Review - Shanghai GP3 120 black and white film
GP3 is the cheapest film you can buy new. It’s 100 ISO, in 120 format, and is B&W.
It's good, especially for the price.
On opening the box, which looks quite cool, the reel is inside a grey plastic wrap. Nowhere as easy to open as the ubiquitous Kodak or Fuji rolls, this takes some tack to split. When its open, you’ll find it has a bit of generic sticky tape stuck haphazardly in an attempt to stop the roll from unraveling, and you’ll need to peel this off before you can load your camera.
Note: there isn’t tape at the other end of the reel, so you somehow need to stop it from unwinding when you’re done shooting. Some people carry around a pack of rubber bands with them for this purpose; however I just stick this tape to the inside of my camera (away from where it will contact the film when the back is closed) and peel it off before using that to seal the roll.
Loading is the usual, however if your camera has a red window thing, be careful of over winding, because some people think the ink is too dark to see the numbers easily this way. After you’re used to it, this ceases to become a problem.
Shooting: I did some tests, and the box speed of 100 ISO is quite accurate. However, I recommend overexposing slightly (to around 80 or 64 ISO) to capture shadow detail. It has quite a high latitude (usable images form within 12 to 800 ISO at least) so no worries if you don’t have a meter on your camera – you’ll get photos.
Results: When I got my first results back, I was heartbroken, for two reasons. The film had so much fog (i.e. what was meant to be white on the negative was grey) in the form of what looked like a dirty surface thing. I tried to clean it off with various solvents, window cleaner, alcohol – nothing worked, except some started to dissolve the plastic base.
The second issue is that on the first roll there were little circles and numbers, on every frame, that had been somehow imprinted on the film from the backing paper. This ruined all my photos, in that it was almost impossible to ignore.
You can see here, compared to the first photo, the differences: circles, and huge grain.
However, then I realized that I could prevent these issues. When I was washing my second roll of this film (the Ilford archival method), the water came out cloudy, each time I replaced the water. When I took the film out of the tank, I saw it was covered in a milky scum; I removed this with a sponge, and that roll of film had no issues with the fog, or with the numbers seeping through. This fog was also quite grainy; and thus this step will effectively reduce the size of the grain on scans!
I predict, then, that the fog-and-numbers problem is that the paper backing leaves a deposit on the film, which, unless sponged off, dries; and interferes with scans of the film, producing bad results. Washing it off eliminates these problems.
There is, however, one other issue with this film. Every now and then, on close inspection of a scan, you may find a tiny black ‘shape’ every now and then. These can easily be removed with photoshop, aperture, elements, etc.
What you’re left with are perfectly acceptable, cheap, fine-grained negatives.
I think it's good to be price conscious, but at least in the US, Acros has been pretty affordable,and Kodak's 120 stuff has recently come down in cost by about 15%. I'm not interested in buying mediocre quality film to save a dollar when it could ruin the results of a once-in-a-lifetime photo. A false economy compared to the gas, camera equipment, etc.. Foma used to be a cheap film, but it's not cheaper now, and it's not as good as kodak/fuji/ilford in terms of quality.
The shipping prices are a VERY big issue here. eg. I can buy a 5x rls of GP-3 with purchase & deliverey for $19.00 OR go with Kodak T-Max 100 (x5) .....for $26.50 with delivery charge (36.25) amounts to $62.75 and if I order more I get a reduced shipping rate.....wgaf. And with local prices wanting even more it is a small wonder that that it sells so well here.
Is there anyone in the USA who stocks this at a decent price? I have looked on and off at a few places and it's always ut of stick. I would prefer a regular vendor as opposed to ebay auctions. I shoot 120.
I have used it quite a bit,actually have some 4x5 on the way. I've never noticed scum on the negs but have had the numbers coming through on a few rolls, I had thought that it was from the use of cheap ink on the paper, I've only noticed it on underexposed rolls.
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Apologies for the belated response. This was my first run with both Shanghai films and a Yashica D camera so I just went "by the book", so to speak. D-76 1:1 for 14 minutes at 20c/68f. Agitate for the first 30 seconds, then ten seconds every minute thereafter. Thirty seconds agitated in stop. Around seven minutes in the fix (a couple more than I usually would, but I've already had a few rolls through it). Ten minutes wash using a modified version of the Ilford wash - agitate ten times, dump; agitate 20 times, dump, agitate 30 times, dump. Then a minute or two soaking in Photoflo. I also let the shower run until it fills with steam before hanging my film with two clips at the top of the negative and two weighted ones at the bottom. As mentioned, none of the aforementioned problems whatsoever.
Originally Posted by ambaker
With regard to those advocating the complete avoidance of any "cheapie" films - for those of us who are just testing the waters, whether switching from digital, coming back to film, trying out a new camera - these films are invaluable. If it weren't for the price of, say, LegacyPro films when I first got back into film a few years ago, I'd have been too paralysed to ever trip the shutter. The availability of Shanghai GP3 120 film gave me a little bit of breathing room, economically, to invest in a medium format camera that I'd never have bought had I only had access to the more expensive films. One of these days I hope to take photos worthy of a better medium but, until then, I choose to commit my atrocities to the cheapest film and paper I can get my hands on.
There HAS to be a market for the novice, the dabbler, the plain, old flat broke or there won't be a "beginners" level to start in; ergo, no newcomers moving into film photography and taking it to a professional level. Then, also, not everyone wants to take it to that level.
I put a roll through my RB with a motor drive back, by the third frame it seemed to loose power, then it just stalled. backing paper had separated and was jamming in the feed section.
Originally Posted by flyinfiddlesticks
4x5: I had several sheets with what looked like roller marks across the emulsion.
The lack of quality makes it questionable for any serious use, which is a shame as it can produce good images.
is it possible a comparison with a black and white good film like a kodak...like a Ilford?...or is the GP3 too bad to allow a comparison with more famous quality brands?...I'm speaking about the final imagine...so I'm reffering to the sharpness,contrast,acutance ecc.ecc.
The GP3 lost with a comparison with more expensive film or not?I know that the emulsion is very bad...I remember that one time i bought a roll and when I developed it...I saw that there were a lot of scratches !!!It didn't never happen with other films.
It's great that there is so much choice of film available.
Here in the UK, the cheapest price I can see for 5 rolls of Shanghai GP3 is £17.90 including postage. My regular supplier sells 5 rolls of my favourite film, Kodak TMax 100, for £18.99 including postage.
For me personally, it's not worth trading reliability and consistency to save £1.09, or .27pence per film. Of course, the market may differ in other countries.
I buy via seller uranium99 on eBay, and I get 10 (ten) rolls for about £18 delivered to the UK. He also offers 20s, 50s and 100s at even better per-roll pricing.
Of course there is a trade-off for price versus quality/consistency in this case, but I do find it hard to turn down the opportunity to be able to blow through a roll at a cost of £1.80. It's "good enough" for what I see as my level of photographic skill.
Well, just to give you an idea of why I opted for the Shanghai when testing a new camera, I bought ten rolls for $27.93 posted to my door. To buy the same amount of landscapepics favourite film, Kodak TMax 100 would set me back $71.94 plus a further $18 in postage. That's buying from the nearest store which sells 120 film (60kms up the road).
I'll buy a film I can trust not to exhibit any of the 'quirks' everyone's mentioned when I can afford to put in a decent sized order of film and paper from Freestyle in the U.S. That could be months away so, in the meantime, I'm just happy I have something to shoot to get a feel for this camera.