Kodak Max 800 (expired ’06?)…for speed, not so much for low-light…
Since getting back into shooting film a couple of years back, I have had this re-occurring urge to shoot a live band on film. To do so however, I know from experience, that I would need at least 800 iso film at the very minimum. So whilst on another one of my random online film splurges, I purchased a 5 pack of Kodak Max 800 Expired in ’06 (from memory) that was assured to have been cold stored. Being a great believer in the old adage ‘Know Thy Gear’, I set about having a play and testing a couple of rolls as soon as they arrived.
(as usual click on images to see larger and sharper)
Being that it was after work when the rolls arrived, evening was already starting to set in by the time I hit the street. At least it would be a good initial low-light test.
I thought I might really push my luck and see if I could use the speed of this film to snag a shot from the skate park, even in this fading light. It did get me a shot, however it is rather grainy…but I did get the shot…
As I made my way back home, I thought I would chance a couple more general street shots in the now real low light. I get shots, but it is very grainy.
Come the weekend, I was eager to do some more testing and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet up with Graham in town for a bit of a shoot. I thought it was worth testing this high speed film in good day light to see how it respond under optimal circumstances. Of course being Graham and I we cannot resist a good bit of street shooting through town…would expired 800 iso colour film be considered an odd choice for street shooting? haha
It definitely does respond a lot better in good light. Grain is reduced and colour is increased. It also has those trademark popping Kodak reds.
Even in good light though you can see the grain and colour quickly degrade as you head into shadows. This is what is leading me to the conclusion that this film was designed to give speed for slow lenses in good light eg. a 70-200 f4.5 as opposed to be actually used in low light conditions.
None the less, when you do get an exposure which is within’ acceptable ranges for this film, it does look nice. It is not particularly sharp or detailed and it is pretty grainy, but the colour and contrast is nice.
Out early the next morning getting coffee, I was keen to get to some more testing and eager to give the skate park another try, even if it was dawn and not the most favorable lighting conditions again.
The following two, are two image stitches:
I wanted to test the film in good light but in more challenging conditions than my street test. So I took it down to a local nature reserve to put it through it’s paces in a landscape test. This would confirm for me if this film was indeed falling down in the shadows and thus not really suited to low light, but more in fact for action scenarios
….this bike rider was conveniently positioned in the same spot for some time…
It handles shooting into highlights much better than it does shadows. You could probably shoot this at around 640iso in most situations and probably get better results than at box speed.
Despite it’s grain, poor handling of shadows and odd colour shifts at times…it does render in a rather painterly way which could be used to great effect.
It converts to black and white really nicely due to the grain and contrast. So much so that I am tempted to convert a number of these.
So in the end, if you are looking for a film to give you a little extra speed with slow lenses in good light and you stumble across a few rolls of this, give it a try. However if you want to shoot low light or even just challenging lighting situations then perhaps gives this one a miss, it degraded very quickly when the light fades… I have ordered some fresh Kodak Ultramax 800 to try next, I have heard reports that this is a greatly improved emulsions. Here’s hoping.