Kodak’s Plus-X was a type of fine-grained, medium speed panchromatic black and white film originally released in 1938 as Eastman Plus-X, a motion picture stock rated at ASA 50. In the 1940s, it quickly became popular with still photographers as an alternative to slower orthochromatic films of the day. The film was available in a variety of formats, from 16mm to large format sheet film in negative and reversal formats. The formula and ASA speed rating of the film would change over the years, but generally remained true to it’s fine grained medium speed roots. Sadly, the film was discontinued in late 2011, much to the dismay of photographers around the world.
Over the course of it’s 73 year lifespan however, the film was one of the most popular black and white emulsions ever made, and was widely used by professional and amateur photographers alike. In the middle of the 20th century, it was rated between ASA 125 and 160 and allowed for 2-3 stops of speed over Kodak Panatomic-X, without introducing much grain.
In recent years, the film remains popular as a variety of internet bloggers have written about their experiences with the film as it is known to survive quite well, many decades after it’s expiration date. Petapixel quite possibly has the record for a recently shot roll of Plus-X expired in December 1945 in this review.
Here are a couple of other blog posts from people shooting Plus-X within the last several years, along with some sample images they got.
While it is fun to look at contemporary examples of the film, this is a Keppler’s Vault post, and this week we look back to the October 1958 issue of Modern Photography with an article about the “new” Kodak Plus-X. Although the article doesn’t state what’s new about the film, it’s reference to it being an ASA 160 speed film suggests that a speed increase from the earlier ASA 80 stock was the biggest change. Finding the exact dates of these changes is difficult, but according to this article from August 1956 says it was ASA 80 in daylight and 64 in tungsten light, so the change from ASA 80 to 160 had to have occurred between 1956 and 58.
The article champions the film as a “do everything” film that can be shot in almost every lighting condition, while still maintaining a sharp and fine grained look that professional photographers were after.
Perhaps the most interesting (and relevant today) part of the article are the development tables for the film using a variety of developers and how you can push the film to faster speeds, even as high as ASA 1000! This kind of information is really valuable today as there are fewer and fewer people doing this sort of thing and having a reference like this from the days in which the film was new, can be very useful for people wanting to experiment today.
As always, check out the gallery below and be sure to click on the link of each image in the gallery to view the full size version of each page for easier reading.
All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2019.