Rollei Superpan 200 Film Mini-Review

By Tony Warren

I was recently introduced to this film in the shape of a couple of outdated rolls kindly enclosed with an order for Rollei Infrared 400 from Nzphotochem. Nzphotochem is a trader on the local online, e-bay-type auction site here in New Zealand (www.trademe.co.nz) and is an invaluable source of many less common analogue consumables.

Rollei Superpan 200 is a medium speed, monochrome film with panchromatic response and extended sensitivity into the near infrared, up to around 800 nanometers. It is also suitable for reversal processing.

Detail, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200/ R60 red filter.
Detail, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200/ R60 red filter.
Detail, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200/ IR 720 infrared filter.
Detail, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200/ IR 720 infrared filter.

The film

To judge by various comments I have read, the film seems to belong to a family of less standard emulsions under a range of brand names and which appear to originate with Agfa-Geveart in Belgium, based on an aerial surveillance product. Whatever its origins, it responds well to a variety of developers and processes, with the added advantages of extended sensitivity into the near infrared, fine grain and detail rendering. This gives it a character of its own, rather like Rollei’s Infrared film, possibly from the same roots. Blue skies are darker in tone without filters and foliage a little darker whilst skin tones will be lighter compared to ‘normal’ range pan films. Contrast out of the box seems higher too and grain is tight and even, images displaying great acuity and super smooth tones, especially in 120.

Southern Cemetery. Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200/IR 720 infrared filter.
Southern Cemetery. Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200/IR 720 infrared filter.

In physical terms, the film is coated on a polyester base which in 35mm is quite springy but not too curly in the roll film version. The 35mm I had seemed worse but may have been aggravated by being outdated and in the cassette longer than usual. The polyester base also means that the film is very tear proof. I noted this with Rollei Infrared also and I recommend having a pair of scissors handy when loading 35mm into a developing tank. My usual method of tearing the film across the cassette lips just doesn’t work. No problem with roll film of course being attached to the backing with the usual tape. Worth noting though, licking the sealing strip on removing the exposed roll as usual has no effect, the paper tape is self adhesive with a protective layer that has to be peeled off.

Bronze at Lookout Point, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200/IR 720 infrared filter.
Bronze at Lookout Point, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200/IR 720 infrared filter.

Results

The outdated 35mm and 120 films produced some interesting results so I bought a fresh 120 roll which I ran through my Flexaret. This was processed in Rodinal. Using a dilution of 1:50 and 17 minutes gives the best tonal range and grain but there is quite a range of options. For the earlier films I had used 1:25 dilution and 9 minutes which had produced slightly more pronounced grain.

Comparing it with Rollei Infrared 400, there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference generally. Possibly, Infrared 400 produces the strongest IR effect whilst Superpan 200 gives a little more contrast in visible light.

Deborah Bay Marina, Otago Harbour, New Zealand - no filter.
Deborah Bay Marina, Otago Harbour, New Zealand – no filter.

35mm

The 35mm film is quite tight grained and impressively sharp. The example at the marina shows really fine detail in the mesh gate despite being taken in quite dull, low contrast conditions. Tone range is perhaps a little limited but with a definite presence.

Cenotaph, Queen's Gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200 - no filter.
Cenotaph, Queen’s Gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200 – no filter.
Cenotaph, Queen's Gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200 - IR 720 filter.
Cenotaph, Queen’s Gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200 – IR 720 filter.

Without a filter, the sky is not blown out and retains some detail. When used with the IR 720 filter, it has an almost painterly quality, tones are really enhanced, the IR foliage helping the overall effect.

120

The 120 film on the other hand has more smoothness tonally and captures an incredible amount of detail. This is not surprising I would imagine being based on a surveillance film.

Tombstone, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200 - IR 720 filter.
Tombstone, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200 – IR 720 filter.
Tombstone detail, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200 - IR 720 filter.
Tombstone detail, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200 – IR 720 filter.
Pacific Ocean, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand - Superpan 200 - IR 720 filter.
Pacific Ocean, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand – Superpan 200 – IR 720 filter.

With an IR filter, results are similar to 35mm with a very realistic rendering, probably very impressive when projected as a transparency, but I haven’t tried that aspect of the film.

Final thoughts

There is an almost bewildering choice of monochrome and colour film types available nowadays from the likes of Lomography, certainly far more than were available back in the day. The important thing for me, though, is how a film translates my ideas. To do this it is essential to be familiar with your materials and, whilst I have my FP4+ standby always at the ready, Rollei Superpan 200 and Rollei’s Infrared 400 will have a place in my fridge for monochrome images.

All images taken with the Meopta Flearet IV and Retina IIc shown.

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About The Author

By Tony Warren
In my 60 or so years of serious involvement in photography I have seen the demise of the viewfinder, the rise of the SLR and the eclipse of them all with the meteoric development of the digital camera. Through it all, however, and above all else, the image is what it is all about so I now use film alongside digital. Whatever is the most appropriate or practical. My contributions will hopefully be useful for anyone interested in using film and also how a died-in-the-wool antique like me is continuing his life-long addiction in the digital age, using both platforms. The major benefit of an extended retirement is that I can spend most of my time nowadays with photography and writing about it.
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Comments

Sroyon on Rollei Superpan 200 Film Mini-Review

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Some really nice images, especially the first one of the stadium (and I'm generally not even a fan of architecture photos) and the one of the ocean! Your observation that Rollei Infrared 400 produces a stronger IR effect makes sense; in my article about spectral sensitivity (see the section on "extended red-sensitivity") I compared the sensitivity curves and Rollei Infrared 400 extends further into infrared. Out of interest (and apologies if it's there in the article, I may have missed it), how many stops compensation did you allow for the 720nm filter? And are the negatives with and without filter (for instance in the cenotaph comparison) of similar density, or would you use more or less compensation next time?
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Thanks for the comments. I use a meter so set the film speed at 400 ISO without the IR filter and 25 ISO with, four stops difference. The tonal difference in the Cenotaph shots is more to do with what the IR filter is allowing the film to record compared to without. A 2.5 stop red filter would bring more detail into the sky but wouldn't produce the same image quality. The negatives have the same tonal density in the stonework of the structure so comparable exposures are correct for the two film speeds.

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Dave Powell on Rollei Superpan 200 Film Mini-Review

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Wonderful images from this Superpan! I love digital IR... and your results inspire me to now try film. But before buying, I'll see if others have developed it in my favorite way... with Caffenol. It's great that Superpan captures both normal and infrared images... depending on whether an IR cut filter is used. This, in fact, makes the film a bit MORE flexible than an IR-converted digital camera! Cheers, Dave P.S. I've been long interested in getting a Flexaret... and you've convinced me. Birthday coming!
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Thanks Dave. I'm sure I have read of caffeinol being used on almost everything so I guess it would work with this film. I use Rodinal because it is flexible, super frugal and lasts forever. I use my Sony A3000 digital with an IR 720 filter unconverted. It 'sees' IR out of the box (confirmed with TV remote test) so it is the best of both worlds. As to the Flexaret, reasonably priced with a superb lens, and easy to handle with the focus lever below the lens (no hand-to-hand shuffle between frames). Can't praise mine enough despite its shutter's failings. Happy birthday.

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Ed on Rollei Superpan 200 Film Mini-Review

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Superb images. Shows just how good the lenses of older cameras are, not just the film used. Well done.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Too true Ed. Thank you.

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Paul Quellin on Rollei Superpan 200 Film Mini-Review

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Really enjoyed reading the Rollei Superpan 200 review, very informative with the salient points well illustrated by the images.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Thank you Paul.

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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2023

Thank you Paul.

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