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Door and blurred street (Pic: Stephen Dowling)
(All pics: Stephen Dowling)

In all the promotional imagery for Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow, I’ve done my best to accentuate its low-light abilities. A film for film-noir cityscapes, for cobbled streets and atmospheric alleyways which could conceal an enemy agent behind every doorway.

But Agent Shadow is, at least on the blueprints, a 400-ISO film. So what does it look like shot during the day, rather than stalking the shadows?

In the weeks ahead of the Kickstarter launch, I shot as much as I could with a handful of tester rolls. Obviously some of them needed to be shot at night to bring out some of that noir vibe, but I also wanted to see how the film dealt with some of my favourite lenses.

Back in May – grey light, spring not yet quite sprung – I popped a roll of Agent Shadow in a Zenit with a Helioss-44 attached. Not just any Helios-44, but one of the ultimate versions of this cult Soviet lens, the M-7, built well into the 1990s. And not just any Zenit either – a Zenit-16, a strikingly esoteric camera from the early 1970s built with the help of an American design genius. It looks like just the kind of thing a spy might have been sent to steal in some outlandish early 70s espionage drama.

PLEDGE ON THE AGENT SHADOW KICKSTARTER

The Zenit-16 was produced for only a few years in the early 1970s and earned a poor reputation for reliability; less than 10,000 were made. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the most pleasingly bonkers cameras I’ve ever used. It’s like someone – that someone being KMZ’s visionary designer Vladimir Runge – decided to completely rethink what an SLR looked like. My Zenit-16 has recently been CLAed by legendary Soviet camera repairer Oleg Khalyavin, who has previously written about the camera’s ingenious design for Kosmo Foto.

The M7 version of the Helios-44 doesn’t have quite the exaggerated bokeh of the most common models, but it does have the best coatings, which keeps flare down to a minimum. The swirly, soap-bubble bokeh is particularly pleasing, which is why these lenses are now fetching higher and higher prices from digital photographers, especially for video.

I popped out one weekend – overcast rather than blazing sunlight – around Blackheath and Greenwich in south London. The results you are below. The Zenit-16’s meter doesn’t accept ISO settings above around 640, so this is not the camera for testing the film at the midnight hour, but perfect, it seems, for overcast days.

Bench and car wheel (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

Items in flea market (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

Child in cafe window (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

Lamp post and railing fence (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

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Stephen Dowling
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