My local Silversmiths had a box of Rollei Retro 80s on their counter and as I’m a sucker for slow film and always hankering after a good alternative to the extinct ADOX 50chs, I decided to throw a couple of rolls into my trolley.
I like the old style slow pan films - they feel like the right choice for my ancient Leica cameras. However, it seems that (apart from ADOX 50chs) very slow also means very contrasty. I’ve a bulk load of Ilford Pan 50 sitting at home unused just because it is so contrasty and sadly Rollei Retro is not that much better. It seems, in my experience, that once you speed up to 100 iso then you start getting the hundreds of grey tones which to me are so much more pleasing than the stark almost two tone look of the very slow films.
Developing Rollei Retro was easy enough: 11 mins in 1:29 Lc29. I like long developing times, they are so much more forgiving than those quick time saving chemicals. However I did get a shock when pouring out the used developer – it was bright red!! The last time I experienced a film with a coating like this was my beloved ADOX with its inky blue coating. For the next roll I’m definitely going to use a pre-wash and get that coating off before developing. The actual negative strip is made of some kind of thick polystyrene which I could not tear in the dark bag. Although it is very clear and great for scanning negatives, you need scissors to cut it off the spool rather than simply tearing it off. But these are just little niggles, on the plus side it loaded very well onto my stainless spool and remains very flat when handling and scanning.
In use it was a joy to shoot a slow film again, it gives plenty of opportunity to open up a lens to its fastest and really manipulate a narrow depth of field. The following photos were taken in my Leica iiif with my Voigtlander Nokton 50mm, Elmar 3.5 and Voigtlander Heliar 15mm.
So, in conclusion, yes its ok, but there is far too much black where there should be grey tones. Alot of photographers highly rate Rollei cameras and film, but for me it just does not quite hit the spot.
I think my main black and white film is still going to be Fomapan 100 for the rangefinders and 400 for the zone, and for those special occasions I’ll shoot Ilford FP4 just because it really is that special.