Few people know about Silberra. Company from St. Petersburg, Russia. They sell various films - both black & white and color. Notice the word "sell" and not "make". Some of the films they have are actually different stocks repackaged. For example Kodak Double-X or Agfa surveillance films or Orwo N75. They disclose it themselves.
Recently they started selling films that are not available elsewhere. Do they make them? It doesn't look like Silberra makes the films themselves but they appear to be made in Russia. They have custom black and white emulsions. And what was more interesting to me - color negative emulsions. Why is it interesting? There aren't that many color negative films these days. Especially in 120 / medium format. Main ones are from Kodak and whatever is left from Fuji. Everything else is Kodak repackaged ( and some exotic things ).
Silberra did an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to launch several films. And as I understand they didn't fulfill all the rewards. At least yet. Luckily they acknowledge it and say that they will send out the rewards. Albeit very late. But better late than never.
You can get Silberra films straight from the source. They are also distributed in various online places like Fotoimpex and Analog Wonderland. Although with distributors it seems like the films are often out of stock. At least the color ones.
I bought the films straight from Silberra. They are based in Russia so if you're importing to Europe then you'll have to pay import duties / tax. A single Silberra Color 160 film cost about 13 EUR for me plus shipping ( which was USD 18.50 ). That's not cheap. It's more expensive than the Kodak Portra. Let's hope that the price can go down over time.
Shipment was fast - especially considering it had to go through customs. Packaged well with extra stickers and a postcard thrown in. Very nice.
Each film is well packed. It comes in a cardboard box with the film itself packaged in foil packaging. This foil is some Russian military strength foil. It was not easy to open it with my fingers. I did it. But only because Russia is a neighbouring country of mine. You have no chance if you live further away. Scissors will be your solution. I also used scissors after the first roll.
Film is rolled into reused backing paper. Silberra says that it's temporary. Paper is glued with a sticker that was easy enough to pull off. Because it's a re-used backing paper, likely rolled by hand - the exposed sticker is separate from film. Typically they are attached at the other end of the roll. Not a big deal - especially if you keep the exposed roll in camera like me.
The film base is thinner than usual. This can lead to light piping and a light exposed first frame. This is more of an issue with 35mm format. Getting it onto the developing reel was not an issue. Film was still thick enough to engage the Patterson tank bearings.
Getting it off the reel was also not an issue but it did lead to a surprise. Actual film base is not orange. Typical C-41 film base is orange. This one has a blue / dirty water kind of tint. So almost an invert of orange. Other than that there are no markings on the actual film. Apart from the negatives themselves...unless you exposed the darkness of your soul.
The film dries flat.
Because the base is not orange you might experience some issues inverting the colors. Some software will expect the orange base to a certain degree and will use it to do the inversion. Having a different tint base can lead to color shifts. I certainly had some issues with getting the color balance where it should be. I use Silverfast software and an Epson V600 scanner. Your experience might be different if you scan using a camera.
Lastly the film was longer than the usual 120 films. It looks like there's space for two more 6x6 shots with plenty of space left. C220 has automatic film advancing so I couldn't take advantage of this. It could be possible with other cameras. I'm also not sure if all Silberra films are as long.
Film has an interesting look. It's natural but with some interesting aspects. In harsh sunlight it almost looks like a Kodak Gold 200. There's a "vintage" tint over the pictures with yellows and blue-ish greens mixed into it.
When moving out of the harsh sunlight the film gets more natural colors. Nicely saturated but not as strong as Kodak Ektar. It reminds me of Lomography Color Negative 100.
Even with the natural colors - certains color tints can make their presence. I can't be certain that it's not caused by my inversion failings so take them with some grain from Fomapan 400. It seems that underexposed shots lean more towards magentas. And well exposed or over exposed colors lean towards blues.
Grain is small. It's a 120 film so that's expected. A true grain test would be to shoot this film in 35mm format. With medium format you can have grain the size of small cliffs and they still wouldn't be noticeable. Because of the smaller grain the sharpness is good too.
One thing I noticed was that the picture borders were not always straight. They seemed to have a slight curve in them in the middle frames. My guess is that because the film is likely hand rolled and the base is thin - film wasn't laying completely flat when exposed. I have never experienced this with other films. If you have a better reason please do let me know.
If the reason is the film flatness then it could cause issues with even focus across the whole frame. Most of my shots were taken with a pretty closed aperture that would mask small unevenness. Small in focus regions could be ruined by a film that's not completely flat.
I like the Silberra Color 160. At least from the results that it produces. Film flatness is a concern of mine if that indeed is an issue. Also the weirder film base can cause issues when scanning and inverting the colors.
Is it worth the price and importing effort? Sadly not for me. For the most part. If I didn't have to mess around with import duties then I would be more likely to get this film again. Let's hope that some European distributors will get more Silberra stock. And slash the prices a tad. For the current price + import duties it's hard to justify. Lomography Color Negative 100 will get you pretty similar results in my eyes. With a smaller price.
If you get a chance to shoot this film then I would definitely try to use it. It's not often that new ( or resurrected ) color negative films become available. It's always fun to try new things.
I still have one roll left. The non-orange film base makes me want to try and process this film to get positives at the end. It's not a smart idea. But it sounds like it could work. Or it could deliver absolutely terrible results.