Cheap Films: ERA 100 Panchromatic Film Adventures

  ERA100 Flatenned Film Packaging

I have been quite adventurous with film. For serious shooting, I'm sticking to Tri-X and just recently 125PX but every once in a while, as I now live in Shanghai, I would try out a Chinese film or two to see how they perform. The first thing that would catch my eye would be the cost of one roll of these local film. ERA 100 costs 10 RMB, or right about $1.5 USD. I have heard a lot about this film from local shooters. The other popular Chinese film is Lucky SHD100, but the only problem I find with it is that it is good for flat scenes, but once you have plenty of contrasts, you'll find that the chemical tends to leak or diffuse across the border, giving the "glow" look of older RF lenses. 

This was the first roll of film I shot this new year, and over the long weekend I took a long walk around Shanghai Puxi area with my Leica M3 and 50mm f2 Summicron loaded with ERA100 for some street shootout. First thing I noticed was that the film base seems a little thicker than Lucky films, which is a good thing. Lucky has been known to have very thin film, sometimes breaking when the rewind motors are strong.

Developing was not that difficult. Digital Truth  has the right timing for HC110B which I am using nowadays. With the tap water adjusted to 20C, 7:00 minutes would do the trick. However, the result of the dried negatives were not too encouraging. Other than allowing for a little metering issue (Since I dont use meter) the exposures and timing seems accurate enough, but I did see some cracks all over the emulsion layer. I have seen this before during my shooting in Macau, and this is most likely due to thermal shock when transfering the film from one bath to another. I'm guessing during the stopbath to fixer phase, I must have turned on the tap water too hot. It is impossible to use cold tap water now in winter as the water temperature is below 10C, again resulting in thermal shock, but not wise for it to be too high either. 

I did find that the result of the scans were quite soft as well. Only one thing to do... I did some setting up this morning, on a Gitzo tripod and cable release and used up a whole roll of ERA100 to test the characteristics of the film. The result is still hanging in the washroom, so I will update my findings after this. 

So far my experience with this film has been mixed. I will need to see my control roll before I know if it was a user problem with the first rolls or something wrong with the film. Still 50/50 on it.