I think I just fell in love with Rollei Retro 400S…. Here’s how it happened. A friend of a friend very kindly gifted me a Rollei 35S (which is a wonderful camera) and I thought it would be fitting to run some Rollei film through it, I’d shot Rollei Retro 80S before and been mightily impressed but since I was going to be shooting street I wanted a little more flexibility in terms of speed – enter Rollei Retro 400S (the boffins down at Rollei really like the designation ‘S’ don’t they)?

So I hit the mean streets of Leeds City Centre on a sunny afternoon and hung about with my camera shooting mainly from the hip (literally) as the Rollei 35S is a scale focus only camera, I really wasn’t even sure if the thing worked properly, I was metering with my iPhone app too so I was really unsure whether I’d managed to get any decent shots.

I developed them at home myself using a semi-stand process of 1:100 Adox Adonal for 1 hour at 20 degrees C with inversions for the first 30 seconds and then 3 inversions at 30 minutes – this is my preferred development process – I always do a pre-soak which gets the film to temperature and washes out the anti-halation layer which in this case was a mucky blue/black colour (this step isn’t 100% necessary but it’s how I do it).

I was slightly nervous trying such a relatively fast film using semi-stand but I am delighted with how they came out retaining good levels of detail with an almost painterly feel to the grain which I like very much, the images also have a punchy contrast which is very pleasing. I would recommend this film to all you stand developers out there – 400S responds well to this process. For those who like finer grain I don’t doubt that using an alternative development process would probably result in a much finer grain although it might reduce the contrast at the same time, I’ll be trying it with HC110 for my next adventure!

The images were shot on a bright sunny day in Leeds City Centre and in these conditions 400S gives great tonality and very high levels of sharpness, it handles both shadows and highlights wonderfully. It has much more contrast than more traditional film like ILFORD HP5 PLUS shot at 400, although whether Rollei Retro 400S is as pushable I cannot say based on my own experience (yet)

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The images have had very little done to them in post processing, just scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 and a slight tweak in Lightroom as required including some dust spot removal (bane of the film photographer). The only downside to the film (and this is a minor complaint) but one that those who scan their own film will understand – this stuff curls horrendously! It curled almost the full length of the film!! Needless to say it will need flattening before you scan – I opt for the ‘heavy photo book sandwich’ to flatten out unruly films!

I would heartily recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a punchy, high contrast fast film which works well in a semi-stand process, I am much happier with these results than previous attempts shooting ILFORD HP5 PLUS or Tri-X. Your mileage may vary of course but I’m now on the hunt for a bulk roll of this film so I can continue my street shooting adventures!

I’ll see you out there!

~ Chris



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About the author

Avatar - Chris Chinnock

Chris Chinnock

I'm a freelance photographer in the UK, shooting events, portraits and commercial work on a DSLR, I enjoying the creative possibilities of both digital and film mediums but when it comes to personal projects then my format of choice is black and white 35mm...

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  1. Great review. I soup semi-stand so your post is especially pertinent to me.
    I shot a roll of Retro 80 in 120 and it too curled horrifically. It was a fight to get those large negs into the beg holder of my V600, even after a night under heavy books.

  2. Thanks for the review, Chris! I too, noticed the extreme curling, even though the clear polyester base has an “anti-curling” coating 🙂 … The other thing I noticed is that it renders skin tones much more flattering, possibly due to the extra red sensitivity. — Scott

  3. Worth mention that Rollei 400s has extended IR sensitivity too. Sticking a Red Filter on your camera changes the films quality entirely. it’s really cool and helps set it apart from its more famous peers HP5+ and Tri-X.

  4. Caught my eye looking at familiar scenes in the pictures! Not too far from where I walk around at lunch trying to shoot pictures during lunch. Interested in trying the Rollei film now. Great pictures and a lovely piece of writing. Thanks