Svema, or by its proper name, Свема, is a film stock that is relatively unknown here in North America. But if you’re a fan of the Film Photography Podcast you will have heard of Svema. It would be Svema Foto 200 that first burst onto the FPP scene, and quickly became a favourite film of Leslie Lazenby. The name comes from the combination of two Russian words, Светочувствительные Материалы, translated means Photosensitive Materials. While Svema collapsed when the Soviet Union died in the 1990s, another Eastern European film manufacture, Astrum, continues the legacy of Svema using some of the old machinery in a new factory in Shostka, Ukraine. A film stock I have limited experience with, having shot a couple of rolls beforehand. And while those first two rolls I was not too pleased with the results, I now have to say I’m impressed with the images I got through this review.
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Film Base: Polyester (PET)
Film Speed: Box: ASA-100
Formats Available: 35mm
Roll 01 – Kodak D-76
I can honestly say, when I first pulled the film out of the tank, I stood immediately impressed. I’ve had rough experiences with Foto 100 in the past, but this time I’m rather impressed at the results. While they are a little under-developed, I would have added another 30 seconds to the developing time. But the results are still much better than I expected. The images do have a high-contrast look about them (but that could be due to the under-developing), but there’s still enough across the tonal range to make the images usable. Where I was expecting high-grain, I got very fine grain images, but soft at the same time — certainly an excellent combination for Foto 100.
Roll 02 – Kodak HC-110
I had some concerns when I pulled the negatives out of the tank. But like any film, you can’t tell anything until you get the proper light behind it. As I scanned and processed the images, they had a wonderful surprise in store. While the images came out at a much higher contrast than I expected the tonality is amazing. The addition of even a Yellow-12 filter gave amazing sky separation, and the images are both fine-grained and sharp. What is rather odd is that I don’t know where I found the developing time of 9.5 minutes as the Massive Dev Chart does not list it (there is an HC-110 Dil. B time of 11 minutes, but you push the film a stop). If I were to use HC-110 again, I’d give it another 15 seconds.
Roll 03 – Rodinal
Fearing an increased amount of grain and not even wanting to risk using a 1+50 dilution, I chose to stand develop the film. I do believe I made the right choice, the stand developing turned up magic with Foto 100. Now I know that Rodinal is a high-contrast developer, but even with the low dilution and developing technique I did not expect high-contrast, but the results are in the images. But you do have a decent tonal range. The sharpness balanced by fine grain, far finer than I expected. I can see this working well in a pinch, but wouldn’t be my first choice.
Roll 04 – Ilford Microphen
One of the two original developers I used with Foto 100, first was Xtol, the second Microphen. Those first photos came out dark and moody. And while the developer combination works, it is not my favourite. The images I find are a little softer than I would expect, but again you have that high-contrast look that I’ve come to know with Foto 100. Despite the contrast, the images have a fine grain and decent tones though a little dark. I think another 30 seconds in the developer might have helped it out. Also, I feel that a 1+1 dilution might help with the contrast. Not my favourite, but I wouldn’t turn it away if it were all I had.
The results I got out of Foto 100 seriously have impressed me and certainly has changed my mind for Svema Film as a whole. I can see using Foto 100 on a semi-regular basis. While a high-contrast film, I feel that it suits the film as a whole, a little harsh but giving off a nice classic appearance. In fact, because of what I got here, I decided to give a second look at Svema Foto 200 for a future review (planned for October) because I think I gave Svema a bad rap and certainly want to give it a chance to redeem itself in my mind. Here in North America, the best source for Svema 100 is through the Film Photography Project. You can purchase pre-rolled cassettes of 24-exposures, of if you’re into Bulk loading they sell 100′ rolls. First time with Svema, why not check out their sampler pack with three of each Svema flavours!