Film Test: Svema Foto 32

19 Aug

Film Test

Today is the Anniversary of the so-called anti-Gorbachev putsch or coup which failed because organizers of the coup were yokels or possibly did not want to win.  The coup to preserve the Soviet Union was followed by another constitutional coup of Elcin (Yeltsin as his name is spelled phonetically) and two other accomplices, that led to the dissolution of the USSR and in the words of Vladimir Putin to the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.  I was even more catastrophic that conventionally assumed because the causes of the disaster were so foolish.

Svema Foto 32

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993

A few weeks ago I was lucky to buy not 30 rolls of Lucky but  of Svema Foto 32, Russian black and white film made in the old Soviet days. My batch was made probably sometime between 1989 or 1990 and expired in 1993 (after Soviet Union’s self-caused dissolution).

There is a strong sentiment in Russia, especially in two of its consumerist centers, Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad in Soviet days though that  toponymic appears and sounds so awkward   to my eye and ear ) that can be expressed as “we cannot make anything”, what they mean that Russians cannot manufacture anything and whatever they make is vastly inferior to comparable foreign stuff.  And there is truth to that, as inhabitants of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Soviet Nomentlatura and the Thieving Classes indeed cannot produce anything of any value. So when they say “we cannot make anything”,  it’s true as they cannot make anything while other people can.

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

One discovery for me was the Kiev 60 camera which is an exquisite piece of photographic equipment but even now you hear from predominantly Muscovite human  garbage that the camera is not worth its weight in pig iron.  That it is totally worthless, unreliable,  incapable of producing any sorts of photos except for childish snapshots and even Pentacon Six is a better piece of equipment. As I discovered it is not. Pentacon Six is less reliable but the finish is a bit better while design is… I would rather stick with square-ish looks of a Kiev.

As of Soviet photographic film, the stories I hear was that the film was just awful. Horrible grain.  Cracks. Human hair sticking out of emulsion.

Enough of folklore.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Oh though wait a minute. The film is ASA/ISO 32 (odd Russian rating but it corresponds to the GOST value, so the film speed was supposedly ASA 32, not more conventional 25 or 50). It was made by two factories.  Svema and Tasma. One group of old timers say Tasma made somewhat better emulsion while others say that Svema produced film was superior though quite possibly the film was identical. While researching the history of black and white film production at Svema and Tasma, I discovered that they shared technical staff.  So engineers and chemists from Tasma would travel to Svema facility for production runs and emulsion cooking and vice-versa which tells me that the film they produced was more or less similar.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

A motorcycle rider, Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in tSvema Fotohe summer 2011

While Tasma survives in a zombie-like state by making chemicals and special application industrial films, the Svema factory is long dead as it went extinct together with the Soviet Union.  I found a small series of photos taken in the ruins of the Svema plant last year, though text is in Russian and is perhaps not accessible to those who neither read the language nor are capable of using translate.google.com, black and white images serve as a visual witness of what has become of this film manufacturer.

I shot two rolls of Foto 32.  This was not a scientific test. Far from it. I ran two rolls through a Kiev 60. There are no artistic merits to  those photos,  I just walked around and shot the Svema Foto 32 film to see what if anything comes out of it.

a sailboat -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a sailboat - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Although 20 or 21 years passed since the film was manufactured the fogging is insignificant, the grain obviously increased as it should have had but  I can’t say it is all that horrible. In fact I am satisfied with the results and can well guess what this film was like when it was fresh.

a mask -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a mask - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

It was exquisite.

When the stuff was fresh it was beautiful black and white fine grain film that was probably comparable to Ilford PAN-F 50.

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Very good stuff.

Delicious.

Developed in Tetenal Ultrafin and fixed with an old ORWO fixer.

sailboat 2  - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

sailboat 2 - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

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4 Responses to “Film Test: Svema Foto 32”

  1. William Bell September 22, 2011 at 03:18 #

    I just found a bunch of this film that was lost in my basement here in the USA since the film was fresh. It is in 35mm format, packaged without the outer cartridge. I need to find some cartridges to load it in so I can give it a shot. I plan to develop it in Caffenol C.

    • photoroobit September 26, 2011 at 03:38 #

      I am unsure about caffenol though. It sounds too exotic for my developing taste.
      Also old film cassettes (ORWO, Agfa, llford, Kodak) if you have any laying around were all supposedly reloadable but I’ll be happy to mail you a reloadable cassette or cartidge in regular letter envelope.

  2. Gregory Thomas August 10, 2013 at 08:22 #

    Can you confirm whether or not the 120 stuff comes spooled & is loadable in light? Or is it like 35mm, unspooled and only loadable in complete darkness? Hoping to shoot some of this film someday soon.

    • photoroobit August 10, 2013 at 18:35 #

      Actually, I have never seen any 120 format film that is not spooled and has no backing paper. Selling film like that would make no sense as a private person cannot spool the film correctly. 35mm / cinematic stock is a different matter because anyone can load it into cassettes and 35 film was sold as “refills” (say by Ilford in the UK) until at least mid 1970s. Thank you for stepping by.

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