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Finding Film part 10: Rollin’ Rollei Retro 80S and 400S

Hello again! It’s that time of the month where I check out another type of black and white medium format film. For this article, I have been using Rollei Retro, in both varieties; Rollei Retro 400S and Rollei Retro 80S. However, before we get to the shoot, some quick housekeeping.

Since my last article, I have been busy with a project, entitled DISCONNECTED. This has meant spending a lot of time with my 35mm camera and working in colour. It has been a very welcome break from shooting medium format, and black and white. Despite the welcome break, do not despair dear reader, I would never abandon black and white for colour.

Secondly, my camera gear has also changed during this period. I am hoping that my new camera will be “the one”, but I have said this before and still gone searching for something else… So, my Yashica Mat 124G has been upgraded to a Fuji GW690III. Having waited 2 very long weeks for it to arrive from Japan, I am very happy to be using this as my main camera, saving my 35mm camera for travel, or when I need more than 8 shots to a roll (not very often).

With the change in camera, comes a slightly different set of results, in that many of my shots are no longer square format, and there is a slight (read: very) noticeable difference in sharpness, between the Yashica and the Fuji. Having shot a few test rolls, on different film I have already used before, it is definitely the camera, not the film. In an ideal world, I would have kept the series going on the Yashica, but the Fuji was too good to turn down, and the Yashica had to go – there was no space in my life for two medium format cameras.

Test roll, Fuji GW690III, ILFORD FP4 Plus

Test roll, Fuji GW690III, ILFORD FP4 Plus

Here’s what I cover in this article:

 

 

 

The shoot

So, on to the shoot. I had some spare time on a day off, and being 5 minutes away from the same woodland I used for Article 5 – Kodak T-MAX 400, I decided to head back and see what had changed. Approaching from the other side of the woodland, I did not realise that there was a proper car park for the area (all this time I had been parking on the side of the road, whoops). Not only did this mean somewhere decent for me to leave my car, but there was a whole other section of the woodland I had yet to see, bonus!

Unlike the side seen in Article 5, this area is largely untouched, and very overgrown. At the time of writing, it is mid-July 2017, and the plantation is dense. Walking through the wood, there is a strong smell of ferns, which makes the air smell very sweet. Being mid-week, there were hardly any people about, apart from the odd dog walker. It was early in the morning too (about 8am), so there was still a nice, soft light cutting through the trees.

TANGENT: the rather loud shutter of the GW690III scared one of the dogs and made it bark at me, the owner apologised, but I had to explain it was the camera, rather than me that the dog was barking at. This camera is definitely not a stealthy camera! There is no chance of using this for some street photography!

So, despite scaring some dogs, the shoot went well. The conditions were excellent, and there was some good contrasty light through the trees. On my way home, I was eager to see what I had managed to produce, and headed straight for the darkroom.

 

 

Development

As recommended inside the Rollei boxes, I developed the film using Rodinal. I used a 1:25 dilution, choosing to stand develop the rolls (no real reason other than I was feeling lazy), at 20c. I had to develop the rolls separately, with the 400S taking 10 mins 30 seconds, and the 80S needing 8 minutes exactly. For those still interested, I used Fotospeed SB50 as my stop bath, and Fotospeed FX30 for the fixer.

I like to leave my negatives 24 hours to dry before scanning, as the weighted hooks tend to straighten the film quite nicely. However, the Rollei film is so curly, that it returned to a rolled state (albeit rather loosely rolled) once taken down from the hooks. The thing I find most amusing about this, is that the film is advertised as having a “non-curl coating” applied to it, which on the basis of my experience is hilariously false! The film did scan OK, but it took some work to get it to sit flat on the scanner.

 

 

The results: Rollei 400S

Here are some samples from the rolls, as always, I have only corrected crops, straightened wonky images, or removed dust that was picked up during scanning.

To view the images in fullscreen, click/tap an image.

I am pleased with the tonality in the film. It presents a good range of highlights and shadows throughout. The above images were taken with the Rollei Retro 400S. Due to the density of the woods, I was shooting handheld at f/5.6 and 1/60 second. It was the lowest I could take the shutter speed without camera shake. I like using f/5.6 or f/8 in the woods, as the falloff in focus is quite nice on the GW690III. 

The detail produced from the Rodinal and the Rollei film is great, as seen in the 100% crop (right-hand shot) above.

Having developed the films, I noticed that several of the images had an almost infrared look to them. I didn’t realise this at the time of shooting, and was shooting the film like a regular black and white film. I have since found out, through some Googling, that both films have extended red light/IR sensitivity to them, and that with a red filter (or infrared filter), an infrared look (Wood effect) can be achieved.

Oddly, I have somehow managed to achieve this without using a filter. If you are looking for this effect and don’t have a red #25 or IR (R72) filter, I would recommend giving Rollei Retro a go. 

 

 

The results: Rollei 80S

The Rollei 80S performed just as well as the 400S. By this time, I had to use the tripod, and was shooting at 1/2 – 1/15 second at a time, due to the lack of light in the woods. I have included fewer images from the roll as I was less happy with the results, not due to the film, more down to my compositions/wind blurring the ferns.

 

 

Closing thoughts

I was very, very impressed with Rollei Retro, both in its 400S and 80S forms. Both films are very contrasty, super sharp when used with Rodinal (I can see why it is recommended inside the box), and very low on grain. The films are very similar, but if I had to call it, the 400S is slightly more contrasty than the 80S.

The IR effect the film produces is nice, and whilst it was not what I was going for when shooting the film, I do quite like it. The fact I was able to achieve this without a red/IR filter is even more impressive.

The only negative I can take from the experience is the rather hilarious film curl, which was made even more amusing by the fact that this film was marketed as having a “non-curl coating”. Despite this, the film did scan fine, after a little extra work.

Would I use Rollei Retro again? Yes, I would. I like the end results the film has given me, and if I was to edit the scans, I don’t think it would take much work to get them to my taste, which is a bonus. I have still yet to try Ilford SFX and Rollei Infrared, which may produce better results than Rollei Retro, but for now, it gets a thumbs up from me.

This series has grown considerably since it started and you can catch up on any articles in my Finding Film series by following the links below:

~ Tom Rayfield

 

 

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About The Author

Tom Rayfield

Photographer with a passion for shooting (and developing) medium format film.

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