I love a good mystery. Even when it comes to film with limited available details, it’s always fun to crack the code. So when I arranged to gift my Nikon F2 to a fellow local film photographer, he offered up a roll of Tasma Type-25L (along with a couple of other rolls of film). Now I have worked with Tasma film before, having shot a roll of NK-2 that yielded results exactly in line when what I have come to expect from Russian films, that being lots of grain. After a bit of searching online, I landed on two sites, the first being the official product page from Tasma which told me a bit more about the film. Type-25L is an Isopanchromatic Aerial film, with a top speed of ASA-400 (450??), fine-grain and high resolution which is important for surveillance. The second link is to an online film store in Europe that gave a north American developer time and the ideal speed of ASA-125. Further searching on Flickr gave some more details, and confirmed that ASA-125 seemed to be the ideal speed to shoot the film. So I loaded it up into my Nikon FE and headed off for a winter hike at Mount Nemo with Heather.
Type: Isopanchromatic Aerial B&W Film
Film Base: Polyester
Film Speed: ASA-400, Latitude: 100-800
Formats Available: 135 (35mm)
When I started loading up Type-25L, my first thoughts are how thin the base of the film actually is; I’m talking Svema Foto 200 or Derev Pan 200 thin. But this should come as no surprise as most Russian films are all produced by a couple of manufacturers, and it’s far easier to use one base for all their films. If you look at the actual purpose for Type-25L, it’s designed for high-speed ariel cameras a thin polyester base is needed to avoid tears. I bring this up for two reasons; the first is that after a few frames, I noticed how light the film advance was, almost as if the film was not advancing. But after seeing the rewind knob move when I advanced to the next frame, I knew it was probably because of the thin base that it did not feel right. Of course, this thin base is always a bane of developing. I will admit, the film proved annoying to load onto the reel and took a couple of tries before I caught and loaded. But enough to the negativity of that base, the best part you’ve probably already guessed, it dries perfectly flat. I went with Kodak D-76 for the development because it was the only developer I had that Type-25L got a time listed. And here’s why you shouldn’t just trust your gut and always check, instead of mixing the developer 1+3 like the literature listed, I went 1+1. I made a quick recalculation in my head and dropped the time from the listed 7 minutes to 5 minutes. The reason is that I had gone from 1+3 to 1+1, and I am pleased with the results. And it gives yet another option in the growing number of development options.
Here is where Type-25L stood out to me; it is unlike any other Russian film I have used. Look at the grain you get with Derevpan 100, Foto 100, Type-25L has little to no grain. But it also has incredibly sharp negatives, acutance, edge sharpness. There’s nothing soft about this film. But there is a rich, almost a dynamic tonality in Type-25L, even with the dull light but helped out by the fresh snowfall. You combine the fine grain, sharpness, and dynamic tonality, Type-25L is an awesome film. You take a look at how the walls of the old quarry look, the skin tone on my lovely wife, Heather. Even the delicate woodgrain and pine needles are well rendered. I honestly think that Type-25L will show the world in the same way that Svema Foto 200 does, just the way it’s supposed to look in black & white.
Despite being used for surveillance purposes, Type-25L makes for a great mid-speed film for general-purpose work. But where it can shine is in landscapes and even portrait work! But because of the thin base, there is a level of hesitancy is exploring this film stock more, and the lack of availability and developing times. Sure there’s nothing wrong with D-76 but using HC-110, Rodinal, and other developers out there. Although I’m sure, this film would shine the most in Xtol. As for cameras, the FE took the thin base like a champ, but I’m not sure how well modern cameras like the F5 and Maxxum 9 will handle the base.
There’s a part of me that wants to get this film again and run a full four roll review for Type-25L. Honestly, this would make for a great film for general purpose photography, portrait work, and landscape. However, there is still the matter of handling the film and lack of development times. It’s a strange feeling for exploring a film stock more but not at the same time. Type-25L is not a bad film, it’s just an unknown right now, and I still can’t get past that thin base. Also, there’s the matter of getting the film. Type-25L only comes in bulk reels, and then it broke down into cartridges for us regular photographers. If you’re in Russia or Europe, you can order it pre-loaded through RetroCamera or Sreda Film Lab (SFL). Or if you’re adventurous order it directly from Tasma in a bulk roll. But right now there is no North American distributor (that I know of) for Type-25L, maybe, the FPP will get their hands on the stock in the future!