Review: Yama Uchu-no-Katasumi 400

Hello, everybody! The pandemic has affected every person I know, mostly negatively. It has certainly affected our craft, we now have less opportunities to take photos. This sort of dampened my passion so I’m restricted to taking boring or repetitive photos. I’ve recently discovered a new film which I haven’t used or heard yet. It’s not expensive but it’s not a cheap stock either so I thought that I’d probably give it a shot. To my surprise, it’s actually rather nice and it has helped me enjoy photography again.

Introduction:

Today, we’ll take a look at Uchu-no-Katasumi (宇宙の片隅) or “A Corner of the Universe” in English. It’s made by Irohas, a small photography company based in Gunma, north of Tokyo. If you’re shopping for used cameras and lenses you’ve probably saw their name in the online auction sites. Click on this link to go to their website. This film is sold under their Yama brand, think of it as a Japanese equivalent of that big company that sells plastic cameras to people who pay a lot for a cup of drinkable cakes. Go to the Yama website to see what they’re all about.

What took my attention was the color of the box and its corny art. The name is also intriguing which made me curious. I was compelled to buy it because it’s priced decently at $6.50 for a 24-shot roll. I said decent since it should be sold at a lower price because it’s just 24-shots, if it’s 36-shots then you wouldn’t hear anything from me. I hate 24-shot rolls, I have to pay the same price to process and scan it compared to a 36-shot roll.

I know that you’re probably tired of hearing me complain about the economic side of it but really, you could squeeze a couple of more shots out of it. I’ve managed to expose 27 frames out of a roll and I could even get another one if I am careful or load it inside my dark-bag. Another thing is it’s cheaper compared to the other “boutique-films” where you’ll have to pay a “hipster-tax” just to see what that roll is about.

This is a mysterious film from a small photography company, I doubt that they’ve produced this on their own. The talk at some camera shops is it contains respooled Chinese film of an unknown stock. I’m not familiar with Commie films so please share any information if you know what the original stock is.

Here’s what’s inside the box, you’ll get a repurposed canister stuck with their label and a sticker for DX-coding because some cameras will only read DX-codes. I personally don’t use DX-codes so I dialed the ISO value manually.

You’re probably really curious by now so let’s now see what sort of photos it takes. I shot these with my Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (8-elements), Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (7-elements) and my Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8. I used an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic to take the photos.

As expected from a film of this speed the dynamic range appears to be rather wide. The overblown parts still retain an obvious amount of detail and the dark parts don’t look clamped.

Here’s another photo illustrating an extreme amount of brightness and shadows. It could handle both quite well. I have not shot this film with deliberate over-or-underexposure but I suspect that it handles both situations rather well.

This is a tough scene where the greys are fighting between the whites and darks and will usually result in a muddy and ugly look at the areas that are neither dark nor bright. This film’s latitude seems to accommodate it quite well without resulting in a flat-look at the middle of the curve.

I don’t know what happened here, it looks like some light-leaks. The grain looks nice and organic, it is chunky without making your photos look like they was pushed-processed. There’s some clipping happening around the bulb closest to the photo, that may be due to the jpeg compression and nothing else as I haven’t seen any film that renders like this.

This is a rather flat scene in terms of illumination and it’s a bit overexposed. This is a good test to see how it handles a couple of shades in a more neutral setting. It handles colors quite nicely with a little bit of magenta and bluish hue not like the slightly-greenish tint of the Fujifilm stocks that I am used to and certainly not like Fujifilm C200 which shows a strong magenta hue if I remember it correctly. If this were shot with your typical Kodak stock then you will notice a bit of yellowish-tiny. Its tendency to produce photos with a slight magenta hue isn’t going to turn your whites and greys a bit off but it’s going to be enough to notice only if you bothered to look for it.

The bright afternoon light will certainly turn your photos a bit yellowish thanks to the atmosphere. It renders this scene beautifully under this scenario like all non-economy films that I’ve used. Just like with the previous photos its dynamic range is rather good and you’ll still be able to see details at the darker parts of the photo.

This film renders “politely”, your primary colors won’t look shockingly-vivid. Some Fujifilm stocks renders greens poorly and the reds can look brutal but this one is rather nice, I think I am liking this film more. I’m quite surprised to see that my photos actually look “normal” despite the hipster-trap packaging. I didn’t get trippy-looking photos, just clean and nice photos that I’d probably want to use professionally.

ISO 400 films usually aren’t fine-grained, this is specially true for the economy-types. This film seem to render sharply, I am pleased by its resolution despite not having the finest grain available for its class.

Here’s another photo showing how sharp it is, just look at the lantern to see what I mean. The details are resolved in a beautiful way. Going back to the topic of how it renders colors, it renders red nicely and is truer to what I actually saw with my own eyes. It doesn’t look purple, orange or whatever. This shade is vermillion so it’s naturally a bit orange but it was rendered faithfully without shifting its color too much to be considered a different shade.

I’m impressed by how well it handles red, the red neon would’ve look clipped if this were shot with one of those cheap films that I always use. I’m still able to see the details of the neon properly in my monitor.

This scene is rendered beautifully, I shot this because it has both warm and cool lighting in a single frame. It appears to be rather forgiving in terms of exposure, even more than your usual ISO 400 film.

The characteristics of its grain is remarkable in the sense that you could obviously see it but it’s not ugly at all. You can even say that it works like the thick, deliberate strokes on an oil painting, adding depth and texture to your photos.

(Click to enlarge)

Here are more photos for you to observe. I think I like this film, it’s a great substitute to Fujifilm Industrial 400 which is getting rare now. I can even say that I like this film even more in certain cases. This is certainly a refreshing experience, I got somewhat bored lately due to the pandemic and seeing how this film performs just made me curious about it. It’s a nice film so I’ve decided to buy another roll.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to try a new stock or those who are just curious. These aren’t cheap and they only come in 24-shot rolls which makes you want to squeeze every millimeter of it. It’s worth it, I do not have any throwaways in this roll and I’ve managed to spread it so I could take 27 shots with it. I’m very happy with it, I hope that they will be sold in the usual 36-shot rolls and with a more decent price, I’m sure it’s going to be an instant hit. If you’re wondering where you could get these just read my article about Nisshin Camera, they’re one of the few shops selling it onsite. Ordering this online is also possible but I don’t have any links since this is not sponsored. Any interaction with a seller will obviously be in Japanese and I can’t help you with it since I am already busy as it is. If Yama is reading this or anyone managed to get in contact with them, I am interested to work with them, they can send me a few more rolls to shoot with and I’ll gladly use the photos here in the site. Purchasing and processing film is a huge part of maintaining this site so that’s usually where the donation goes.

Thanks for following my work, if you liked this article please share this with your friends so it will get more views. This site earns around $0.40 a day, we are totally reliant on views. You could also support this site, it helps me offset the cost of maintenance and hosting. You are also helping me purchase, process and scan film. This site promotes the use of film so we are all in this together. See you again in the next article, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this requires resources and a lot of time. If you think that it has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the site’s upkeep, you can make a small donation to my paypal.com at richardHaw888@gmail.com. Money isn’t my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Buy me a roll of film or a burger?

Thank you very much for your continued support!

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country’s name or other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Shopping: Nisshin Camera (Akihabara) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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