When it comes to the most popular black and white film rolls, you often hear the likes of Kodak 400TX, Kodak T-Max 400, Ilford HP5 400, and Kentmere Pan, but you probably don't hear about the Rollei Retro 400s as much. Don't let that stop you from shooting with it, though. The Rollei Retro 400s is a highly reliable film roll that will add great characters to your photos.
Join me as I review the Rollei Retro 400s and find out what I mean.
Rollei Retro 400s: Cold Hard Facts
The Retro 400s is a panchromatic black and white film roll available for both 35mm and 120mm format film cameras. Its nominal speed of ISO 400 makes it a reliable film to shoot with, even under changing light conditions. The film is sold in 36 exposures, like most other film rolls. What makes the Retro 400s stock stands out from the rest, though, is its high sensitivity to light.
Based on aerial film technology, the film features an extended infrared sensitivity. The great thing about infrared light is that it can often cut through haze and fog, resulting in photos that are much more crisp and detailed. According to the official data sheet, you can also use yellow, orange, or red filters to increase the tonal values in the respective wavelengths. You can use a yellow filter for contrast enhancing cloud rendering, orange for clearer long-distance vision, while using red or infrared filter can result in infrared images. This could make the film the ideal roll for beginners in IR photography. If you are a mere mortal like I am and would rather shoot without filter, you would still get deeper blacks than you would otherwise with most other film rolls.
The Rollei Retro 400s retails for around €7 - €9. Compared to its other black and white film counterparts like Kodak and Fujifilm, the film is not as readily available, but it is not rare to find either.
Rollei Retro 400s in Action
Based on the photos I've taken with the Retro 400s, I can personally say that I am a big fan of the film. As suspected, the resulting photos produce deeper blacks than most other film rolls. In addition, the film also produces such fine grain, especially in consideration of its 400-speed. When compared to other film rolls of the same speed, such as the Kodak TX, Kodak T-Max, and Kentmere Pan, the Retro 400s is a definite clear winner in terms of fine-grain quality. With its fine grain and deep blacks, what you get ultimately are photos with fantastic detail and contrast.
Most of my photos were taken during the summer. And while summertime and an ISO 400 film roll might sound like a mismatch at first, I find the Retro 400s to be just the perfect black and white film roll. With so much natural lighting, it can be easy for a film roll to produce bright photos that are just that. They could almost look a bit washed and lacking depth and characteristics. But this is not the case with the Retro 400s. Again, its deep blacks, contrast, and detail are to thank here. Although, in the shade, the photos (understandably) do tend to look a bit dark, so you might need to do some editing in order to salvage them.
With deep blacks, fine grain, high contrast and fantastic detail, it's hard not to fall in love with the Rollei Retro 400s. And while I, myself, am a big fan of the film, it all comes down to your personal taste. If you want less contrast and more visible grain to give your photos that look unique to film, the Rollei Retro 400s might not be the one for you. Even so, I would highly urge you to try this film roll if you haven't.
Any thoughts on the film roll? Let us know on the comments below.