Ilford SFX200Ilford SFX200

Images: left – SFX200 film with no filter, right – SFX200 film with Cokin P003 Red filter

Not too long ago, inspired by the work of others (and in order to plot another point on the Stages Of A Photographer graph) I picked up a second-hand Canon EOS film camera. I managed to get an EOS 5 from ebay for around £25 including postage – I had been wanting to pick up an EOS 3 but £100 seemed a little too extravagant. I could also have bought something more fashionable, but as a first tentative step into the world of film it seemed a sensible choice – I can use all my lenses and it works pretty much the same as my main camera, the 5D (although there are some inconvenient differences, such as the lack of dedicated Depth of Field preview button)

I put a couple of films through it to see how I got on, and got them developed locally (and cheaply). Unfortunately the results were pretty poor – lots of scratched prints – but it also seemed that how I metered for digital wasn’t appropriate for film. There were some nice images though, so undeterred I decided to try again so I ordered 4 B&W films at random and it just so happened that one of these was a roll of Ilford SFX200.

I hadn’t really read anything about the film when buying it but whilst casually researching the films before they arrived I noticed that it had “extended red sensitivity” and “using a deep red filter skies can be rendered almost black and most green vegetation almost white”. Reading a bit more about the film I couldn’t really find out any solid facts about using it – although had I found the flickr group earlier I could probably have got my questions answered – so I decided to document my limited experimentation with it so far here.

Kit used:
Canon EOS 5
Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens
58mm filter adapter – as the lens has a 58mm filter thread
Cokin P Series Wide Angle Filter Holder (BPW400A) – I could have used the standard 3 slot one but as I was going to be using film and not digital I didn’t want to be relying on the need to crop the edges if the adapter was visible. (Because the viewfinder isn’t 100% there is always the chance that you don’t see the filter holder through the viewfinder but that it is visible in the shots)
Cokin P003 Red Filter

I was using the square Cokin P-Series filters because I already had them. Kood also produce the filter accessories (adaptor, holder), which are generally cheaper than the Cokin ones.
A screw-in Red 29 filter will perform the same function. (A Red 25 filter may also be used but the effect will be slightly less strong)

Without filter/With filter comparison:
The images at the top of this page were shot at the same time (well, within less than a minute of each other) in identical lighting conditions – bright sunlight. Ok – the composition is slightly different, which doesn’t make it a 100% accurate comparison, but my slight change of position will have made only minimal difference to the exposure.

TTL metering was used for both images, metering set to Evaluative. The Red filter has a filter factor of 8, meaning that it absorbs 3 stops of light, so bright sunlight really is necessary for taking shots hand-held. Normally when using the red filter with digital I would shoot at ISO400 but as I was using this film for the first time I decided to use it as its rated speed. ISO400 obviously gives a bit of extra leeway with the aperture setting and I found that I was shooting at f/8 and f/5.6 at less than 1/100s here. Even though statistically 1/50s should be fine with the 24mm lens I still like to shoot a bit faster, so I was expecting a few blurred shots from the roll (but was happily surprised when they were all ok)

As you can see from the images above (left, SFX200 film with no filter – right, SFX200 film with Cokin P003 Red filter) there is a marked difference in the tones when using the red filter. It’s not quite true Infrared as a) the red filter still lets a lot of visible light through and b) the film doesn’t record far into the infrared spectrum, but it’s quite a strikingly different look and one which I far prefer to the 650nm digital conversion that I have.

For a more authentic Infrared effect you could use an IR72/R72/Cokin P007 filter – however this is a very dark filter and it’s virtually (if not) impossible to compose and focus with the filter on. For the time being I’ll be sticking with the red filter as the film camera is a relatively inexpensive thing of fun for me – I’m not quite ready to stick it on a tripod and take it seriously.