of one-shot envelopes to try out. The Atomic-X negative was in reality based around their goal of a Postive/Negative material, however, when I tried the New55 PN I got no usable results, the envelopes fell apart on me or the chemicals failed to spread it just became a disaster. But when they offered up 25-sheet boxes of the material I picked one up and it sat and sat and sat. I figured I had time on my side, but sadly I did not! Originally Atomic-X was slated to be included in the main body of Film Review Blogs, and then in December of 2017 New55 closed up shop, the dream of a modern Type 55 died, the niche that held Type 55 far too small to support a boutique film stock.
Atomic-X is the perfect blend of three favourite films of mine, it really is. You have the contrast and tonal range of Plus-X, you have the super-fine grain of Panatomic-X, and the grain structure of Tmax 100.
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Film Base: Acetate
Film Speed: ASA-100, Latitude: 32-1000
Formats Avaliable: 4×5
Group 01 – Kodak D-76
The only officially published time for New55 Atomic-X is in Kodak D-76 or Ilford ID-11, so it seems like a good place to start when reviewing the film. If you like contrast on your film, then this is your best option, while not my personal favourite for the film as I know it can do so much more. But it’s not a bad choice to get a benchmark on the film itself. You get rich tones, high contrast, and fine grain. Not to mention bright whites and rich blacks Exactly what I expect from the film. And sharpness, the film has it in spades! Using D-76/ID-11 would probably be one of the best choices if you wanted to print these in the darkroom.
Group 02 – Kodak Xtol
This group of shots were from my initial work with the Atomic-X material and the ones that blew my mind when it came to a new film stock. As I mentioned with the previous group the only published times for Atomic-X were with D-76/ID-11 and when I started poking around on Flickr the only other times were with the New55 monobath. But when I ran across the piece of advice to use Plus-X times I was set and ready to go. And here was have it, a single stop pull you get that amazing contrast with every grey point represented. Now you do lose some of your bright whites and deep blacks when you meter correctly, but honestly, this really shows off the tonality, fine grain, and sharpness of Atomic-X.
Group 03 – Rodinal
When I pulled these sheets out of the tank, I knew I had nailed it. The D-76 images were fairly contrasty, but I think the stand-developing helped smooth it out. Honestly, this was exactly how I expected the sheets to turn out. Tonality is spot on, and the bright whites and deep blacks were there. But none of the heavy contrast as before. The detail in these images is incredible, even from a phone you can count the leaves on the trees. I honestly feel this is one of the best developers for this film.
Group 04 – FPP Super Monobath
Atomic-X was originally designed to be the negative portion of New55’s PN material, so it only makes sense that it’s a film designed for a monobath! So why not give the FPP Super Monobath a go! However, these turned out way underdeveloped. So I can probably peg the issue to one of two things. The first being that Atomic-X does not like the FPP Super Monobath, that I highly doubt as the developer does work well with similar speed films and was tested with Ilford Delta and Traditional films. The second issue is the more likely one, that the developer was toast. I had already pumped through three rolls of 35mm, so expecting it to develop four sheets of 4×5 the chemicals probably were like ‘nope’ and that was that. That being said, there is certainly potential here, the images have deep contrast, an increase in grain but those are due to the undeveloped nature of the negs, I mean of the four I processed, I only could pull out two images and that was with a lot of work in Post-Production. But these aren’t BAD, certainly worth another look, but with a fresh bottle.
Group 05 – Ilford Perceptol
And for the final round in this retrospective, I again return to the old Plus-X times and settled on a slight pull to ASA-64. Now I’ve done this before and the results were excellent. So I was expecting a similar amazing result. Sadly, in this case, I’m not sure if my bottle of Perceptol was starting to die, or I should have added another thirty seconds onto the time. Either way, the results were a little under-developed, but nothing I could not fix in editing. And the results are still pretty good with amazing detail, fine grain, and sharpness. A little more contrasty than I was expecting, but nothing too bad. I think another thirty seconds would do the trick, or pull it back to ASA-50 and use the same times.
I had high-hopes for Atomic-X a new sheet film that predated the massive run of new films that we got in 2017 and 2018, but sadly New55 aimed for the instant market and it never caught on. Polaroid Type55 is a magical stock and New55 made an effort to recreate this magic and never quite made it. And I can take part of the blame as it took me until 2018 to actually crack open my box of Atomic-X when I should have been shooting it far earlier and then getting a second box. And while I don’t think a singular LF shooter in Canada could have saved the company, it might have helped get the word out a little better. If the product is still available next summer, I might get another box. While officially discontinued in production, the stock is still available online, through Famous Format which is the continuation of the New55 store.