Testing and evaluating CatLabs "X Film 320 Pro (2022 version)

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I have a few more uninspired photographs to share. As predicted by the tone reproduction analysis I did a while back in this thread, the film can record a decent luminance range rather nicely, if exposed at ISO 64 and processed in D76 1+1 for 5:45 min. I cannot speak to any other combinations, but as we've seen already, the film responds differently to different exposure and development, which is very nice to know.

I would also say that the shadows are problematic, in my experience, as detail tends to fall off a precipice (the shoes, the flag, and the roof and sky pictures). The film needs a lot of exposure to capture excellent shadow detail. In the curve family, that was evidenced by the long toe, with little separation in ZI, ZII, and ZIII, and it is evident in my pictures, as well. It's not a bad thing. It can help with low-contrast scenes, without deep shadows and bright highlights (like the Crown Victoria and the donkey w/ sunglasses pictures), but if you're trying to capture a conventional landscape, with a full range of tones, then I would recommend exposing at ISO 64 (or even lower), and cutting development time. Highlights tend to be nicely held back, which we also saw in the curve family.

I was also looking for any signs of possible emulsion defects. By and large, the emulsion appears to be very well-made. I have come across a few small things (see the sky in the roof picture), but it's nothing to worry about, esp. if you're scanning and further processing digitally.

I developed this roll in a Paterson tank, with agitation every 30 seconds. There's some unevenness along the edges of the frames, which I typically do not get with a rotary processor. My inversion technique is, admittedly, rather rusty. Loading the Paterson/Arista reel, I encountered some resistance. Fortunately, the film ended up undamaged.

Finally, in my experience, with D76 1+1, the grain is exceptionally small for an ISO 320 film. It's more of what you'd expect of an ISO 50-100 film.

Edit: As I looked at these pictures on a larger and brighter monitor, I noticed what looks like some scanning artifacts (seen in the sky, mostly). I have a very old scanner that should not be used for film, but that's all I've got to work with at the moment.

0005.jpg 0003.jpg 0006.jpg 0013.jpg 0014.jpg
 
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pentaxuser

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Aparat, based on the flag pic both its red and in particular its blue sensitivity seems much lower than most pancro films

pentaxuser
 
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Aparat, based on the flag pic both its red and in particular its blue sensitivity seems much lower than most pancro films

pentaxuser
Yes, it may look that way. However, to get a better assessment of spectral sensitivity, a color chart from a reputable manufacturer provides a much better reference. Still, in the flag image, looking at adjacent blue and red color/greyscale areas, my measurements show the red having about twice as much density as the blue. I would not put too much stock in these measurements, though. Again, an evenly illuminated color chart is a better target for comparison.
 

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Thanks, yes it is helpful, if we can assume that CatLABS 320Pro is definitely Aviphot 200. If it is, then am I right in assuming that the dip in its sensitivity in the blue part of the spectrum between about 450 and 495 indicates that the blue colour may well be darker than the red to which the film has extended sensitivity?

Secondly anyone using a infrared filter should be able to produce the IR look, I presume

Maybe someone will try and show us or has tried and can show us now?

pentaxuser
 

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The dip in the blue sensitivity also causes the shadows to go under also. Shadows tend to have a higher ratio of blue to red light. Also look at the filter factors in the Aviphot PDF. Years ago I was trying to dial in Rollei retro 80s and saw the same thing that I see here. Diafine was a help as was d-23 but I had to set an EI of 20. I know some like it and that is good. I didn't. I also tried to use a 82c filter to help the shadows and it did but why bother? I have Ilford Pan-f I can expose at EI 50 in Diafine.
 
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Very interesting comments from @pentaxuser and @ags2mikon regarding spectral sensitivity and shadow detail.

I added a feature to my curve analysis of the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro film that I, personally, find very useful. Perhaps you guys will, too. It's a hypothetical curve (in green) that simulates the capturing of a scene with a luminance range of about seven stops (SBR & LSLR). The number seven has broad significance in photographic theory and practice well beyond the Zone System.

catLabs320_sbr7_demo1.png

The s-shaped curve, with a long toe and compressed shadows and highlights (see the plot below), describes the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro's inherent character rather nicely. We have seen it in many of the photographs shared in this thread. One can, with some effort, coax this film to have a more linear response to exposure ( @Oldwino showed us how that can be done with Diafine), but the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro's signature look can be summed up as punchy, high-contrast, with deep blacks and somewhat restrained highlights.

I usually start thinking about exposure by evaluating the "seven-stop curve." It tells me almost everything I need to know to obtain a well-exposed, printable negative (here, for a typical condenser enlarger).

catLabs320_sbr7_demo_2.png

For additional detail, take a look at the four plots below. They offer a more detailed guide to the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro, further elucidating the relationships among contrast, exposure, effective film speed, and developing time.

catLabs320_sbr7_demo_3.png
 
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I posted a question a while back to ask if anyone had jimmied around with their CatLABS photos in post processing software before posting them, but no one responded.

Hadn't seen that. No post processing in mine. Straight scan from Epson V600, all indicators neutral.
 

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It would seem that lack of curl is one of the advantages/plus points that this film has
I have no idea if grain comes from the negative or the scanner but some of Huss' examples seem particularly grainy while others much less so

pentaxuser

Underexposing - even if intentional - seems to really boost the grain. But also flickr seems to mess things up when resized/displayed. And it is not consistent in how it does it.

Fabberyman asked about editing in post. This film in DF96 is v contrasty and loses detail in the shadows that most of the time for me is not recoverable by messing in post. If I try to lift the dark shadows, there is nothing there. So images are shown unmolestered.
 
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These are my remaining photographs taken on the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro. I processed them in D76 1+1 at 20C for 5:45 min. in a rotary processor. The daylight pictures are at ISO 64, whereas the IR ones are at ISO 3.2 (they were about a stop underexposed, I think).

I had a few frames left in the camera, so I tried some infrared photography with a Hoya R72 filter. On the light table, you see frames started with exposure for ISO 3.2 and then in one stop increments more exposure. I'll leave it up to you to decide which exposure you like the most. I hope it's not #9 :smile:

20221112_202132.jpg

Here are two samples with the R72 filter. The infrared images have the signature dramatic skies. Both at around ISO 3.2.

2022-11-12-0006.jpg 2022-11-12-0013.jpg

And finally, this film shines in dull, overcast conditions, yielding a somewhat compressed tonal range, but, in my opinion, that's just what's needed in such low-contrast lighting.
2022-11-12-0012.jpg


Overall, I am happy with the performance of this film, but, despite its attractive price in the USA, I would not use it in place of the Arista Edu Ultra 100, which I think is its direct competitor. To me, Arista offers more familiarity, more flexibility, and better overall tonal reproduction. That's all very subjective, of course, so please don't hate me for saying so.
 

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I did a test, shooting Superpan 200 and the Catlabs film, both at iso160, same lighting, same camera, same aperture and shutter speed, developed at the same time, in the same tank, in d761:1 for 10mins, 45 secs. Here's what they look like:

negs.jpg


At the very least, the Superpan 200 I have is a bit slower than the Catlabs.

Superpan (the black line is from tape residue)

superpan.jpg


and Catlabs:
catlabs.jpg


They look very similar but the Catlabs film is noticeably faster. But, to be fair, my Superpan is now a couple of years old.
 

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Here are two samples with the R72 filter. The infrared images have the signature dramatic skies. Both at around ISO 3.2.

Wow, nice. This is a lot cheaper than Rollei IR400, though it's also quite a bit slower (I think). I've got an R72 for my RB67, wish I'd seen this before the weekend (when I shot a roll of the X Film 320 at EI 125). Had several shots on that roll that would have looked better with IR filtration.
 
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I did a test, shooting Superpan 200 and the Catlabs film, both at iso160, same lighting, same camera, same aperture and shutter speed, developed at the same time, in the same tank, in d761:1 for 10mins, 45 secs. Here's what they look like:

View attachment 321606

At the very least, the Superpan 200 I have is a bit slower than the Catlabs.

Superpan (the black line is from tape residue)



and Catlabs:


They look very similar but the Catlabs film is noticeably faster. But, to be fair, my Superpan is now a couple of years old.
This is really cool! Thank you so much for posting this comparison. I am still waiting for my Superpan 200 to arrive. I will try to run a test once it does. By the way, how did you find the physical characteristics of the two films, esp. in terms of the PET base, how thin it is, how little it curls, the color of the emulsion side, etc.?
 

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Donald what do you shoot your Rollei IR400 at with a R72? Most seem to use between 3 and 6

Thanks

pentaxuser
 

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Donald what do you shoot your Rollei IR400 at with a R72? Most seem to use between 3 and 6

Thanks

pentaxuser

I haven't, yet. I got several rolls of the film, and the filter, but haven't had a chance to shoot it (never mind process) yet. Now I think of it, though, filter factor for Rollei with R72 is around 7-8 stops, isn't it? Seven would put it at EI 4.

Yep, these aren't "real" infrared films, they just have enough extended red to have some sensitivity beyond 720 nm. HIE was only about 5 stops correction with that filter, as I recall (from reading, never had a chance to shoot that, either).
 
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I haven't, yet. I got several rolls of the film, and the filter, but haven't had a chance to shoot it (never mind process) yet. Now I think of it, though, filter factor for Rollei with R72 is around 7-8 stops, isn't it? Seven would put it at EI 4.
Yeah, that sounds about right in my experience. I used EI 3.2 for the CatLABS film with a Hoya R72 filter, and I thought those frames needed an extra stop of exposure.
Yep, these aren't "real" infrared films, they just have enough extended red to have some sensitivity beyond 720 nm. HIE was only about 5 stops correction with that filter, as I recall (from reading, never had a chance to shoot that, either).
They're not. I agree, but one can get an interesting infrared effect with those films, particularly if one is after a dramatic, near-black sky.

@Don Heisz Thank you! I am still waiting to receive my order of Superpan 200. I will run some comparisons as soon as I am able. By the way, your choice of soup cans for the test is very clever, as a lot of people (at least in the US) are familiar with them. They are great for assessing color and sharpness/resolution, while the white/grey background makes for a very effective test of tonality. I wish I'd thought of that myself :smile:
 

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By the way, your choice of soup cans for the test is very clever, as a lot of people (at least in the US) are familiar with them. They are great for assessing color and sharpness/resolution, while the white/grey background makes for a very effective test of tonality.

The background is close to middle grey - the scan of the CatLabs film comes close to the way it looked in reality. There were a lot of colours on those cans - red and blue and yellow and white and black. The lighting was from just above and to the front (it's a small lightbox for taking pictures of small stuff) - I probably should have set up two lights lower to the left and right to even things out. But I was just after enough to be able to see if the negatives looked the same. Other than my Superpan sample being slower than the CatLabs (which we can say is explained by my Superpan being older), they look the same to me - including the way all those colours got represented.
 

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I did a test, shooting Superpan 200 and the Catlabs film, both at iso160, same lighting, same camera, same aperture and shutter speed, developed at the same time, in the same tank, in d761:1 for 10mins, 45 secs. Here's what they look like:

View attachment 321606

At the very least, the Superpan 200 I have is a bit slower than the Catlabs.

Superpan (the black line is from tape residue)

View attachment 321608

and Catlabs:
View attachment 321607

They look very similar but the Catlabs film is noticeably faster. But, to be fair, my Superpan is now a couple of years old.

Excellent stuff!

I don't think a couple of years will slow your film down. It seems the Catlabs is different at least in speed.
 

Don Heisz

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Excellent stuff!

I don't think a couple of years will slow your film down. It seems the Catlabs is different at least in speed.

It's a bulk roll, almost completely used up. It may be up to six or seven years since it was manufactured. The CatLabs film was just released.

I should have cut a little strip of 70mm Aviphot and exposed it the same as those two.

For all we know, the Rollei Superpan film might be cut down from 10" wide, 250' rolls that were manufactured 20 years ago.
 

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I shot a roll of CatLabs 320 Pro in 120 size today with a 720 infrared filter.
It was a bright sunny day, so lots of IR.
Shot at EI's 0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8.
I'll process it in Rodinal some time in the next couple of days.
 

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I finally received some Rollei Superpan 200 for comparison. I haven't run the test yet, but, upon visual inspection, I agree with @Don Heisz that the two films appear very, very similar. If I had to testify under oath, I'd say that the Rollei might curl just a tiny, tiny bit more. I tried to capture the emulsion side of the two films with my phone. I apologize for the poor quality of this image, but here it is.

catlabs_superpan_emulsion_side.jpg
 

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I guess that if all you do is change one or two aspects of a film's characteristics, you can market it as having "distinct grain quality, contrast and tonal range, not found with other currently available films".
 
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