On October 24th 2019 ILFORD announced their ORTHO PLUS film was to be released in both 35mm and 120 formats (it was previously only available in sheets as a copy film). As the marketing manager for ILFORD Photo, one of the perks of my job is that I was able to get my hands on a pre-production roll.
Like most of us, I have my favourite films, but I also love to try different stocks. I also like to have first-hand knowledge of a film’s attributes as well as see how it handles different light and conditions so I’d been desperate to try Ortho ever since the idea was first muted by some bright spark in R&D.
Unfortunately, I only had one precious roll at my disposal, so this meant just 12 shots on a Rolleiflex f/2.8F. As it was my first time shooting it, I stuck to box speed (ISO 80). It helped that it was a beautiful sunny day in Prague where I happened to be for a gathering of our European distributors – we were telling them about Ortho as well as all the other exciting new products we were releasing.
I have been to Prague many times, in all seasons, and actually got married here in 2004 so I know the city pretty well. This particular morning I’d been up at 5:20am to head to Charles Bridge for sunrise, foolishly hoping to beat the hoards. I rattled through several rolls of XP2, FP4 and HP5 early on saving the Ortho for when the sun was fully up.
Five of the shots from that roll are below. I was genuinely surprised at how fine the grain was and while it is no doubt a contrasty film, I thought it handled highlights and shadows well both shooting into the light as well as in high contrast scenes.
Orthochromtic films are blue and green-sensitive but not red so I’d been a bit apprehensive as to how it would handle darker oranges and reds. Again, I was very pleased as the dark orange roof tiles, synonymous with some historic European cities, retained all their detail and added a nice contrast to the scene.
Earlier this year I started using a borrowed Rolleiflex f/3.5 T but for recent trips but I’d switched to the f/2.8 F as I like having a built-in light meter! Rolleiflexes are such iconic cameras, fun to use, capable of beautiful results, smaller and lighter than the likes of the Mamiya C330 and like most TLRs they pique people’s interest which helps if you like to take pictures of strangers!
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