Only The Shadow Knows – A First Look at Agent Shadow
A year ago, we reported on the most recent film project being brought to market by Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto. Called Agent Shadow, this 400-Speed B&W film would have wide latitude and could reach speeds of up to ASA-3200. This dark, gritty film recalls the days of film noir spy thrillers. While the crowdfunding campaign proved successfully, a series of complications extended the delivery date of the film stock. Despite this, Stephen maintained excellent communications with his backers and supporters throughout all of this and kept things on the level and transparent about the struggles. So when I arrived home one day from work, I found a hand-lettered package waiting for me in the lobby, and could see the word “Kosmo” my package had finally arrived.
Inside the plain cardboard box was my briefcase special edition package. Regarding supporting friends, I try my best to go with as high a tier as possible. As promised, the artwork on the film and case is beautiful, perfect for the theme the film stock was going for, with a similar colour palette of blues and reds and excellent use of negative space and blocks of colour. The boxes are perfect, with the running agent with a fedora and trench coat. It almost feels like I’m being drawn into the cloak and dagger world of the early Cold War.
Sadly, with summer here in Southern Ontario, the sun is bright and harsh, so there would be no testing of the film under low-light conditions until later in the year. On Father’s Day, I decided to take the film along to a car show by my in-law’s church, West Highland Baptist, in Hamilton, Ontario. And while such a show would be lost on my little guy, I got to enjoy the show with my father-in-law, brother-in-law, and a niece and nephew. Since the film has a box speed of ASA-400, I decided that despite the bright conditions and hard light, I would shoot the film at that speed. Going with my trusty Minolta Maxxum 9, the 28-135mm f/4-4.5 “Secret Handshake” lens and a pale-yellow filter. I planned to develop the film in Adox FX-39 II.
I did not know what to expect from the first roll, so I went with FX-39 for my developer. With its compensating nature, it could tame some aspects of the film I was not too fond of, namely the harsh grain. Despite the hard light and wide difference between the highlights and shadows, the meter on the ‘9 and the latitude of Agent Shadow certainly helped give an excellent image. The negatives looked good when I pulled them from the tank. I went with a time of 10.5 minutes in a 1+9 dilution and used a B’s Rotary processor to aid in my development. The images are sharp, with good grain structure and excellent contrast. The Yellow filter helped control the highlights with all the chrome around.
Kosmo Foto did not try and hide the fact that Agent Shadow is a rebadged film; the original release Mono 100 was rebranded Fomapan 100. All signs point to Agent Shadow being Kentmere 400, and the listed development times are correct in line with the published times for the film stock. When I first shot Kentmere 400, I wasn’t too impressed with the results. But like any film, it’s a matter of developing it in the right chemistry. I think revisiting Kentmere 400, like my revisiting of Fomapan 400, will better understand the film stock and how best to develop the stock for the future. If you’re still waiting on the arrival of your reward, please reach out to Stephen via email and he can track down a tracking number. Or, if you didn’t back the Kickstarter but are interested in buying the film, you can do so through the Kosmo Foto store. Agent Shadow costs £5.50 (USD 6.74 or CAD 8.76) and ships worldwide.