Because of the increasing popularity of film manufacturers are reintroducing film left and right. Kodak reintroduced Ektachrome and produces Kodak Gold in 120 format. Furthermore, new film brands have been popping up as well. Silberra is a relatively new Russian brand making color negative films. In Italy a factory has started production on Ferrania P30, a black and white negative film. These new and reintroduced films are joined by Kentmere in 120 format. We already know this because it has been produced in 35mm for a while now.
Kentmere is a budget line film produced by Ilford. They way this film is produced is very similar to HP5 or Delta100. The way Ilford was able to make this film cheaper than its higher end counterparts was simply by using less silver. By keeping the process similar the film tends to look like their bigger brothers. The amount of silver used, however, does influence the image the film creates. The amount of grain is a lot more pronounced and there is way less contrast than you would be used to.
Whether you like a grainy image yes or no is a matter of opinion. Personally, I don’t mind grain as long as it doesn’t take away from the quality of the image itself. This, however, is an opinion and you are welcome to disagree. There are film photographers that try to avoid grain like the plague. I believe that imperfections should be celebrated especially in something as handmade as film. However, everyone is welcome to their own opinion even if its wrong.
When it comes to the contrast the films have; there is almost no contrast. The images are not going to be spectacularly exciting straight after development. The lack of contrast, however, says something about the latitude the film has. This is exceptional for its caliber. When processing this film one can choose where they need the highlights to pop and the shadows to darken. All this without losing detail in the highlights and shadows.
Now for the important questions, how do all these features and bugs translate to medium format film? The thing when it comes to larger film is that the grain and contrast are less pronounced than on the 35mm format. Because of the size of the film there is more room for details. The reduction of contrast is relative and makes for easier post processing of the image in the darkroom or photoshop. I think bigger is better and occasionally pray that Ilford will start producing both Kentmere films in 4”x 5” format.
So, when to Kentmere and when not to use Kentmere films? Personally, I use this film (in 35mm) if I need to do a test shoot or have somewhere casual to take images like a house party or relaxed holiday. Basically, anywhere where I don’t need exceptional quality. On a medium format camera, the quirks these films have are minimalized and is actually very nice to use. For me it is able to compete with the traditional heavy hitters like HP5. Having said that, I like grain and don’t mind it at all in most of my images. I’m even more biased because of my recent dabbling in large format photography. Because of the size of the negative all the grain and imperfections are minimized.
Basically, if you are looking to test something and don’t want to break the bank use this film. Also use this film if you want to shoot something casually like a party or a holiday where you don’t need exceptional quality. If you want to make super clean images that are defined by contrast and rendition of high and lowlights stay away from Kentmere. Overall, this film just works and is great. Like every other type of film it has quirks, and some may like it and other might not. This conclusion might be a bit of a letdown. But what did you expect in a world where we have to be on our knees praying to the film gods to even get our hands on some of the stuff. I think all new film is great and should find a place in this undersaturated market.