Along with the Orwo UN54 that I quoted before, I also ordered a 30.5 m roll of DN21 from the Orwo Shop. This was something unusual for me, as films not primarily intended for taking pictures in a normal camera are not my cup of tea. I mean, for graphic purposes I used a lot of litho or ortho sheets, in another century, but I don’t like to make strange things, with unmatching materials, just to fill my time.
Of course, using it handheld requires good weather and fast lenses, so I tested it on sunny days. The first run was a short strip in order to find and fix a light leakage in my new Kiev II (the light came in from a funny and uncommon position, but this is another story). The greenish colour of the film is quite amazing, and at first sight, one could doubt which one is the sensitive layer, but we are not soft-hearted and don’t get scared. Developed with usual ID11 1+1, it looked clear and clean, with nothing strange (apart from the absence of numbering and markings), and served for the purpose of camera maintenance.
Then, I had interesting moments to use it during the Hot Como Summer of 2022. I walked once with my Contax 139Q and its Yashica 24mm f/2.8 lens on the ephemeral beach that appeared from the droughty lake, then again with my Canon F1 on the tripod for some architectural details. Again, the exposure was between 12 and 20 ISO, as the scenes were showing rather hard exposure scales.
Quite obviously, the definition is high and the grain very fine. Even a challenge not only for the muscles of my good old Epson V700, but also for the respectable lenses that I used on the three cameras. I also took a couple of portraits of a friend that I met at noon, and they were fully printable.
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I’m speaking about lighting conditions because I was not completely sure about the versatility of the DN21: having the sun directly into the lens is not so fine even for highly tolerant films, but in this case, the effect was acceptable. Both in the afternoon or in the evening, it seems that sensitivity is the only true limitation, although until now, I still have to try with coloured filters: the published sensitivity chart is far from smooth.
For such a film, that you can find useful for reproductions or other quick jobs, being able to load the length you need from a bulk roll is another positive feature. Some more fun? The plastic cartridges of the many Orwo rolls that I bought in Berlin, 1990, are maybe the most reliable I have ever used. Each one has been reloaded tens of times ever since, and they never showed a defect.
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Your passing comment on using graphic film caught my eye. A part time job during my college years in the 1970’s was working in the darkroom of a commercial printer. We shot boxes upon boxes of Kodalith for the purposes of making photo sensitive litho plates. The plates were run on giant lithography presses. After I obtained my teaching degree in Graphic Arts, my students used the litho film to make screen printing stencils. I think I have Kodak Kodalith A&B developer still running through my blood vessels!
I must admit, I’ve had poor success with the Orwo films. I use 400 speed films, and using these more pictorial, slow speed emulsions don’t produce images to my liking.
You and other photographers get excellent results, so I know the problem lies with me. I enjoy other people’s work, but these films are not for me.
Thank you so much! With “pictorial” films a possible idea is pushing them a little, they become more “realistic”. With UN54 I’m working @ 160, but I have to try it in harder conditions, why not?DN21 has been sleeping for the winter, I’m still thinking about trichromes.