When it comes to slow, special use, motion picture films I’m not one to shy away from pushing them to their limit and see what I can do with regular developers. So when Michael Bartosek wanted some examples of his latest ultra-low find in Pyrocat-HD, I heard about it through a fellow film podcaster and threw my hat in to test the film. Not only did Michael send me two rolls of 2238 he threw in a couple of Fuji rolls of the similar type of film. But the real question is what exactly is Eastman 2238 Panchromatic Separation film? It turns out the film is rather special and unlike any special purpose Eastman film I’ve worked with before. Designed to make archival panchromatic black and white positives from colour or black and white negatives. It can also be used for special effects and restoration work. The stock replaced the older Eastman 5235. Having seen a lot of excellent work on the film and the fact that it is a panchromatic film made me excited to give it a shot.
Type: B&W Panchromatic
Film Base: Kodak ESTAR
Film Latitude: ASA-6 to ASA-25
Formats Available: 135 (35mm)
Right from the start, I realised that the film isn’t exactly designed for normal real-world photographic uses. Most people had been shooting and developing the film in my usual suspects of D-76, HC-110, Rodinal, and Kodak D-96. Exposure indexes ranged from 6 to 25. The first roll I ran at ASA-25, a normal Pyrocat-HD dilution of 1+1+100 and set the timer for nine and a half minutes. And a lesson was learned, the negatives were incredibly thin, some latent images. Obviously I was way out in several ways, so the next steps were of course what to do next? I had several options, add more time, drop the EI. I ended up going both dropping the EI to ASA-12 and giving it an extra 30 seconds in the soup. Far better results this time around, although I think another stop lower or another thirty seconds in the soup will make it even better. Thankfully I have another round of three rolls waiting to continue experimentation.
You will immediately notice that the film is panchromatic, you don’t lose any of the colours to either black or white as you do with other Eastman special-use stocks. Now, these images are a little darker than I would like, but I have already addressed that in my previous paragraph. There is a lot of contrast, that could be due to the fact I was shooting in near overhead light which never goes well for a film designed to be exposed in a controlled environment. To overcome to the slow speed and shooting handheld I stuck to an ultra-wide lens. That said, I rather like these images, and I certainly see great potential for amazing tonality across the board once I get the settings nailed down. The film certainly needs to be shot in bright indirect light, the sun would be the best but a flash could work in a pinch. Probably what makes the film even better is that there is next to no grain and everything is sharp. But not so sharp as to cut yourself on the images, but enough to show the world properly.
Here’s where I did run into some difficulties, for the most part, these days when working with 35mm stocks I scan using my Nikon Coolscan V ED, and for most films, it tends to lock on easily, both in accepting the film strip into the scanner and aligning the frames properly. The first roll the scanner’s autofocus feature could not lock on at all, and on the second roll, it didn’t align properly. Hopefully, I’ll be in better shape for the next several rolls and have the settings nailed down. Scanning the film in with the Epson V700 proved far easier and went along smoothly. I’ll admit I did have to do a bit of work in Photoshop with Levels, Curves, and Brightness before I got the images to a point where I was happy with them. But they did scan in rather well and required little adjustments to the levels, just the brightness to bring out some of the shadow details.
I have to say, first a first go around I’m pretty happy with the film and certainly am looking forward to working with it again. There’s a certain satisfaction with getting a film that isn’t designed for everyday photography use to produce general photographic images. And if you’re looking for something a little different, a little challenging, and want to try your hand and figuring out a development formula of your own then Eastman 2238 is a film for you! There are a couple of spots to pick it up, first is from the man himself, Michael’s Etsy Store and secondly from the Film Photography Project. If you do decide to play be sure to join the 2238 Project Group on Facebook (if that’s your jam).