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12-10-2009, 11:42 PM   #1
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Rollei Retro 100: First Impressions

About a month ago, I took the plunge and ordered a 100' roll of Rollei Retro 100. There is considerable speculation about this film, who makes it, and what its heritage is. It is fairly well established that at the early rolls were rebranded Agfa APX 100. My film was made by Maco in Germany and bears the imprint on the sprocket margin "APX 100/Retro 100". Most descriptions state that Retro 100 is "equivalent" to APX 100 and the general opinion is that the emulsion is the same formulation.

One thing I have learned is that I am a bit of a contrarian. There is the conventional way and then there is the route I go. Conventional wisdom is that I should have used Rodinal or HC110 as my developer choice. Nope, not me! I had used Edwal FG-7 in the hazy, distant past with very good results, so FG-7 it would be again. Luckily, I was able to find a couple of sources as well as recommended development times. So far, so good.

I ran an initial roll through on of my Ricohs at the recommended ISO 80 (the KX is occupied with Kodachrome at the moment and will be until I exhaust my stash), found my developing tanks, and processed in FG-7 for the recommended time (10 minutes @ 70F). The results were...ummmm...less than inspiring. Dull and muddy for the most part. It also did not help that I mis-fed the film onto the developing reels with many frames ruined as a result (more on that later...). After taking a look at the roll as a whole, it appeared that density overall was much higher than it should have been.

As a result, the next roll was dedicated to Zone I, V, and VIII series at ISO 50, 64, 80, 100, 125, 160, and 200 to determine the best target film speed. I also did a test setup with the Kodak 7 step Gray Scale target, a white terrycloth washcloth, a black plush toy, and a pair of dark gray binoculars. The intent was to provide a full range from Zone 0 through X with texture present at the extremes. I photographed the test setup at ISO 80, 100, 160, and 200. I also did several general photography shots in my neighborhood at both ISO 100 and ISO 200.

I processed again in FG-7, taking care to avoid excessive agitation. (I was a little over enthusiastic with the first roll.) The results confirmed my suspicions. Despite the recommendation from digitaltruth's "Massive Dev Chart", ISO 80 with FG-7 was way too slow. Yes, there was plenty of definition in the low values, but the highlights were way blown. I don't own a densitometer, but did manually inspect the Zone I frames. Sure enough, there was readily visible density at ISO 160. The Zone VIII frames were uniformly dense for all ISO settings. Careful examination of scans of the test setup indicated that ISO 160 very nicely supported the full 10 step density range.

Woo! Hoo! ISO 160, it is! (Way better than ISO 80)

This should not have surprised me. Edwal generally recommends doubling the ISO for films developed using their standard times. I used to shoot Panatomic-X at ASA/ISO 64 even though it was rated at ASA/ISO 32.

So, what are my early impressions based upon these first four rolls?
  • Rollei Retro 100 is seriously flimsy. Although Rollei advertises a 120μm cellulose triacetate base, the film in real life seems to be much thinner and feels more like polyester. I am so happy I don't shoot the 120/220 roll film version (95μm base)!
  • Flimsy film makes for difficult loading on the processing reels. My last roll required FOUR tries before it loaded cleanly on my SS reel.
  • Flimsy film also make for curly negatives. I had read about the film curl issue and took precautions. I set up a humidifier in the room where I hung the film and also draped a number of wet towels to keep the humidity up. After several hours, I checked to see how the film looked. Wonderful! There was absolutely no curve or curl! I took the strips off the hangers, cut them into 5 frame lengths, and carried them into the other room to be scanned. You can imagine my shock when the strips each took on about 160 degrees of arc before I sat down at my computer.
  • Beyond its physical characteristics, the film lives up to the claims for fine grain and tonality
  • Overexposure can yield dull results, at least with FG-7
  • Inexplicably, my 100' roll was apparent put on the reel BACKWARDS. Yes, the frame numbers count down, not up. Go figure...though at $40 USD per 100', I guess I can't complain.
For more technical information:
http://www.freestylephoto.biz/pdf/Rollei_Retro_100_400.pdf
So...How about a few pictures...

All taken with Ricoh XR-2s and XR Rikenon 50/2. Scanned with default settings using the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED with minimal PP in Lightroom.

Sunlit Vine Maple at ISO 100

This one required a -1 stop exposure adjustment in Lightroom to get the gray tones right.


Metal Sculpture at ISO 200



Metal Sculpture detail (not a crop) at ISO 200



Maple Stump at ISO 200


Not too bad, though I will probably spend some time with TMax in HC110 after I run through the RR 100

Steve


Last edited by stevebrot; 12-11-2009 at 12:53 AM.
12-11-2009, 08:11 AM   #2
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There's nothing wrong with those shots! Beautiful, great tonality.

My impression (not backed up by actual study!) is that more recent rolls I've bought (only in canisters) are slightly firmer, substrate-wise, than the early version. Also, they have the Agfa sticker on the box, which the earlier ones I got didn't ... strange. It's still a bit flimsy, I admit, although I've never yet had a problem loading the film in the tank (I use a plastic Rondinax reel). I press the negs in a book press after developing, that stops them acting up!

I am having issues with developing the latest batch. Seem to get excess grain and blocked up shadows. Not sure if I'm under or over-developing, but something's not quite right. I'm shooting 100 (and 400) at their nominal speeds and developing in RHS, which worked well for me in the past ...
12-11-2009, 08:24 AM   #3
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Steve thanks for the useful post. I keep that one in archive as I APX100 is my B&W film of choice and I am hoping to start developing my films soon.


Cheers,

Luc
12-11-2009, 10:30 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by artobest Quote
There's nothing wrong with those shots! Beautiful, great tonality.

My impression (not backed up by actual study!) is that more recent rolls I've bought (only in canisters) are slightly firmer, substrate-wise, than the early version. Also, they have the Agfa sticker on the box, which the earlier ones I got didn't ... strange. It's still a bit flimsy, I admit, although I've never yet had a problem loading the film in the tank (I use a plastic Rondinax reel). I press the negs in a book press after developing, that stops them acting up!

I am having issues with developing the latest batch. Seem to get excess grain and blocked up shadows. Not sure if I'm under or over-developing, but something's not quite right. I'm shooting 100 (and 400) at their nominal speeds and developing in RHS, which worked well for me in the past ...
Thanks for the kind words!

I am hoping that the film curl and reel loading issues are related to the low humidity we have been experiencing as of late. My region has been subjected to unusually dry and cold air the last couple of weeks and everything is crackly dry.

Overall, I am very pleased with RR 100. The tonality is really nice as is the very fine grain and high acuity.

I wish I could offer some advice regarding your grain and shadow issues. Lack of shadow detail usually indicates either underexposure, inadequate development, or developer exhaustion (the highlights use all of the developer "energy" leaving nothing for the shadows). Short development times with modern emulsions make it difficult to control the variables of temperature and agitation. You might want to try the 1:15 dilution for RHS for 8 minutes @ 68F (20C). Constant gentle agitation (don't shake!) for first 30 seconds followed by 5 seconds gentle agitation every 30 seconds. Make your dilutions fresh just prior to use. RHS is supposed to be a "compensating" developer* (similar to FG-7) and the 1:15 dilution should emphasize that characteristic. Here is a link to the RHS data sheet at Maco/Mahn:
http://www.mahn.net/DL_MAHN/RHS11.pdf
Steve

* Compensating developers are formulated such that there is full development of the middle and low values and limited development of the highlights. The result, in theory, is extended low value tonality without highlight blocking. The compensating affect is enhanced by using higher dilutions, longer development times, and gentle agitation. See Adams, Ansel; "The Negative"; pp 226ff.


Last edited by stevebrot; 12-11-2009 at 11:20 AM.
12-11-2009, 11:20 AM   #5
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thanks for posting, results look good so far!
12-11-2009, 05:08 PM   #6
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Thanks for the writeup and pics. I'll definitely have to try some out. It seems to have a very nice luminous quality to it. I'm not sure if that's the film itself, the scan, the metering, or the edits, but it looks really nice! I particularly like the first and last shot.

Would you care to post the Kodak grayscale target pic and your test scene? I'm currently reading "the Negative" and doing similar tests with every new to me film/developer combination, although you seem to be doing a much more thorough test. I usually just take one shot at -1, one at 0, and one at +1.
12-11-2009, 05:56 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
About a month ago, I took the plunge and ordered a 100' roll of Rollei Retro 100.
That was bold. Also diligently-explored. Nice stuff.
12-11-2009, 06:07 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vertex Ninja Quote
Thanks for the writeup and pics. I'll definitely have to try some out. It seems to have a very nice luminous quality to it. I'm not sure if that's the film itself, the scan, the metering, or the edits, but it looks really nice! I particularly like the first and last shot.

Would you care to post the Kodak grayscale target pic and your test scene? I'm currently reading "the Negative" and doing similar tests with every new to me film/developer combination, although you seem to be doing a much more thorough test. I usually just take one shot at -1, one at 0, and one at +1.
I knew someone was going to ask that. I did not save the scan, but can redo it. Stay tuned...

Steve

12-11-2009, 06:13 PM   #9
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Thanks Steve, but don't go out of your way just for me. I was just curious how your results might compare to my own testing procedures.
12-11-2009, 07:00 PM   #10
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Ok...Your wish is my command:

Here is a photo of the set-up. Click to go to a 50% crop of the same scene (warning...big file)


  • The plush toy is jet black acetate fur.
  • The binoculars are dark gray matte.
  • The towel is white white.
  • The binocular strap is dark gray woven webbing.
  • The shiny bowl has a neutral gray interior and a deep red exterior
  • The main parts of the scene are illuminated by direct sunlight through a south-facing window
  • Metering is from a gray card

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 12-11-2009 at 07:09 PM. Reason: Corrected grievous spelling error!
12-11-2009, 07:12 PM   #11
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Note that the purpose of the test shot is to confirm the presence of detail in both the high and low values as well as demonstrate that the response curve has acceptable tonality. I also look for objectionable grain structure.

Steve
12-11-2009, 08:18 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Ok...Your wish is my command:

Here is a photo of the set-up. Click to go to a 50% crop of the same scene (warning...big file)


  • The plush toy is jet black acetate fur.
  • The binoculars are dark gray matte.
  • The towel is white white.
  • The binocular strap is dark gray woven webbing.
  • The shiny bowl has a neutral gray interior and a deep red exterior
  • The main parts of the scene are illuminated by direct sunlight through a south-facing window
  • Metering is from a gray card

Steve
Wow, thanks Steve! Where did you get that book with the grayscale? I'm gonna have to setup a similar scene for testing. I must say, Retro 100 appears to have very fine grain indeed!

BTW do you use an external spot meter or just average off a big gray card?

Thanks for taking the time to do this.
12-11-2009, 09:15 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vertex Ninja Quote
Wow, thanks Steve! Where did you get that book with the grayscale? I'm gonna have to setup a similar scene for testing. I must say, Retro 100 appears to have very fine grain indeed!

BTW do you use an external spot meter or just average off a big gray card?

Thanks for taking the time to do this.
The gray scale is in my ancient "Kodak Black-and-White Darkroom Dataguide" (published in 1979). In its day, it was an extremely useful little book if you were using Kodak materials. In addition to the gray scale, it has tables of all Kodak B&W films, chemistry, and papers. There is also a table of weights and measures, a development dial calculator and an enlarging dial calculator. That last one is a real time saver if your enlarger rail is calibrated and you know your paper speed.

I metered off a gray card using the camera's meter.

Steve
12-11-2009, 09:19 PM   #14
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That seems like a very handy little guide, maybe I can find one at that auction site. I appreciate all the info and sorry to kinda derail your thread.
12-20-2009, 03:39 PM   #15
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Just to update an earlier post, I just finished developing two rolls of FP4+, one roll of Delta 400 and a roll of Rollei Retro 400S. Of the three varieties, the Rollei definitely had the thinnest and curliest substrate.
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