What I learned shooting... #4: Agfapan APX100 (35mm)

Agfapan APX 100

I’ve been running my mouth about this review since last year.

This is not the Agfaphoto APX made and manufactured by Harman, nor is it a real precursor to Rollei RPX, though I suppose RPX is billed as such. Apparently before Agfa did make a few master rolls and when it was dissolved, and when Rollei bought up all the formulas, etc, they bought and cut those rolls up into “rollei retro 100.” I read all of these “facts” on photrio.com/photo.net/any of the crotchety old bastard film forums.

That being said, I have no clue if any of that is true, except for that Agfapan and Agfaphoto APX are completely separate emulsions.

This is Agfapan APX 100.

So let’s break down the testing procedures and equipment:

  1. 2x100’, 35mm, rolls of Agfapan APX 100 dated 9/2003. Per my understanding the film was dealer/fridge stored all it’s life, so probably not gone off. All of the film was shot at 80 or 100 iso.

  2. Cameras used --

    1. Minolta XD-11 and the:

      1. Rokkor 50mm f 1/.4 MC-PG -- I shot most of my rolls with this lens.

    2. Minoltina AL-S

      1. Fixed Lens Rangefinder. I definitely shot 4-6 rolls with this camera.

  3. Developers used:

    1. Rodinal.

      1. 1:50 as standard bench (per the photo.net guys -- this is “how APX 100 was meant to be developed), and overdeveloped to a nominal iso of 160, rather than “box” of 100.

      2. 1:100 -- Standard stand development. One Batch.

      3. 1:25 -- One Batch.

    2. Kodak Xtol @ 100 1:1 -- Pushed to 200 to emulate the results of the 160 mild rodinal stand-push. (I’m kinda struggling for words) Also to counteract the 10-15 year outdated look.

I did 7 Batches of Development, total.

Batch 1: Rodinal 1:50

Batch 2: Rodinal 1:50

Batch 3: Rodinal 1:50

Batch 4: Rodinal 1:100 - Stand, 1 Hr.

Batch 5: Rodinal 1:25

Batch 6: Xtol 1:1 - Push to 200

Batch 7: Xtol 1:1 - Push to 200

So I’ve put the results here, above — in the order listed, (Rodinal 1:50 first 3 galleries, 1:100 4th, 1:25 5th, and Xtol as 6+7) for y’all to look over on your own -- personally, and, maybe this speaks to my own bias against grain, or needless grain -- I think the XTOL results far exceed the rodinal results. I’m not saying I think the Rodinal results are bad, on the contrary -- I think they’re quite good -- I just think the clean, smooth look of the Xtol ends up being contrastier and punchier on average, essentially beating the rodinal results at their reported strengths, and at a much lower grain. Likewise the film actually has a super, super flat profile naturally, which seems to allow for the scanner or photographer to dial in as much or little contrast as they need, making it a superlative portrait film.

These are not my favorite images, or all of them that I’d like to show from this review, but I believe a comprehensive overview of each developer/dilution.

I Also gifted 2/36 of the rolls to Andy Romero AKA, @iwishiknewwhatiwasdoing -- on Instagram. He does cool stuff, and I’m curious to see what he gets out of the film.

What did I learn shooting 30ish rolls of Agfapan APX 100?

In no particular order, I learned the following:

  1. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing when it comes to film and development. Many legacy products and methods are only legacy products or just oppressive in their legacy because of the dinosaurs who won’t shut up about them.

  2. I actually do like Rodinal, I just think it was outperformed by the Xtol.

  3. I tend to function under the assumption that if i’m shooting a “slow”  film (technically what we most commonly think of as “slow films” are actually medium speed films) it should be nearly grainless, or as smooth as possible.

  4. I’m done shooting medium/slow emulsions in 35mm, unless I have a specific project that needs slow film in 35mm. Medium format just blows 35mm to smithereens for clarity, and for most documentary/diary/just-pick-up-and-shoot type stuff, where the lighting can be dodgy, 100 iso, even with a ⅔ stop push, is just not sensitive enough.

  5. Maybe it’s accidental, or I’m not sure what the coincidence is but this happened during my 50mm renaissance -- I think for most of my street type, not strictly fine art or landscape photography, I don’t really need anything other than maybe a nice 40mm or 50mm. Coincidentally the 50mm 1.4 MC PG Rokkor is about the best 50mm you’re gonna get for the money. Really any Rokkor 50mm, f/1.4 or less is gonna get you the best bang for your buck, as far as I know in legacy lenses.

  6. I might be a rangefinder guy. I liked using the AL-s but I don’t know how great the focusing was on it. Considering I paid all of 20 dollars for it, I can’t really complain.

  7. I’m giving it it’s own article, but this is when I really learned the value of thorough testing one’s film.

  8. How to dial in contrast correctly, in the scan itself.

Would I shoot more Agfapan APX 100?

Definitely.

I would really like to shoot the stuff in 120. It has maybe my favorite look of any cubic grained 100 speed film. I prefer it to Ilford Delta 100 too, but not Acros. Acros is still bae. Despite my pissing and moaning about 100 not being fast enough, I probably would still snatch up any Agfapan 100 that came my way, provided I got a reasonable price on it.

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