A Few More Rollei Blackbirds

Bruce Robbins on his blog theonlinedarkroom recently raised some interesting ideas about one of my favourite films – Rollei Blackbird. Having been concentrating far too much on digital (especially video) lately it seemed a good excuse to get out the OM2N and shoot off a few rolls. It was pure heaven!

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Zuiko 85mm F2, closed down to f16 to give a shutter speed of 1/30th, plus some panning.

All shots at 100 ISO (25 ISO is too contrasty for me), developed in ID11 stock (identical to D76) for 10 minutes.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

Interestingly these two rolls seemed a little less contrasty than normal, and the developer didn’t turn end up with a dark fine sludge after use – in fact it turned yellow. This may be due to old developer (4 months old) or possibly the formulation of the film has been changed. Whether this confirms the speculation on Bruce’s blog that Rollei Blackbird is re-branded Rollei Retro 100 is open to debate, though it does muddy the water (if not the developer).

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

There was a mixture of lenses used here. The Vivitar Series One 70-210 performed wonderfully as it always has, but I’d forgotten how heavy it was. The day became increasingly overcast which made focussing at F2 with the 85mm easier than the 70-210mm at f3.5.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

All of these were taken on one day at a local fair, the vintage cars and carousel horses being the best subjects around.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

There’s something very attractive about some of the lines of old cars. New ones seem bland by comparison. 85mm F2.

Thanks for the link Bruce. I’m not sure I’ve answered the Blackbird/Retro question, but to me at least it doesn’t matter. Blackbird is still a favorite (along with Ilford PAN F) which produces results which are difficult to accurately ‘fake’ in digital, making its continued use worthwhile.

A few more examples of Rollei Blackbird shots are here and here.

Hope you like these – thanks for looking.


Adox CHS100 II – Initial Impressions

Last April I used my last roll of Adox CHS film (the 50 asa version, article here), a film with a long history which produced soft, subtle images with an ‘old school’ look. Ten months later I’ve finally got round to testing it’s replacement – CHS100 II. The 100 asa version replaces the 25, 50 and 100 asa versions of the discontinued emulsion.


A very good start – exactly the same ‘look’ as the old version.

Adox have worked hard to reproduce the characteristics of the original, updating certain materials and producing it in a more modern facility (the reason the factory closed and the film discontinued, was in part down to the age of the machinery and the costs of keeping it running). Adox’s page about the film is here.

Physically the film now has a PET base making it easier to use, get on a film spiral etc. The old emulsion was so delicate that at 25 degrees C it separated from the base, and very gentle development was required, rolling (rather than inverting) the tank during development. No such restrictions apply to the modern film – it’s very easy to handle and process. A major improvement is how little dust is attracted to the drying negatives. The old version’s soft emulsion attracted so much dust that I gave up scanning a few rolls as the post-processing would have been tortuous. The 35mm cassette is also better made – the metal ‘end caps’ were often worryingly loose on the old film.


Subtle greys – what this film excels at.

This first roll was shot on an OM2N in Swanage in Dorset at the box speed of 100 asa using a Zuiko 50mm 1.4 and a 28mm f2 (mainly at f5.6 to f8). The film was developed in stock Ilford ID11 for six minutes. A note for users of stock developer – this film gives the developer a yellow colour rather like indicator stop bath. I don’t think it’s a problem, but I’ll know when I develop the next roll! The scanner was a Plustek 7500 using an APX25 film profile with just resizing in photoshop. I tried an ‘auto levels’ but it made no visible difference.


Here’s the test shot for the ‘pixel peeping’ (should be ‘grain peeping’ really).

The grain is unusual, being a bit larger than I’d expect for a 100 asa film, but soft and not intrusive.  This was developed in ID11/D76 – whether this would be the case with using Rodinal is something I’d need to test – I’d expect sharper results but harder grain.


The central portion of the above image.

To some readers these may appear to lack contrast, as we’ve become used to a contrasty, modern digital rendering of the world. However, it seems to me that this isn’t the point of this film (though you can always play in photoshop to increase contrast if you want to!). What this film does extremely well is reproduce a mid 20th century film emulsion, and the look associated with it. Where a wide range of subtle mid tones is required, this is hard to beat. In larger formats it’s going to be superb.

So – thanks for looking, and hope you find this useful. I should also thank Adox for plugging a gap in a film photographer’s film choice!

A Few More Adox Silvermax Samples

(Five images). This time in better lighting conditions! The previous shots were all taken on overcast days, so a bright  weekend and a few hours by the coast was the obvious excuse to burn off another roll. These are all straight off the scanner using the Agfa APX100 film profile, which after some messing around seems the best one. All the shots are from one roll, shot at box speed using an Olympus OM2N and developed in Ilford ID11 stock.

First one and a dynamic range challenge which the film has coped with very nicely. Zuiko 28mm lens.


This larger portrait oriented shot shows how little grain there is and how well this film/developer combination works. Zuiko 85mm lens.


This is the best of the lot – shot on a Vivitar 17mm lens, the range of tones for a bright day is impressive.


Next – a  ‘torture test’ – deep shadow and bright sky, but excellent result again.


This was a bit out of the DR range of any film or non-HDR digital image – the sky a few stops past rendering any detail, but the rest is fine.


The bright light shots from this film confirm the claims Adox make – the extra silver content seems to be making a real difference. I’m really impressed – and now need some more rolls….

The seaside shots at Kimmeridge Bay, and the church is in Kingston nearby in case anyone’s interested (Dorset UK).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

Ilford Pan F+ in ID11

Having done a few posts about Adox and Rollei film, it’s about time I did one about an old friend – Ilford’s Pan F black and white film. This was my standard film when I first started B/W photography – so it has a history longer than I’d care to admit! It’s current version is a 50 ASA fine-grained film, with a reputation which suggests it’s difficult to use.


This was taken on an Olympus OM2N with the lovely 24mm f2.8 lens reviewed earlier for use on digital. It’s rather nice on 35mm too!

It’s got a tendency to be too contrasty – so reducing recommended development times and tank agitation is a good idea if you’re going to scan the negs. My recipe is ID11 stock for 6 minutes at 20 C, inverting the tank a few times at the start, then every 1 minute. This produces very useable images with some good dynamic range, but still retains some of the film’s ‘dark’ look.


There’s a good dynamic range here from the detail in the clouds through to the shadows.

I’d describe it as a half way house between a film like Agfaphoto’s APX100 where contrast is very well controlled, and Rollei Blackbird which produces contrasty, dark images.


Again a nice result – just enough contrast without losing the shadow and highlight detail.

The grain is very fine – just what you’d expect from a 50 ASA film.


From the trees in the top left. Although the 24mm lens at max aperture is stating to lose resolution, the grain is almost unnoticeable.

Physically the film is easy to handle, and goes on the film spiral very easily. It also doesn’t attracting dust when drying – unlike some films.


Excellent again

Overall then, a very fine-grained film with a distinctive look which may be worth a try if you think the look of Rollei Blackbird is a too dark. At 50 ASA – or even 25 ASA – it will allow the use of those fast primes almost wide open on bright days and as long as it’s developed properly won’t disappoint.

It was good to shoot this film again after few years – I’ll be getting some more on my next film order.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

Shooting Snow on Film (APX100 developed in ID11)

We’re having unseasonably cold weather here in Dorset – snow in March is rare to say the least, so it’s inevitable that it’s going to get photographed. All shots on AgfaPhoto APX100 at box speed in an OM2N, developed in ID11 after it’s remarkably good results on Silvermax film.

These were all taken on a single roll at a small church nearby with +1 or +2 exposure compensation applied.  The slight blue cast from the scanner was left in place as I quite like it, though it would have been easy to remove.

First, lines of gravestones black against the snow and a bit of an abstract, graphic look (it’s all the rage in Dorset at the moment..).


That path was treacherous! The few midtones aren’t bad – ID11 seems margnally less contrasty than Rodinal, but the grain isn’t much better on this roll. I’ll give it one more go but Rodinal will probably make a return for developing this film.


The 28mm lens has done well here wide open at f4, but the depth of field is so great it hasn’t really isolated the foreground.


And finally a favourite location again, the slightly darker area of sky towards the horizon helps to divide the frame horizontally nicely. That’s a strange pattern of melted snow though…


Shooting in snow can be pretty tricky on film – the positive exposure compensation required varies a great deal depending on the intensity of the light, and if you’re not used to snow you never get enough time to practice! Luckily most B/W film has enough exposure latitude to produce an acceptable image, and APX100 seems particularly good in this respect.

Thanks for looking and hope you find this useful.

Adox Silvermax – Second Impressions in D76/ID11

Following on from an earlier post which detailed the results from my first roll of Rodinal developed Adox Silvermax, I thought some film users might want to see the second. No artistic masterpieces here I’m afraid (are there ever?) – these are test shots!


This seems like a good result – an excellent range from highlight to shadow.

The difference here is the developer – Ilford ID11 (identical to Kodak’s D76). I wanted to see how much the Rodinal developer which enhances sharpness was increasing the graininess of the final images – so ID11 seemed worth a try as it produces results which have less apparent sharpness, but also less grain.

On with the results – all taken on an Olympus OM2N and various Zuikos, developed for 9 minutes in ID11 stock. Scanned on a Plustek 7500 scanner using the ‘Agfa APX100’ profile which seemed to give a better result than the ‘no profile’ scans of the last test.

First shot – you may have seen this location before in previous posts – and a nice clear day with a pale blue sky.


Nothing to complain about here – nice dynamic range – similar to APX100,

And a small section enlarged.


The IDll developer has done a very nice job here – noticably more even than Rodinal.

Next one – again a standard test subject for me – and another sharp, fine grained result.


There’s an odd band of lighter grey along the very top of the frame here – it’s not on any other shots so I’m not sure what caused it. Easily cropped out if required though.

An enlargement from the centre of the frame.


Good sharpness again – this is good!

And one from the top left.


This small sample shows a more pleasing grain than the Rodinal developed film – more even and less ‘clumpy’.

The verdict then – as a confirmed Rodinal user I’m reluctant to admit that ID11 has done a better job. The grain is more even and less obvious, but the sharpness isn’t noticably reduced. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s significant. As an aside, to see just how good Adox CMS20 is (at the expense of 3 stops of film speed at ISO12) check here which is the same subject.

One odd thing – the film counter numbers on the film edges of this roll were ‘doubled up’ so the roll finished on shot 78. This obviously makes no diffence to the final shots.

Whatever you develop it in, Silvermax is an excellent B/W film, with a good balance of speed, grain and sharpness with some evidence from this second roll of it’s increased dynamic range. The weather being as it is at the moment, it might be a while before I can give it a test under really bright sunshine….

Hope you find this useful.

p.s. if you need development times for any B/W film with any possible developer try here – The Big Dev Chart – a truly useful website!