A report of the ‘Friends of Photography Group’ Grampians weekend,…
A few years ago, New55 embarked on their quest to manufacture a new black and white 4×5 instant film that peels apart to give both a positive print and a negative (essentially replacing Polaroid’s defunct Type 55). Along the way they have released some other film products, including Atomic-X ISO 100 4×5 sheet film, which is essentially the ‘negative’ component of their instant P/N film. Selling in boxes of 25 sheets, Atomic-X is manufactured by a Chinese plant to New55’s specifications, and seeks to emulate classic Kodak emulsions, with a nod to Panatomic-X. Pricewise, it is very accessible, and so I cheerfully ordered a few boxes.
The packaging and graphic design is clean and contemporary. The boxes I received didn’t have an expiry or best before date, so you might want to write a date of purchase on the label if you’re storing it in the fridge. Inside the box, the film is sealed within two light-tight bags, for which I needed a pair of scissors to open.
After loading my film holders, I set about integrating this film into my current shooting and processing workflow, which uses Agfa Rodinal (Adox Adonal these days). At the time of writing this review, there wasn’t yet much published data regarding exposure and processing times… so some testing of my own was required.
For my first batch, I exposed some pictures at the box speed of 100ISO, and developed at times similar to Kodak Plus-X. This produced thin and contrasty negatives, so I changed tack for the next lot, using processing times from Arista.EDU film and exposing at 50ISO. Comparing those negatives to other good printable negatives, I ended up dropping the ISO to 25 for all subsequent sheets, and was pretty happy with the results. So my final ‘formula’ was as follows… in Rodinal 1:25 I was developing Atomic-X for three and a half minutes at 20 degrees. Interestingly, with this combination I experienced very little reciprocity. Night-time and studio-lit exposures were over-exposed up to 3 stops when I used the reciprocity data published by New55, and normally exposed without! Nevertheless, by the end of my testing I was getting good results – dense negatives, not dissimilar to FP4+ in tone and grain, that print easily and hold the level of detail you’d expect from a slower film.
In summation… the price per sheet is currently pretty hard to beat, and it is supporting New55’s challenging R&D efforts, so it’s well worth testing within your own set-up to see how it works for you. Available directly from the New55 website.