Rollei IR400 VS EFKE 820c


Personal Review:

Rollei IR 400

Rollei IR 400


Rollei IR 400 and EFKE 820 are two of the last infrared films that are still produced today.

The Very popular Kodak HIE is no longer produced, and can only be bought as old stock.

These two films are competitors for the patronage of the infrared shooter, and they both offer compelling qualities that will make the preferred choice quite easy.

I think Rollei Infrared is a very good film, however, I sometimes wish it had a more prominent wood effect! With a 715nm IR filter, one gets plenty wood effect, but just not as much as Kodak HIE achieved. Also, shooting with a deep red filter will not get you the wood effect, but it can give images an interesting glow at times. Since Kodak HIE is discontinued, the choice today is limited. The options available are basically Rollei IR 400 or EFKE IR820c.

Now EFKE IR820c has not left me with a good first impression, but that was mainly due to poor combination of film speed rating and developing times.

After shooting several roles of film, and finding a good ISO rating and development combination, the EFKE film had a real appeal. It definitely has a more prominent wood effect, which I believe one can also sometimes encounter when shooting with a dark red filter. Thats pretty good going. EFKE IR820c is available in two versions; One with an anti-halation layer (which is known as the IR820c), and one without the anti-halation layer (known as the IR820c AURA). The latter giving images a lower contrast look,  with a soft glow around the brighter areas in the image.

Unfortunately the film has some irritating negatives aspects. Its very slow, based off an ISO 100 film compared to the 400 ISO emulsion of the Rollei IR 400.

Being ISO100, one would assume EFKE IR820c to have finer grain than the Rollei, but sadly its very much the opposite! The Rollei IR 400 has finer grain than the EFKE IR. Also, the EFKE film suffers from poor  manufacturer quality control. Take a look at the EFKE IR 820c REVIEW to see the quality control issues one can encounter.

Below, see the differences in grain and definition of subtle tones; On the left is Rollei IR 400 and on the right EFKE IR820c AURA.

The conundrum is obvious; Is a stronger IR effect more important than dealing with poor quality control, slow film speeds, larger gain and less definition?

I don’t know for sure, but Rollei IR is an obvious choice if one wants the quickest and easiest way to shooting IR film. The grain issue at hand is not as irritating on medium format as it is with 35mm, so its something to keep in mind if you are shooting mostly medium format. The stronger IR effect of the EFKE IR film is evident.

Both films both have fantastic tonality, creating punchy and high contrast images. The above comparison images illustrate differences between infrared response. Tonality can’t be properly compared, as the EFKE IR film used was the AURA type, which lacks the anti-halation layer, resulting in lower contrast images. I will soon ad more comparison images, but the regular EFKE IR820c film will be used. With these, differences in contrast and tonality will be possible.

Both infrared films are very good, both produce punchy images with great contrast and tonality, and both cost roughly the same amount. Besides the grain differences - which I feel shouldn’t hold too much weight in the comparison - the main differences would be with the differences in infrared effect and the differences in the manufacture’s quality control. Only you can choose which is more important. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the EFKE IR film, however, one needs to keep in mind that manufacturing issues could ruin an image. For a once-in-a-lifetime shoot, rather stick with the more predictable and better quality Rollei Infrared film.

With regard to pricing, here is an after thought....

Rollei IR 400 is similar to the Rollei Retro 400s emulsion, which itself has an extended red sensitivity up to 730nm. It therefore can achieve infrared effects with a 715nm filter, making it a cheaper option for those on a budget. Rollei Retro 80s also has an extended red sensitivity, but a little more than Retro 400s, this time upto 750nm. Rollei Retro 80s is an exceptionally fine grained film, and would probably be the better choice if one doesn’t want to shoot the IR400 film. Results are better with the Rollei IR 400 than those of Retro 400s but Retro 80s makes for a compelling second choice. On the right is an image shot with Retro 80s and a 715nm Heliopan filter. Click the image to visit my Retro 80s review to find out more.