Review: Agfa APX 400 Film (35mm)

Agfa APX 400 film

As often as I can, I want to get into reviewing films. I’m not necessarily talking about the well known films like your Portra, your Tri-X, your Delta 400–but the lesser known and lesser talked about rolls of film. Upon going to the Lomography store here in NYC, a rep there who knows me told me about Agfa APX 400. It’s a rather interesting film–one that retains highlights well so you generally need to overexpose for the shadows.

Now, there were two different ones: the older emulsion is really tough to get your hands on. The newer emulsion will remind you a lot of many Instagram, VSCO and EyeEm filters. Being a black and white film, you’ll also surely have a lot of fun with it.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (25 of 44)

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from the Lomography listing

SKU f436apx
Development Black and White Negative Processing
Film Type Negative
ISO 400
Exposures 36
Pack Size 1

Gear Used

This review was done with a Canon EOS Elan 7, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 and a Sigma 35mm f1.4

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (44 of 44)

Essentially what you need to do with this film is expose for the shadows and process for the highlights by pulling the film. That way, you’ll get the absolute best quality. Considering that this film renders a lot of detail from the highlights, you’ll surely have lots of fun with it.

I think that that is how you’ll actually want to shoot the film to begin with. When using more modern optics that have coatings that enhance contrast like some of the best Sigma lenses, this shooting method will really come out more and you may need to meter a bit less towards the shadows. But when using older lenses with less contrast, you’ll need to meter a bit more towards the shadows. As it is, it processes highlights pretty well.

Now, that isn’t what I always did; but I also don’t care about every single one of my images being an HDR either. Most people though my care for it.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (38 of 44)

Agfa APX 400 is a very, very interesting film. I want to describe it as milky, faded, low contrast in some areas ways and in other ways it’s sort of faded. In fact, milky is the best way of labelling it vs being inky. You can also associate it to a Film Noir look. For the photographers that really like low contrast film, this is one to surely go for. If I had to liken it to anything previously made, it would be to a couple of really old cinema stocks. For those of you who have watched shows like I Love Lucy or the Honeymooners, the emulsion will look very much like what you saw on the screen.

Here’s an example based on a rough estimate between Agfa APX 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400:

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (26 of 44)

Agfa APX 400

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400

For sure, Tri-X tends to be higher contrast–though for those of us who shoot film often you’ll know that Tri-X isn’t as contrasty as Delta 400. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for street photography, it’s a great film for portraiture.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (20 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (6 of 44)

The film is sharp, has a very tight and beautiful grain that you almost may not see and in some ways reminds me of Kodak BW CN 400. Combine this with the low contrast and you’ve got a winner for any photographer that really diggs the look of Kodak Portra; except that you’re shooting in black and white here. You’ll also get an exceptionally smooth gradation with this film.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (40 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (39 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (37 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (36 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (32 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (24 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (21 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (19 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (18 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (15 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (10 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (11 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (41 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (30 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (9 of 44)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Agfa APX 400 film scans (13 of 44)

Conclusions

This film is fun; and for some photographers that like lower contrast in their scenes it may even become their favorite film. It’s super affordable, fun to experiment with, and in the right situations can help you to create really cool photos. But for me, I’m a bigger fan of Ilford Delta 400. Why? I digg contrast; lots of it. More contrast can sometimes fool the eye into thinking an image is sharper than it is; but with this film you don’t need to do that. Agfa APX 400 is plenty sharp, has tight grain and I’d probably use it the most for portrait and studio stuff.

For the film reviews, I’m not going to give them the standard Phoblographer star rating, but instead what I’m going to do is encourage you to go out and try it on your own.

  • leo tam
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2580159914

    Isn’t this just rebranded kentmere 400?

  • kwaxuyeoma
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2579156155

    Conversely, anyone getting started in film ought to consider the shooting low contrast stuff first. After all, in the darkroom you’ll have the choice to enhance the contrast processing the print. It’s far easier to add contrast than to remove it in any post process, analog or digital.

  • DMR
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2576663237

    What scanner were you using for these images? Pakon? I make that guess because the Pakon was designed for Color Negative film, and has been converted to scan B&W via software, and my experience from owning one is that it scans B&W with lower contrast consistently. Likewise, I saved each of your images above and through them into Lightroom, and noticed two things:

    You have a hint of Sepia tone, that needed de-saturation to get ‘true’ B&W. (This is also inherent to the Pakon in my experience)

    Every single image shown above started your deepest Black at ~55 on the histogram, that as I am sure you well know ranges from 0 – 255.

    Sorry to sound critical, but calling the above film low contrast isn’t necessarily accurate, it may very well be a function of your scanning methods, be it the Pakon or any other scanner. A quick curves adjustment in Lightroom fixed the ‘low contrast’ nature of the above images in every example. The images above aren’t ‘black and white’ photos, they’re ‘grey and white’ photos because you technically don’t have any ‘blacks’ in the images (0-55 on the histogram).

    I don’t intend to be critical. I just believe that before you pass the review of this film off as being low contrast, more efforts should have been taken to confirm that justification. I’ve personally never shot this film, but a review of the Agfa APX 400 Flickr photo pool showed many (dare I say majority) that were not as low contrast as your photos above. It just seems, quick to judgement as compared to more complete.

    • DMR
      Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
      Disqus/1.1(2.84):2576671083

      See below as an example of where the ‘blacks’ are on the histogram as compared to curve adjusted image above.