Review: TMax 400

The 400 ASA films that I’ve tried enough to have an opinion about include: Kodak’s Tri-X and TMax 400 and Ilford’s HP5 and XP2 Super. At this point, TMax has become a pretty clear favorite. It is without a doubt my most used B&W film in 35mm and in 120, though I explore more films more often in 120, it is the film I go to for consistent performance. While I do try to explore more and more films all the time, it is difficult to replace the flexibility and acutance of TMax 400 when it comes to shooting 35mm B&W.


If I’m being completely honest, this is where I feel TMax 400 disappoints me the most. It’s hard to explain why, though. Over every other film I’ve tried like it, I love the sharpness of this film and lack of pronounced grain. What’s different about this stock that I don’t love is the amount of middle grey and overall lack of contrast that photos have when taken in strong, daylight scenarios. In dimly lit (tastefully lit?) situations, the contrast is upped enough though to really hit the sweet spot for me.


I’ve tried this film a bit in the studio but I’ve not loved the results. That is for sure my fault and not the fault of the film. I prefer the lower speed of TMax 100 so that I can have more dependency on the strobes and stop down a couple extra stops where for 400 ASA, I lose some of the control because of the speed of the film. I suspect that with some practice in the studio, I will come to love this film a lot too but when you’re able to completely control the amount of light, why not go for the lower ASA? Using the film in natural light settings, I still don’t care much for the film in strong, daylight settings without some curves adjustment. In natural light when the light is very low, contrast is high and this film finds its stride.

Pushing and Pulling

I can honestly say that I have more experience pushing/pulling this film that any other film stock. I’ll start with saying that I don’t like the results from pulling this film. I can’t even imagine a context when someone would want to do it. Why did I do it then, you ask? Great question – I pulled it because I was in a pinch, wanted some 100 ASA film but only had TMax 400. So I pulled it and found the results to be far too bland.

I do not know how this film retains so much dynamic range when pushed. Though I don’t know if this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if TMax 400 performs just as well if not better than TMax 3200P at 3200 ASA. It can be pushed more and more without having many if any faults. It is because it can be pushed so much without seemingly any repercussions that it has become my go-to B&W film.


Similar to TMax 100, my first experience with this film stock was on our Banff trip in 2019. I actually only brought it for the 35mm as a back up film and it produced some of my favorite frames from the entire trip. I was pretty skeptical to try it before then but after that trip, I bought a few more rolls in 35mm and when I finally got around to shooting them, I was pretty amazed with the results. I’ve continued to try it more and more and I have found my go-to B&W film.

Last thing I’ll say is that I recently picked up a Tamron lens with vibration control which allows me to shoot as slow as 1/13th of a second and still get tack-sharp photos. This, paired up TMax’s ability to be undersexposed and work out just fine, made for opportunities to shoot well into the evening and late at night. I love it.

Innsbruck, AT: New City, New Film – Acros II & Ortho Plus

If you’re wondering why I decide to take my annual trip to the mountains between March and April, the answer is simple. It’s generally still very cold so the summer tourists haven’t shown up yet but the height of skiing and snowboarding is past. As a result, the area is bit less packed out and the trails have started reopening (if they were ever closed). Not to mention that at the times the airfare is a good deal less expensive as are the hotels.

Anyhow – on this particular trip, we left for a couple week trip in Germany and western Austria just as the novel corona virus was troubling northern Italy but before it started being so widespread. On the day we were flying back, we learned there were several documented cases of COVID-19 in Innsbruck and luckily for us we were able to be screened a couple days after being back. With the self quarantine that we are still currently in, I’ve been able to get all the B&W and C-41 developed and scanned. On the trip I was able to try out the new Acros and Ilford Ortho in 120 and 35mm.

Fuji Neopan Acros II

I think this emulsion was the best film stock of all the film I went through on my trip. The rolls in 35mm were quite gorgeous and capable of producing some wonderful prints – I shot all of those in the Friedberg and Frankfurt area. The 120 was shot in Innsbruck and man, are the resulting frames just beautiful. Very low grain and high acutance made for some spectacular photographs that I’m very excited to make prints of.

As I mentioned above, I shot 2 rolls of 120 and 2 rolls of 35mm. The 2 35mm rolls were not shot in the Alps but I thought they were splendid. I’ll share some of those frames below.

Ilford Ortho Plus

What an interesting film. If I’m being entirely honest, I was very nervous to shoot this stock. I was excited by the build up around it and some of the 4×5 work I had seen but have heard mixed feelings about the 120 and 35mm emulsions. I can see why too. For an 80 ASA film, the grain was quite a good deal aggressive and very weird. I cannot say that I’m in love with the stock nor that I intend to buy it again any time soon. Of the 2 rolls of 35mm that I took, we only shot through one of them and even that one was shot by my buddy Brandon. To start, I’ll go through some of the 120 shots.

I actually prefer the shots from the 35mm. Perhaps it was the focal length (45mm) or Brandon’s eye that caught such nice frames. Either way – the results were intriguing.

Superstition Mountains: New City, New Film – Ilford FP4 & Fujichrome Velvia 100

This past trip to Arizona was my third time visiting and every time I go, I grow more and more in love with the environment. Last year when we went, we visited Flagstaff but this year we split our time between Sedona and the Superstitions.

Prior to heading out, I picked up several rolls of Ilford FP4 and at a camera shop in Phoenix, I picked up some Velvia 100. In Sedona I was shooting through a lot of Ektar and Provia and didn’t manage to load up the FP4 or Velvia until we rolled into the Superstitions.

Admittedly, I didn’t particularly love either of these film stocks. Since the trip to AZ, I’ve shot through some 4×5 sheets of FP4 and didn’t much care for them either. That said, I’ve started developing my own B&W at home and have found that for some reason I’ve getting a lot more grain than I’m used to getting from the Darkroom so it may well be my own fault for not liking it.

In general, I expect 100ish (it’s 125) ASA film to have extremely fine grain. While I know that FP4 is a traditional grain structure and not T-grain, I still expected a bit less grain than I felt I was getting. In total, I’ve only gone through 3 rolls and 1 box of 4×5 sheets so I know I still need to give it a bit more practice before making a final judgement.

The Velvia produced my least favorite shots of the whole trip. Perhaps I’ve become accustomed to Provia too much and the difference wasn’t to my liking. It’s also possible that I was just shooting it in the wrong lighting. I started/finished the roll in the afternoon started with high sun and ending during the golden hour. There was a HUGE difference in the saturation and tones between those two situations. Perhaps if I shot the entire roll during the golden hour, I’d be singing a different tune. Either way – I’ve since picked up another roll and intend to give it another go.

Experiment 2: Kodak Portra 160 vs. Portra 400 vs. Portra 800

This article is going to compare Kodak films Portra 160, Portra 400, and Portra 800. For exposure testing data on Portra 400, Portra 400 shot and developed at 800, Portra 800, and 8 other film stocks, please refer to this article. For an additional reference of Portra 400 shot and developed at 800, please refer to this article.

To ensure consistency throughout the experiment, all of the shots were taken using the exact same camera/lens combo. To accomplish this, 3 different film backs were used, each loaded with a different Kodak Portra film. The control conditions were as follows:

  • Camera: Mamiya 645 Pro TL
  • Lenses: 80mm f/2.8 N, 150mm f/3.5 N, 300mm f/5.6 N-ULD
  • Lighting (Portrait Only): 2 Profoto B1X with diffusers
  • Light Meter: LUMU Light Meter iPhone app

All films were developed at a local lab here in Columbus, OH and scanned at home using an Epson v600. All provided images were the converted negatives straight from the scanner software included with the v600.


As perhaps could have been expected, I didn’t prefer one film over the rest in all contexts. Overall, I preferred Portra 800 over 160 and 400 in most situations with a strict exception to portraits.

All told, we took 3 different sets of portraits (though only posting one) and in all 3, Portra 800 was far too saturated. To a level that I, personally, looked jaundiced. I honestly expected Portra 160 to shine here but I honestly thought all of the scans turned out equally as pale. So much so that they looked a bit distasteful. I do expect that I could have remedied a good deal of that in settings in the scan or in PS after but again, all of the presented images are straight out of the scanner’s software.

Probably the only example series where I personally preferred Portra 160 over 800 and a little over Portra 400 was in the library. Portra 800 had a tendency to be too saturated in a situation when the color palette was fairly white. Similar to the portraits above, Portra 800 tends to turn whites yellow in a fairly unattractive way. Portra 400 was right in the middle but in a scene I would have preferred to remain bright and airy feeling, I preferred no yellow tint.

As for the other 3 samples, I did strongly prefer Portra 800. In the vines sample, I think 800 blew the other two out of the water. The colors are intense but in a way that accentuates the present colors without changing them into something undesirable. For the tower, all three returned a pretty distinct color palette – so much so that I went back and rescanned each with the expectation of getting more uniformity then but the scans came back virtually the same as the first pass – that all 3 are distinctly different. Finally, for the vertical tunnel at the OSU campus, I really think the saturation of Portra 800 shined. I loved the way those colors turned out.


I’m not sure that my opinion between the three is really going to change. I will continue to shoot more and more 800 in and around Ohio (or at least on trips where I’m not flying) and I will shoot Portra 400 as an old reliable.


Special thanks to Matt Seal for being generous with letting us use his studio, Dr. H for being an uncomfortable model, and Nevin Johnson for his help with the scanning.

Montréal: New City, New Film – Cinestill BWXX

Soon after our trip to Banff, AB (color and B&W), we went to Montréal, QC for my birthday. I shot through roll Ektar when I arrived and picked up a roll of Cinestill BWXX for myself for my birthday. Unfortunately the weather was not so favorable and you can tell. So much so that a long hike from the city center to the top of Mount Royal resulted in a beautiful view of grey fog. I shot through most of the roll in the poor weather only to see it clear up as I went through my last few shots. Nevertheless, the moody weather felt right for a cinematic film.

Acros and T-Max 400

As mentioned before, I shot through some other film and I honestly liked the results from them a bit more than the Cinestill. Still though… It’s good to try out some new stuff.

Review: Kodak Ektar 100

To see Kodak Ektar exposure tested along side 10 other film stocks, follow this link. To see my first (substantial) attempt at shooting Ektar while in Banff, follow this link.

In the fall of 2018 I headed to Arizona for the second time and intended to see the Grand Canyon for the first time (btw, it was as grand as the name implies. Lots and lots of grand.) and when deciding what film to take, Ektar never crossed my mind. I thought to myself – I’ve shot a couple rolls of Ektar before and hated it. A lot. Then I found the work of Pete and David and decided I didn’t give Ektar a fair shake in my previous attempts. Albeit, I believe now that what I didn’t like was in fact the scans from the lab I was using moreso than the film itself.


Ektar has bold colors that, coupled with the high sharpness, make it an incredible film for landscapes. Compared with Portra 400, I find this film to have a bit less blue in the shadows and bit more yellow in the highlights. Granted, I’m basing this exact assessment on the exposure testing experiment but so far my personal experience has not turned up any conflicting evidence.

So far, the colors that have really jumped out at me and made me fall in love with this film are light turquoise and deep blues. The turquoise values are truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. When I see good examples of this (heavily based in Banff) I wonder if the film actually rendered a significantly different color than reality. I mean… Was it ever actually that beautiful? As for the deep blues, I’m just a sucker for that color range and I think this film does a tremendous job at it.

The only colors I haven’t fully grown to like from this film are greens that don’t have a blue tint. I felt like the closer the green got to blue, the more I liked it. Conversely, the less blue it got, the less I liked it. The light greens were a bit too quick to have a yellow-ish tint and the darker greens didn’t have the same “pop” as everything else. Still though- this is all relative and I recognize my experience may just be limited. As such, I’ve kept a roll of Ektar in at least one camera at all times and I’m experimenting to see if this opinion persists or limited to only my first couple pro packs.


Given how pronounced the colors are, I fully expected this film to bomb at portraits. Who wants a photo or themselves with the saturation turned way up? That said, I don’t dislike this film for portraits so long as its an environmental portrait. I felt like the more the photo felt like a proper portrait, the more I couldn’t get over how strong the colors were. While the more of the scene I got in the photo, the more I appreciated the coloring – it’s always a trade-off.

Dynamic Range

I can honestly say that I am beyond surprised with the dynamic range of Ektar. In the exposure testing experiment, I genuinely felt this film performed better than every other color negative we included. In the experiment, I thought it handled underexposure really well. My personal experience has been a bit less successful. I’ve found all of the photos that I knew to be underexposed a bit muddy with very strong saturation in the darker values, leading to an experience a bit less than I hoped for.

As for overexposing, I don’t much care for what happens to the coloring but given that I can rectify that in post, I am beyond surprised with this film. It’s such that if I meter for the midtones to shadows, I’m hard pressed to overexpose the highlights to a point beyond return. I think it is this very quality that makes it such a solid choice for landscapes.


I can count on one hand how many times I’ve ever pulled film and with this film being 100ASA, I don’t see it ever happening here. That said, I did once put through a roll at 400ASA in one of my F2s and didn’t much care for the results. So much so that I’ll not be providing examples. I really felt like the saturation was over the top (even on my scans) and the loss of the dynamic range was beyond my taste. I did it purely as an experiment and I suspect I’ll try it again at 200ASA and update.


In conclusion, I’ve really grown to love this film and have kept a constant stock of it since I bought my first pro pack. So much so that I’ve kept a roll in at least one camera since. While I don’t know that I’ll be going through much of it once the weather in Ohio starts going back to grey all the time, I’ll be enjoying it as much as I can while the sun is out.

Banff (In Color): New City, New Film – Ektar & Portra 160

This article shows off some of the color negative film I tried out on my vacation to Banff, CA in April2019. To see some of the black and white negative work, please follow this link.  Several of this films in this article have exposure tested and compared to other color negative films – this article is located here.  

The Canadian Rockies were calling and we answered. In a moment of spontaneity and luck finding round-trip tickets for only 18k points, we got our tickets and booked a hotel within a couple hours and I immediately started thinking about what film I was going to take. For ease (and out of pure laziness) I needed to make sure everything was ASA 400 or slower so I didn’t have to have the film hand-checked.

For color negative film, I ended up taking a pro pack of Portra 400 (per usual), Ektar, and Portra 160. I also ended up taking a few rolls of Fuji Provia and Ektachrome.

Portra 160

I gave this film a shot after Matt Seal suggested it a few times. I had shot through two rolls previously and didn’t much care for either. I found it to not be very flexible for my shooting style and didn’t much care for the way it rendered colors.

That said… This film took some of my favorite photos AND my least favorite photos of the trip. The ones that worked out really killed it. The ones that didn’t work out reminded me a lot of my first attempts in that the colors weren’t really on point and the shadows were pretty muddied.

Below are my two favorite photos from my trip. Both were taken with Portra 160.


Prior to this trip, I had actually shot through a couple rolls of Ektar and hated them both. Admittedly, I think my distaste for them came from the scans from the lab- the lab I was using had a knack for boosting up the saturation to a point beyond my tolerance for it. Since then I’ve seen the work of Pete Gotz and David Chan and decided to give it another shot. I doubt I would have made that first attempt on a vacation I’ve looked forward to so much but in all honesty, it was their pictures of Banff with this film that really turned me on to their work pushed me to try this film again.

Anyhow- I shot through a pro pack of it on this trip and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. It was a lot more versatile than I expected and the colors were really intense.

Below is my favorite photo I took with Ektar.

All in all, I was pretty blown away by the results of this film. Nothing was too bold and the colors were gorgeous. I’ve already picked up a few more rolls of this film and loaded it into my F100 when I went to Montreal.

Below are a few more of my other favorites from Ektar.

Portra 400, Provia, & Ektachrome

As you may know, I’ve shot through plenty of Provia and more than my fair share of Portra 400. And since it came back out again, I’ve been working my way through several rolls of Ektachrome. I know they aren’t new films for me but I thought I’d share a few of my shots from these great stocks. I’m posting the Provia first, then Portra 400, and concluding with Ektachrome.

Experiment 1: Exposure Testing 11 Film Stocks

In this experiment, we exposure tested 11 film stocks and Kodak Portra 400 pushed one stop to 800. Among the color films, we tested: Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 400, Portra 400 Pushed One Stop, Kodak Portra 800, and Fuji Pro 400H. Among the Black and White films, we tested: Ilford PanF, Kodak TMax 100, Kodak TMax 400, Kodak Tri-X, Ilford HP5, Ilford XP2 Super, Ilford Delta 3200.

To ensure consistency throughout the experiment, the film stock was the only experimental condition. The control conditions are as follows:

  • Camera: Hasselblad 501CM
  • Lens: 60mm f/3.5 CB
  • Lighting: 2 Profoto B1X with diffusers
  • Light meter: Sekonic Lightmaster
  • Focusing Aid: Schneider Kreuznach 4x loupe

The loupe was used to set the focus at the start of the exposure test for each film stock. To ensure the exposure value (EV) was correct, the light meter (using an incident setting) was used to identify the neutral exposure as well as each EV in the center of the frame.

All B&W film was developed by the Darkroom Lab and all C-41 film was developed at home using a Jobo CPP2. All scans were done at home using an Epson V600. Each frame was scanned flat and adjusted in PS identically for all frames (‘true black’ was set by the darkest part of the record).


The results did not turn out as I expected. Although, for most of films tested, I had no idea what to expect. While there are some sources out there doing some exposure testing, I have not found a source completely satisfactory. I approached Matt Seal about this idea and told him I wanted to do it. His interest, skillset, and appreciation for the scientific method made the compliment to my own intellectual pursuits and scientific rigor. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to learn about how exposure changes an image and how that change differs by film stock.

For those getting into film, with the exception of the famously linear response curve of Acros 100 (R.I.P.), most all film stocks have a logarithmic-type response curve. While every film stock is different, most all of them adhere to this pattern. As such, when you get to a certain point, it becomes more and more difficult to increase exposure by a full stop. In the film world, this is known as reciprocity failure. It generally only affects long exposures and depending on the film stock, can result in some color shifting after a certain point.

Getting back on track – it is because of this behavior in the response curve that allows you to continue to pour in the light without blowing out the highlights. It should be noted that the response curve is what makes film so unique and separates it from digital. Between film stocks, it is not just that colors are rendered different ways but it also interprets light differently. Comparing film with digital, digital has a perfectly linear response curve. This means that it blows out the highlights much faster but conversely, it does not lose details in the shadows near as quickly.

Results – Color Film

Comparing the neutral exposures, the Ektar is good bit more punchy while having a more delicate transition in tones. Portra 800 is noticeably warmer than even the Portra 400 – something I expected as it’s more contrasty but I didn’t expect it to quite the extent that it was.

I think I was most impressed with the Ektar of all the film stocks. I’ve only used it twice and neither time did I like the outcome. Although admittedly, both times I only had the scans from the local film lab in Charleston – and they had a really bad habit of over saturating any and all scans to the Nth degree. After those, I’ve stayed away from it from it until this testing. As soon as I saw these results, I picked up 2 pro packs to take on a trip to Banff.

Between the 2 400 speed films, I think that the Portra 400 held up a bit better than the Pro 400H when it comes to overexposing by more than 2 stops. But if you prefer cooler tones, you would probably conclude the opposite.

Results – Black and White Film

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the stocks behaved in a similar way except for the Delta 3200 – which didn’t get crushed blacks near as quickly or dramatically. This isn’t particularly unexpected given the difference in emulsion and the fact that it’s actually just a really flexible 1000 asa film.

Probably the most surprising performance was TMax 100. I think that it stood up to underexposure better than any of the other stocks and while I don’t see myself ever accidentally (or purposefully) overexposing by 5 stops, I think it handled the contrasty parts quite well. All in all, I’m going to have to pick some of this up an shoot it immediately.

As for second place in the biggest surprise, Ilford HP5 did a great job in my opinion. Since I tend to find myself in positions of not having enough light more than too much light, I care a lot about the ability to be underexposed. In this area, I think HP5 did really well.

Last specific thing I’ll touch on – I was genuinely surprised to see how similar T-Max 400 and Tri-X were. The Tri-X had a bit more grit but overall they were pretty similar.

Special Thanks

Of course, a huge thanks to Matt for the encouragement and supplying the all the equipment and his technical know-how to make sure the scientific rigor was above reproach. Could not have done it without him.

Thanks to Pete for his input, insight, and participation in the peer review(-ish) process. His input has been extraordinarily helpful in ensuring everything was reported in a clear and reproducible way.

Guide: Getting your first film camera

To start, there are two kinds of people that get into film. Those that inherit a camera and those that don’t. If you were given one from a family member or friend or whatever, I would suggest moving on to picking out film stocks or general advice for film photographers. There is no real reason to replace a fully functioning camera for something ‘better’ for a first camera. For those that need to pick one up, please read on.

The most straight forward advice I or anyone else could give on picking out a camera would be to consider first and foremost opportunity and cost. If you were to really think through what you need or want out of a camera and search around at camera shops, on eBay, craigslist, etc… you’ll probably find a great deal. Since this is how I suggest approaching all things of this nature, I’ll start to lay out some things that should be considered when identifying your first film camera.


Some serious consideration should be made for what would be the cap on the spending. Trying to find a camera and then rationalizing the price can present a danger to your budget. As much as it can be sometimes be fun, it’s rarely the wisest choice. When you think through what the ceiling of your budget is, I would ask yourself if you’re the kind of person that just wants 1 camera with 1 lens. If not, the cost of lenses – particularly the focal lengths of interest – should be factored in when deciding what cameras to look at.


Plain and simple, what do you need the camera to do for you? Are you game for carrying around a light meter or do you want a camera that has a built in meter; or even more- do you want a camera that has an aperture priority mode? Are you okay with manual focus lenses or do you want something autofocus? To a much lesser extent, how are you on manual film advancing? I personally find it very satisfying and it’s something I like about film. If you personally don’t care about it one way or the other, you may want to look at something a bit newer – from the 90’s or so that were much more advanced and had a lot more features.

Size and Weight

Cameras, just like everything else, vary in size and weight. And while you may not think they vary by much, my Nikon F2 with its 28 f/2 is a whopping 42oz – a full pound more than my Pentax K1000 with its 50 f/2. Admittedly, it would be weird if someone knew the ideal weight of their prospective camera. That said, you should probably start to think about what all you want to do with it and ask yourself if you want something small for ease or large if ease wasn’t an issue.

Plenty of people carry their cameras in their backpacks because carrying them otherwise can be unruly or inconvenient. I’m one of those people sometimes – my RB67 w/ lens and prism is almost 10lbs.! With that in mind, I often decide what camera I’m taking out with me with the sole consideration for what I wouldn’t mind carrying around. It’s unlikely the RB67 is going on a several mile hike with me but if I know I’m going to really want a quality shot at the end of the hike, I may carry my 645. The same goes for long walks around a city.

Availability of Lenses

Unless you’re the kind of person who is ‘sure’ they only want one lens for their camera, you’re receptive to expanding your collection of available focal lengths. And if you’re coming from digital, you may even know of other lenses you’d like. Well… Depending on what you want and your price point, some manufacturers may suit your purposes better than others. Some manufacturers switched from a screw mount to a bayonet mount (i.e., Pentax) and some switched from one bayonet mount to another (i.e., Canon) and some maintained the same mount and still makes manual focus lenses to this day (i.e., Nikon). And as you can imagine, the glass from some brands are more expensive than others.

I’ve always found Nikon to be the most expensive. Pentax and Canon are about the same and make really good glass. Minolta is usually the cheapest and widely available. I don’t have much experience with Yashica or Contax lenses but I think about the same as Nikon in some cases and more expensive in others – I don’t know that they would ever be cheaper.

Speciality, Point & Shoot, and Toy Cameras

Chances are, if you want one of these cameras, none of the above really apply to you. One of my closest friends wanted a Nishika N8000 and knew no other camera would do. Another close friend didn’t want anything other than a Polaroid. (both of them ultimately got their cameras) If you know you want a Holga, Polaroid, Nishika, or any other camera like that, I’m not sure why you’ve read this far.

If you want a point and shoot, you and I are in the same boat. I keep meaning to look more into them and pick one up. There are a lot out there and some of them produce really great work. One day I’m going to get one to carry around with me in my work bag so I never have to miss a shot again. (Hopefully*)


I saved this one for last because I doubt it applies to most people. Much like the section above, if you need something other than 35mm, you probably know it. I can’t recommend shooting 120 enough but I can’t speak for shooting large format as I haven’t dived into it yet.

If someone were wanting to consider a medium format camera, much of the above points are still valid. While you can get an RB67 for not much money, they can be a pretty big hassle. From my knowledge, most other 67 format cameras are considerably more expensive. In the 645 format, there are a lot of options- all of which have their pros and their cons. I love my Mamiya Pro TL because it has more functionality than any of my 35mm cameras, is pretty light, and has interchangeable backs. I can’t recommend interchangeable backs enough for people like me. It allows you to change the film at the drop of a hat. I can go from high-speed black and white film to slide film, one frame at a time.


While I have never owned a 6×6 camera, I’ve been tempted by them just as much as the next 120-loving film photographer. If I had to say now what my next camera would be, I would probably guess a classic Hasselblad with a waist-level finder. The only reason I haven’t done it so far is that getting into it – getting the body, a spare back, and a couple/few lenses would set me back way more than the Mamiya and I’m not in a place where money is no issue. If you find yourself in a similar position, you’re not alone.

Almost everyone would like another or a different camera than what they have. Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is real. But remember – the best camera for you is the one you have and can enjoy. Rather than drop hundreds or thousands more for one camera over another, perhaps consider trying some new film. Don’t forget – photography exists to capture a moment and feeling; the nicest, most expensive gear isn’t going to make that happen for you. Get what you can get, experiment, try new films, try pushing film, grow a passion for photography. It’s worked for me.

Guide: Double Exposures (Multiple Exposures)

The first time I experienced double exposures, it was my grandmother showing me some of her old 6×6 photos in her retro photobooks.  Following that, I found myself going through IG and would be particularly attracted to these photos.  Accordingly, I hit Google and searched for ‘How to take a double exposure’.  There are some resources out there, most of which is for PS and not film.  Having experimented with it enough now and discussing the physics of it with a friend over a beer, I have a much deeper understanding for what’s happening and that has translated to better images. So here we are… I hope I can help you take double exposures you love.

For those looking for a simple how-to: If your camera has a multiple exposure switch, engage the switch and take photos to your heart’s content (I would start with a double exposure before going for something with 3 or more). For those that don’t, no fear – you can do it just as easily.  Take your first exposure and engage the release on the bottom of the camera (the button on the bottom of the camera you press-in when you’re rewinding the film) and “advance the film” like you normally would (make sure you’re holding the button down all the way through the process).  This action will cock the shutter and set you up for your next exposure while leaving the film unmoved.  When you’re done, just continue on as you normally would.

For those looking for more detail and my thoughts on multiple exposures, please read on.

For those that have never tried it before, the rush of a double exposure turning out well is so much more exhilarating than any single exposure can give.  Keep in mind though, a lot of that rush stems from it being less reliable (aka, much more likely to not go your way).  There is something about them that attracts not just my attention but attention for a lot of people.  I feel like half the time someone sends me a message on Instagram or looks at my IG and asks me a question in person, it’s about one of my double exposures.  I am by no means a professional photographer nor a professional at shooting double exposures.  I am, on the other hand, proficient at it and love taking them.


First and foremost, light is everything.  Isn’t it always with photography?  Yes?  But with double exposures, it gets a bit more interesting.  When you take a photograph, the objective – the primary objective – is to limit the amount of light entering the camera so as to have enough to expose the subject without having so much that the frame comes out completely exposed.  So the trick here is to properly expose your shot… twice… It can be harder than it sounds.

When you take your first exposure, the value of every “cell” in the negative is exposed somewhere between 0-100% of its total value (I tend to think of photographs as a grid of cells (like Excel) with a different exposure value in each cell such that it composes a photograph).  Then, when you take your second shot, you are replacing the cell’s value if the new exposure has a brighter value than the first. In the most extreme scenario, a double exposure can be thought of as a single exposure if the first exposure was totally underexposed.  That is, every cell was exposed with a 0% value and could be completely exposed over.  In a less extreme scenario, the first exposure is a standard shot and every cell is exposed between 0-100%.  Let’s say one cell is exposed at 40% on the first exposure and 60% on the second, the cell will be written over to be 60% exposed. Conversely, if the cell is exposed at 60% on the first exposure and 40% on the second, nothing changes.  In this example, I’m referring strictly to B&W film – color film is acts a lot differently because you start blending colors together.

All in all, it’s pretty rare for a shot to unintentionally be completely exposed in one part of the frame and unexposed an another – almost always it’s in the middle of the exposure continuum.  And since there’s no difference as to which is first, there has to be some strategy for underexposing some frames and overexposing others to ensure you keep the parts you want and replace the parts you don’t.

Framing and Composure

Now that I’ve talked through the technical aspects of a double exposure, more practically you have to consider the framing as it will make or break your shot.  As far as exposure is concerned, it takes practice and a lot of forethought but with the right film, there’s a lot of forgiving. Framing, on the other hand, is just as important if not more so and there isn’t a film stock in existence that can correct for botched framing.  Almost all of my double exposures that didn’t turn out were ruined from framing that wasn’t exactly where I needed it to.

To get started with DEs, I would suggest starting with a silhouette for a first exposure and a shot of something with texture as the second.  It’s tough to go wrong with those… If you wanted to go for something more involved, it helps to use a split-image circle and/or microprism circle in the center of most focusing screens to act as a reference.  Some cameras have interchangeable focusing screens – some of which have lines on them to act as references for landscapes or architectural photos but work quite well as reference lines in multiple exposures.

Since every DE is completely different, the way you approach them is different.  Thus, it is pretty difficult to provide any additional, sound advice that can be directly applied to various specific contexts.  Instead, I would suggest that you make a goal to take a whole roll of DEs or half or some significant portion of a roll.  It’s not easy to get into it until you dive in.  Once you begin to push yourself, you’ll start to see where things are working for you and where they aren’t.  You’ll hopefully also start to get some ideas.

As a last note before I show some examples, I’ve found that the more flexible films are, the easier it is to get a double exposure turn out alright.  I’ve taken some shots with more rigid films and it’s much easier to get blown out.  On the other hand, one of the most flexible films I use (Tri-X) can be difficult to get it to behave entirely because it’s exposure latitude is so wide.