3.27.2015

Fun with Film: Rollei RPX 25

In a world dominated by speed, sometimes, it can be a little refreshing to slow things down. The world of cameras is no different. Today's digital equipment can shoot at ISO speeds unheard of just 20 years ago, when 3200 speed was a pure adventure in graininess.  My two digital cameras will actually shoot no slower than ISO 200, which I am not always thrilled about.  

The reason is that I sometimes would like to shoot sunny scenes at a wide open aperture to get thin depth of field and good bokeh, and the 1/4000 top shutter speed doesn't always cut it at an aperture of f/1.4.  The only alternative is to put on a ND or polarizing filter to cut off the light coming to the sensor.

So I was naturally intrigued to see an ISO 25 speed film among the options available when I got back into shooting film, and snapped up a roll to give it a try.  Only later, after getting a 120 camera with an f/2.9 lens, and finding that it actually worked pretty well, did it occur to me that I had a perfect combination of film and camera to test, and I wasted little time loading up my Franka Solida with this neat find.  



This, my friends, is Rollei RPX 25 film.  



There have been some very beloved slow speed films over the years, from Agfapan 25 to Kodak Panatomic-X 32 speed film, as well as Kodachrome 25 and Ektar 25 for color films. All of these have vanished, leaving the supply of 25 speed films down to this lone standout.  

Some reports state that the film is based on the old Agfa APX 25 speed film, while others state that this is a rehash of Efke 25 speed film.  Yet other writings claim that this emulsion is entirely new.  Since I've never had experience with either of the two previous films, the film is an entirely new experience to me regardless, and one that I looked forward to trying out.

Over the course of a few days in January, I snapped off 12 exposures of this film. Regrettably, the lab only returned 10 negatives.  Bummer, because I truly love the results.  In the past few months, I've shot a few rolls of black and white of various emulsions, but none has impressed me in quite the way that this one has.  The scans that I made of the negatives came out rich, creamy, and silvery in a way that harkens back to classic photography.  The classic Franka camera is very likely helping this effect out to some degree, but it becomes evident in looking at the images produced that this film is capable of creating some very nice images.



In shooting the images with RPX, one of my main goals was to shoot quite a number of them wide open at f/2.9 as a means of seeing the camera's bokeh and depth of field, and the slow speed of RPX25 made this a pretty easy task.  Take for example this shot of an old water pump taken at f/2.9 aperture for 1/100 second.  Depth of field is quite shallow and bokeh is decent. 

2 - f/2.9 1/200
Even at greater focusing distances, I'm able to discern some particularly shallow depth of field at f/2.9.  This image was taken the same afternoon as the one above, at 1/100 second, and shows good sharpness on some of the tree's branches, while others near the top show a degree of blur from being away from the center of the image.  The tree to the right shows much more blur.

When stopped down to f/6.3, the camera is able to produce a much sharper image, and the RPX 25 produces some outstanding results with great sharpness, detail, and grain when hand holding for a 1/100 of a second exposure.


Opened back up to f/2.9 for a 1/100 second exposure, and with focusing done only on the elements in the foreground in the bottom of the frame, the film and camera work excellently together to produce an image that transitions quickly from focus to blur as the distance from the lens increases.  The silvery glint on the rails is really nicely portrayed.


Unfortunately, I moved slightly as I took this 4 second exposure at f/2.9, creating the noticeable ghost in the stair railings and lamp post.  Still, the results are certainly encouraging from the RPX film, and convey the coldness of the scene. 


Stopped down to f/16 for a 1 minute exposure, the results show some diffraction in the sharpness, particularly in the lit bricks in the bottom foreground.  Still, the tonal range of the resulting image came out quite nice in this night time time exposure.


Even with a slow speed film, I felt the need to cheat on this exposure, and use a CPL filter to bring the needed exposure down to the 1/200 top speed of the Franka Solida.  The results here are a bit mushy, as the focus seems to be on the snow in front of the property marker rather than the marker itself, but the tonal range is again quite wonderful.


I really could not have asked for better results from this composition than what I got in this image.  Shot at f/2.9 at 1/200 of a second without a filter, this image provides exceptional sharpness on the center horizontal element, great tonal range, and nice blurring of the foreground and background elements. It actually makes me LIKE snow, and that's quite a feat!



One more image taken open at f/2.9 at 1/100 of a second.  The foreground details show decent focus and great tonal range, while the backdrop gives off a nice bokeh that is not excessively busy.

So will my usage of RPX 25 film continue?  Without a doubt!  I've tried various black and white films over the decades, and found much of my results to be either overly contrasty or somewhat foggy in nature.  Not so with RPX. I can't say that I've been so impressed with any Black and White film on first use, particularly for the tonal quality. 

I've added another 3 rolls to the artillery, and have already shot one of them, even with the Solida acting a bit stubborn as of late in the cold weather.  I'm looking forward to RPX being able to provide some classically styled images from my old film cameras on the occasions when I want that "Silver Screen" look to my photography.  Long live RPX!