5 Frames with Rollei RPX400 – pushed one stop at SynthFest, Sheffield – By Ted Ayre

My old school mate Will and I love music, and when we meet up it’s usually first on the topic of conversation. We both play a variety of instruments, but synthesisers are a unique beast. Pioneered by women and trans folks, then popularised by black American musicians, the synthesiser is omnipresent across popular music – and we love them!

The design and appearance of these instruments ranges from sleek and modern digital, to robust analog design classics – sound familiar? There are devotees of each side – with digital manufacturers claiming to have replicated that ‘analog feel’, and analog purists never converting their signal into cold, hard digital.

In the end I’m only interested in creating music, and making memories in photos. I thought this trip would be an interesting chance to combine a few of my interests, so I took along my trusty Olympus XA with a couple of rolls of cheap B&W film to document the day.

Headphones on and make some noise!

Why did I choose Rollei RPX400?

Firstly, it was the film I found at the intersection of best-reviewed, and cheapest B&W film stock across different websites. I had never used it before, and it cost half as much as a roll of Kodak Tri-X. The ISO 400 rating should be flexible enough for indoor shooting in good light, and I could have the option of indexing it at ISO 800 on my Olympus XA if needed to get faster shutter speeds out of the aperture priority mode. Users on Analogue Wonderland had suggested that it was a good ‘all rounder’ that would be forgiving if I were to mess up my exposures.

I didn’t really know much about Rollei branded film, so I had a look around for information online. As far as I can work out, Rollei RPX400 is made in the UK by Harman Technology (Ilford, Kentmere) along with the rest of the triacetate-based RPX range. All the rest of their products are polyester-based formulas passed down from Agfa, and made in Belgium by Maco.

The Colossus takes centre stage!
ARP Odyssey synthesisers ready to go into space.

Did the results meet my expectations?

Ok so when I got there the lighting was lower than expected, so I had to index the film at ISO 800 and later ask the lab to push it +1 stop to compensate. This was so I could use a faster shutter speed on the XA which only has aperture priority mode. Looking at the results, the film retains enough shadow detail, although pushing the film has brought out a bit more grain, and I do feel that the highlights seem a bit ‘blown out’ on the keyboards, lights and hands more than I expected for only pushing one stop – however that could be do to with lighting at the venue. Overall Rollei RPX400 is cheap enough to not worry about trying it out here in the UK, but I’m conflicted as although the results are not bad, I just don’t think I’ll be rushing back to it again. Even though the grain is pleasant and it has it’s own character, I think my personal preference is for a film that is naturally a bit ‘edgier’ looking, so I’ll be continuing my search and trying out some other B&W film to compare another time.

SoundGas from Matlock, Derbyshire have the most fun stall!
Seeing people get lost in the sounds and music.

Have you used Rollei RPX400? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

All scans were developed and processed by Come Through Lab in Ancoats, Manchester.
Find them on instagram here: @comethroughlab 
No post-processing or cropping was used for these images.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing more of my photos and experiences with this community soon.
You can find me on Instagram: @tedayre

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with Rollei RPX400 – pushed one stop at SynthFest, Sheffield – By Ted Ayre”

  1. Rollei PRX, like Agfa APX and one or two others is re-branded Kentmere made by Harman – it’s a lovely film that i use regularly but it’s worth shopping around to find which version is currently cheapest

  2. Thanks for sharing the info about some Rollei film being made by Ilford. I’m of a similar view with black and white and like a bit more bite.

    Nice to see some examples from Come through lab, I stumbled upon their webpage and want to try them as a more local northern alternative, AW and Silverpan have been my usuals. How was turn around times?

    1. Thanks for your comment Wes, and yes the turn around times by Come Through Lab are accurate on their website – very reliable!

  3. It’s my favourite traditonal B&W stock – Normally get better blacks and contrast than you did, maybe the 800/+1 went a little too far? Those photos remind me of Agfa APX 400 and it’s “50 shades of greys” type results – except for the Colossus shot, which looks perfect.

    1. Hey Gorpalm, thanks for the comment, yes it’s an interesting result with the +1 stop push – it’s definitely a B&W film stock that will be on my ‘try again’ list in the future, but maybe at box speed next time!

  4. Great shots,wow that Xa is sharp.ive never used rollei film,i dont think i have anyway,but im going to give it a go definitely. ????

    1. Thanks for the compliment Pete, and yeah the XA really is superb! It’s definitely worth giving Rollei film a go, because you never know, it could be just what you were looking for!

  5. Ok, you gotta give a frame by frame list of the synths involved ????????

    I think the pics look fine, especially given the lighting. And finding the right b&w film for you for a given situation can be an adventure.

    1. Haha yeah there were far too many Synths to name! Check out SoundGas in Yorkshire though for the best stuff. Thanks for the compliment Kevin, yeah I’m giving HP5+ a go right now and it’s starting to win me over.

  6. IMHO, this is the case of self-inflicted wound:asking lab to push and to scan. Not sure what process the lab uses to scan negatives, but they botched the job once the negatives of higher contrast entered the scanner. I am pretty sure the highlights can be easily salvaged had anyone paid attention and scanned accordingly.And with with the highlights intact the mood of the pictures would be quite different. After all what is film photography but the art of dodging and burning?

    1. Hey Vlad, interesting take on losing highlight details, although I can’t say I agree with your assessment that the lab ‘botched the job’ or should have ‘paid attention’ – that seems a bit presumptuous and a bit rude! I don’t really think the highlight loss is that bad, just as a combined result of the lighting and pushing the film. Thanks for your opinion though.

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