Saturday, March 1, 2014

FilmPhotography Project - SVEMA 125 C-41 film

Recently I was sent a batch of new films in the FPP vault.  Some B&W, some colour.
The Colour films included some Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance film, and some fantastic SVEMA 125ASA C-41 film.  This stuff has a really bizarre colour palette, and some lovely grain.  It's a really impressive film, actually..
Well, being the first time I was shooting it, I decided to load it into my T90 and set the camera to use ASA64.  1 stop over, why not!  It's how I roll..!So I went about my business shooting the roll with abandon.  Travelling with a group of film shooting nuts, like +Alex Luyckx and Ori Carmona, including one Sara Mir, who out of nowhere produced a Yashica-A TLR!  It was like magic!  I turned around, and there is was in her hand.  So I quickly focused in my Canon T90 (with a Vivitar 28mm ƒ/2.5 mounted) and snapped off this photo.  I angled the lens just enough so that I saw the light flaring across the lens, and just had that feeling.. "BANG" I nailed the shot that'll really capture the moment.

Sometimes the light is just perfect the moment you focus in the image, and using the T90's legendary SPOT metering system, and setting a relatively wide aperture, it was just perfect!

I almost always use the camera in Manual or Aperture priority mode, and this time the Aperture Priority mode really nailed what I was after.
Perfect light, perfect shadow..
And a flare that will set this photo apart from the rest

Sure I got some images of others that day, like Alex, who is always sporting his killer WWII style trench coat. He was also sporting a fancy looking Contax G2 camera.

Naturally when we left, another photographer sporting a Leica M5 just so happened to notice his G2 and quickly stated, "I love that camera!"
So, yeah, I can't deny, it really is a sweet looking picture taker!

Well, we were hiking through the wonderful place known as "HIGH PARK" and discussing all sorts of things during the walk, from Digital Negatives, alternative processes, and Alex's new found love of Pyrocat PMK!

Seeing his TXP320 work for his 52-sheet project, I can't deny his love of that developer!

WOW!...  It really is a lovely mix.  Then again, TXP320 in 4x5 is an awesome film.  Beautiful grain, and a tonal range that makes your heart beat just a little bit faster.  Yup, it's a gorgeous film, we can all agree on that!

This film, however, the Svema 125, is about as good as the FN64 was in B&W.  I haven't posted my blog on the FN64 yet, but lets put it this way.  It's absolutely incredible!  I have some lovely images using that film, and it's just... wow!  I have been looking for it in 120 as well.  It's just too good NOT to use in 120!  35mm is fantastic, so 120 will be... out of this world?

So that said, the colour film is just as good!
Sure it's grainier than you'd expect from a medium speed 125ASA film, but honestly, it's a nice grain! Smooth, and easily enjoyed, especially with a splash of yum for the colour tones.  What a colour palette on this film.  It reminds me of a mix between Kodak Gold, and Fuji Superia, with a slice down the middle.  Has great warmth, like GOLD does, but yet a funny cast to it.  Almost like its Magenta layer is in bed with the Green Layer, letting the Cyan layer run free.
It has a green cast to it, and at the same time, really doesn't have a "ORANGE" backing like most of the other C-41 films.
After processing, it almost had a "Cross Processed" hue to it.
Perhaps this film can be XPRO'd in E6 chemicals for a very interesting slide?
I'll have to try it using the +Kelly-Shane Fuller method of E6 processing, where you use B&W chems, then fog and C-41 the rest..
Never know, it might very well be some weird palette E6 film as well!

 Here's the thing, though.  Through some colour balancing, you can get a pretty accurate rendering of the colours from the day, or a true-to-life feel to the images.  The tones are wonderful, and the contrast on this film is fairly soft, which is nice.
Scanning is really simple, but honestly, scanning is only half-the fun of the film.  What it really boils down to is the print.  This film would probably be great for making some RA4 prints, but I just don't think I'll ever get into that style of printing.
But B&W Silver gelatin printing, oh yes.  It's great!
In fact, this film, with a #4 contrast gel, prints up beautifully!  I know, because I did it..  The image of Sara with her Yashica-A I printed for Ori (seen in the above image).  What he does with the photo, well, completely up to him.
There is something about this film, though.  It has a look that puts it on a different playing field than Gold or Superia.  Sure, Superia is nice, but Fuji and I have had a falling out.  Gold, lovely lovely film, great warmth to it, but... again, something about this Svema film.  Maybe it's my love for funny Russian films, considering Polypan is possibly a film that was make at the old Shoska plant, which was bought out by Svema.  Who knows!

But it can really be as warm as you want it.  I love warm toned film, and this is definitely right up there.  The thing is, when the light changes, and you are suddenly faced with a much cooler temperature of light, say more cloud cover and less warm sunlight, you might get a funny tone in your film using Gold.

This film, nope!  I get cool blue shadows.  What I saw is what is there.  It's like the film knows exactly what I want it to see, and it sees it with me.
Perhaps it is the camera and myself becoming Zen.  Who knows, but there is really something to it.

I guess as long as it remains available I'll be trying to get my hands on it.

The greatest part of this film was after the processing.  No, it doesn't need some fancy developer, as it is a typical C-41 film, not like there's any special developer for C-41, as C-41 is C-41.  CN-16 is CN-16 (which is Fuji's C-41 developing name).

It actually dries flat.  There was literally no curl, no cupping, no weird I'm going to strike you in the eyes type of look to it. Just beautifully flat film!  The kind you want to smile and hold and hug because it is going to make your life of scanning easy!
Heck, even a film that curls is a pain to print under an enlarger.  Getting it line up and set in the holder under the light for printing with a curled or cupped film sucks.  If it's badly curled, it's hard to load.  If it is badly cupped, it might sit funny in the carrier, and get possible scratched when it gets compressed under the head.
This film, however, like the FN64, sits wonderfully flat!
Very impressed with it...

Anyway fellow bloggers, should you want to try your hands at shooting this film, check it out at the Film Photography Project's store.  SVEMA 125 Colour film can be had for just $16.99USD for 3 rolls! (Price as of March 01 - 2014).

What a wonderful gift to that photographer in your life this would be.  Or maybe it'll be the perfect gift for yourself to shoot.

Well, go for it!  You won't be sorry.

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

All images taken on Canon T90 35mm SLR using a Vivitar 28mm ƒ/2.5 lens on Svema 125 C-41 film, and processed by David Nardi of and scanned on a Epson Perfection 4990


  1. I've been considering a color film for my trip to the Oregon desert this June. I might pick up some of this from FPP and see what happens. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. No problem Rick! I have a couple more rolls of this stuff, and will be putting it through its paces. I exposed it at 64ASA and seems to be a butter zone for it! Just gorgeous tonality, and the highlights are well controlled..
      I haven't tried it at it's "box" speed of 125asa, but after seeing it at 64, I think I'll stick to it at 64!