Originally entitled “Bulk Film Insanity: Part II,” this post was originally intended to be a continuation of this posting on the purchase of bulk film. I am pleased to report that I did short 15-exposure roll and developed it and found no evidence of light damage. There’s always the fear when handling a roll of film that big and loading the film loader in darkness that you’re going to make a false move, so that made me feel better.
It occurred to me a while ago – who actually makes the Ultrafine films? I asked Photo Warehouse this question and got no answer. I searched google and found in forums where many people asked them this question, also getting no answer. Somewhat understandable – if there are contractual obligations, they may not be allowed to reveal the actual manufacturer.
The question still remains – who makes this film? Searching more forums, some say it’s rebranded Agfa, others say rebranded China Lucky Film. Others say “it looks too good to be Chinese.” Having never actually used or scanned any Chinese film, I really can’t make any sort of opinion there. Others say it’s rebranded Ilford with the most popular theory being that it’s rebranded Ilford Delta 400. But, Ilford is insistent that they do not rebrand emulsions that are sold under the Ilford name. There are others that claim that it’s rebranded Kentmere film. But all of these are speculative, so that doesn’t really answer the question – who actually makes the Ultrafine films?
After more digging, I uncovered the bar code number on the side of their single film rolls (not found on the bulk roll container):
A side note – in my experience, I have used Ilford films in the past and they have that same grayish color on the emulsion side, a noticeable contrast to Kodak’s purplish color. But, that is also speculative. Note the middle four digits of the bar code number: “1770.” There is a mathematic formula to interpret this number, which occurs on nearly every commercial film brand. Divide the middle four digits by 16 to yield “DX number, part one.” Next take the remainder of that division, this is “DX number, part two.”
For the code aficionados out there, this is easier than doing the division by hand if you have a python interpreter handy:
Python 3.4.3 (v3.4.3:9b73f1c3e601, Feb 24 2015, 22:43:06) [MSC v.1600 32 bit
tel)] on win32
Type “help”, “copyright”, “credits” or “license” for more information.
110.625 – the division operator, giving us DX number part one
10 – the modulus operator, giving us DX number part two
After having both numbers, visit this link, which will open an old 2008 edition of the DX Codes for 135-size film. Go to page 25.
As can be seen, the part 1 code of 110 indicates the manufacturer is Harman Technology, the parent company of Ilford. Since this is a 2008 edition it’s unsurprising that the part two number 10 is not listed. The emulsion was probably created sometime after 2008. While it should be noted that the digital truth site lists the development times of both Ilford Delta 400 and Ultrafine Xtreme 400 in D-76 as 9:30 at stock dilution, this doesn’t necessarily mean the film is identical. It sure does look suspicious though.
So, is this film a rebranded Ilford formula? No. However, it would appear that the film is manufactured by Ilford. It is clearly a close relative to 400 Delta. There are some who speculate that it’s rebranded Ilford HP5, but its development time in D-76 is much shorter (7:30). It is not the exact same thing as Delta 400, but it’s likely at least 95% the same. A new formula based on delta 400, perhaps.
There is an easier way to interpret these codes if that’s a bit more math than you care to do. Pascal de Bruijn has developed a web app that will calculate this – no math or java plugins required. I put the Ultrafine code here and it confirms that Harman technologies makes it as an original emulsion. Curiously enough, it shows as also being sold as Kentmere 400.
In short – if Ilford were to make an emulsion and call it “Ilford not quite as good as, but kind of like Delta 400 and about half the price,” this film would be it.