5 Frames… With ILFORD FP4 PLUS (EI 400 / 35mm format / Rollei 35T) – by Michael Batchelor

I’d always wanted one of those fancy little Rollei pocket cameras, but— for whatever reason— hadn’t ever bought one. On a recent whim, I took a “today is the day” -type moment, and followed it to its logical conclusion. Thus, a lovely Rollei 35T with a Rollei Tessar 40mm F/3.5 and non-functional (unnecessary?) meter came into my possession.

Not to name names, but my first several rolls through the Rollei started with “K” and ended with “odak Tri-X 400”. It is a film I am very comfortable shooting and processing, so, well…

At any rate, I found that the Tri-X looked good, the Rollei lens was sharp, and the entire package fit in my pocket — but I wasn’t really inspired. I tried a couple of different stocks through the diminutive Rollei, each just fine, none so special as to try again. I was actually feeling a little over it when I remembered I had a few rolls of ILFORD FP4 PLUS laying around leftover from a recent wedding shoot.

I happily use FP4 PLUS at box speed in daylight settings, when I know that even tonality and skin-flattering smoothness are my number-one considerations — but it does lack a certain punch when shooting non-portraitesque scenes. I thought that my quick ISO 400 sunny sixteens math skills that I’d honed shooting other meter-less cameras would make for an easy time with the FP4 PLUS with a 2-stop push in processing (side note: D-76 forever).

I found the increased contrast and controlled-but-visible grain the Tessar + FP4 combo gave me was very appealing in a “was this shot today or 75 years ago” kind of way. The silvery smooth tones are enhanced to the point of having some little sparkle of the magic that I’d hoped for from this tiny camera—I guess I found my film.

There will be more samples from this combo at instagram.com/kettlepotblack.

Thank you, all!

~ Michael

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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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Michael Batchelor
Michael Batchelor
I am a father, a husband, an artist, a teacher, and a musician. I have found that getting back to shooting film a few years ago—after taking a decade off—has reinvigorated my love of photography, and reminded me that the medium allows for a special melding of art and science—and is unique and inspiring in that way.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mike, IMHO, if a photo from my CL and your Rollei were displayed side by side, people would be hard pressed to tell the difference. One is not better than the other. Both cameras have their strengths and weaknesses. We have chosen specific cameras that work for us. At the moment the the shutter button is pressed, we are using the best camera at that moment.
    Good shooting.
    Dan

    • That’s very kind of you…I do 12.5 minutes in stock D-76, gentle agitation—which equals out to an approximate 2-stop push. That’s how all these shots were developed, keeping in mind that they were metered by eye, so, well… 🙂

  2. I’m glad to see someone working with the Rollei and making some great photos. It’s a charming camera that so easily fits into your pocket. The lens is first rate and the camera seems to be a bit over-built. That’s why they have lasted so long. The ‘product shot’ clearly shows how small it is, and the dog & shadow is my pic of choice. Good work.

    I had one (get ready for it…) 40 years ago! Gave it to my older bro, where it worked on construction sites with him. Tough camera in a tiny package. It got stolen one day when some SOB broke into his tool box.

    I’ve got a Leica CL (film) and sometimes I think Leica stole the idea for the CL design from Rollei. Not quite as compact as your Rollei, but just as fun.

    I wish you continued good shooting with it.

    – Dan

    • I appreciate your positive feedback. I have the Rollei with me pretty much every time I walk out of the house! Like you said, it’s so small that it doesn’t make sense to leave it at home 🙂

      The Leica CL is probably better, but the Rollei does squeeze into the back back pocket of my too-skinny-for-a-42-year-old jeans.

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