Film Review: Tasma T-42 400

Film stocks continue to dwindle in this wretched 2020 so when something pops up that you’ve never seen before such as Tasma T-42 400, it really catches your eye. Japanese film hoarders Kawauso showed off their vast inventory at the Ginza Camera Show earlier this year and when that vaguely familiar moniker made its way into my peripheral vision, it piqued my curiosity and I had to see what this film was all about.

Now the Russians are somewhat notorious for umm…suspect quality in their productions but there have been gems in Jupiter lenses and Zenits, etc. Could Tasma fall in this category as we gradually run out of film options from the big manufacturers, compounded with unsustainable price increases? Fingers crossed with excitement.

Tasma Background History

I only came across this brand when researching for the top film packaging designs article a couple years ago. I was smitten with the cool box design as I’ve always been partial to Russian constructivist graphic design. Tasma, also often called Tacma (due to the confusion in translating the Russian cyrillic letter c to s), was a Soviet film manufacturer in Kazan created in 1933.

Tasma began life as “Film Factory No. 8”. The name Tasma is derived from the Russian phrase Татарские светочувствительные материалы (“Tatarskie Sveto Materialiy”), meaning “Tatar Sensitized Materials”.

A relative unknown in the West, Tasma were the most common black and white negative films in the USSR until 1990 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union. Different colors were used for ISO ratings but maintained the same design aesthetic, here is an example of an ISO 65 film from the 70’s. Loved how the colors are inverted from each side of the box, brilliantly simple and subtle.

Tasma Film Today

Not much information is available in English on Tasma. In fact, a quick perusal of their website will show that they no longer deal with consumer photographic film. The film products listed on the website are only aerial and radiographic technical films, as well as packaging films.

Enter Foqus, the St. Petersburg-based Analogue Photo Lab and Store that is among a couple Russian distributers respooling and distributing the classic Tasma Type-42L film. They no longer have any Tasma on their site so it’s safe to assume they sold out of whatever amount they were able to get their hands on. From my understanding, they’re kind of like The Darkroom Lab of Russia. Images of Rocky versus Ivan Drago flash before me.

 

Tasma T-42 400 Tech Specs

Tasma is described as a 400 ISO B&W motion picture film. They are rolled in 36 exposure canisters. It is on a PET base, not acetate, and is consequently tougher and will not tear like an acetate-based film. Subsequently, it’s also thinner than typical 35mm films. There is no DX coding, so you’ll have to get creative if you want to use it in automatic point and shoots. This roll was ¥900 or about $8.50 USD.

The film itself is very thin, quite similar to its compatriot Silberra which we’ve reviewed previously here. Maybe they just like their women and film very svelte. The negative also has this greenish tint to it.

Unlike Silberra though, Tasma curls quite a lot for being so thin. Not the most ideal condition for scanning.

Tasma T-42 400 Sample Pics

Alright, let’s take a look at some samples from the roll. These were shot on a Leica M6 with a 35mm Summaron and lab developed using Tmax developer. After,  they were scanned on a Plustek Opticfilm 8200i.

   

Conclusion

As you can probably tell, Tasma T-42 400 is contrasty. It seems more contrasty than even JCH Streetpan. On a nice day with strong  light, details are barely there in the highlights and especially the shadows. It’s a specialized burnt in look for sure, and the increased graininess can be suitable for certain situations. But for darkroom printers wanting some leeway to play, the negs may leave much to be desired. For example, the shot of the guitar in the corner of the room. It’s with semi-diffused window light yet the hardwood floor is pretty much blackened out.

It doesn’t seem to handle night city scapes with much aplomb either. With neon lights and store signs at night, the signs are blown out and people are muddled in deep shadows. However on flatter gray days, the intrinsic contrast of the film can add punch to otherwise drab tones.

There are multiple 400 ISO black and white film options at the moment so I think Tasma would struggle to make itself in the film cases of most shooters, regardless of its rarity. Nevertheless, I enjoyed giving it a whirl, learning new things and sharing it with you all.

Take care out there,

MN