David Collyer on rolling film

by David Collyer.

There’s something wonderfully regressive about loading your own film. I buy ends of bulk rolls, and roll it into to re-useable cassettes.

I’ve never been one for surprises when it comes to film stock. Call me boring, but I like predictability. Expired rolls leave me cold. I put a lot of time and effort into what I shoot, and I generally hope that when I process and develop, what I’ve visualised as I press the shutter, is what I get when I make the final print. I know where I am with the contents of my fridge. Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X have served me well over the years.

Recently I’ve been flirting with a little Kodak Double X or Eastman 5222 as its also known. A beautiful cinematic film, I buy ends of bulk rolls, fifty feet at a time, and wind it on to re-useable cassettes. There’s something wonderfully regressive about loading your own film, and I feel sure Greta Thunberg would approve at my reduction in waste. Down to my last thirty feet, I tried to buy some more recently from the eBay seller I’ve used for a while, only to find that the price has doubled, and it’s almost impossible to get hold of.

I scratched my chin, and pinged him a message asking advice. Like all good dealers in times of dearth, he put temptation in my way. “I’ve got something I think you’ll like….” he said. “I can let you have a bit to try. I can’t tell you what it is, I’m sworn to secrecy, but its street name is……Exeter Pan 400”. Nature abhors a vacuum, and there was soon to be one in my fridge, so I bit. A couple of days later a package arrived. Padded brown envelope, and a nice tin containing a thick black poly bag containing one hundred feet of Exeter Pan 400. Not only that, but he’d thrown in twenty five feet of Exeter Pan 100. A couple of days later ten reloadable spools arrived. This guy knows how to make friends.

I loaded a couple up, each with thirty-six frames of the 400, popped one in my trusty Leica M3, and headed up my local mountain, on a very cloudy day, with occasional shafts of wintry sun perforating the grey. The first roll was a disaster. I hadn’t loaded the spool properly, and the securing tape snapped. One roll wasted. As I was loading the second into the camera, the light improved and a herd of wild horses swept into view and gave me the photo opportunity I’d hoped for. I rushed home and developed the film in HC-110, and oh my! Stunning. Sumptuous blacks, pearly whites, and gorgeous mid tones, floating over a beautiful grain. On first impressions I love this film.

The following weekend I went to a very blustery Pembrokeshire and shot some more. First impressions weren’t wrong. This film does exactly what I want. It’s capable of capturing fine detail, but has a real drama to it. The beauty of Double X is that it has that film noir touch to it. Exeter Pan for me matches that. I’m not the type of photographer who can discuss in detail the finer points of the responsiveness of a film’s emulsion, and to be honest, over the years I’ve found the way you process and develop a film has more bearing on the final print than the name on the box, but this is a film I can really work with, and I fully intend to. It’s certainly more than worthy of a place alongside my normal choices, and I foresee a few more feet ending up in my fridge before too long. I just need to buy it all up before you guys track it down….

You can see more of David Collyer’s work at www.davidcollyerphotography.com and David is on Instagram at @david_collyer_photographer

Images © David Collyer 2022.

If you would like to read another David Collyer article then this might also be of interest https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2021/03/david-collyer-sting-was-wrong-friday-focus/

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