Oriental Seagull 400 is a high-speed 35mm B&W negative film manufactured exclusively for the Japanese market by Harman Technology in the UK. It was released together with Seagull 100 on 24 February 2016 as a response to the ever-shrinking B&W market in Japan. With the departure of Fujufilm Neopan 400 in 2013, Harman Technology are vying to establish Seagull 400 as the undisputed champion of the 35mm 'bang for your buck' division. But does it have much to offer besides the attractive price tag?
Due to the exclusivity of the film, little information is known about the Oriental Seagulls to date. In the official press release, the film was described as having a 'natural and beautiful graininess although being a high-speed film.' It was also mentioned that the film is capable of being pushed to 800 ISO. But apart from these rather rudimentary details, specifics such as grain structure and emulsion type were not disclosed. So in order to find out more, I reached out to Cyber Graphics Corporation, Japan's trusted distributor of Harman Technology products. They explained that the Seagull range of films have a 'traditional' grain structure and were strategically priced to meet the demands of the snap-happy dilettante as well as the high-volume requirements of educational institutions such as universities and photography schools. While some have speculated that Seagull 400 is merely re-packaged Kentmere 400, I was reassured that Seagull 400 is a completely new and unique product. Interestingly enough, it was reported that users of the film found Seagull 400 to be far more consistent batch-to-batch than Kentmere 400 although being the cheaper of the two.
One of Japan's leading film retailers, Yodobashi Camera, have Seagull 400 priced around 15% cheaper than Kentmere 400 at just ¥800 per roll (including tax). Incredibly, the 100 speed Seagull not only undercuts the locally made Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 by almost 5%, but it takes the crown as the cheapest 35mm B&W negative film in the store's catalogue at just ¥600 JPY per roll (including tax). Photographers living outside Japan can purchase Seagull 400 online from Camera Film Photo for around 8.60 USD per roll and 3-packs of Seagull 100 for 19.38 USD. Both the 100 and 400 speed Seagulls are currently only available in 135-36 cartridges.
I chose to shoot the film at its recommended box speed of 400 ISO. It was developed with Kodak D-76 at the recommended times provided on the interior of the box. Upon analysing the digital scans, my first impressions were that it bears a remarkable resemblance to Ilford HP5+. I was impressed at Seagull 400's ability to retain shadow detail and compress highlights, attributes which allow the film to handle difficult lighting situations with ease. The grain appears to be finer, less robust than HP5+ but it still maintains a sharp, high-resolution image.
At this point in time, I can not comment on the quality of prints the film produces, nor can I speak about the film's pushing and pulling capabilities. But I can say that Oriental Seagull 400 represents great value for money for the snap-happy photographer looking for a fast, traditional grain B&W film.
Camera: Asahi Pentax Spotmatic
Lens: Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4 (8 element)
Developer: Kodak D-76
Scanner: AgfaPhoto GmbH d-lab.2/3
Renato Repetto is a street photographer based in Brisbane, Australia. Coming from a music production background, he applies many of the same disciplines of the analog recording process to his photography.