I have a long and strange history with Eastman High Contrast Positive Film II, AKA Eastman 5363. When the Film Photography Project began to hand-roll and resell the strange and specialised motion picture films I started working extensively with it and if you’re a long-time reader of the blog you’ll recognise the film stock from previous entries. I have probably done enough with the film to write a full out film review on the stock, but that would be old news. So, having one more roll in my possession, thanks to Alex Smith, I decided to give it the one-roll treatment, one final time.
Type: B&W Panchromatic
Film Base: Kodak ESTAR
Film Latitude: ASA-6 to ASA-25
Formats Available: 135 (35mm)
Like any specialised motion picture film, there is a lack of developing time for regular developers. Now in the case of this roll, I could have easily used some Cinestill D96 (Kodak D-96) a motion picture film developer with the roll, but I didn’t even think about it until typing up this entry. I have my mind fixed on one thing, Pyrocat-HD. I had good results with PMK Pyro through previous experiments and could get a rough time by calculating from the PMK Pyro times (eleven minutes) to land on about ten minutes. The results are about the same, so I think that an extra thirty seconds might help pull out the shadow detail. I say might because 5363 is a strange film in the fact that it is a blue-sensitive orthochromatic film. But either way, the developing did render the film rather well in my view.
Hello, contrast my old friend. It should not come as any surprise that this is a high-contrast film. I mean it’s in the name of the film. And as the film is designed to make titles, you don’t need much in the way of tonality across the board. That said, you can get some tonality into the greys but not to the same extent as a panchromatic film. Eastman 5363 is a blue-sensitive orthochromatic film. I shot the roll in some deeper shadows than the film is probably sensitive to, which is why I said thirty-seconds in the soup might help. But in full direct bright sunlight, you will get stunning contrasty, rich images. They have a chrome feel, again no surprise as 5363 is also designed to be a positive film. There’s next to no grain, and everything is sharp as a tack, you could cut your eyes looking at the images too closely.
I didn’t try to run the film through my Coolscan V ED, as I find the scanner has trouble taking certain hand-rolled speciality films. But in the Epson V700, it was a breeze. They scanned in pretty close to what you see on screen; levels were spot on the right off the scanned images. Due to the film’s yellow base, there was a slightly yellow, almost sepia tone to all the scans, which I could have left. The tone distracted from some of the mid-tones, so I just desaturated each scan then readjusted from there. In some cases, I did give a bit of a boost to the brightness to help bring out some shadow detail as best I could.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Eastman 5363. It is one of the few speciality films from Eastman Kodak that I’ve come to work with a lot and enjoy the look in certain situations. While not a film for everyday pictorial use, it gives a rich tone to any scene and I’ve seen some amazing work with portraits using the film. As I mentioned before you do want to shoot the film in full bright daylight to take advantage of the blue-sensitive nature of the film. You also don’t want to use any contrast filters as they do nothing but act as a neutral density filter for the film. Blue filters do little for the film as well. But sadly I have also learned that Eastman 5363 has been discontinued, so getting your hands on the film will be difficult. There might be some bulk rolls floating around eBay and Downtown Camera carries the pre-rolled stuff from the FPP. As of writing this post, the FPP store itself is out of stock. So if you do get your hands on it, enjoy it, don’t just save it for a rainy day.