I bought my first SLR camera as a teenager back in 1981. I remember visiting the now long-gone Vic Odden’s in London Bridge and coming home with a secondhand Fujica ST605n with its slightly unsual standard lens, a Fujinon 55mm f2.2. Alongside a copy of the 35mm Photographer’s Handbook and lots of trial and error I learned how to take photographs using the basic manual controls on that solid simple camera.
Rollei Retro 400
About a year ago I posted a review of the Panorama Wide Pic. A toy camera that I was planning on sending around the UK for others to shoot and share results.I’ve been meaning to post an update with some of the results since Spring 2021! Better late than never eh? A big thank you to the participants who have sent through images and text to be used in this article.
I’m not trying to rehash content that’s been done to death. I’m not going to tell you which black and white film is the “best”. I’m just going to talk you through 4 film types that I’ve tried in the ISO 400 range, what I’m looking for, and my conclusions.
I absolutely stand by the notion that you cannot Google “what is the best black and white film” because that is a very personal choice. One person may like grain, another a cleaner image. One person may prefer muted greys and another, higher contrast. And all the variation in-between. As we all know, both those indicators are more of a sliding scale than one or the other.
I recently decided to add something different to my regular film-stock replenishment order, and went for a selection of Rollei branded films – not something I’ve ever shot before, and not really something I know very much about. I exposed one of these rolls, a Retro 400S, at box speed across a few days in early November, mostly street photography. I used my Nikon F2, and a 50mm lens for the majority of these images.
Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolating, social distancing; call it what you like it boils down to one thing – we’re staying in today. That’s what we do every day now. We don’t go to work, the kid doesn’t go to school and we don’t go to the shops, at least not as a group – just as socially distant individuals.