Let’s get one thing straight here, right off the bat. Unless you live in Asia, Oriental Seagull 400 is not a film you’ll easily find on the shelf of any photography shop near you, and likely not at a domestic online retailer either.
I bought the roll I shot and am reviewing here from an eBay seller in Hong Kong who sent it all the way back over to me here in the UK. I say back over here because the UK is where it was made, which gives you a huge clue as to who produces it.
That’s all stuff we’ll get into later though, along with what you can expect from this film and whether it’s worth going to the effort of tracking down some Oriental Seagull 400 and shooting some yourself.
If you decide you want to, it’s highly likely sourcing some from Asia is going to be your best bet. If you don’t want to buy from eBay, the seller I bought from does have their own shop which you could use too.
What is Oriental Seagull 400?
When I first got into shooting film, I was living out in Shanghai, where I would buy my rolls from a long-standing shop called Weima. I’d take them back there to have them developed too.
Deciding what to buy from the varied range they always had on their shelves and in their fridge back then was a bit of a pick ‘n’ mix, and I think I based my purchases on coming out with a bunch of different brands and speeds each time, rather than say all Ilford or all ISO 400 films.
With Seagull being the name of a Shanghai camera maker, I presumed it was some local stuff. Of course though, as I often am, I was wrong in this assertion. Because Oriental Seagull film is actually more local to me, an Englishman, than it is to China.
Regardless, I really liked the results I got from the ISO 100 version and resolved to shoot the ISO 400 version soon after. And that I did, just four short years later. And that means we can finally get around to reviewing it too.
So with story time over, what is Oriental Seagull 400?
The short answer is that it’s an ISO 400 black and white negative film made in the UK by Harman, the people behind Ilford films, exclusively for the Japanese market.
It does of course find its way to other countries in that part of the world too, seeing as I bought some of its ISO 100 sibling in China and ordered this roll of ISO 400 Seagull from someone in Hong Kong.
To elaborate though, it was released in the land of the rising sun in 2016 and aimed at budget-conscious hobbyists and students who were seeing some of their long-time favourite Fuji options steadily going away.
That situation has obviously only gotten worse since.
The names Oriental and New Seagull – the trademarks of which are owned by Tokyo’s Cyber Graphics Corporation who distribute this film in Japan – should be familiar to you if you do any darkroom printing as they are a long-standing photographic paper brand too.
Indeed, legend has it that Oriental was the paper of choice for one Ansel Adams.
So I suppose leaning on that Oriental Seagull name recognition was a good move when deciding how to brand this UK-made film for the Japanese market. A bit like how Rollei films today have nothing to do with the cameras of the same name.
For clarity, the aforementioned Chinese camera manufacturer also named Seagull is completely unrelated to anything here.
To delve deeper into this though, let’s tack another word onto our earlier question. All of the above explains what Oriental Seagull is on the surface, but what is Oriental Seagull 400 really?
Have Harman really come up with a new film, or even a reformulation of an existing one, just to sell to what I presume is a relatively small subsection of a market? I’m not sure. I’m not sure they would.
Because while they don’t allow their Ilford films to be repackaged by anyone else, that isn’t true of their Kentmere ones. I think it’s common knowledge that Rollei RPX 100 and 400, the newer AgfaPhoto APX 100 and 400, and even Kosmo’s Agent Shadow are all Kentmere in disguise.
So it’s very possible that Oriental Seagull 100 and 400 are too. I’m yet to see anything definitive on that, but I would lean towards it being so.
That said, the author of this post did say they reached out to Cyber Graphics, who told them Seagull 400 was ‘a completely new and unique product‘.
This chap however is confident enough to say it is just Kentmere – or that it seems to be, at least.
For a tl;dr though, have this. Oriental Seagull 400 is a budget-friendly film produced by Harman, the people behind the Ilford films, for the Japanese market, although it can be found across other parts of East Asia too. It may or may not be rebranded Kentmere.
I have my own take on that final point, based on a first-hand conversation I had with someone from Ilford. But I’ll save that for the conclusion of this review.
Oriental Seagull 400 image quality and qualities
If Oriental Seagull 400 is Kentmere Pan 400 in different clothes, we should expect the image quality and qualities to be the same – give or take some variables like cameras and lenses used, lighting conditions, and development and scanning processes.
In my Kentmere Pan 400 review, I talked about it bringing reasonable sharpness and with medium contrast and grain, and it being solid if unspectacular. Other comments by other people online have described it as being soft and mushy, which doesn’t sound very good to me at all.
The images I got from Kentmere 400 were just flatter than a lot of other ISO 400 monochrome films I’ve shot, like a JCH Street Pan or an Ilford Delta 400. Even Kentmere Pan 100 brought a lot more contrast than you might expect for a sibling stock to this one.
So the results I got with this Oriental Seagull will either lessen or reinforce the claim that this is Kentmere. And I have to say that they do the latter.
Yes they were shot with the Lomo LC-A, so not the highest quality glass in the world, although not as bad as you might expect. I’ve been very impressed with some other results I’ve got from it.
Also the weather was overcast in Whitby and Scarborough when I shot this Seagull 400, which doesn’t help if you’re wanting good contrast in your work.
But still, they do look pretty similar to Kentmere Pan 400 to me. Reasonable sharpness – especially in the foregrounds of some of them. Medium contrast and grain. Solid if unspectacular.
There’s nothing objectively wrong with them. There’s detail in the shadows and no highlights are blown out.
However, your subjective feeling might be that they aren’t to your taste. I get that because they aren’t really to mine either.
I maybe owe it to this film to give it another shot in better light and with better glass, but I did shoot some Kentmere Pan 400 in the Yashica Electro GSN. That has a very good lens on it anyway and the results were similar to what we have here.
Until such time as I do that though, all I can say about the image quality and qualities is that they are very similar to Kentmere 400, and I have the same reservations about them as I did that film too.
Street photography with Oriental Seagull 400
ISO 400 monochrome films have long been a staple for street photographers, with that speed being ideal for capturing spur-of-the-moment or fluid scenes and giving some extra versatility in variable lighting conditions too.
So it should be that Oriental Seagull 400 would be a decent choice for shooting out in the streets with. And in terms of ease of use with that ISO 400 rating, I can’t disagree that it is.
That’s not the be-all and end-all here, though. Because there’s no point using a film just because of its ISO speed if you don’t like the results it gives you. And so we’re back to what we discussed in the last section – the image quality and qualities of Seagull 400, and whether you want your street photography to look like that.
If you do, then it’s a good one to use. And if you don’t, then it isn’t.
Price is another consideration with film photography, and perhaps especially so when you’re shooting unpredictable scenarios and want to keep the cost per frame down.
While Seagull is going to be cheap if you live in Asia and can buy it off the shelf, that’s not really the case if you order some from eBay and have it sent over. At the time of writing, I can buy the superior Ilford HP5 400 in the UK cheaper, although some Kodak Tri-X 400 would be around the same cost as this.
So all in all it’s probably similar to what I said about the ISO 100 version of Seagull on this matter.
Because it’s going to be cheap only if you buy it in Asia, it’s a decent street photography film if you live in Asia.
If you don’t then, in my opinion, there are plenty of others out there that give you better quality results and at a lower price too.
Here are some shots from Scarborough and Whitby regardless so you can judge for yourself if you think these image qualities would fit your own street work as well as your tastes.
I don’t think they really do mine.
Oriental Seagull 400 specs and development
Oriental Seagull 400 is an orthopanchromatic black and white negative film produced by Harman Technology for the Japanese market and released in 2016.
Available in 35mm format only, it comes in 36-exposure rolls that are DX coded with the number 883640.
There’s plenty of information regarding developing this film on the inside of its box, so be sure to keep hold of that for reference if you do process your own after shooting.
Aside from that, the best source of information is probably going to be Ilford’s own technical datasheets for Kentmere 400 – presuming as we are that Seagull is Kentmere, or a very close cousin to it at worst.
Unfortunately, as I don’t develop my own film (yet), I can’t relay any first-hand experience to you here. But hopefully those links will lead you to all the information you need.
Where to buy Oriental Seagull 400 film
As we’ve already established, Oriental Seagull 400’s worldwide availability is pretty limited. If you live in Asia, happy days. You should find some easily. Anywhere else though, probably not.
Not next to the Kodak film on the shelf of your local pharmacy or even your local film shop, if you have one. And probably not on the website of your favourite online retailer either.
Not unless your favourite retailer happens to be eBay, that is. Or someone based in Asia with their own site perhaps, like Panda Camera who sell on Bay too anyway.
So your options are not exactly abundant, but you do have some. And you can check the prices and availability of them through the links below.
Final thoughts on Oriental Seagull 400
I wonder why that is…
But to elaborate, I thought the ISO 100 versions were pretty good. Very clean and with a lot of contrast too, they produced results that suit my taste.
I found this Oriental Seagull 400 it a bit too flat for my liking though. Just like Kentmere 400 was.
Earlier in this review I mentioned a chat I’d had with someone from Ilford about this film. This happened at the Analogue Spotlight event in 2022, where I asked why their black-boxed Ilford Pan 100 and Pan 400 films were always excluded from their exhibitions and advertising materials.
I knew why. It’s because they aren’t sold in the UK. But it was as good a conversation starter as I had at the time so I went with it. I then touched on the Oriental Seagull films too.
The man from Ilford, who was very nice, could – in his own words – “neither deny nor confirm” that Oriental Seagull 100 and 400 and indeed Ilford Pan 100 and 400 are rebadged Kentmere.
What he did advise though, which I thought was a good point, was that all four of these films are made in the UK but obviously then get sent away to other global markets. So if I’m buying any of them, I’m buying a film that has been halfway around the world and back again.
Very important carbon footprint concerns aside, why would you buy a film that has travelled so much and potentially been stored in unfavourable conditions that could affect its image quality when you could buy something very similar at worst that has never left the country?
Well, I had a couple of reasons for doing so.
First, because it’s another one to tick off on the perennial #shootallthefilms project. And second, to go a little inside baseball for a second, because Oriental Seagull 400 is another keyword I can rank for on Google and get people to see what I’m up to here.
But outside of that, I agree with the man from Ilford.
Maybe if I still lived in Asia I’d buy Seagull 100 and 400 over Kentmere. But I don’t, so there’s little point in doing so.
If you do have a reason to want to shoot some Seagull 400, like being some sort of film stock completionist, I can only recommend you check some out on eBay.
But really, if you live somewhere with lots of Kentmere and not much Seagull, I’d say just go with the former for everyday shooting. Especially the ISO 100 one. I like that one. 🙂
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