With this article we inaugurate a series of proof of use of films designed for video surveillance, trying to assess the main characteristics and applicability for use in the field of photography. The first review is dedicated to Maco Eagle TCS, a color negative film purposed to monitoring traffic infringements; But why choose a film of this type to take normal pictures?
If we consult the manufacturer’s fact sheets we discover that some of the key features of this kind of film are actually quite palatable even for the amateur photographer:
- high exposure latitude
- correct balance in either artificial and ambient light
- next to infrared sensitivity
- wide tonal range
- high resolution
- enhanced scratch resistance
Clearly quality such these can only be of good interest and so the answer to the question is done.
The Maco Eagle TCS is available exclusively in 35 mm format and is sold directly by the manufacturer (at Macodirect site) in bulk reels 8.5 or 30.5 meters; in Italy you can find this also in 135/20 canisters marketed by Six Gates Film and branded Senna 640. It is a color emulsion with nominal sensitivity between 400 and 800 ASA destined to be processed in C41 chemistry; for this test a Voigtlander Bessa R has been used in both external and internal, considering the surrender with daylight or tungsten and setting the sensitivity to the mean value of 640 ASA. The film was then developed with C41 kit Rollei Colorchem, before proceeding to scans and to optically print a few frames in RA4.
One of the features mentioned in the datasheet, i.e. strengthened support, you will immediately notice just extracting film from the magazine: the negative strip turns out to be stronger than usual and you have the perception of even a greater thickness; the whole is then confirmed by increased resistance which opposes at the time of the tail cut. Once processed instead, we are faced with a decidedly dark support due to a very heavy mask, which is also found in other films of the same purpose.
The first thing that you notice immediately going to see developed frames is colour fidelity, which might also be unexpected given the normal intended use: in outdoor shots the Maco Eagle TCS behaves well and the image on the right was printed in RA4 without any trouble but a small filter correction. 640 ASA exposure seems to guarantee an optimally balanced emulsion as partially (although not directly) confirmed by a careful reading of the datasheet. This is true at least in shooting outdoors and with sufficient light: in these conditions, even the grain remains at quite low content and the film is able to solve even complex textures and details (see the radiator grill on the side).
In this case you can therefore count on a film that will ensure the use of small apertures enough to benefit of quicker speed in action photography (on the other hand, it is also the purpose for which it is manufactured …).
Underexposure to ASA 1600 in daylight does not produce appreciable variations in colour rendition and neither a significant increase of grain, returning an image substantially usable as that shown at nominal sensitivity; you notice a slight desaturation of color but still within levels that can be easily corrected in printing process.
When available light decreases, however, the behavior of the Maco Eagle TCS tends to become less precise with a slight increase of grain especially in the darker areas: the effect is noticeable when you enlarge the negative but also a scanner output (for which the film is theoretically optimized) shows this behavior.
The problem of course is especially visible in images with large uniform areas, and even if there are bluish colours but it is still tolerable if you consider that you are using the film outside of its traditional area; in low light conditions in any case, is not comparable to what can be produced with an emulsion such as Kodak Portra 800 but it is also less accurate than a consumer film like Lomography CN 800 recently tested. In the case of frames rich in details everything is toned down and enlargements up to around 18 x 24 do not have any evidence.
If overexposed it tends to saturate the lighter colours and increase the contrast and consequently the perception of grain. The overexposure is not the reason you might choose such genre of film since the nowadays available emulsions behave much better in every respect to low average sensitivity and the market is fortunately quite wide.
Concerning the white balance in artificial light, the behavior is not exactly what is described by the manufacturer but it is true that the dominant are more attenuated than those you usually get with a normal daylight color negative (the photograph on the right did not suffer any correction or filtration): this can be useful if you practice urban night photography where greater colour fidelity even with artificial light sources represents a decent benefit.
Remaining within the long exposure photography, the manufacturer declares that the known defect arises not reciprocity for exposure times of 1/10,000 sec and 1 sec, but does not mention any exposure changes make for a longer time; from tests performed, up to 3 sec exposure there isn’t any appreciable alteration in graininess or color rendering and this suggests that the correction factor is less than 1 stop until a shutter speed of at least 5 seconds, the value in line with the behavior of various still photography C41 emulsions.
A factor to consider is the preservation of film: Maco declares that the emulsion should be stored at a temperature of 8 degrees and performance characteristics remain unchanged for two years from production; a different conservation could, therefore, alter the film’s response to different exposure conditions. Film used for this rapid tests were kept according to instructions before and after exposure for which the results should reflect quite faithfully the actual quality of the film.