On Test: Belplasca Stereo Camera and Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow Film

On Test: Belplasca Stereo Camera and Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow Film

Kosmo Foto recently had a Kickstarter campaign for their Agent Shadow 400 ASA black and white 35mm film and I was lucky enough to be able to test some before it is released. I decided to use my current favourite 35mm stereo camera, a Belplasca, and share the results.

THE BELPLASCA CAMERA

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The Belplasca stereo camera was launched in 1954 by VEB Belca-Werk in Dresden, Germany. The 35mm film stereo camera has two Carl Zeiss Jena f3.5 37.5mm lenses; these quality lenses are part of the reason why I’m blown away by this camera, the images they produce are stunning!

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The lenses have apertures from f3.5 – f16 and shutter speeds of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 100, 200th/s and B for manual. The focusing ring goes from 1 m to infinity; however, with a lens separation of 64 mm, the best distance from the subject for good stereoscopic 3-D depth (very roughly speaking) is 1.9 m.

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The film frame format it produces are 24x30mm stereo pairs, which makes 20-22 stereo slides per 36 exposure film. This is another reason I enjoy the camera, the stereo pairs are a slightly wider format than the other half-frame stereo cameras I have, such as the Stereo Realist, Iloca Stereograms, TDC Stereo Vivid. I enjoy not only being able to fit more in the frame(s) I’m capturing, I also find them nicer to view in a stereoscope as slides or to make prints from.

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There are two drawbacks for me with this camera. First is the lack of rangefinder, like for the Stereo Vivid and the Stereograms/Rapid, although I’ve been lucky and mine seems to be accurate with its focusing ring. The other drawback is the price; the outstanding quality of the lenses means these cameras are quite expensive compared to other secondhand film stereo cameras now, but with hindsight, I’d say they’re worth the expense.

For more information on some other stereo film cameras and getting started in stereo film photography, please see this post.

KOSMO FOTO AGENT SHADOW 35mm 400 ASA B&W FILM

The Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow film is 36 exposure 400 ASA 35mm panchromatic black and white film, which is being launched by Stephen Dowling, who also manufacturers the Kosmo Foto Mono 100 ASA B&W films (which I use A LOT). The film was part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, which reached its goal and finished about a week ago. The film will be shipping around October-time so keep an eye on the Kosmo Foto website and other analogue photography stores to see if and when it’ll be stocked.

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Why am I so excited by this film? It’s because it pushes so well, which is not something I routinely do. Shooting and developing at the stock 400 ASA works well for portraits and street photography, but pushing it really makes this film come into its own; it can be pushed to ISO 3200 and beyond (singing Salt-N-Pepa/Garbage whilst you’re shooting and developing is entirely optional, but highly recommended).

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Still life with Belplasca camera and Agent Shadow 35mm film, shot and processed at 400ASA.

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Still life with Belplasca camera and Agent Shadow 35mm film, shot and processed at 400ASA. Slightly underexposed but it produces (what I find) a gorgeous tin-type-like result.

I better add, if you’re unsure what I’m harping on about with pushing, it’s where you choose all the camera settings to shoot at a particular ASA, and then develop the film for this speed too. In some of my photos you’ll see I opted for 800 ASA (+1 stop) instead of the standard 400 ASA, and I used a light meter to check I was using the correct settings. For a great guide on pushing and pulling film, please see this post from the Dark Room.

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Still life with Belplasca camera and Agent Shadow 35mm film, shot and processed at 800ASA.

I used Rodinal B&W developer in the stereoviews you’ll see made from this film. To develop the Agent Shadow at 400 ASA I used a dilution of 1:25, 20oC, for 7.5 minutes; at 800 ASA I used a dilution of 1:25, 20oC, for 9 minutes, and the results were brilliant! Pushing it increases the grain and contrast in the resulting images and it really adds another dimension to the three dimensions; it’s so atmospheric in a way that I can’t replicate with digital images and PhotoShop filters (I also just love using analogue and the processing gives me an excuse to pretend to be all sciency). I’m hoping to push it even further, and when I do I’ll add the results to this post.

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Still life with Belplasca camera and Agent Shadow 35mm film, shot and processed at 800ASA.

I’ve got to say, not only did I really enjoy using and developing the film, I also enjoyed stealing every idea possible from Victorian still life stereoviews. I used studio lighting so I could control it and keep it standardised, and all of the scans were made at the same settings (what can I say, I used to be a scientist!)

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Still life with Belplasca Camera and Agent Shadow 35mm film, shot and processed at 800ASA.

I wish Stephen the best of luck with his new film; I can’t wait to get hold of more and pushing it even further. For more results with the film, from much better photographers, please see the Kickstarter page. If you have a film stereo camera I really recommend having a go and please share your results!

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