In August this Year Kodak Alaris announced the effective death of my favourite B&W film BW400CN.
This is a bit of an unusual B&W film in that it is meant to be developed in the same way that colour negative film (C41) at any photo lab. This is handy if you want to try out shooting B&W as you can have your films processed cheaply and anywhere.
There are 3 C41 films currently on the market. The others are Ilford XP2 super and Fuji Neopan 400CN (weirdly Ilford make it for Fuji – only available in Japan & UK).
All 3 films if correctly exposed have very fine grain due to their CN background although XP2 is a wee bit grainer IMHO. They do have good latitude but grain does become more evident as it does with CN when the exposure is off.
Kodak BW400CN is my favourite, very fine, next to no grain and can cope with a bit of over and under exposure. The backing plastic film sometimes adds soft subtle coffee tones to lab scanned images. Unlike the Neopan 400CN which warns of storing above 15°C it seems more tolerant with just a minor warning to protect from heat & X-rays. Contrast is good (better still with a K2 yellow filter)
They can be criticised for the lack of grain in comparison to traditional B&W and the fact that they are more expensive than some traditional B&W film (and if you self process the cost can be very cheap). The first is taste and the latter is great if (a) you have the time/space/inclination to self process or (b) are happier paying someone to do it for you (and that someone isn’t going to be your supermarket lab for a couple of quid). They are also a great bridge allowing people to dip their toes into B&W. I can shot a roll of BW400CN and get processed for £6-7 all in.
Interestingly with some tweaks you can develop BW400CN in B&W chemicals if you want (although Kodak doesn’t recommend). If C41 processed worth noting whilst great for scanning or using with C41 film paper, if you want to do darkroom stuff they don’t work easily with B&W photo paper due to the colouration of the plastic carrier material.
Kodak indicate the film will be around for at least 6 month so don’t panic. And certainly don’t fall for the chancers looking for over the odds as you can still find for around the £4-6/roll mark on ebay and even Boots still sell for about £6/roll if you buy 2 rolls on their buy one get one half price. It’s supply will likely continue for some time and in fact cost might dip as reputable sellers find stock nearing expiry date. You can still pick up expired T400CN it’s predecessor fairly cheaply so likely will be around on the expired market for some years to come
- For the technical minded you can look at the full specs here
- Want to try developing it in B&W chemicals this flickr discussion may help