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 partially exposed roll of film in. It was also fitted with a Nikon AF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 D zoom lens I had been sent a while back but not yet tested so I decided to finish the roll.

MY Nikon FM2n and Nikkor AF 28-70mm f:3.5-4.5D, David Whenham

Nothing formal however, my 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. Harry then decided to pose; composing a fast-moving subject so as to preserve everyone’s modesty was a challenge.

Opening the camera I found 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 decided on developing it for 13 minutes in Rodinal (1+50).

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. The lens was, to say the least, a little “soft”. Even allowing for the erratic mobility of my subjects, very few of the negatives were crisp which was disappointing but not the fault of the film.

So, frustrations with the now-discarded lens aside, what did I make of the out of date Rollei Retro 100 (also known as Agfa APX 100)?

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 PAN F PLUS and HP5 PLUS but I would not be averse to putting a roll or two through the Bronicas if the subject was right.

~ Dave

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About the author

Dave Whenham

I have been making photographs since my teens, in the mid-1970s, and returned to my film roots in 2019 when I dug my developing tanks out of the loft and started to use the collection of film cameras I had accumulated over the years. I've since added to them...

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  1. Do you know, I was thinking hold on, I didn’t think Rollei made retro 100 until I got to the end. With regards to the grain I have to say I prefer the grain in the retro 80s developed in D76, but the 100 has that beautiful tonality, though I suspect it’d be more comfortable shooting lower contrast scenes.

    As for your grandsons, its good to see its not only my son whose clothes seem to evaporate the second he gets home from school.

    1. Thanks Mads, grain is such a subjective matter but it never ceases to amaze me how different films react to different developers. I’m going through an Xtol phase at present but the bottle of Rodinal is never far away 😊. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment too,

  2. The FM2n seems a simple machine.
    My early years with on had wildly varied densities of silver on the same rolls (very disappointing in the darkroom), compared to idiot-proof Matrix metered shots on different Nikons.
    Now I am so much more appreciative of the capabilities of the FM2n.
    This camera doesn’t do the work for you, but will facilitate the desired results of a knowledgeable, experienced photographer.

  3. Good Morning Dave….

    Sorry, had to do that(2001 Space Oddesy)

    What type of medium format camera do you utilize.

    What camera would you recommend? I can Found Kiev’88 all day on eBay with lenses and film backs that are fully functional.

    Today I just received my mint condition Kodak Tourist II 6×9 Medium format camera. Will it be good enough for now, until I grow more accustomed to the medium format and it’s mannerisms?

    Good article B&W photography, esp with a yellow or green filter, lensed

    1. Good morning 😂

      Recommending medium format cameras is very difficult as they vary so much in terms of form factor – twin-lens reflex, single lens reflex, rangefinder, old folding cameras … I mainly use a Bronica SQ-A which gives me 6×6 negatives on 120 film, think Hasselblad but loads cheaper! It’s a true system with interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, film backs etc. I do however also use a Mamiya TLR and a couple of Zeiss Ikonta folding cameras (one of which shoots 6×9 rather than 6×6).

      Personally, I don’t think it matters what camera you start with, it’s the practice and experience that matter. Get out and shoot with whatever you have, have fun and learn! I’m not familiar with that particular camera so cannot offer any thoughts however I have just googled it – does your camera use 620 roll film or 120? 620 roll film is still available to buy fresh but choice is not as wide as 120 which is why I mention it.

      Good luck with your first foray into the wonderful world of MF.

      All the best