Rocking the Rollei

Back in January when I was stocking up with film for the Spring/Summer months I picked up a few single films of different stocks to my usual to try out as the opportunity arose. I think that in the back of my mind was that these would be used for something “special” or a specific project that took into account each film stocks particular properties or quirks. As an enthusiastic (digital) infrared photographer, I have an IR-converted Fuji X-T1, and so I picked up a couple of rolls of 120 Rollei Infrared 400 intending to use it whilst in Devon for a family wedding. Well, I’m consigned to barracks and in any event the wedding is postponed until 2021. So, the first roll, which I bought to test before using the second in “anger”, has now been exposed within the confines of my back yard.

Now before any one shouts I realise that Rollei INFRARED 400 is not a ‘true’ infrared film, but one with near-infrared sensitivity to about 820nm. I’m not going to quibble though and in any case this was about experimentation.

© Dave Whenham

My weapon of choice for this experiment was a Bronica SQ-A, for no reason other than I like using it, plus the mirror lock-up would be useful. The film was rated at 400 ISO per the box and I shot a couple of frames without any filtration at this speed. I then attached a 720nm infrared filter and based on what I had been reading metered the scene at 12 ISO, an increase in exposure of five stops. Finally, I developed the film in Rodinal (1+25) at 20°C.

Contrary to some reports I’ve seen elsewhere on the web, the film went onto the reel very easily with no obvious curl to the acetate.

So, to the pictures. My first impression on hanging the roll of negatives to dry was how sharp and crisp they were. Some were clearly over-exposed but as I kept detailed notes that will enable me to learn from these. Popping the dry negatives on the light pad was an exciting moment as it was then I saw just how successful the experiment had been.

The first three frames (see above) had been taken with no filter, a polarising filter and lastly a 720nm infrared filter that I use with a full-spectrum Fuji X-T1. Just looking at the negatives I could see the dramatic differences between the first and third negative; even the negative has an ethereal feel. The third of these frames is shown, fully processed, below.

Rollei Infrared Film 1
Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter 1/4sec f16
Rollei Infrared Film 2
Great definition in the clouds from the infrared film. Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens
Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter 1/4 sec f16. Developed in Rodinal (1+25)
© Dave Whenham
A typicsl IR scene – green foliage turning white whereas the table and other fittings are rendered more “normally”

So, what did I make of this quirky film? Well, I have to admit that I was predisposed to the idea as I’ve shot a lot of infrared on my digital cameras as can be seen on my FLICKR account. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I liked these simple front/back yard images. They add a whole new dimension to the portfolio of images I’m creating during the Lockdown. The day I chose was cloudy with sunny intervals and not the full-on sunny day with blue skies I had hoped for but I love the feel of these images nevertheless.

Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter – and a blue tone in post-processing

So, what special project will the other roll be saved for? It is simply being saved for the next sunny day here in my back yard. I want to see what effect blue skies will have and can’t wait until I finally get released from the house. Never fear though as I’ve ordered another five rolls to keep on hand for when I do get back out with the camera!

Rollei Retro 100

Nikon FM2n with out of date Rollei Retro 100 shot at box speed and developed in Rodinal (1+50)

It’s not often I shoot 35mm film these days despite a drawer full of film and twenty-plus 35mm cameras to chose from. However, on a whim, I picked up the Nikon FM2n over the weekend and noticed it had a part exposed roll of film in. It was also fitted with a 24-70 zoom lens I had been sent aa while back but not yet tested so I decided to finish the roll.

Nothing formal however, the live-in grandsons were playing in the back yard, in and out of their paddling pool, so I took a few snaps of them first. When they saw what I was doing they both wanted a go too, so that used a few more frames. Harry then decided to pose; composing a fast-moving, naked subject so as to preserve everyone’s modesty was a challenge. That the lens was manual focus with a sloppy focus ring just added to the fun!

Reaching the end of the roll I decided that, as everyone was outside and the kitchen therefore empty , this would be a good time to develop the film and see what I had. The first surprise was that I had loaded Rollei Retro 100 in the camera. Why that had been so I couldn’t decide and having now seen what the first few frames were I still don’t know why I had a 100 speed film in the camera. I’ve been using Perceptol a lot recently, mainly because I’ve been shooting mainly Ilford PanF+ and FP4+ in my Bronica ETRS but reached for the Rodinal, mainly because I wouldn’t have to make up a new batch of Perceptol rather than any aesthetic choice on this occasion.

After consulting my notes I settled on 13 minutes at 20 degrees C in Rodinal diluted 1+50. The result was, as expected, good negatives with a reasonable amount of contrast. I left them hanging to dry in the bathroom and later in the day cut and sleeved them ready for a proper look on the light pad the following day.

As soon as I placed the first strip on the light pad I knew that all was not well. I had a good range of tones and the negatives were not overly contrasty so I was confident that they would print well in the darkroom. They also scanned well it turned out. Even from inspecting the negatives however, I could see immediately that the lens was, to say the least, a little “soft”. Excluding the frames ruined by camera shake (due to the low shutter speeds the 100 film required) and the erratic mobility of my subjects, very few of the images were the crisp, sharply focused negatives I had expected. That was disappointing especially as there appeared to be some nice images at the first glance of the still-wet negatives the afternoon before. But not the fault of the film.

Thumbs up!

So, frustrations with the now-discarded lens aside, what did I make of the out of date Rollei Retro 100 (also known as Agfa APX 100)?

Despite the film being out of date, I made no compensation in respect of exposure, mainly because I didn’t know what film was in the camera and the ISO dial was set to what I realised afterwards was box speed. I liked the “look” of the images from the film, although defining “look” is a futile exercise as it will vary from person to person. The grain is very apparent in these negatives but I don’t mind that at all; as someone who used to regularly shoot Kodak Tri-X at 6400 ISO in the 1970s I’m used to a bit of grain! Purely digital shooters with no history of working with film will probably be horrified at all the “noise” however.

It‘s a thumbs up therefore from me. I shoot mainly 120 film and my emulsions of choice are Ilford PanF+ and HP5 but I would not be averse to putting a roll or two through the Bronicas if the subject was right.

Bronica ETRS – point and shoot?

I wanted to see if the Bronica ETRS could be used as a P&S relying on the prism to set the shutter speed. This would make it easier when shooting family snaps such as these. Whilst I prefer the 6×6 format for most of my “serious” photography I am finding the 6×4.5 format of the ETRS works ideally for this type of “informal” photography.

Bronica ETRS with 250mm – a family snapper point and shoot?

Above: Frames 9 – 12 from a roll of HP5+ shot using a Bronica ETRS with a 250mm lens and relying on the AEII metered prism for correct exposure. I set the speed to 400 and aperture to f5.6 and left the prism to set the shutter speed. The film was processed in Rodinal (1+50).

Brrrrrr!.

Looking at the strip of negatives hanging up to dry I thought that and overall it had worked and this was confirmed when I scanned them on my Epson Perfection V550. To include the rebate I needed to lay the negative directly onto the scanner glass but I seem to have got away with no obvious moire patterns so it was probably my lucky day.

World Pinhole Photography Day 2020

I enjoy the occasional foray with a pinhole camera, even building one myself not so long ago and so was annoyed with myself for missing World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) in 2019. I was determined not to miss it this year however and had even scouted out a couple of suitable locations on the River Calder ready for the big day. I was it seemed all-set and ready to go.

I missed WPD-2019 and had big plans for 2020

WPPD is held on the last Sunday in April – the 26th this year – and of course, I’m being shielded at home and not allowed out of my yard! Best laid plans and all that.

I was determined not to miss the fun though and so the night before I loaded a fresh roll of Acros II into my wooden Zero Image 612 pinhole camera and dug out a mini tripod. At 7.30am on WPPD morning I was out in my backyard with pinhole camera, mini tripod and light meter to capture my first WPPD submission.

366-2020-117 (World Pinhole Day 2020)
World Pinhole Day 26th April 2020 – my submission

When set to 12×6 my pinhole camera takes five frames (you can shoot six but the sixth is truncated) and as exposure can be hit and miss it is important to think before opening the shutter. I took three compositions, two of which I ended up scanning. The first two compositions were bracketed, two frames at different exposure times, and I used an App on my phone as a light meter having first checked with my handheld meter that it was reading sufficiently accurately. The benefit of the App is that it will display the exposure for an f-stop of 150 which my light meter does not.

After breakfast I processed the roll of film in Perceptol (1+1) and was chuffed to find some decent exposures; indeed, every frame could be darkroom printed if desired and the negatives scanned very nicely on my Epson scanner. My chosen image (above) was uploaded the following morning although I did upload it to my Flickr photo stream on the Sunday afternoon along with one of the other compositions. The third composition I chose not to use as it had not worked as well as I’d hoped but two out of three is not bad!

The image is awaiting moderation by the WPPD team but will eventually be viewable HERE I believe.

Scanning colour negatives

With all the differences between different colour negative film stocks, scanning can be a bit hit and miss. Here I briefly demonstrate the method I use, it is not perfect but produces acceptable results most of the time. I’m sure with a far more rigorous approach it could be done better but who wants to spend hours scanning and processing negatives – I’d much rather be in the darkroom!

Some Bronica images

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post so I thought I ought to do something to reassure my reader that I’m still here! With a compromised immune system I’m being a little careful about social interaction but have been very busy indoors including a full day in my makeshift darkroom recently.

Bronica ETRS / 250mm

Looking at my notes I see I’ve shot over thirty rolls of film this year already, a mix of 35mm and 120 medium format. Twenty six of those I developed before cracking my tank last week so I have five awaiting the delivery of a replacement tank. I’ve opted for a larger tank this time so I can develop two 120 rolls, or three 35mm, at the same time.

Bronica – from my front garden!

A few of those rolls have been created by a newly acquired Bronica ETRS and a trio of lenses (40mm, 75mm and 250mm). I’ve shot medium format many times over the years. I’ve previously shot with a Pentax 645 (the only camera I’ve ever regretted selling), I also have a Hasselblad 500CM, Mamiya C3 TLR and a Mamiya RB67 in my bag all of which I’ve used recently. So I’m no stranger to medium format. But, the Bronica has stolen my heart at the moment. At 6×4.5 it’s the smallest of my medium format cameras but it’s SLR-like handling is a joy. I also have the option to swap in a waist level viewfinder for that traditional MF experience too.

Bronica ETRS

There will be more to come over the months I’m sure but for now stay safe and take care!

Loving the Ricoh 35ZF

A week or so ago I was considering selling this little camera … but since then I’ve shot five 36 exposure rolls with the Ricoh and haven’t left home without it.

Elland, West Yorkshire

I’ve shot with it in the rain, on the bus and even in the sunshine (although not many sunny frames) and it hasn’t missed a beat. So, it will be staying – it’s sat on the table next to me already loaded with a roll of TMax – but I still need to decide on a camera or three to release back into the wild!

Contre-jour
Time for a Cuppa

Picture of the Day – 18th February 2020

I’m not planning on a POTD every day, that’s what my 365/366 on Flickr is for. However, as I managed a second morning out with the Ricoh 35ZF today I thought “why not?” and so here it is …

Halifax 18/2/2020
Ricoh 35ZF: 1/15th sec f2.8 HP5+ @800ISO
Developed Ilfotec (1+4)

This was a quick handheld shot I grabbed as we left the cafe where we had breakfast this morning. It won’t win prizes for technical excellence but I like the atmosphere it creates.

Developing 25+ year old colour film

An interesting challenge came my way a week or so ago. A good friend of mine found a roll of JESSOPS colour negative film in his garage and brought it over for me to play with. How long it had been there he knew not, but a note inside the film canister suggested it had been in there for over twenty five years.

Ready to go!

After giving the matter some thought and consulting with a couple of other film workers I decided to process the film in black and white chemicals. The logic being that even if the latent colour images had survived the years in the garage it was likely that the colours would have shifted somewhat; the consensus being that if there were images they would have a noticeable colour cast and I may we’ll end up converting these to black and white anyway.

The next decision was what developer. Colour negative film is generally developed for three or three and a quarter minutes in C41 chemistry but that information was of little use to me. I eventually opted for what is called stand development which involves immersing the film in highly diluted developer for an extended period leaving the tank to stand untouched for the duration. My developer of choice for stand development is Rodinal so the decision was made. Timings are less critical with Stand development as the very diluted developer is basically allowed to exhaust itself. It has a compensating effect in that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas, which has the effect of boosting shadow detail while preserving bright highlights.

Pre-wash in deionised water for 5 minutes

Develop in Rodinal, diluted 1+100, for 1 hour

Agitate initially for 30 seconds very slowly then two slow inversions at 30 minutes (which technically makes this semi-stand)

“Stop”, using deionised water for 1 minute

Fix using Ilford Rapid Fix for 8 minutes

So much for the theory. What about the reality? My plan, which I followed carefully, was based on my usual stand workflow with some tweaks to accommodate the unusual circumstances. I rarely use pre-wash but thought it might be helpful here to lubricate the film as it were. I usually use a Stop bath but plumped for water on the basis of keeping the chemicals used to the minimum. Finally, I fixed for 60% longer than usual.

It worked!

To view the negatives are a bit on the dense side but there are definitely images!

Undeterred by the very dark negatives I turned on the scanner and set to work. It was not a fully exposed roll of 36 images and it had clearly been removed from the camera when only part-used. Most of the twenty-odd frames were out of focus shots of rally cars in a wooded area. A couple were taken indoors at a car show and one of these was pretty sharp so it was this one that I chose to scan fully.

A section of the film fully scanned with a Epson V550 flatbed scanner
Beyond my wildest expectations!

So, there are images and my friend and I are delighted with how the negatives look. There remains one puzzle though. He does not recognise them and is adamant that he would never take a part exposed roll out of the camera!