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I can’t remember when I first came across Rollei Retro 80s. I guess I started using it between 2010 and 2012. I’d been using infrared film for a while, and in my quest to capture a different reality, infrared light seemed potentially helpful. What attracted me to Rollei 80s is that it has extended red sensitivity or near-infrared sensitivity. There’s also a chance I found it attractive because it was cheaper than real infrared film, although I can’t remember the prices back then. In any case, it is cheaper now!
Rollei 80s is a black and white panchromatic film, described as high contrast, fine grained, and with the aforementioned extended red sensitivity. I use it with a plain red filter which effectively blocks blue and green light allowing to pass more on the red spectrum. The effects you get are more subtle, but I prefer it this way.
In case you’re not familiar with how black and white infrared photography looks, you can expect dark skies and water, white leaves in scenes with a lot of vegetation, and, when photographing people, ghostly, pale faces with black eyes. However, to achieve those effects the use of a filter is necessary. Depending on the filter used (from a simple red one, to a dedicated infrared filter) the effects will be more or less prominent.
I’ve recently discovered, however, that the results are also heavily dependent on where you are, and the season and time of day, as those factors will determine the amount of IR light present. So, though I’ve used it mostly in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the results where noticeable, a couple of rolls I’ve shot in Madrid, Spain, where I currently reside, showed a much more intense IR look.
Apart from a red filter, to achieve some infrared effect the film needs to be overexposed a little. In my experience one or two stops is enough, though, again, that’ll be depending on location and light conditions. More overexposure will mean more infrared effect, but remember that development will need to be reduced. Some experimentation is needed. These two images show the difference when the film is overexposed a little. The leaves get much paler giving the whole scene a ghostly appearance.
When it comes to exposing the film I’d recommend the use of a tripod. It already is a slow film at 80 ISO, but on top of that you must overexpose it a minimum of two stops to compensate for the red filter, plus one or two stops more in order to achieve some infrared look. That means effectively exposing it at ISO 12 or 6.
On that note, Rollei Retro 400s also has extended red sensitivity so this film. With its 400ISO, it might be a bit more flexible for the tripod-averse among you. Of course, you still might get away without a tripod with a bright lens or if you want a shallow depth of field. Just remember that infrared light focuses on a different plane than visible light. Older SLR lenses incorporate a red focusing mark to re-focus when using infrared film, but if you are using a different type of camera a small aperture would be better to compensate for any focus shift, so, again, a tripod might be helpful.
A Note About Rollei 80S and Filters
A final word about filters. Rollei 80s will work with an R72 infrared filter which cuts some visible light but allows to pass that with a wavelength of 720nm (nanometres) and above. Now, Rollei 80s is sensitive up to 750nm. A true infrared filter will block all visible light allowing to pass only that from 750 to 1000nm, effectively rendering the film blind. If you’re planning to use an IR filter with this film, check you’re nanometres!
Developing Rollei 80S
Now, when it comes to developing, I try to keep things simple, so I’ll avoid an overly technical explanation about the film’s developing curve, its true speed, or what developer works better with it. My simple approach to get usable negatives is to take a few frames of the same scene at the beginning of the roll, bracketing the exposures. Then, when I go to develop, cut those first few frames off and develop them first to have an idea about times. That is if I can’t get a starting point on the Massive Development Chart, over at Digital Truth, here (https://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.php).
In terms of developing Rollei 80s, for many years my developer has been Kodak D76. I used a 1:1 dilution for about 10 and a half minutes, at 20 degrees (Celsius). My agitation routine usually consists of 30 seconds first, and then between 3 to 5 inversions every minute. Lately though, I’ve switched to Ars-Imago FD developer. My starting point was a dilution of 1:39 for 8 minutes at 20 degrees.
My main experience with the film has been in medium format for a project I worked on in Edinburgh, although I’ve shot a few rolls in 35mm. One thing I have to say against this film stock is that in medium format it tends to curl quite a bit so scanning it is tricky.
Needless to say, Rollei 80s can also be used as a normal black and white, ISO 80 film, without any filters. For me, though, what makes it special is the ability to render a scene different from any other black and white stock. I was really pleased with the results I got on a holiday trip to Greece a couple of years ago as they turned out as the kind of different holiday snapshot I was after.
To conclude, Rollei Retro 80s or, for that matter, any near-infrared or true infrared film, offers the possibility to get a glimpse of a world we can’t normally see and opens up new doors to expand our creativity. I love it because of that. I’d like to thank Shoot It With Film for giving me the chance to share my experience with this film. For more of my work you can go here: