Let’s get into it: film is expensive. If you’re shooting a roll of 35mm you’re looking at £4 upwards for a roll of colour negative, and £5 minimum for processing. I love film. But I love cheap film a lot more. Yes, fancy film stock and equipment can give amazing results, but I’m not into film for perfection, I’m into it to take photos. I’m also skint.
My usual cheap go to would be Poundland’s AGFA Vista 200, a massively underrated film stock, but you still have to pay for developing. So what if we went cheaper? What if we processed it as b&w film? This could definitely save you some money, the scanner and equipment to DIY would be paying you back after only a few rolls. £1 for a roll of photos – total cost. That’s the dream right there.
But does it work? I went ahead and tried it out, with some success. See some of the results here, or skip to a quick guide at the bottom.
I tried the film at ISO 200 first, developing in Rodinol 25:1 for 15 minutes. Why 15? I figured it would need longer, but that’s as long as I could be bothered to wait. Here’s what emerged from the tank:
That doesn’t look promising, I think it’s blank almost every time I finish developing. But there are pictures there, very very faint pictures. And here’s how they scanned:
Next I tried shooting at ISO 100, thinking this might help to brighten the emulsion up a bit, using the same processing for comparison. Here’s the results:
So there we have it, it works. 4p a photo. What more could you want? The cheapest option there is, and still giving usable results. To mess around with, and just to take a few more photos a little more care free, this is a nice option. It’s up to you if you trust it with anything important though – you tend to get noisy scans, stacking multiple might help with this but it’s up to you if you’re bothered, I’m not.
I’m quite enjoying using it, I was getting too precious with some of my other film rolls (I’ve had Ektar in one camera for months now) and this has let me take a lot more photos than I usually would. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I even made a half-arsed guide:
Dan’s Guide to Developing AGFA Vista 200 in B&W
Before we begin, this isn’t a precise method, I winged almost every single step here. Yo. Lo.
- Shoot – as normal. Pick an ISO and see what happens. I tried ISO 200 and 100, and they worked fine.
- Develop – use your usual process and double your developer time. I used 15 minutes in Rodinol 25:1 at whatever temperature the tap was (It doesn’t really matter). Bonus tip – use a separate bottle of fixer for this, it might mess up your regular b&w films.
- Results – when you’re done, hold it up to the light to see some lovely (faint) photos. The film will be pretty dark but it’s fine, you didn’t screw anything up.
- Scan – I used one of my uni’s Epson V600’s for this. The histogram will be skinny as it gets so you might see nothing at first. Adjust your scanner’s levels though and it should be fine. This Aussie guy Tim gives a pretty solid tutorial on scanning.
- Edit – load your photos into Photoshop or paint or something and crop the scans, then adjust your levels closer to either end of the histogram and play about with the contrast for some more lit to your pic.
That’s it, simple. Give it a try!