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

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MattKing

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Perhaps Catlabs was able to get the manufacturer to make a batch which included an adjustment of the film's tendency to curl. Definitely an improvement worth advertising!
 

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and then they wouldn't incorporate that finding also in their own product? seems implausible to me
 
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Perhaps Catlabs was able to get the manufacturer to make a batch which included an adjustment of the film's tendency to curl. Definitely an improvement worth advertising!

Agreed. This whole advertising thing really baffles me. If the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro really is Aviphot, then they have a lot to be proud of, in my opinion. I would have thought they'd be promoting the film's provenance, focusing on some of its unique qualities, such as the clear base, the lack of curl, the very fine grain, the extended red sensitivity, the darker blue skies, etc. Even the s-shaped curves could be framed as a benefit. Instead, they promote the film as an ideal street film that can be pushed to ISO 1600. In other words, they focus on features are not really among this film's strengths.
 

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Picked up a few rolls to try. Nice film. Price is certainly right and the film is quite easy to handle. Dries very flat. No problem loading film on Arista reel. Developed w/HC110 1+49.

Bessa R2C and old collapsible Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50/2. Exposure set at ISO200. Scans of negatives using Epson V500. Spotted and sharpened scans but no other changes made.

CLab320-coffee-anyone.jpg
CLab320-Halloween.jpg
CLab320-Picnic-Weather.jpg
CLab320-rear-axle.jpg
CLab320-repair.jpg
CLab320-tracks.jpg
CLabs320-Piston-Billy.jpg
 
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@Pioneer These are fantastic! Thank you for posting. It's really interesting seeing both the outdoor snowy scenes and the indoor one. You really put the film through its paces. Glad to hear you had no trouble loading onto an Arista reel. My understanding is that the Arista reels are the same as Paterson, yes? I had some unusual resistance with a Paterson reel, but no problem with Jobo 1500-series reels. One more question, since you scanned the film in, did you find it particularly easy or difficult to scan, relative to other films? I am thinking specifically of the clear base and the lack of curl. Thanks!
 

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It is possible that CatLabs have ordered something slightly different to Aviphot 200 from Agfa, but isn't the Aviphot made in very large quantities that last years per production run given current usage as aerial surveillance film and camera film? Would Agfa have been able to make a smaller production run of something slightly different for CatLabs?

The strange thing is that those of us who have used it seem to agree that the product is good. But if it's the same as Rollei Retro 400S, I can get that at a much cheaper price in the UK.
 

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So.....a few weeks ago I returned from America armed with a roll of CatLabs 320X that I'd shot. I developed it and was happy with the photos but two frames exhibited what looked like faults in the emulsion, black spots on the scans.

I've finally had a bit of time to look at the negatives in question and this is what I see.
 

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faberryman

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I've finally had a bit of time to look at the negatives in question and this is what I see.
What's going on with the left side of the negative? It looks like a piece of cellophane tape or something is covering the left one-fourth of the frame.
 

Agulliver

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What's going on with the left side of the negative? It looks like a piece of cellophane tape or something is covering the left one-fourth of the frame.

You're correct, the left of the neg is still in it's storage sheet. I just got it out briefly to take a photo against my living room ceiling light. There's something up with the emulsion but if this film was manufactured by Agfa and confectioned by Harman I am actually thinking any issues might be down to my handling of it....though other than travelling on two planes with it I did nothing unusual and the other films I shot came out perfect.

It's odd though. Wondering if anyone else has had anything like this with CatLabs or indeed any other film? It looks worse than the Ilford problems of a few years ago. But it only seems to affect two frames.
 
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You're correct, the left of the neg is still in it's storage sheet. I just got it out briefly to take a photo against my living room ceiling light. There's something up with the emulsion but if this film was manufactured by Agfa and confectioned by Harman I am actually thinking any issues might be down to my handling of it....though other than travelling on two planes with it I did nothing unusual and the other films I shot came out perfect.

It's odd though. Wondering if anyone else has had anything like this with CatLabs or indeed any other film? It looks worse than the Ilford problems of a few years ago. But it only seems to affect two frames.

I believe you are not the only person who has had the "flaking" issue. I came across it on two or three frames out of a couple dozen rolls I've processed so far. It would be interesting to see if CatLABS would send out a replacement roll based on this apparent defect.

To me, a more troubling issue is the fogging up to at least frame #3 on many rolls that I've tested. I think most automatic cameras wind past frame #3, but it could be a problem for those of us using manual-wind cameras, risking ruining the first one or two frames.
 

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@Pioneer These are fantastic! Thank you for posting. It's really interesting seeing both the outdoor snowy scenes and the indoor one. You really put the film through its paces. Glad to hear you had no trouble loading onto an Arista reel. My understanding is that the Arista reels are the same as Paterson, yes? I had some unusual resistance with a Paterson reel, but no problem with Jobo 1500-series reels. One more question, since you scanned the film in, did you find it particularly easy or difficult to scan, relative to other films? I am thinking specifically of the clear base and the lack of curl. Thanks!

Thank you. First off let me say that I don't consider what I'm doing with the film to be in the same league as your work. What I am doing is more evaluation for my own personal style of work but still working within the manufacturer's general guidelines. I do think I may try under-exposing a bit more, perhaps close to an exposure index of 100, or trying a less contrasty developer like D23.

Loading film on the reel seemed no different than loading up Adox CMS 20 which I believe is on a similar PET base. I have to load that fillm more slowly as well to prevent binding in the reel. It is just something I have become use to. I don't use a wetting agent on my film while they are in the reels either. I ran into problems loading PET based films on plastic reels back when I started using CMS 20 so I have been more picky on keeping my reels clean since then. I will have to try the denture cleaner method since that may be easier than scrubbing them with a toothbrush all the time, so thanks for that hint.

The film is very easy to load in the scanning holders and I had no trouble scanning. I did have to do just as much spotting as normal so I'm not sure it comes out of the developer any cleaner than any other film I use.

I don't think I like the film when there is a lot of contrast such as that found with bright sun on snow. That is a tough go for most films but this one seems a bit more contrasty than others I use such as Fomapan 400 or Kodak TMAX. I don't think I'll take it to the ski slopes. But I have more rolls to play with and more sunny, snowy days ahead so I may find a way to make it work.

I think the film is just about perfect for indoor work, such as the garage scene, or more overcast skies. I also think it will fit perfectly with some of my old, less contrasty lenses.

I didn't find the film to be especially grainy but it is very sharp under the right conditions and shows texture quite well. It also flared quite easily when pointed toward the sun but that is almost certainly a function of the lens I used rather than the film.

I will definitely get in the darkroom and make some prints when time permits as I really want to get a sense of how these negatives print. I suspect they will produce some stunning prints. More work for later.
 

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To me, a more troubling issue is the fogging up to at least frame #3 on many rolls that I've tested. I think most automatic cameras wind past frame #3, but it could be a problem for those of us using manual-wind cameras, risking ruining the first one or two frames.

That is exactly what is happening with all five rolls I shot, there is light piping which fogs the first 3 exposures.
 

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I've finally had a bit of time to look at the negatives in question and this is what I see.

Did you change lenses for these two frames? Dust might have gotten on the film, creating those black spots. If you did not change lenses, then those are probably flaws in the film.
 

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Did you change lenses for these two frames? Dust might have gotten on the film, creating those black spots. If you did not change lenses, then those are probably flaws in the film.

Nope, it's a fixed lens Zeiss-Ikon folder. No known issues, and it flew in my cabin bag at my feet so I know it didn't get jostled about much.
 
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@Huss I hope you don't take this as criticism of your earlier work, but I like these latest photographs a lot more. Frankly, they look better than those that CatLABS posted on their website. You seem to understand this film's strengths very well and are able to take advantage of that.
 

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Agreed. This whole advertising thing really baffles me. If the CatLABS X FILM 320 Pro really is Aviphot, then they have a lot to be proud of, in my opinion. I would have thought they'd be promoting the film's provenance, focusing on some of its unique qualities, such as the clear base, the lack of curl, the very fine grain, the extended red sensitivity, the darker blue skies, etc. Even the s-shaped curves could be framed as a benefit. Instead, they promote the film as an ideal street film that can be pushed to ISO 1600. In other words, they focus on features are not really among this film's strengths.

Yes the whole way this film was announced and the subsequent handling of the communications by CatLABS was baffling and if it is the same film as Rollei's Aviphot then at £10 in the U.K. it has no advantages to offer

pentaxuser
 

Huss

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@Huss I hope you don't take this as criticism of your earlier work, but I like these latest photographs a lot more. Frankly, they look better than those that CatLABS posted on their website. You seem to understand this film's strengths very well and are able to take advantage of that.

None taken! Different environment plus this film works so much better in Tmax. Really fine grain at iso 200. Still very contrasty and works better overexposed if you want shadow detail.
Light piping is a real issue, but I think this film is a good value at $6.99/roll and the correct developer!
 

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Nice job on these Huss.

I should mention that I did not see any light piping problems with my first roll but I will keep an eye out for it as I continue to work with the film I have.
 
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