Rollei Infrared 35mm film boxes
Film

Rollei Infrared Film – An Introduction – By Tony Warren

November 11, 2022

Rollei Infrared is a high speed, panchromatic, monochrome film with sensitivity to visible light which extends into the near infrared (IR). FP4+ film, for example covers from 350nm (nanometres) to just over 650nm whilst Rollei Infrared film reaches just over 800nm from a low reading of closer to 400nm, so a 30% or so increase in the available wavelength.

It has a clear polyester base, very stable for archival purposes and also good for scanning in these hybrid processing days. The base is tear free so if you are processing a 35mm film yourself make sure you have some scissors in the darkroom or changing bag. It simply will not tear off across the cassette lips which is how I usually separate the cassette when loading 35mm into the developing tank.

Rollei claim wide exposure latitude, excellent resolving power, fine grain and high sharpness, all born out in practice, and the IR sensitivity is a definite plus when a suitable filter is used.

Tropical House, Dunedin Botanic Gardens

In the Tropical House, Dunedin Botanic Gardens, Dunedin, NZ

Shadow recovery example

Example to show highlight recovery.

Highlight recovery example

Example to show shadow recovery.

How do you use it?

Unlike most dedicated IR emulsions, it can be used like a normal pan film of 400 ISO depending on developer and development. With an R72 opaque filter, however, it behaves like dedicated IR film producing the distinctive contrast and white foliage at a recommended speed rating 25 ISO.

Because the R72 filter is opaque, framing must be done before fitting it. Also, lenses do not focus infra red light in the same plane as visible light. Many lens focussing scales have an infrared index, however, often a red line on a zoom or a dot for fixed focal lengths, sometimes with a red ‘R’ identifier. The focus distance established without the filter must be set against this mark before shooting through the filter.

Infrared index 01

Infrared index line on 80-210 zoom.

Infrared index 02

Infrared index line on 85mm fixed focal length.

Infrared index 03

Infrared index line on 300mm fixed focal length.

The data sheet gives performance figures based on development in Refinol, a very fine grain developer, whereas I use Rodinal which can be a little coarser grained. There are a number of dilutions and times with Rodinal, with speeds between 200 and 400 ISO but I generally rate it at 100 ISO and develop at 1:100 for 15 minutes with intermittent agitation at 20ºC. With an R72 filter in place I give 4 extra stops exposure, 6 ISO, processed the same way. The beauty of this is that you can mix full-on IR shots with normal pan exposures on the same film. The Massive Development Chart at digitaltruth.com will usually give you guidance for your particular developer.

Grain comparison.

Detailed, same size comparison of grain for FP4+/Rollei IR without filter/Rollei IR with R72 filter.

What can it do?

As mentioned, it produces images very much like any panchromatic, monochrome emulsion with fine grain, excellent definition, good contrast and wide latitude. Images without filters have good tone range, with blue skies retaining more tonality than would be expected and portraits can benefit from slightly lighter skin tones. On the other hand, foliage will appear a little darker than might be expected. A standard red, R60 filter will produce darker skies than usual.

Bronze statue, Signal Hill, Dunedin.

Bronze statue, Signal Hill, Dunedin, NZ to demonstrate good contrast even in dull conditions.

Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin, NZ

Example of tone range possible.

Larnach Memorial, Northrn Cemetry, Dunedin, NZ

Example of sky and foliage tone without filter.

With an infrared R72 (720nm) filter it becomes a very different animal indeed, producing typical infrared results, high contrast, black skies and white clouds and foliage. The data sheet mentions halation effects with extended exposure which has so far eluded me.

Timaru Basillica.

IR image of Timaru Basillica, Timaru, NZ

Lighthouse, Carolyn Bay, Timaru.

IR image of preserved lighthouse, Carolyn Bay, Timaru, NZ.

Gardens at Aigantighe Art Gallery.

IR image in Gardens at Aigantighe Art Gallery, Timaru, NZ

Conclusions

I began using Rollei Infrared film solely for its IR capabilities but quickly came to appreciate its other attributes. As a fairly fast but still fine grained emulsion it is excellent and its individual character and flexibility has won me over for use as a great all rounder. If I really need the full 400 ISO speed I can change the developer dilution and timing at the expense of grain, but at least it is possible which is the main thing and all with a film that I am thoroughly familiar with.

(Digitised copies of negatives are produced with a Sony A3000 with an AI’d 55mm Micro Nikkor and adapters processed in Affinity Photo.)

Some interesting test reports on Digitaltruth.com here

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Neal Wellons
    November 11, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    This is a wonderful review of Rollei Infrared. Thanks so much. I just started using it and have only shot two rolls, comparing one to JCH Streetpan 400 which I have used extensively for the last 2 years. I really can’t tell any difference between the infrared images with the two films. I tried Rollei as soon as I found it comes in bulk 35mm rolls. My bulk roll is on the way.

    One important note. You mentioned “Because the R72 filter is opaque, framing must be done before fitting it. ” That onerous chore only happens with SLR shooting, which I never do. Rangefinders let you use the normal viewfinder after setting the focus. I shoot all my infrared shots hand-held.

    Infrared is so much fun and I think your article will generate some new infrared shooters.

    • Reply
      Tony Warren
      November 11, 2022 at 7:37 pm

      Thanks for that. You are quite correct of course in mentioning rangefinder/viewfinder cameras, thanks for pointing that out. A rangefinder would be much easier to use. Your lens will have to have an IR index or some experiment will be needed if it doesn’t unless you guess and use a small aperture. My Retina IIc has one so I will run a film through it if I find a filter.

      Totally agree about IR film. It has always facinated me.

      Tony.

  • Reply
    David Hill
    November 15, 2022 at 1:39 pm

    So, umm, to get this clear: you only shift focus to the IR index when using the R72 filter? When used as a normal spectrum film there’s no focus shift? (My gut says there must be some ghost of an out-of-focus IR image within the normal spectrum, but I suppose it’s overwhelmed by the sharp normal image …)

    I’ve had 2 rolls of Konica IR750 in my freezer for a couple decades. Afraid to waste them on the mundane. I oughtta just see what happens :).

    • Reply
      Tony Warren
      November 15, 2022 at 7:36 pm

      Can’t say I have been aware of any ghosts, David. I think the point is that the film only responds when it receives the wavelengths it is designed for. The Rollei film is a bit like Ilfords SFX 200 and responds to visible wavelengths. So if no filter or say an R25 red is used it will only record more normally. There would have to be light in the IR range for anything to appear in the negative I would imagine. Not familiar with whether Konica IR750 is designed for a wide response as well as IR, so it may be worth checking if you wan to use both IR and normal filters.

      The beauty of infra red is that it works best when the sun is brightest so when the shadows get shorter in the middle of the day on bright sunny and, importantly, warm weather it comes into its own. We are just coming into summer down here in NZ so I am looking forward to shooting some more. Give one of your films a go – the first one is always a learning experience anyway.

      And, yes, the focus shift is indeed only when using the IR cut filter. For the more usual filters the usual index is used.

      Thanks for the interest and good luck.

      Tony.

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