Earlier this summer I pulled a roll of ADOX HR-50. I had seen this movie online and since I live in a country that can get very sunny, I had decided to try some slower movies this summer. I went to the photography store (in Zurich I recommend ars-imago, customer service is good and they have a good stock of film and analog photography and chemistry equipment) and searched. At first they said they had none left, but after searching they found a roll at the bottom of a shelf that expired in August of the same year (2021). I bought it and made it my goal to cherish every exposure while – as I often do with film that I try for the first time – testing it with different styles and conditions to see how it performs. better used.
ADOX HR-50 is a black and white film rated at ISO 50. As a result, the grain is fine and the tones blend well. I found this film to offer both soft and pleasing midtones when shot in bright light and high contrast in low light. What interested me about the high contrast, however, was that it still retained bright highlights and dark shadows. Sometimes high contrast and low brightness lead to blurry midtones and a sacrifice on tone or color vibrancy depending on the type of film.
When I shoot new films, I first do research; I look at photos taken with film. I do this to see what the film looks like in different contexts and because I spent a lot of time deciding which film to shoot. I have a box of movies in my room, some of them are outdated and there are low budget movies and high end movies. I have this whole movie because while studying in the UK I would often order from Analogue Wonderland and put the movie in a drawer. I wasn’t hoarding, my parents say yes, I was saving it for the perfect shooting time and I have no regrets. In this box I have rolls of film like Rollei Blackbird, a film I hope to see again soon and which I understand is no longer available.
I also do research after shooting the film I’m trying. I try to shoot the film in full light and shadow. I photograph different subjects and scenes with a wide range of tones. I do different subject tests depending on the film and what I know about it, for example with Cinestill color films I focus on finding the halo. Since this film is slow and therefore probably fine grained, I chose to try and shoot subjects with fine detail. I took a photo of a spider and its legs are sharp despite being thin due to the fine grain (below, left).
Some films do not tolerate the extremes of daylight, an example is Cinestill 800T which due to its tungsten balance appears cast blue in daylight when used without a corrective filter, and Cinestill 50D which , in cloudy weather, is cloudy in color.
I shot this movie on a bright sunny day and in the evening when a heavy storm was blowing as I was driving home. Bright daytime photos are light and thunderstorm photos show the beauty of light from clear to overcast. I almost think photos taken in the storm are better because of the variety of tones but I’m also a photographer who prefers darkness to light. I think ADOX HR-50 could be shot any time of the year based on my findings of shooting in bright sunlight and overcast conditions. Personally, I think it could be good for warm autumn days or even Christmas markets given that there is enough artificial light to keep measuring and filming at its box speed.
As I tend to do, I shot this roll on my Pentax MX and the Asahi SMC f/1.7 50mm Pentax M mount lens. time until a few shutter presses. I should fix it, but other than that it’s in good working order and I’ve taken a lot of my favorite pictures with it. ADOX HR-50 in combination with my camera picks for a very enjoyable experience.
Sometimes a film will be reviewed with suggestions on what and when to shoot it. This one is a little tricky because it is, in my opinion, more accurate in timing and What suitable to film with ADOX HR-50 compared to ILFORD HP5 PLUS say, that for a long time I always had in my bag to film because it works for practically everything.
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ADOX HR-50 is basically a slow-moving, technical-use film that has been modified with ADOX’s “Speed Boost” technology. I’m guessing that means the film it’s made from isn’t actually ISO 50, but was somehow altered to be shot at ISO 50. I’m no one cinema technician, so I can’t say much about the chemistry and technology behind this.
ars-imago states that ADOX HR-50 is suitable for cityscape and travel photography and for portraits they recommend a developer specially designed for HR-50 (ADOX FX-39 II). I didn’t do any portraits with the HR-50, but the high contrast could make for some nice dramatic close-ups. If I recommend this film for anything based on how I shot it, it would be for fine art nature photography.
One photo that sticks in my mind as being aided by the qualities of ADOX HR-50 is the one below of a cluster of small white flowers. Petal and flower detail is crisp and although the contrast is high, there is still detail in the highlights. The leaves around the flowers which are further away are visible but the contrast means the subject is focused on the flowers and they seem almost luminous.
I sent the finished roll to a lab for development and scanning. I tend to scan film myself, but for a while I didn’t have access to my scanner. I think it’s important to mention this because, as you probably know, different chemical processes and scanners affect the final result of negatives and scans and I don’t know which chemical process the lab I send uses. When developing films at home I mainly used ILFORD ILFOSOL 3 which is quite versatile but I have heard that labs tend to use Kodak black and white chemistry although that is still a times something I have heard or read and not a fact I can defend.
This was my first time shooting ADOX film and despite having 2 rolls of ADOX Scala 160 in my film box (waiting to shoot them when I can develop them in ADOX positive chemistry Scala). The first films I shot were Kentmere Pan 400 and then Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400, affordable films for a learning beginner. I then upgraded to ILFORD HP5 PLUS and explored more expensive Fujifilm stocks like the now discontinued industrial/commercial Fujifilm Fujicolor (I already reviewed it on Emulsive earlier this year and was surprised to learn recently that it was no longer manufactured).
The reason I never tried ADOX was partly because I really liked Ilford and also because the packaging didn’t appeal to me. I know judging something by the packaging is not good and I don’t just buy movies if I like the packaging but something in ADOX movies looked boring. There are movies with attractive packaging that I’m not interested in or that I’ve shot that disappointed me so if shooting this movie taught me anything other than it’s awesome, that’s not to judge a film by its packaging.
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