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.  


Imitation Perle: Whispers of the Welta

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  This definitely rings true for consumer products. It was often with much amusement that I would see "COBY" headphones done in a style and typeface that looked just like those from "SONY." There are many more examples to be sure, but I don't need to belabor the point.  

But what about products that look just like another established brand, but lack any markings whatsoever, leaving you to wonder if they are made by the brand itself? Is that flattering, or just downright odd?

And herein lies the mystery of my latest acquisition. It minces no words when it comes to who made the lens and shutter, but is totally "hush hush" on the actual manufacture of the camera itself.  Still, it is close enough in form to a Welta Perle to make me think it might be a product of this German manufacturer.  Thus, I can't resist the play on words in calling this new acquisition my "Imitation Perle." It turns out that this may be a Welta made camera marketed as either the Rodenstock Citonette, or alternately a Schaja 100, but I'm not entirely sure.  In any event, I'll stick to my moniker for now.

I stumbled across this camera upon perusing classified listings at the Analog Photography Users Group.  The seller listed the camera as an "Antique 120 Folder With Rodenstock Trinar 75mm 4.5 Lens," quite possibly also seemingly baffled by the lack of a maker to the camera itself. Initially listed for $37, the price for this working camera had just been dropped to $22 including shipping.  It seemed like a good buy with no big risk, and I'd been contemplating getting a second 645 folder to supplement my Ikonta A 521, so I wasted no time in making contact with the seller to make the purchase.

The camera arrived quickly and safely, and looked to be in good working condition.  It showed some signs of use, but considering it was over 70 years old, it was to be expected.  A gentle cleaning and some checks of the shutter confirmed that it was at least ready for a test roll. The shutter sounded like it fired pretty accurately, but instead of color transparency film, I elected to test this camera using a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 color print film to allow some degree of exposure latitude if the shutter speeds were off.  

The "Imitation Perle" on the left bears a lot of striking resemblances to the real article, seen at right, and has a nearly identical form factor despite a few interesting differences.  


Fun with Film: Agfa Crossbird 200 / Digibase CR200

Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Anscochrome, Agfachrome, Scotchchrome, Astia.

Each of these is a line of color transparency films that is no longer manufactured.  Kodak is out of the business, and Ilford is strictly manufacturing only Black and White Films. Ferrania is actively working to get into the production of transparency films, but production of the initial Kickstarter batch has yet to begin. As such, only Fuji remains to produce Velvia in 50 and 100 speed versions, as well as Provia 100F.

But there is one other option in medium format at the moment - Rollei Agfa.

Typically a seller of a varied line of black and white films of various lineages, the European supplier actually offers one pseudo-slide film among its range of offerings.  I say "pseudo" because they apparently offer the same film packaged and marketed in two different ways. On one hand is the Rollei Digibase CR 200, a traditionally marketed color transparency film based upon the old Agfachrome 200 formulation.  On the other hand is a film called "Crossbird 200," a color reversal film marketed towards being "cross processed," that is, processed in the chemistry for color negative film instead, so as to yield unpredictable colors.  From all appearances, both are the same exact film.

On my return to shooting on film, I was naturally pretty dismayed to see that the selection of color transparency (slide) films had dwindled as much as they had.  Amid my digital shooting days, I recall seeing the news that Kodachrome had passed on, but had no idea that the Ektachrome line had passed as well.  As I began to explore the offerings at B&H Photo, only the trio of remaining Fuji films remained as options, along with both iterations of the Rollei Agfa 200.  The straight "Digibase CR200" version was only available in a five pack, and I certainly wasn't ready to commit that kind of money to an unknown yet. However, the "Crossbird" version was available in single rolls, and I gladly pulled the trigger to try to a test roll, so as to be able to compare it to the remaining Fuji films.

Reading up on whatever I could find regarding others uses of these films left me a little worried, and admittedly rather unenthusiastic about using the roll of film.  For one, the film is on a polyester base instead of acetate, which reportedly leaves it susceptible to "light piping" if any of the film sees the light of day, thus inciting recommendations to load it under subdued light or darkness if possible.  Other reviews however stated that the finished results when processed using E6 chemistry, left an unpleasant and overwhelming yellow cast in the image.  As such, it took several months before I finally took the plunge and loaded the film into my Yashica 12 on Christmas Day, 2014, so as to begin to snap off a roll of test photos.