Review: Ars Imago 320 Black and White Film (Please Come Back)

With Ars Imago 320, a photographer can expect super sharp images with fine grain at a usable ISO.

Ten years ago, no one would have predicted there would be a market for Ars Imago 320. But in the past few years, we’ve see a revival of film photography unlike any other. Around the world, younger photographers are picking up film cameras in an effort to get something different. The tangible process film photography allots the modern shooter is much more about the interpersonal connection than what digital offers. And with Ars Imago 320, photographers are getting a whole lot of versatility. While they state it’s good enough to be pushed to ISO 800, this fine grain film is also incredibly sharp. It’s for moments when you don’t need ISO 400 but also need more than ISO 100. Best of all, it’s in black and white. Load it up in a camera like the Fujifilm Natura S and you’re bound to have a lot of fun. We sure did. And while it was a limited edition, we hope it will come back.

Tech Specs

Specs for Ars Imago 320 are taken from their website.

IMAGO 320 is a fine grain film with a very high sharpness and a wide exposure latitude. It is a panchromatic film, coated on acetate base and compatible with most available developers.

  • ISO 320, pushable up to ISO 800
  • Fine grain
  • High sharpness
  • Wide exposure latitude
  • Available in 135 and 120 format

Ease of Use

We purposely tried to have as much fun as possible with the few rolls we had of Ars Imago 320. For me, that meant simply using it to document life as it came at me. I spend much of my time testing the latest digital cameras; shooting film for me is a nice way to not obsess over the images. I instead take a photo after some careful thought and learn to trust myself. If Ars Imago 320 ever comes back on the market, it’s going to be very special. Where I found this film to be especially useful is with the Hexar AF. In aperture priority, the Hexar AF is limited by its 1/250th max shutter speed. That means if you’re shooting at ISO 400 in sunlight you need to stop your lens all the way down. But the Hexar AF was more forgiving here due to the film being ISO 320. Further, the Natura S was able to simply shoot and create fun photos.

From what I can tell, Ars Imago 320 is very sharp. The grain is visible for sure, but it’s fine. I still find T-Max 400 to have finer grain, for what it’s worth. We asked Luster Photo lab to develop the film and they gave us the images you see here. Everything is sharp. Everything is contrasty when a flash is applied. When there is no flash, the images are still sharp but low contrast due to the panchromatic design. And everything looks solid overall. I can’t complain about how it looks. In my mind, this is how black and white film photography should be.

Sample Images

Conclusions

Ars Imago 320 film is gone now and I wish it comes back. The black and white film market could really use it. A middle ground (between ISO 100-400) black and white film is needed. While most tend to go for ISO 100 or 400, you’d be amazed at how useful ISO 200 and 320 are. Let alone, this is a panchromatic film. It looks and renders much differently than other types of black and white film. I like it and I am really hoping it returns in some way or another.