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.