Film Review: Arista.EDU Ultra 400

You may have seen this curious white box labelled Arista.EDU Ultra 400 you’ve seen on the shelves. Several years ago, Freestyle Photographic Supplies out of Los Angeles sought to counter the trend of rising photo supply costs by introducing the Arista.EDU Ultra line of film and paper. In a time when many industry heavyweights (you know who we’re talkin’ about) exited the traditional film photographic industry, Arista.EDU Ultra stepped in to provide students and educators a reliable supply of high quality yet affordable photographic materials. And thus the Arista brand was born again.

We’ve taken a look at Arista.EDU Ultra 200 before here. This one will focus on Arista.EDU Ultra 400.

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 Features

NameArista.EDU Ultra 400
VendorFreestyle Photo
TypeBlack and white (negative)
Native ISO400
Format(s)35mm, 120, Sheet
35mm DX CodedNo
Spectral sensitivityPanchromatic
Normal ProcessBW
Cross processBW reversal
Push process
Exposure latitude±2 stops
Verified ManufacturerFoma Bohemia

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 Sample Pics (120)

Just like the 200 iso version, the design of the 120 rolls is simple and aesthetically pleasing. Everything is labeled clearly and distinctive enough to differentiate it quickly from other emulsions. I also love the peel away sticker, a much more hygienic albeit boring method to seal your exposed rolls.

The following sample pics were from a roll i dropped in my Rolleiflex SL66 with the 80mm Zeiss Planar, shot at box speed and developed in Kodak HC 110 according to their instructions as shown above. Scanned on a Canonscan 9000f ii.

 

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 Sample Pics (135)

As with the 120 roll above, the following images were taken at box speed and developed in Kodak HC 110 per the instructions then scanned on a Plustek Opticfilm 8200i. Shot with a Leica M6 and 35mm Summicron ASPH.

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 vs. JCH Streetpan 400

Arista Ultra 400’s grain is decently fine for an ISO 400 traditional cubic grained emulsion. I’d say it’s a medium strong contrast film which renders a bit on the soft side with a tad more halation than say, Kentmere or Ilford HP5.

I have read many accounts of people having issues with curl and this film but for me it dried flatter than anything else I have shot recently and is pretty easy to scan. For yucks, I thought I’d see how it fares against our very own JCH Streetpan 400.

So I loaded a roll of Arista 400 in one Leica M6 and a roll of Streetpan 400 in another Leica MP-6, both with identical MS Optics Apoqualia 28mm and shot at box speed with the same aperture and shutter speeds for consistency.

From what I gathered, the curling is quite normal and similar to what I’ve experienced with Kodak Tri-X. Streetpan is one of the thinner films you’ll find but supple as to lie pretty flat in a holder. Arista Ultra 400 is indeed thicker and flatter and has a purplish tint to the negative. You can check em out head to head in identical locations and light below.

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

Arista.edu Ultra 400

JCH Streetpan 400

100% Crops

For those grainists out there here’s a couple 100% crops from above for your perusal. The top frame is Arista.EDU Ultra 400 and the bottom is JCH Streetpan 400. Its grain structure is quite present but there isn’t really anything particularly regrettable about it. Foma lists it as a granularity of 17.5; by contrast, Kodak’s Tri-x 400 has a listed granularity of 17, so they’re pretty similar in that regard.

Conclusion

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 has a halation that gives a retro film glow, which is probably why a Holga version of this film exists. It’s a look usually seen as a virtue in the toy camera market.

As mentioned before, I’ve read reports of the film scratching easily and some say becomes brittle after development. But from my limited experience with the film I found that not to be true. Would love to hear about others’ experience. For the look of the film itself I’ve always been fond of the contrasty, Koudelka-esque Czech mood of Fomapan and I’m glad it’s still here in the form of Arista. The midtones are preserved well when developed with Kodak HC 110 and the shadows appear to hold up better versus Streetpan.

Arista.EDU Ultra 400 is a deal at USD $4.79 per 36 shot roll. They also are available in 24 exposure rolls at USD $4.29. If you’re on a budget and want a punchy all rounder black and white, just pop in some Arista.EDU Ultra 400.

You can pick some up over at Freestyle here

MN