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The look of Ilford slide film after 50 years

In this, the first of a series of posts, I'm attempting to show the look of a film emulsion which is now unfortunately lost to the world - I'm going to show the look of Ilford slide film.

Over the years many companies produced different film emulsions which used their own unique chemical processes to try to capture a scene photographically. With the takeover of digital photography, these films have been gradually phased out until there are now only a few left and although some companies are returning to film there are some emulsions which have been lost forever. In this series of posts I'm going to feature a set of pictures I've found which have been taken on a particular emulsion to show the 'look' that the film has.

Of course, the simple name "Ilford slide film" covers a wide range of different emulsions, and I don't know exactly which one this is. The slides I have are all mounted in exactly the same slide mounts, and one has written on it the date - 30th October 1965. These are therefore all likely to have been taken in the 1960s, and at that time the Ilford film available would have been Ilfocolor and Ilfochrome, and there was also a slide film made in conjunction with a Swiss company called CIBA. It is likely that the slides I have scanned here are one of these three film types.

In order to try to capture the look of the emulsion, I have simply scanned the image and applied no corrections to white balance, clarity or colour either at the scanning or the Post processing stage other than getting the exposure right when carrying out the scan. I've attempted to just capture the slide as it would have looked when first returned from the photo lab. Obviously all of these pictures were taken many years ago - in most cases 50 years ago, so this will actually be the look of ilford slide film after 50 years of  storage and use, but it's the best we can do since the film isn't available anymore - and that's sort of the point.

I'm intending to add new pictures to this post as I find other examples of Ilford slide film in the future.

The Look of Ilford Slide film

So, these are the slides I have scanned at the moment and this is the look of ilford slide film, albeit 50 years after the pictures were taken. What do you think?

When I first saw them, I initially thought that none of them had the colour depth and detail which you can get from a good Kodachrome slide, but after a while, and particularly when I considered the last two scans, I decided that is not really a fair comparison. There are thousands of Kodachrome slides still around these days and not all of them are brilliant so it may be if I looked at a thousand Ilford slides I could find a number of brilliant images which have aged well. Also, the subject matter of the pictures in probably not wide enough yet to draw a proper conclusion. I guess I will just have to review the look of Ilford film as I add more images and different subjects to the collection.

In the mean time I'd be glad to hear anyone's opinion, or any requests for a similar article on any other film emulsion; although I don't have an exhaustive collection, I normally acquire new slides each month so I'm always adding to it.

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2 comments on “The look of Ilford slide film after 50 years”

  1. Boots colour slide film from the 60s was probably Ilford. The worst Colour slide film ever made! It’s longevity was poor…it turned green and all the dyes faded, or it went red altogether. Not east to correct in Photoshop so one desaturates it to Black & White. Alongside this was Perutz (Greenish cast) and Orwo with a reddish brown cast with over rich colour. Agfa CT18 was brilliant. I have many slides all looking as good as the day they were taken in 1974. Kodachrome 25 and 64 was point sharp with ‘3D’ reds that jumped out at you. Agfa CT 18 had good blues and red, non to excess. K11 135 36 (Kodachrome) 25 ASA was always Razor sharp simply because it was a Black & White Film with colour couplers, a single layer emulsion as opposed to all the others which had a triple layer emulsion, so for sharpness, Kodachrome couldn’t be beaten!
    Pity it’s not available now?

  2. Back around 1965 there were Ilfochrome slide films rated at 32 and 64 ASA. The slower film was as razor sharp as Kodachrome 25. It was fine grained and contrasty with good colour reproduction, although the reds were not as saturated. The faster film was grainy and tended to have a green cast. It was sold by Boots under their own name, although the processing was done by Ilford. I believe both films were processed in a similar way to Kodachrome. Due to the complexity of the process, and variable results, Ilford soon discontinued these films. Their later slide films were processed in E6 chemicals and, like all other films of that type, were prone to fade over the years. My slides taken on the slower Ilfochrome film have retained their colour over the years.

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