Verichrome and Super-XX films

Kodak Verichrome and Super-XX film.

Kodak Verichrome and Super-XX film.

Toronto. My friend George Dunbar sent me this ad by email. The ad appeared in the December 1944 issue of LIFE magazine. As a kid our family could never afford the luxury of a magazine subscription – I read older issues of LIFE at the local barbershop on occasional Saturdays waiting for the owner Niles Reid or his associate to crop my unruly head.

Verichrome (orthochromatic) was like Ilford XP-1 (panchromatic) in later years. It was actually two emulsions, one slow and one fast, so that common box cameras and folders of the day were sure to give a usable exposure – at least  in daylight. In grade six, I went on a bus tour with my trusty baby brownie. Believing the Kodak ads, I confidentially bought Super-xx so I could take photos in poor (indoor) light. Sadly, the film was far too slow to give a printable image of any snap taken indoors with my little f/16 box camera.

In any case, have a look at this LIFE Kodak ad of some 70 years ago and think of how lucky we are today with our super high ISO cameras and built-in optical stabilization. My little Sony NEX-6 auto adjusts the ISO level to as high as 3,200 ISO and can be set to a fixed ISO from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600. Verichrome was about 125 ASA (ISO) tops and Super-XX slightly faster at 200 ASA (ISO) tops and fully pan-chromatically sensitive. Exposure was recommended to be below these setting!

You will notice that the ad emphasizes how fast the films are but NEVER gives the actual speed which is so painfully slow today.

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