Retro 80s


Links and Data:
  1. Medium speed, super-panchromatic sensitised B&W.

  2. Extended red sensitivity to 750nm

  3. Very Fine Grain

  4. High Sharpness

  5. Average exposure latitude

  6. Tear proof clear polyester film base, with a protective layer and

    non-curling coating

  1. Excellent for scanning due to clear film base

  1. Development Data by

  1. Sample Images: Flickr Set

  1. Manufacturer’s Datasheet

Rollei Retro 80s is a peculiar film, and its quite different to other films out there...

This is a very fine grained film with exceptional tonality. However, it’s response curve and strong sensitivity to red, make it a film that needs a steep learning curve. This is not my every day type film, and part of this is due to how it handles shadow detail. In general, I find it a tricky film to use, but it rewards when one gets it right.

Like the Retro 400s film, the Retro 80s is a super-panchromatic sensitised film, offering high red sensitivity extending all the way up to 750nm. Shooting with the appropriate infrared filter, such as the Heliopan RG715 filter, the wood effect can be achieved fairly easily. The film’s approximate speed rating under infrared conditions would be between ASA3 and 6. Shooting with a dark yellow, and especially with a red/dark-red filter, results in a small amount of infrared light infiltration. It’s often very flattering, especially for portraits, making skin tones slightly soft and light. Also, when shooting with a red/dark-red filter, foliage becomes a few shades lighter than expected with regular panchromatic film. The film can have a lovely glow, which ads to the mood of an image.

I find that the Archillis heel of this film is it’s inability to record shadow detail. The lower zones seem to turn black far too quickly, and developing with highly compensating developers makes little difference. Even Diafine can’t pull more shadow detail from this film. Coupled with the dark shadows, the difference in it’s sensitivity of green and red, can cause some confusion at times. This can result in variety of incorrectly exposed images.

For example, let’s assume rating this film for ASA 80, and one takes an unfiltered exposure of a normal daylight scene, at 1/250sec at f/8.

The result would be an accurately exposed scene, and the most obvious thing would be the lack of shadow detail.

Exposing the same scene with a red filter, in this case using a 3-stop Heliopan red, would theoretically require an exposure of 1/30sec at f/8. This is where the game changes, since this film has such a strong red sensitivity, that the result would actually result in overexposure. My approximation would be, that for a regular red filter, one needs to decrease the filter compensation by around 1 stop. And for the dark red filter, such as my 3-stop Heliopan Red, I need to decrease the filter compensation by 1,3 stops. I have never experienced such a dramatic difference in sensitivity, so one can imagine the variety of exposure errors if one isn’t concentrating, or doesn’t know of these film characteristics to begin with.

The collage on the right represents a series of images I took solely to test at which ASA rating the film responds best. The first row are unfiltered shots, the second are red filtered, and the third are infrared. Each image is one stop apart from the next. I made a few image collages for various developing times, across Rodinal and Diafine developers.

My first test was to determine whether pulling the film to ASA 40 would achieve better shadow detail.

I developed the roll in Rodinal 1:50 for 9min. The annotated image, HERE, should be fairly comprehensive, and you’ll notice the film’s increased sensitivity to red. You can see that the red filtered shots are about a stop over-exposed. The infrared shots were taken with a Heliopan 715nm filter, with a five stop filter factor. As a starting point I used an EI of 3, which is 5-stops down from ASA 100. In the test image, you’ll see that EI3 is sufficient for this film when rated at ASA 40 and developed accordingly.

The following test was shooting the film at box speed, ASA 80. All that changed was the developing time, which was 12min in Rodinal 1:50. The annotated image can be seen HERE. The same conclusions can be drawn as the first test.

The third test was shooting the film at ASA 160 and developed in Diafine 5+3min. ASA160 is one of the recommended speed ratings for this combination, but I think different conclusions can be drawn from my tests. The annotated image can be seen HERE. I found that the best rating would be ASA80. Actually, shooting between ASA 40 and 80 would be ideal. This Diafine test behaves in the same way as the previous two tests, showing that the Red and Infrared sensitivity is about one stop more than the unfiltered shots.

Some might say that infrared light is not always consistent with visible light, and that rating a film at ASA3 for infrared shooting is only a starting point. Yes, this is true, but I have shot quite a few rolls of various infrared films in the past, and so far they have been incredibly consistent. It may differ elsewhere, but here in Cape Town, and also in Namibia, I have had no obvious inconsistencies. Besides this, all test rolls were taken in a span of two days, taken at approximately the same time of day, with practically identical light meter readings (± 1/3 stop). For the 12 minute Rodinal develop, and for the Diafine develop, the Retro 80s can be rated at anything between ASA 3 and 6 for infrared work when using a 715nm filter. This is over a stop faster than what I can achieve from EFKE IR820, which is a ASA100 film!

Being a film with a PET base, it is more susceptible to light leaks than triacetate base films, and this applies to both 35mm and 120 formats. I recommend that the film gets loaded in subdued light in order to avoid these light leaks. On the 35mm film, the light leaks can affect the first two or three exposures of the roll, while on the 120 film, it can influence the edges of almost every frame. With the 120 film, especially in South Africa’s harsh light, this light leaking is almost inevitable, but precautions can be taken to avoid it affecting the image. At all times, try and load and unload in subdued light, and even if the loading is done in the shade, make sure there are not large reflective or bright objects near by.

At the end of the day, this film has the potential to deliver some amazing results, but one needs to be aware of it’s shortcomings. The lack of shadow detail can be frustrating in bright conditions, especially here in the African sun.I therefore don’t recommend this film for everyday use. Like the Retro 400s film, light leaking is a risk, so loading and unloading in subdued light is important. This film features very fine grain and high sharpness, which is not easily rivalled by even modern T-Grain films, such as T-Max 100 and Fuji Acros. The film is also a cheap alternative to the Rollei Infrared or Efke IR820 films, and the results I’ve seen, this film may give a better infrared effect than the Retro 400s. I have not done a side by side comparison to substantiate this claim.

Personal Review:

All images remain the copyright of Martin Zimelka

Mouse-over: 3 images - left half and right half toggle

Rollei 80s, (EI80 for visible and EI6 for IR). Developed in Diafine 5+3min at 23ºC.