INFRARED IR 400

NAVIGATION:

 
Characteristics:
Personal Review:
Personal Review:
Characteristics:

Rollei Infra-red 400 has become an absolute favourite film of mine. Not just for infrared photography, but also for regular photography.

I feel that Rollei IR400 is in a quality bracket slightly higher than the Retro 400s and 80s film. This is a factually unsubstantiated, but loosely based on my experience using the film, where I’ve observed less emulsion defects and better packaging quality, such as the film backing paper.


Infrared films are very interesting films to use. They record light which we can’t see, be it just a hair outside of the visible spectrum. No less, if you are a fan of a red filtered and like to shoot landscapes, the effect of shooting in infrared is substantially stronger than a red filter. There are some things that change though, like how certain materials reflect infrared and become white, including green foliage. Red filters with panchromatic emulsions would darken green leaves, but with IR film it becomes light or white. Rollei IR400, Retro 400s and Retro 80s are all super-panchromatic films, and have visible infrared contamination when using red filters. Foliage may even turn white. Another cool aspect of infrared film is that it can cut through a surprising amount of haze, which can lead to substantially clearer distant textures in landscapes. See the example below.




The film, like any other current IR film, needs a dedicated infra-red filter in order for it to record in that spectrum. These filters are either very dark red, or pitch black. Keep in mind that the infrared spectrum is fairly large, and that IR films available today only record in the extended red or near-infrared range, from 700nm to 820nm. This is unlike converted digital cameras, which can record far beyond that.

Due to the needed dark and near black filters, shooting infra-red film with a SLR design camera can become a cumbersome exercise, since it requires removing the filter for every new composition. This can be avoided with the use of rangefinder or twin lens reflex cameras, since the filter can stay attached for focus and composition.


The film is very fine grained, and I would almost compare it to Ilford Delta 100.
Personal Review:
It’s a neat, tight and very fine grain, but also influenced by exposure, developer, and developing techniques. On the right is an actual pixels (3200ppi scan) example of both Rollei IR400 and Delta 100 Professional developed in Rodinal 1:25. Rollei IR400 has excellent tonality, and can be pulled a little to open the shadows slightly. The film is not quite a true ISO 400 film for visible light, so pulling the film a stop can help dampen the contrast. Unfortunately, this film, much like 400s and 80s, can only be pulled so much before the attractive tonality suffers. It’s a high contrast film, and there’s not much one can do about it. Infrared light is high contrast by nature, so pulling Rollei IR400 will not help much as it makes images less dramatic. Also, pulling the film two stops will start to influence the fine details of the film, since the anti-halation layer is probably not too effective with this level of overexposure, and a kind of “aura” effect is provoked.


I use the Heliopan 715 with this film for infrared work. I find that my negs look best when the film is rated at ASA 12, with bracketing in the form of half stops of over exposure only. Infrared light is not always consistent, so bracketing isn’t necessarily a cop out, but I would refrain from underexposing. The recommended EI of 25 is simply not enough, even if using highly compensating developers. The usable EI is 3 to 12, but obviously with matching developing times.


Like most Rollei B&W films, this one is a dream to load into a developing reel. The film is thin and coated to allow for better transport in camera, which  probably also contributes to easy loading... the fact is, it’s great to load, at least for me. On hot days, I usually put the exposed film in the fridge for an hour before I load it into my JOBO tank. This keeps the film base stiff, and it takes a little longer for it to become sticky from increasing humidity in the changing bag. Be sure to not shock the emulsion by immediately pouring water or developer in it after loading a chilled film!


This film has a clear PET film base. This means, that it must be loaded in subdued light in oder to prevent light leaks. This is probably more important for 35mm shooters than 120, since 120 film shooters need to do this with every film. Also, the anti-halation layer is also there to reduce the risk of light leaks as well to prevent the blooming effect (aura) reminiscent of the now discontinued EFKE IR820 Aura. However, the ability of your camera to tightly wind a 120 roll is critical, since most light piping I have seen is at the end of the 120 roll. Personally, I prefer an IR film to have this anti-halation layer. I don’t like the blooming effect like that of EFKE IR820 AURA. If you want to provoke the effect with Rollei IR400, overexpose the film but be sure to pull the film appropriately when developing.


When it comes to scanning, it’s a pleasure much like other PET based Rollei films, such as Retro 400s, Retro 80s, Ortho, etc. If washed properly, the PET film base is completely clear, which prevents the scanner having to scan and correct for a base fog. Some scanners will find it hard to deal with the increased contrast as a result of clear PET, but I find it’s a blessing with my Imacon 343 scanner.  Also, the film doesn’t warp or curl much, which is something that annoys me often with Kodak B&W films.


Having used this film with Ilfotech HC, ID-11 (same as D76), Perceptol, Rodinal, and Beutler, I can only say I much prefer the results of Rodinal. Especially the non compensating dilutions such as 1:25. This may require additional pulling at times, but I find the tonality and transitions of darker tones remain neater this way. Rodinal 1:50 is otherwise recommended as a great dilution, but I find results get a bit uneventful with 1:100. This is the same for Beutler, however, with a very unique grey look. Personal tastes vary, and it’s best to try these things out yourself. I had poor results with Ilfotech HC; poor grain texture, a generally poor tonality and very short developing times. ID-11 had good results, but the grain didn’t look good to me. While perceptively less grain, it looked a bit more clumpy, and lacked the dense and fine structure seen in Rodinal. Perceptol was great. It produced low contrast images, with fine grain, but the development times were very long, (23min at 20℃). Rodinal provides honest grain without any solvent properties, and so far this has been my preferred look. From what I’ve tried, it’s been the best developer for IR400, not only for its flexibility to control pictorial results, but also how it keeps the film grain looking neat and dense.


All in all, Rollei Infrared IR 400 is a fantastic film. To be fair, EFKE’s infra-red films were great, and in some circumstances preferable over IR400. Unfortunately, its quality control issues made it an unattractive and high risk film to use for special work, and ultimately its discontinuation has made its availability very very slim and pricy. Rollei IR400 is a special film, but much like the other Rollei films, it’s not a widely used film and therefore a poorly understood film. Rollei films ultimately have had poor reputations, since Maco has a history of creative marketing statements and very poor developing recommendations. On top of this, many people tend to buy a very small amount of film for evaluation purposes, and then write negative reviews based on their poor results. You can’t review a film based off using two or four films, please! Especially not when the manufacture has poor developing recommendations and misleading marketing data. Twenty rolls of film should give you a good insight.

On that note, if Rollei IR400 is too expensive, try Rollei’s other super-panchromatic films, specifically Retro 80s, which I find better suited for infrared work than Retro 400s. The picture on the left was taken with Retro 80s and a 715nm filter. Click the image to visit my review of Retro 80s.





Important:

I suspect this film doesn’t age well. I have noticed on two separate batches, that as they pass their expiry date, the more base fog they develop, and the less sensitive they become to IR. The base fog increases and the carrier takes on a green/brown colour. More alarming is the decrease in sensitivity of about a stop or a little more. I can’t say for sure if this is a global drop in sensitivity or just IR, since most of my images with the expired stock were taken in infrared. Maco didn’t elaborate on this either, and I know that the emulsions weren’t this colour before expiry. Odd. Below are two strips of negatives (roll over to see negative image). Left is new stock expiring in two years time, and on the right is old stock that expired two years ago. The negative on the right needed a one stop push in developing for the same EI 6-12 exposure I usually use, and most of the usable shots were the EI6 images. I haven’t observed such behaviour with any other film yet.


For more images, please see my Rollei Infrared 400 Flickr slideshow HERE

 
  1. High speed, panchromatic sensitised B&W film with a special infra-red sensitivity

  2. Fine Grain

  3. High Sharpness

  4. Wide exposure latitude

  5. Tear proof clear polyester film base, with a protective layer and non-curling coating

  6. Excellent for scanning due to clear film base

  7. Spectral sensitivity up to 820 nm

  8. Resolving power up to 160 Lp/mm

  9. Aura effect achieved when deliberately overexposing

Characteristics:
  1. Development Data by www.digitaltruth.com

  1. Manufacturer’s Datasheet

  1. IR film comparison www.digitaltruth.com

All images remain the copyright of Martin Zimelka