My photography journey began over 20 years ago with black and white film in the darkroom. One of my best friends and I were in charge of ensuring there was plenty of developer and fresh fixer. In exchange, we were given a key to the darkroom to use whenever we wanted. We shot varying speeds of Kodak TMax and Ilford Delta and processed them in several different developer brands. I quickly fell in love with deep blacks and punchy contrast, and I fell hard. So, naturally I was thrilled when Editor-In-Chief Chris Gampat sent some KONO Monolit 3 for review.
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The Monolit 3 is an ultra-slow film that promises to produce velvety, stark blacks and significant contrast. Shooting with ISO 3 is not easy; most exposures are between 1/8th of a second and three seconds. The hassle of carrying a tripod everywhere pays dividends when you see the finished results. Seeing the deep blacks and succulent contrast transported me back to those joyous moments in the darkroom. Is the $14.99 price tag for KONO Monolit 3 worth it? We think so. Keep reading to find out why.
The Big Picture
The KONO Monolit 3 is an ultra-slow orthochromatic black and white film that produces great blacks and excellent contrast. The combination of the film and a Leica M6 is perfect for cityscapes, landscapes, and architecture. Most exposures are between 1/8th of a second and 3 seconds. A tripod or a set of very steady hands is necessary. However, the hassle of carrying a tripod everywhere pays off in dividends. Seeing the finished result brings back a feeling of nostalgia and an overwhelming sense of joy.
We are giving KONO Monolit 3 five out of five stars. Want to try it out for yourself? It’s priced at $14.99 per 36-exposure roll. Also, there are only a few rolls left in stock for the foreseeable future.
- Lovely contrast and punchy blacks
- Wonderful gradation
- Plenty of detail
- Minimal grain
- ISO 3 is very forgiving
- If you don’t have steady hands, a tripod is necessary.
We tested the KONO Monolit 3 with the following gear:
- Leica M6 TTL
- Funleader 35mm f2 conversion
- Leica CL
- 7Artisans 50mm f1.1
- Sekonic 608-C Light Meter
- Vanguard Veo 3+ 263CB tripod
Our Monolit 3 film was developed and scanned by Blue Moon Camera in Portland, Oregon. They do a fantastic job and have a satisfactory turnaround time.
Ease Of Use
The Kono Monolit 3 was shot at box speed. A few of the frames were intentionally overexposed or underexposed. However, most of the images on the 36-exposure roll were captured as per the light meter. Several of the landscape frames utilized the zone method for metering. The Monolit 3 is a pliable film and produces stellar results.
At ISO 3, KONO Monolit 3 is not an easy film to shoot. The manufacturer recommends shooting its 35mm film with a camera that has a built-in meter. I found that my Sekonic light meter was more than sufficient, and the exposures came out fantastic. A tripod is necessary for most longer exposures, especially when they exceed several seconds. You might even opt for a shutter release for the longest exposures. The hassle is worth it.
We did experience an issue where the film came detached from the film roll. It felt exactly like when the tension releases when the film has fully rewound, just like the hundreds of rolls before. I assumed all was well, and opened the bottom of the Leica M6. More than half of the film was exposed to light in my car for as long as it took me to clumsily secure the bottom. The other roll had detached entirely and would not rewind. I had to take it into a darkroom, remove the film from the camera, and re-roll it to an empty roll.
There are several reasons that this could have happened. Our best guess is the transition from the freezer, ground shipping transit time, and a stark change in the climate. The drastic change could have easily caused that to happen. KONO assured us this is an isolated case. I’ve shot film long enough to know that sometimes crap happens even when you do everything right. We mention it so that you might take the extra precaution when rewinding your precious film just in case. It’s never a bad idea to have extra tools and access to a darkroom.
I was positive I had lost almost an entire roll of film. To my surprise, most of those images on the exposed ISO 3 survived. Only a few of the perfectly exposed images look slightly overexposed and a bit flat. Furthermore, the light leak made for an unintended effect that upped the cool factor and added to the mood. The film is incredibly pliable.
We shipped the film to Blue Moon Camera in Portland, Oregon for developing and scanning. They did an excellent job processing the KONO film to specifications. Scanned images were sent via a Dropbox folder, although you can select another delivery method. You can also choose another film lab of your liking.
KONO’s orthochromatic Monolit 3 produces images with gorgeous shadows, punchy contrast, plenty of detail, and subtle grain. This film creates the deep blacks I first fell in love with, especially on sunny days. The Monolit 3 shines brightest when there is plenty of bright light. You will also appreciate the subtle tonality through every shade of gray in the zone system on overcast days. It’s easy to slightly underexpose for better blacks on days that are especially bleak.
The combination of the Leica M6 and KONO Monolit 3 does an extraordinary job capturing beautiful shadows. Images captured on windy days were sharp with plenty of detail. This film is an excellent choice for landscape, cityscape, and architecture photographers. Even the images that were exposed to light came out great.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the product can do. These photos are completely unedited.
Who Should Buy KONO Monolit 3 film?
This is a great option for anyone who owns a 35mm camera and appreciates rich blacks, ample contrast, lovely grain, and plenty of sharpness. If you don’t mind hauling your tripod with you for every shot, it’s a plus. A 36-exposure roll of KONO Monolit 3 is ideal for landscape, cityscape, and architecture photographers. Want some? You can pick up some of the remaining limited stock for $14.99.
KONO Monolit continues to provide incredible moody results. We look forward to see what they do with future iterations of this wonderful film.
These specs are taken from the manufacturer’s website.
- ISO 3
- 35mm, 36 exp., single film
- Orthochromatic and ultra-slow film stock
- classic b&w process
- Any b&w lab can develop KONO! MONOLIT films