A cautionary tale

As you may have gathered by now. Mark and I enjoy the challenge of making and adapting items with the aim to save a few pounds here and there, proving that good results can be created without spending a small fortune.
Ok, I admit we do not cut corners when it comes to purchasing filters. We use STC filters for a very good reason. They are the best.

One of my areas of interest is pinhole photography. Shooting mainly in the 6x12cm format means only getting 6 exposures on a roll of 120 film and this can work out quite expensive. Being aware of this a couple of years ago whilst on the lookout for competitively price film, I came across Shanghai GP3 black and white film, I ordered some and subsequently exposed an processed it. The results were quite good, on the back of this I ordered some more. BIG MISTAKE! This time all the images had numbers and circles on them from the backing paper, obviously a faulty batch.  Lesson learnt, I changed brands, paid a little more but had consistent results without the problem of number transfer.

This year, having made some modifications to my Noon pinhole camera I decided to purchase some more 120 black and white film. Lo and behold after several years absence from the marketplace Shanghai GP3 film reappeared, wary as I was, I checked online to see if there were any reports of quality issues with the film. All reports seemed positive, so I jumped at the chance to save a couple of pounds (not such a saving as years previous). Off I went to test a roll, processed it and oh no the numbers are all over the images again.

Back online I found a report saying that some Shanghai GP3 film has dubious backing paper that is not 100% lightproof.
I took a roll into the darkroom and transferred the film to a different backing paper,
I have a bin full of them and a lot of empty spools too! Emerging into daylight I noticed the backing paper on the second roll was different. Had they changed backing paper part way through the batch of emulsion and would this be an improvement? Could this be the answer? I had high hopes.

Out for another test, back to the darkroom for processing. And? No difference, numbers all over the images.

The moral of this story is twofold, if it looks too cheap to be true then avoid and secondly when it comes to film, do not go for the cheapest there is. It is cheap for a reason.

An update to this article. I was contacted by the importer of Shanghai GP3 film to offer me some free rolls of film to enable me re evaluate the film quality. I was also advised to not refrigerate the film, strange advice since best practice is to keep film refrigerated and to remove and allow to come to room temperature for 24 hours prior to use. This being my routine previously for the Shanghai GP3 film. I removed all the remaining GP3 from the fridge, allowing to remain at room temperature for the next two weeks. I tested one of the new rolls of film alongside one of my original rolls, result – no number transfer. Lesson learned! My Shanghai GP3 film now resides in a dark storage area at room temperature whilst all my other brands of film still remain in the refrigerator.

What I now do is to use Ilford FP4 if the images are important and never to be repeated because I know I can trust it and for general work I use Shanghai GP3.


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