Rare film post: Kodak Double X film review

I have been meaning to try out this rare film for a while, and a photo walk around the streets of Madrid was the perfect opportunity to take it through its paces.

Since I finished the 52 rolls of film project, I have shot a few different rare films (such as Kodak Vision 500 or Fuji Eterna), but I mostly packed my bag with some of my favourites from the likes of Kodak Portra or Ilford Delta 3200. As I shot 52 different rolls of film in the last year, I have a fairly good view as to what I like, but it is always nice to put something in your camera you have never used before. And believe it or not, there are still plenty of films out there I have not tried, and not all of them fall in the 'rare' category.

A bit more about the film

This film, also known as Kodak 5222, was released in 1959 by Eastman Kodak as a classic black and white emulsion for cinema film. Some famous recent movies shot with this film include Schindler's List and the beginning sequence of the Casino Royale James Bond film. According to Kodak:

Beautiful images. Reliable performance. EASTMAN DOUBLE-X Negative Film 5222 / 7222 has the subtleties in tone scale that you’ve come to expect. Designed for general production use outdoors and in the studio, in dim light, and anywhere you need greater depth of field without increased illumination.

As this film is produced for motion picture cameras, it needs to be hand rolled into 35mm canisters for use with regular 35mm cameras. Apparently it has been left relatively unchanged since its 1959 recipe, and has also been recently re-packaged as part of CineStill's "bwxx" film, which comes in 36 exposures.

It probably is not all that 'rare' as it is still being produced, but given it needs to be hand rolled into its 35mm format, it is not that easy to find. In this case 'rare' means I can't find it in most photography shops...mind you, given CineStill are now mass producing their own version of it, that may change.

A bit more about what I was photographing

I actually had no theme at all, other than go for a long walk. This film is rated as ISO 250, and I figured it would work well in sunny Madrid, however it was probably too bright for some of the shots I wanted to take. I had read that this film does not have a lot of exposure latitude, and I can see that as some of the highlights are quite blown out. That being said, there are some real winners in there and it proves to be a very promising film indeed. All photos were shot on my Hasselblad Xpan, so I managed about 15 shots out of a roll of 27 frames (as the Xpan uses two frames per photograph).

Given these are wide angle shots, remember to turn your phone sideways if viewing on a mobile device. However, I highly recommend to view on a laptop / desktop screen as these photos are really sharp. All photos clickable for an even bigger view. 

One of the many wonderful Madrid facades. 
A Tabacco / newsagent shop (left) and a lottery shop (right), a very typical Madrid scene. 
A side view of part of Plaza Castilla, so far so good, I really like these shots!
Another typical Madrid street. Also very hard to expose for given the very bright sun on the right of the shot.
Definitely my favourite shot of the roll! This is a wonderful shot on a laptop or desktop monitor, where you can really see how clear the shot is - no wonder this film stock is popular for cinematography!
Nothing special about this shot, in fact I took it because I wanted to see how the shade would come out. It was such a sunny day I was worried all my shots would be blown out. Based on how the shade looks, I'd say this is a good film for low light bringing out some nice dark blacks. 
What surprised me about this film was how sharp the negatives were, as can be seen below - through a magnifier on a lightbox. Incredible sharpness for black-and-white negatives.
The scanned image. Advertising for the big match and the Bernabeu Stadium in the background. 
A really typical Madrid scene: taxi, phone box, lottery stand, pharmacy - all that is missing is a Spanish bar!
Taxi stand at Plaza Castilla. I really like the strong contrasts, you can see how clear the white of the taxi cars is and then how dark the black windows of the two leaning buildings are. 
My local basketball court where my brother and I used to play as kids - we were never that good at basketball but we were for sure the tallest kids around. 
The Bernabeu stadium. Another great shot, look at how sharp it is!
Shot through a bus window, I can see why this film is so sought after for that vintage black-and-white look, this could be a photograph from the 60s or 70s.

Overall observations

I absolutely loved this film! I am glad I have a few more rolls, it is definitely one to try out in a lower light situation or with "better light" for black-and-white photography. Shooting under a cloudy day might make for less harsh lighting, as well as shooting first thing in the morning where the light is softer. As I shot this in the middle of the day I found the light to be very bright and hard to shoot under. I have seen some shots taken at night and the results are really quite incredible.

Despite shooting under very bright sunlight, I was still really impressed with some of the shots I managed to take. I was also blown away by the clarity and sharpness of the negatives, something I had not seen in other black and white film. 

I will definitely try this film out again with a normal 35mm camera (not the wide angle Xpan view) and test it out during low light, I can imagine it produces some really good contrasts. It is definitely up there as one of my favourite black-and-white films so far! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Neil