Like Svema Foto 400, I’ve only ever shot a single roll of Kentmere 400, and that was when it was being bulk loaded by the Film Photography Project as their EDU line of films. And yes, like Kentmere 100, this film stock is also produced by Ilford/Harman for their export market. While I personally think the film is best for students and those photographers on a budget, I don’t mind the film. It’s a lot closer to the old Ilford Pan 400 than their HP5+ stock, and that’s not a bad thing. And while I can still only find the film in the old packaging, Ilford has certainly jazzed up the new look for Kentmere 400.
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Film Base: Acetate
Film Speed: ASA-400, Latitude: 200-800
Formats Avaliable: 35mm
Roll 01 – Kodak D-76
Sometimes you just have to up and face your fears. After the first try with Kentmere 100 and Kodak D-76, I’ve been dreading this particular roll. However, the results, while not my favourite, are not as terrible as I first thought. Are the images sharp? Yes, but fairly grainy when compared to say HP5+ or Tri-X. And I’m not talking a nice grain either, it’s pretty ugly. However, the images do have a lovely tonality and a far more decent contrast than I first expected. Again, the ones shot in poorer lighting condition are not as nice as one shot under the bright sun, but I cannot control the weather.
Roll 02 – Kodak HC-110
Like with Kentmere 100, I figured since I had good results with HC-110, I should have the same here with Kentmere 400. Although I did decide to go with a more dilute developer with Dilution E and I think it did some good. I wasn’t expecting any sort of fine grain or even a reduction in grain. Having given up on getting some fine grain out of Kentmere 400 from the start of these reviews. But what I did get was some decent tones and contrast. However, the images are a little soft on the edges and the grain is far heavier than I’d expect. While good in a pinch, it would not be my first choice.
Roll 03 – Ilford Microphen
Surprisingly I’m rather pleased with how the grain looks on the film, it’s classic. Sure it’s there and fairly visible, but I wasn’t expecting anything less. But it adds a bit of dimension to the images. It also helps make for sharp images. The tonal range is awesome and the contrast is smooth with clean whites and dark blacks. While I’m sure the Microphen helped with the grain and sharpness, it certainly tamed some of the aspects of the film I was worried about. Certainly a good combination!
Roll 04 – Kodak TMax Developer
I think TMax developer did it again! Now the day I was out shooting these images was not exactly the best day to be using a short telephoto lens as I was lucky to pull speeds of 1/60″ but honestly I could not have asked for better results. Going into it already knowing that I would find the images far more grainy than I would expect. I stood impressed when I got the images into the scanner and into Photoshop. Not only was there a grain reduction, but the images were far sharper than I expected. Not to mention a lovely strong contrast with great tones to go along with it. If I was down to only shooting K400, I’d go and soup it in TMax developer most of the time.
If there’s a single developer that can tame Kentmere 400 it’s Kodak TMax developer, I’m sure Ilford DD-X could do just as good a job. PMK Pyro does a good job and calculating a Pyrocat-HD time is easy which gives another option. I can’t recommend Kentmere 400, it’s far too grainy next to its 400-speed peers, and I’m not talking grain in a good way. I actually would compare the grain to that you’d get with Delta 3200, but it’s not as pleasing. No, even in a pinch I would just shoot digital instead of Kentmere 400. You can pick up Kentmere 400 in most brick-and-mortar camera stores as well as the usual online options. Though I personally would avoid it.