Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Svema – Soviet’s panchromatic film

Svema – Soviet’s panchromatic film

During my first days of photography in Romania, mid-80’s, this film was ubiquitous; usually, the school where I was a student at received a good numbers of rolls to be used as a stock for young aspiring photographers. The school lab was equipped mainly with Russian or DDR cameras, films, chemicals, etc. Starting with the late 80’s, the factory at Azo Mures started to produce the (in)famous AZOPAN, both b&w and colour negatives, so these were coming in, together with some Romanian optics and chemicals.

This Svema was notorious for being a difficult one: to start with, it didn’t came rolled up in a cassette, but in a piece of foil and black paper. One had to transfer the negative in a 35mm cassette, which was usually OrWo  empties, because they could be opened and closed easy. No changing bag, just the usual darkroom.

Next, the processing was a hit and miss most of the times, at least this is how I perceived it. The Orwo films were all right, the Romanian ones (Azopan) was ok-ish, but this Svema…a pain in the proverbial side, I do not mind telling you that. Really finnicky and never could be completely trusted. What came out was many times not what one expected, and this was true for basically any camera you would load this film into. I mean, if you load it in a Russian camera such as Smena or Kiev, you never knew if the crappy images were so because of the film or because of the camera, both could go wrong or just one. But many times there was a fault with both.

The GOST of the film is 64 and 65, nominal ASA 63 and 64 respectively. No idea why this was necessary, as there is seems to be no difference between the emulsion. I mean, what the difference could be between 63ASA and 64 ASA? Colour of the film boxes is also different, and again, I have no idea what this means. I can see from the fabrication date that one expired in 1989, the other one in 1994, so these two rolls were made in different times, USSR era and after the fall of it.

Anyways, I am not going to judge this film by a few single frames taken with a long expired film, this would not be right, would it? So I am just posting these 3 examples of Svema FN64, processed in Rodinal recently. More contrast was needed, and this was done in PS. This film has expired in 1989 (see the left side roll above), and I still have like half of it in the camera. It was shot in a Russian half frame, the Belomo Agat 18K.

I just have acquired some 40 rolls of the new Svema films, repackaged by the Ukrainian company ASTRUM. I am told that, basically, this emulsion is not very far away from the old one produced in the Shostka factory, the home of the Soviet SVEMA films. Very curious to check these films.


  1. Eugen Mezei says:

    Posibil ca schimbarea de la 65 la 64 sa fie urmare a schimbarii metodologiei de masurare. Asa s-a intamplat si cu filmele ORWO. De la DIN 15 la DIN 17 de exemplu.

    1. Cel mai probabil asta e raspunsul, multumesc.