I get (almost) all of my film supplies from Parallax in Brixton – they are wonderful, knowledgeable, and the pricing is competitive. They are also not open over the holidays. So, with precious few days remaining before jetting (metaphorically, in reality we drove) off to sunny Cornwall for a few days, I needed to find somewhere else to get a few rolls of film.
Photography stuff is about the only thing in the world that is over-priced and under stocked on amazon, none of the other online players were shipping until after the holidays, so leaving the house was required. I ventured into London with no particular place in mind, but aware that if all was lost I could stop at snappy-snaps and pay £8 for a roll of HP5.
On my journey I walked past the Lumography store in Soho and wandered in. I have never considered purchasing anything from lumo – I am not sure about spending that much money on a camera made of plastic that makes your film look like an Instagram filter from 5 years ago so wasn’t really sure what I’d find. But after a tentative ‘can I develop this with Rodinal’ question to the sales assistant, more to establish if this was film that could be expected to act like film (as opposed to something with fake light leaks built in), I purchased three rolls of ‘Lady Grey’ for the not unreasonable price of £16 (I think).
I had some film! Some searching gave me enough confidence in the film to not run off to snappy snaps for some back up – it seems that Lumography Lady Grey is re-labelled Fomapan 400, which I had used before and got some fairly good results with. I’d recommend going to read that review if you are interested in how the film performs in normal conditions, because the two rolls of Lady Grey that I shot with my camera set up correctly were exactly in line with my experiences with the Foma 400.
The one roll of film I shot with my camera set up about as incorrectly as it could possibly be was what convinced me that Lady Grey (and Foma 400) is actually a much better film than I originally thought.
The story begins with the realisation that Lady Grey is not DX coded, no surprises there given that the Foma isn’t either, although it is beyond me as to why anyone is making film without DX coding. My camera assumes an ISO of 100 for non-dx coded films, so loading the 400 ISO should simply have involved setting the exposure compensation down two stops to make sure everything was going to work correctly. However, holiday over excitement led to me doing the exact opposite, and accidently setting the exposure compensation to +2. Now my camera was not only exposing for a 100 ISO film, it was adding another two stops of exposure. I didn’t notice anything amiss until I got towards the end of the film and the day began to become darker – then the noticeable amount of time the shutter was open for each shot became apparent. By this time though I only had a couple more frames to shoot, so I left everything as it was and decided to see what happened when I developed the film.
The result really should be horrendously over exposed images. Developing the film normally would be an extremely risky strategy – pulling a couple of stops, no problem, but pulling so many that I am not actually sure what ISO the camera was shooting for (something less than 25?) would require a different approach. As the developing time for 400 films is relatively short anyway, reducing this didn’t seem viable, so I decided to do a stand development with a reduced amount of developer. So I mixed up a 1/100 dilution of Rodinol then left the film swimming for about half an hour. This was entirely unscientifically based on dividing the 120 minutes that ISO 400 would take at 1/100 by four.
Amazingly, it worked. My negatives are not perfect, there are a couple of frames where I think the developer has given up, they are quite flat and the pictures I took in the middle of the day are still, definitely, over exposed.
This gallery has some examples with no post processing.buy a copy if you like.
In conclusion – Lady Gray – it’s an ok film in an emergency, though it costs slightly more per roll than Foma 400. Check your camera settings carefully before you start shooting. Don’t give up hope on something that hasn’t been shot as it should be, it’s a perfect opportunity to try out something new in the development process.