When you do a lot of your film photography in Shanghai, the name Seagull is bound to jump out when you see it. That’s because Seagull brand cameras were, and possibly still are, made in and around the city.
So when I saw boxes of Oriental Seagull 100 in a shop here, my first thought was ‘hmm, it’d be nice to shoot something local’. I know now that it’s nothing of the sort. For that, I had to get some Shanghai GP3 100.
So if Oriental Seagull film has no connection to the cameras of the same name, where does it come from? Who makes it? Is it any good? And why have you possibly never seen it in the shop you buy film from?
The answers to those questions may surprise you. If they make you want to try this film for yourself, you might have to go find some on eBay. Take a look, and let this review help you decide whether to get some or not.
What is Oriental Seagull 100?
Oriental Seagull 100 is a black and white negative film made exclusively for the Japanese market, which explains why you might not be able to find it where you are.
The people behind it may surprise you, however, as it’s none other than Harman Technology; the same people who produce the illustrious Ilford range.
It was released alongside an ISO 400 version in 2016 and is aimed at budget-conscious shooters – be they hobbyists or students – in Japan who were seeing their monochrome Fujifilm options drying up.
An understandable and smart move by Harman in my opinion, to step in if that gap in the lower end market had appeared.
Oriental was already a name in the Japanese photography world, having begun to operate way back in 1919 and introducing Seagull branded products a few decades ago. They still make photographic paper today.
This new Seagull film, as it’s actually labelled on the box, is distributed by the Japanese Cyber Graphics Corporation but is of course made in the UK.
An interesting point to note is that Harman have clearly stated they don’t allow their Ilford films to be repackaged by anyone else. A slight technicality here though is, that’s not true with their Kentmere line.
It seems that is either what Oriental Seagull film is, or what it’s a close cousin of. Some say it’s just straight Kentmere Pan 100 and 400 in a different box. Others say it’s a slightly modified stock.
I couldn’t claim to know either way, but the answer to this question – what is Oriental Seagull 100 – certainly seems to be one of those two options.
As an aside, I’ve seen chatter that the 100 and 400 versions of Rollei RPX, the newer AgfaPhoto APX, and FotoImpex CHM are all Kentmere too. I’ve zero desire to go down that rabbit hole here though.
Oriental Seagull 100 image qualities
If Oriental Seagull really is Kentmere, the first thing that strikes me is how different the results from the ISO 100 roll I shot look from the Kentmere 400.
When I reviewed that film, I found it to be solid yet unspectacular. Both the grain and contrast were middling, which led to some flatter looking images than I’d ideally like.
Yes, I shot this Oriental Seagull in different conditions, on different days, in a different place, developed neither of the films myself, and we’re comparing an ISO 100 stock to an ISO 400 one.
But it still looks more different than I’d perhaps expect if it was merely rebranded Kentmere Pan 100. There’s noticeably less grain and higher contrast. It’s cleaner and more dramatic, more akin to Rollei Retro 400S or JCH Street Pan.
Having not known what to really expect, I was pleasantly surprised. You can judge for yourself but for me, the bottom line is simply that I really like it.
Street photography with Seagull 100
With an ISO 100 film, you have to be more selective when you go out for your street photography. You don’t have as much leeway with poor light as you do with higher rated stocks.
Just like when I shot some Fujicolor Industrial 100 for the first time, this meant I saved this Seagull 100 for the brighter days.
I’ve found this leads to inherently more striking street photographs. If you head out in the early mornings or late afternoons on these days, you’re shooting in some of the best natural light you’ll ever get.
That has surely contributed to my positive impressions of this film, as it helps bring more contrast to the results, which I like.
Another plus point of Oriental Seagull, depending on where you are, is its price. If you’re in Japan, it’s going to be one of the cheapest monochrome films you’ll find. In other Asian countries, it still shouldn’t break the bank.
That means you can grab some and fire off some street photography without worrying too much about the cost of each missed shot.
However, if you’re in a place where it’s not easy to find, you will end up paying a premium for the convenience of ordering some from eBay.
Overall, I feel like Oriental Seagull is a good film for street photography in Asia. It’s got the name, it’s got the higher-than-middling contrast you see on lots of iconic work (not mine) from the region, and it’s inexpensive when bought here.
Oriental Seagull 100 specs and development
Oriental Seagull 100 is a black and white negative film produced by Harman Technology for the Japanese market and released in 2016.
At the time of writing, it’s only available in 36 exposure 35mm cartridges, which have the DX code 883610.
I can’t tell you anything about developing Seagull 100 based on experience as I just take my film to a lab and let them process it.
Don’t forget too that there’s plenty of information on the inside of the box, which might be the most reliable place to find it, or at least to double check any of the above against it.
Where to buy Seagull 100
Because Oriental Seagull 100 is produced for the Japanese market, its worldwide availability is pretty limited. It’s a situation comparable to that of Fujicolor Industrial 100, which is another film I reviewed.
You’re not going to find it next to the consumer-grade Kodak in a grocery store. I’d say you’re probably not going to find it in your local photography shop either, unless you’re in east Asia.
If that’s the boat you’re in, you might have to go find some online. And even then your options aren’t as plentiful as with other films. There’s none on Amazon and Analogue Wonderland don’t carry it either right now.
That leaves eBay, where you can check the prices and availability through the link below.
Final thoughts on this Seagull 100 film
When I bought this film, I really knew nothing about it aside from what I saw on the box. As I said at the top of this review, the name Seagull caught my eye, but I think the packaging also helped.
That simple white design is one of my favourites among all the films out there. This would be immaterial if I didn’t like the results I got from it, but I’m pleased to say I like those too.
At the time of writing, they’re among my favourites from the monochrome films I’ve shot so far. Far cleaner than the likes of Ilford Pan 400 and Kentmere 400, which both come from the same manufacturer as Seagull.
A fairer comparison will have to wait until I shoot the ISO 100 versions of those films, however.
Living in Asia where Oriental Seagull is cheap, I’d be happy enough to pick up some more. While I am trying to shoot as many different films as I can, this would be a good one for a single project that requires a few rolls of the same stuff.
Whether I’d recommend you try some for yourself might depend on a couple of factors though, and they’re both affected by where you are when you’re buying.
If you’re not in Asia, your local film shop might not have this one. And if they have Kentmere Pan 100, that may well be cheaper than ordering some Seagull 100.
The other consideration is how important it is for you to try different films, even if they are repackaged versions of ones you may have already shot or can get more easily and for less money.
Only you can answer that but it seems to me those two factors – the cost and the importance of shooting different films – are what should be in your equation when deciding whether to get some.
It’s not a bad film. I do like it and I would shoot it again. But whether it’s worthwhile you picking up a few rolls from eBay is a decision only you can make. 🙂
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