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While totally convinced that Rollei IR film is the best currently available infrared film for my photography, EFKE’s IR 820 was a film I just had to try. Why? Well, I suppose it was just to convince myself that Rollei is better. However, I was wrong. While my first impressions of the film weren’t good, I find this film fantastic today. My poor initial results came from bad exposure and developing recommendations, and ever since I found the right developing and exposure combination, the results have been magic.

My first roll started off on a wasteful note...I set up and began exposing, forgetting to put on my Heliopan 715 filter, so I hopelessly overexposed my first three shots. May be thats where the manufacturer boasts wide latitude, since the five stops of overexposure still gave me a scan-able neg. With some difficulty, I scanned the neg, and the result was interesting. Interesting because it was very high key, but most notably due to all the defects...the actual picture had poor contrast and definition.

This brings me to the point of quality control and the film’s vulnerability to scratches and damage. Either my first roll came with copious amounts of scratches on the first frame, which includes a mystery black dot...OR, the film is VERY VERY prone to scratching when transported in camera or damaged during developing.

The black dot has to be an emulsion defect. Other questionable objects  of possible poor quality control are a scattered display of tiny black dots seen at high magnifications. They seem like large grain particles, scattered at random throughout the image. Now, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault, since I used distilled water for developing, fixing and final rinse...
unlike some technical pan films, this film doesn’t attract iron particles from tap water. I’m stumped.

HERE is another example of some of the spots and scratches one find.

At this point, I’m hardly convinced that the film is going to be worth using. Its such a time consuming process to remove dust, spots and scratches from scans that need not have come from user, but rather from the manufacturer itself.

The EFKE IR820c film has three VERY important set-backs. It’s basically based off the same emulsion as EFKE 100, but sensitised to record infrared light upto 820nm. This would be the first set-back. Being based off a ISO100 film, the obvious consequence of using an opaque IR 715nm filter would be the resultant film exposure index of ISO 3 - at least this is what the manufacturer claims. As per usual, a manufacturer’s claims can be slightly exaggerated, and I found that I get much better exposures when rating the film at ISO 1 to1,5. Using the sunny 16 rule, this results in exposures of  0,666sec to 1sec at f/16 during bright daylight conditions (mid day). This is tripod territory like no other!

The second setback is only valid for the AURA film, which needs to be loaded and unloaded in complete darkness. Either you load your camera and shoot only one film, or you schlepp your dark-bag with you on shoots, and load your film into light tight containers. Loading my Rolleiflex in my small dark-bag was no fun! I had to remove the back door in order to load the film. If you are not an expert at loading your camera, then loading your camera blind in a dark-bag is very frustrating. The Regular IR820c can be loaded like regular film, however it should be loaded in subdued light.

This brings me to the third and most important set-back. The greatest negative aspect of this film is it’s poor manufacturing quality control. Are you willing to put up with the varying and unpredictable quality control of this soft and damage prone film? If I recall correctly, it’s quite rare to get a perfect roll of film, and sometimes the long scratches along the entire film length can be very unnerving. Please note, that my experiences reflect the use of roll film, and that experiences with 35mm film may be entirely different. I can’t expand on issues with the 35mm films, as I’ve never used the EFKE IR820c in 35mm.

So whats the film like? Besides the annoyingly slow resultant speeds at which one must shoot, it does show a more prominent wood effect than that of Rollei IR 400. I believe, but have not tried this yet, the wood effect will also be seen when shooting with a dark red filter. With regard to infrared sensitivity, the Rollei IR 400 falls a bit behind, but not all that much. Both films have exceptional tonality when exposed and developed properly, but at the same time, it’s also capable of looking absolutely horrid when poorly exposed or developed. Grain is more obvious than the competing Rollei film, but it’s not invasive and doesn’t ruin the image. It’s still pretty impressive how the Rollei film pulls off finer grain at 4x the film speed. Besides these differences, I feel that the film’s grain is perfectly reasonable, and it wouldn’t detract me from printing the images very large. Grain does become more obvious with under exposed negs. HERE is a an example from an underexposed image, and HERE is an example from a properly exposed image.

Remember, the EFKE IR820c comes in two versions; The normal 820c and the 820c AURA. The Aura version has no anti-halation backing, so highlights take on a soft veil, and a overall glow gives the image a slightly lower contrast. This Aura film is as an offering to Kodak HIE lovers, which also had no anti-halation layer. I prefer the regular 820c, as I don’t care for the soft glow, and I care even less for the loading-in-the-dark. The regular 820c has very good tonality when exposed and developed correctly. The initial exposure of ISO 3 and developing in Rodinal 1:50 (13min at 20deg C) resulted in very thin and uneventful negs, which looked flat and had accentuated grain! So far, I recommend a film rating of ISO 1 to 1,5 and developing the film in Rodinal 1:25 for 9min at 20ºC, or developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 15min. The results are punchy negatives with great tonality and contrast.

Having shot a number of rolls at EI 1-1,5 and developed in Rodinal 1:25 and 1:50, I must admit my impression of this film has changed drastically compared to my first experiences with it. Initially, the results were nowhere close to what Rollei had to offer, but properly exposed and developed, the great tonality and strong IR effect are dangerously close to taking the lead. So to conclude, the EFKE IR820 is a very good infrared film. Compared to Rollei Infrared 400, its hard to decide which one is better. One must weigh up the pros and cons, and choose which fits best. The EKFE IR820c has a strong infrared response, fair amount of grain, great tonality and great contrast. Unfortunately, the two negative aspects of this film can tilt the scales quite drastically.... the film is both slow and manufactured with quite poor quality control. I sometimes spend a long amount of time repairing the scans, which can sometimes be worth the effort, but it’s incredibly frustrating no less. I wouldn’t recommend this film for shooting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but otherwise its a very very good film. While I mostly develop this film in Rodinal, I have also had very results in Diafine. The EFKE IR820c does well at ISO 3, developed for 5+3min between 21 and 24ºC (with a 5min presoak). Overexposing by one stop will create a nice soft glow much like the AURA film would.

Personal Review:
  1. Basic medium-speed emulsion

  2. High infrared sensitisation up to 820 nm

  3. Good Tonality

  4. Average grain size

  5. High sharpness

  6. High exposure latitude for IR

  7. Standard film processing

  8. Anti-halation layer present

    (except with AURA version)

All images remain the copyright of Martin Zimelka