Last year in summer my wife and I started a trip to Namibia. We travelled around 3000 miles with a rented 4×4 on mainly dusty gravel roads. The tour was organized by ourselves, as we prefer to have stops on our own initiative. On a journey like this, it’s a good idea to limit oneself on the equipment. So I took only my Mamiya 7II together with his excellent 43mm f/4.5 wide-angle lens. Ok, there was also the 80mm standard lens in my pocket, but on almost every picture I used the wide-angle.
I took only one type of film with me: the well-known (and sometimes hated!) Rollei Retro 80s. In the past, I made many trials to find my personal development procedure for this capricious film. I ended with stand development in “Caffenol”. This soup consists of washing-soda, Vitamin-C and Instant-Coffee. Right, coffee! I tested this developer also with Kodak T-MAX 400, FUJI NEOPAN 100 ACROS and even with ILFORD’s XP2 Super and was excited.
Together with stand-development “Caffenol” needs a small additional amount of potassium bromide to guarantee a uniform development. Caffenol stains the emulsion and grain seems almost invisible on the print.
Retro 80s is well-known for his extended red sensitivity and his poor shadow contrast. So I exposed it at only EI 25 and developed all films with a high dilution Caffenol-CL recipe to prevent the highlights from blowing out and to achieve enough shadow detail. Particularly, the rendering of clouds is important to me.
A film speed of EI 25 seems very low and it may be a risk to have only this single option on a journey like this. But with this combination, I didn’t need any red or even yellow filter in most cases. The high red sensitivity of the 80s helps so much! Due to the soft electronic leaf-shutter of the Mamiya 7II and the bright sun in the south of Africa, the tripod could remain in the car.
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This series is 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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