Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remembering an Old Film Friend: SFW-XL (ENC-II)

Seattle Film Works ENC-II was my first transparency film. I used it from 1983-1998. One of my earliest images from 1983 (Left) showing a detail from a medieval tapestry in Seville, Spain. An interior shot with natural light.

Recently I’ve found a lot of chatter on-line regarding this film. First, what is SFW-LX, a.k.a. ENC-II film? It is a motion picture film that was marketed for use in 35mm format. It requires ENC-II processing rather than the more familiar C-41 or E-6. It yields both a positive (slides) and a negative (for prints).

In the early days SFW promoted push processing of this ISO 100 film up to ISO 400, and later came out with an ISO 800 version that was truly horrible! The film was ideally exposed at ISO 100 or 200. ISO 400 sometimes worked for interiors with lots of natural light. It was not color balanced for tungsten, so you needed a filter for interior lighting.

Another interior shot ISO 400 from Wells Cathedral 1990. It shows some of the color balance problems encountered when the film is pushed.

When I first got started in photography, my purpose was to document geological field studies. Having slides and prints was a plus in the pre-PowerPoint days; slides for presentations and prints for proofing, also negatives as a back–up storage format.

I found that in the early days the processing at SFW was better than the later years. They eventually started processing the film C-41, which is do-able, but not preferred. In the late 90’s I made the switch to Kodak professional transparency films and never looked back. PhotoWorks (formerly SFW) is now owned by American Greetings (yes the greetings card people) and that means they no longer process film at all.

There is apparently still some SFW-XL still floating around out there. Some exposed and some not. If stored fortuitously it may still be good, especially if you found it in a freezer or refrigerator. I say develop it! The web consensus seems to be contact Dale Laboratories if you still need to process this film.

My 1998 Southern Africa Portfolio (if I ever get it scanned and posted on my website) represents my last major project with this film.

1 comment:

  1. Two comments:

    It's " ECN-2 " film, and Dale Laboratories stopped doing it in late 2009.

    There's a lab, " Double Exposure, Ltd." that still does the slides from negatives and printing, and a lab in Minnesota " The Camera Shop " that does ECN-2 processing. Also movie labs will do it, and there's a lab that does it by hand somewhere in California called " ECN-2 "

    As for the bad colors in your photos, they could be bad processing, printing, but it's probably bad INTEGRATION.

    Basically, a lot of the labs were too lazy to have human beings video analyze the film on a monitor which approximated print colors. Instead they used basically early 1980s computer technology that assumed all frames would average out to gray.

    This was fine, except for when a scene featured green grass, blue sky, red barn, etc.

    To be honest, it looks like Seattle Filmworks used integration, and unfortunately it shows it.