If there is one film that has achieved a little bit of a cult following these days it’s Adox Silvermax. Silvermax was the first true film to come out of the renewed Adox Fotowerks GmbH factory in Bad Sarrow, Germany and its parent company Fotoimpex. Based on a classic Agfa film, a modern take on APX 100, it has a higher than normal silver content and when paired with Adox Silvermax Developer presents a classic B&W look. If you were a fan of the older Adox and Efke films, then Silvermax will be your jam (I Hope). The official documentation states that Silvermax has a higher than normal silver content resulting in a higher DMAX (which is the maximum density that can be distinguished from black by a scanner or densitometer or whatever device. It is a single number representing a single density), has a finer grain, sharpness, and has an anti-halation layer between the emulsion and the base. Silvermax is one of several films I’m reviewing this year that I will not have D-76/ID-11 as part of the review process. The one thing you’ll notice is that there are none of my ‘standard’ developers in this review, while you can develop Silvermax in D-76/ID-11, Rodinal, and HC-110, I decided that to get the best results out of Silvermax, might as well go full Adox. So I went with Adox Silvermax developer, the matched pair for Silvermax, along with Adox Atomol 49 a historic developer that handles high silver content films. Adox HR-DEV is an interesting choice but only because it listed Silvermax as one of two films on the bottle. And finally, we have Adox FX-39 II because it’s just an awesome developer and might as well stick to the theme.
Type: Panchromatic B&W
Film Base: Triacetate
Film Speed: ASA-100, Latitude: 50-200
Formats Available: 135
Roll 01 – Adox Silvermax Developer
You know, it’s a shame that Silvermax film is going away because the results I got out of this first roll are amazing! That should come as no surprise as the Silvermax Film and Developer are made for each other. And the results speak for themselves. These images have a rich deep contrast, without being overly so. The blacks are blacks and the whites are clean and the tonal separation between them is excellent. This combined with an excellent grain structure allows for good overall sharpness and edge sharpness. While officially the documentation calls for a different agitation pattern I went with a standard pattern (constant for the first minute, then five inversions every following minute) and I’m happy with my results. The only downside is only ever shooting Silvermax in Silvermax developer once.
Roll 02 – Adox HR-DEV
I initially thought I would not use HR-DEV in this review, but after finishing off the five rolls I needed for the review of the developer I had just enough left for one more roll and decided that because Silvermax is printed on the bottle, I should use it for Silvermax. What struck me as odd is that I had to give the film a one-stop push for the published times. I’m sure I could have calculated out the ASA-100 times. And the results speak for themselves, you get a rich contrast, with deep blacks and bright highlights. You can see that the fine-grain nature of Silvermax maintains that with the one-stop push combine with the sharpness given with the HR-DEV. While the fifteen-minute development time combined with the weird agitation pattern (initially thirty-seconds then two inversions every two minutes), might turn people off, but I think it’s worth it to get that extra boost of speed.
Roll 03 – Adox Atomol 49
While Atomal is a recent addition to my chemistry kit, it certainly has made a bit impact. As a developer that handles older films stocks and film stocks with higher silver content I figured it would make a great choice for Silvermax. And it did not disappoint me in that endeavour. While not the same results as I got with the paired Silvermax Developer, these are darn close! First off there’s an excellent contrast here, despite the terrible lighting conditions I was shoot in, with good tonal separation. There’s also excellent edge sharpness and maintaining of fine grain. A worthwhile developer if you have a stash of Silvermax film but no Silvermax developer!
Roll 04 – Adox FX-39 II
As awesome as Silvermax has performed in all the previous developers, I honestly love the results from FX-39 II the best. There’s a certain brightness to these images, excellent tone without being too contrasty. There is a sharpness both thanks to tonal separation and edge sharpness both without increasing the grain. I knew I had a winning roll when I pulled the negatives out of the tank. Now, I did modify my agitation pattern slightly, using an initial agitation of only thirty seconds, but then ten seconds every following minute mark, based on notes found on the FX-39 bottle. And the scanning proved easy with much of the tonal curve being easy to match and produce stunning results. Another worthwhile developer for your Silvermax film if you don’t have Silvermax developer.
While I did not include any standard developers in this review, Silvermax does look okay in those developers. It renders similar to what is found in the original Agfa APX 100 films. My first roll of Silvermax I ever shot I processed in Kodak HC-110, while I was not impressed when I went into this review I cleared my mind of that first roll and found an amazing film. Which sucks, because now I have to give it up. Sadly, back in March 2021, Adox announced that Silvermax will cease production. Back in 2004, Adox acquired the last batch of a specialised sensitiser that is a key part of Silvermax film. That batch, surprisingly lasted sixteen years, and the last batch went on sale in March as a special 160-year edition of the film. Currently, there is no word on a new Silvermax II, but I’m confident that the folks at Adox will do their best to bring something new to the table.
Don’t just take my words on Adox Silvermax, here are some other reviews by fellow bloggers.
Emulsive – Adox Silvermax Review
Thorley Photographics – Adox Silvermax 100 – Film Review
Parallax Photographic Corp – Adox Silvermax 100 Film Review
Steve Walton’s Outdoor Blog and Photographic Journeys – Adox Silvermax Review
35mm Love – Adox Silvermax in D76 1+1