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  1. #1

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    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.

    Attachment 63466

    What you’re left with are perfectly acceptable, cheap, fine-grained negatives.


  2. #41
    Athiril's Avatar
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    Shanghai is one of my favourite films, for those recommending to stick to Kodak/Ilford, I would still buy Shanghai even if it was the same price (or even a little more expensive) than any other black and white film. It delivers truly wonderful tones and appears to be amazingly flexible.

  3. #42
    Athiril's Avatar
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    Just to add to above (since it's not letting me edit). My GP3 (120) always game in black labelled boxes, in firecracker red paper that was nicely thick, easy to tear open and lined on the inside with foil. A+ packaging. Apart from the tape thing.

    Never had blotches, spots, or other artefacts, except the time I tried pushing to 3200. Tonality was still good, weird pattern over it though.

    My EI 800 semi-stand Rodinal 1:100 worked out great. Usually just shoot at 100 though.

    Haven't shot anything in a while.. might order some new rolls.

  4. #43
    Athiril's Avatar
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    Oh, also I prewashed my film every time with agitation. 'Violently' purple/blue dye came out every time.

  5. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkillmer View Post
    I used to be a big fan of this film, but in recent times I have had the circles and numbers issue with nearly all my film.
    I have had this issue with different developers and could not solve this problem through different development processes - I think if you avoid this issue for the next 5 or 6 rolls, then maybe your development technique is a good cure (hooray!) - please let us know!
    I have a similar experience. Wonderful film to work with. Stand development using Rodinal gives me wonderful negatives. But then I bought a ten-pack and experienced to have the paper's negative numbers being imprinted on the negative itself. First, I thought it was due to warm storage (summer heat) of the film so I bought another brick and kept in the freezer until using it. However, it turned out to be just as worse as the previous batch. So I'm a bit reluctant for the moment using this film. It's a pity, because it has some great qualities and a good option when trying out old cameras and toycameras. By the way, the film I had problems with had the batchnumber 5156, good until 2013.
    - You will develop when you become an analog photographer / Exposed Material / Monochromes

  6. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molli View Post

    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.
    Molli, I'm with you 100% on this.

    I have not yet tried Shanghai GP3 (planning to soon), but I shoot a lot of officially branded Fomapan and Freestyle's Arista rebrand. I also dabbled with LegacyPro and am a semi-regular shooter of Lucky SHD. Without those economical films, I might not still be shooting film today. Photographs don't make me any money, so the farther my cash can stretch, the more film I can shoot. The more I can shoot, the better I get, which encourages me keep going and continue to buy film. Not just the cheap stuff either. I have boxes and boxes of Tri-X in the freezer.

    Economy aside though, I also reject the notion that a higher level of technical quality automatically equates to better photography. Lucky SHD 100 can objectively be called a POS when it comes to manufacturing standards, but I still love the look it gives and there's many photographs I shot with Lucky that I wouldn't go back to shoot on "better" films. Each film's unique visual aesthetic has its own value.

  7. #46
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    OK, so I thought I'd add my 2c to this thread. I bought 3 rolls of GP100 last year. I shot one roll on my Kiev60 (Ukranian camera, chinese film, east german glass, why not?), and gave it to my local lab to develop (i'm not sure what chemicals or process). It came out rather underexposed (ie very pale negatives), for which I was willing to blame my light-meter, but it also had the the problem of the dots all over it, they showed up worse in the paler areas.
    So I did a bit of research back then, and thought the answer was that the circles and numbers were coming off the backing paper during the developing process (well, as far as i know the lab might have a machine that feeds it all in and doesn't deparate the backing paper).

    So the other two rolls I thought I'd leave until I got the kit to process my own, which I do so I just did. Shot a roll in my Mamiya 645AF, which has a real ttl light meter so it should be accurate, rated it at ei64. In a paterson 3x135 tank, with the Shanghai and a 13-frame 35mm test roll of Rollei Retro 100, Rodinal 10+800 at 22C, spin-agitate at the beginning, big sloshing inversions at 10 and 20 minutes, a few gentle rolls at 45 minutes, otherwise stand until 60 minutes. Ilfostop 50+950 for a few minutes. Rapid Fixer 1+9 for a few minutes. Then wash, just take the lid off and let it flow in, grab the centre spindle and slosh up and down as it goes, once it's full of water tip it out and go again. Did that a few times, not counting or anything, but washed well enough, last time with a bit of Ilfotol, then hang up to dry.

    It developed OK from what I've seen, but the circles are still there on the paler ones (I was doing some night-time long-exposures and sort of guessed the time so they're probably a bit underexposed), but the darker negatives look like they've got no visible circles. It's hanging to dry in the shower, I'll be able to tell better when I scan it and see. Also, it's a rather dull grey emulsion as others have said too. Nothing like the crystal-clear Ilfords i've had, the Rollei Retro in the same mix is perfectly clear too. That's nothing I can't fix once i've scanned it, but this does look like it would be a rather useless film in the darkroom with all that fog.

    So for those who have and haven't had the circles, what do you do differently? It was washed well enough at the end. Maybe I should wash at the beginning? I've got one roll left to try out, otherwise I'm just going to stick to the pile of expired PanF50+ in the freezer, it cost about the same and I know it works great.

    Or maybe It's just a QC problem, a bad batch? For people who have had the problem and then haven't, was it all film bought at once?
    An awful lot of electrons were terribly inconvenienced in the making of this post.

  8. #47
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    quejai. welcome to APUG!
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  9. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Croubie View Post
    thought the answer was that the circles and numbers were coming off the backing paper
    [...]
    Or maybe It's just a QC problem, a bad batch? For people who have had the problem and then haven't, was it all film bought at once?
    I have had good and bad luck with the Shanghai film, but I like it when it is good.

    What decided the backing paper print-through came from was poor ink on the paper affecting the emulsion. This assumes your "red window" isn't an issue, which was on an old Brownie I have. Black gaffer tape fixes that.

    Obviously this isn't ever a problem with the sheet film.

    The decision that it was the ink interacting with the emulsion - and I could be completely wrong - made me realize just how complex a boutique film plant would be to produce small runs of high quality film. The number of things that have to be "right" to make a first rate film is mind-numbing. OTOH it is completely possible to pour your own plates in your own darkroom.
    Michael Batchelor
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    The camera catches light. The photographer catches life.

  10. #49
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    I'd like to think that the manufacturer would monitor the reputation of its products, see these sorts of posts, and find ways to remedy these problems.

    Then again, the number of people outside China using this film probably amounts to the population of a small town in China's countryside, while the major group of users are the Chinese themselves -- and maybe they're just happy to have some film, any film. IDK, it's just a bit odd that a factory would continue to produce a quasi-defective product.

  11. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    I'd like to think that the manufacturer would monitor the reputation of its products, see these sorts of posts, and find ways to remedy these problems.

    Then again, the number of people outside China using this film probably amounts to the population of a small town in China's countryside, while the major group of users are the Chinese themselves -- and maybe they're just happy to have some film, any film. IDK, it's just a bit odd that a factory would continue to produce a quasi-defective product.
    I just had a thought, maybe they are fully aware that an old batch was defective, so they're flogging it off cheap via ebay. Us dumb westerners who are buying it are a tiny market compared to their home base, so they're not so concerned about the bad publicity...
    An awful lot of electrons were terribly inconvenienced in the making of this post.

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