You’ve certainly heard it – “Doesn’t do well with overexposure” or “unforgiving” maybe even “you have to really nail exposure” and “not the film for beginners”. It’s hard to have a discussion about Eastman 5222 film (Kodak Double X) without hearing one or more of these nonsensical statements. I nearly fell for them too, and delayed my experience with this film for over two months.

Hearing a variant of this statement for the umpteenth time this year – coming from a film photography novice, I have to rant, and tell the pompous know-it-alls who haunt online photography forums – STOP SLANDERING EASTMAN 5222. Some bloggers have been writing about this, and have ended up blaming the film for their own shoddy exposure calculations or improper processing.

For those new to film photography, Eastman 5222 is a film that was originally designed for use with cine cameras. Many iconic films such as Raging Bull, Schindler’s List, and Psycho were shot on this stock, and with its low-grain images and high versatility, it has tremendous potential for still photographers too. The best part is that it can be bought in 400 ft and 1000 ft rolls and loaded into canisters for use in still cameras. At a time when the prices of boxed film rolls from Kodak and Ilford are rocketing past the stratosphere, Eastman 5222 is a fantastic option for beginners or cost-conscious photographers. Here in India, a brand called Tollygrunge sells repackaged Eastman 5222 for about INR 350 per roll. This is less than half the retail price of a roll of Kentmere 400 – an inferior film by miles (in my subjective view).

According to the technical data for Eastman Double X the film must be exposed at ISO 250 in daylight (around 5000k) and ISO 200 under tungsten light (3200k). However, in practice, this film can be exposed at multiple ISOs with spectacular results. The only way that I can justify this, is with evidence, so let me counter the know-it-alls and their uninformed slander with actual pictures. For those here to be entertained, the Rant resumes below.

Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 1600. Nikomat FTN with Nippon Kogaku 105 mm F2.5. Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul
Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 100. Yashica electro 35 GX. Processed and Scanned By Abhinav Karhale
Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 400. Pentax Spotmatic with Asahi Takumar 55mm F1.8. Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul
Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 1600. Nikomat FTN with Nippon Kogaku 105 mm F2.5. Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul
Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 1600. Nikomat FTN with Nikkor S-Auto 35 mm F2.8 and Vivtar 2800 bounced off the roof. Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul.

Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 200. Zorki 4 with Industar 61 (yes, focus is off – this is from a test roll). Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul.
Self Portrait – Eastman 5222 (Tollygrunge Noir) at ISO 400 Nikomat FTN, Nikkor S-Auto 35 mm F2.8 + Orange Filter. Processed and Scanned By Sarbajoy Paul.

There you go. Eastman 5222 shot from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, capturing all the drama that comes with a stock that personifies film noir.

Here in India, this is the stock that is pretty much going to save film photography. With the pieces of film outpacing bitcoin, for a person looking to shoot film and build up some experience in the medium, nothing beats the value proposition of Eastman 5222. Even for serious work, given the right developer, you can get fantastic results with great tonality and contrast.

So the next time someone gets all knowledgeable with you about Eastman Double X not having latitude or being unforgiving, roll your eyes with a comically loud sigh of disappointment, and say: “oh – you know, for a while there, you sounded really experienced and knowledgeable – but I must respectfully disagree with your view on Kodak Double X”.

For more information about shooting film in India, please check out the guide.