Silverprint Guide to Black & White Film

Films respond in various ways to different colours of the light spectrum.

Early photographic plates were sensitive only to blue, UV and and violet light and resulted in an artificial looking tonal range (skies came out white, skins dark, yellows and reds nearly black).

An improvement to that is ortochromatic film, sensitive to blue and green but not red – which means it can be handled in the darkroom under a safelight rather than in complete darkness. Ortho film gives more natural tonal range than the blue-sensitive film and tends to give very sharp and contrasty images. The ortho film that we stock is Rollei Ortho 25 and Ilford Ortho 25 – both come in 35mm, 120mm and 5×4″ formats.

Most commonly used films these days are panchromatic – meaning they respond to all the colours in the light they receive, and have to be handled in total darkness during processing.

One special group of black & white films are ‘Infrared‘ films. These films have extended red light sensitivity and when used with a deep red filter in front of the lens of the camera produce a surreal and beautiful effect, making all the foliage appear white as in the image below.

Shot on Rollei Retro 80s

After the legendary Kodak HIE High Speed Infrared film was discontinued, the closest in sensitivity left on the market was the Efke IR 820 produced at Fotokemika in Croatia. Unfortunately last year that factory ceased operation and Efke film is no longer available.

Luckily for all Infrared lovers, we offer a few films with enhanced red sensitivity that give beautiful Infrared effects. Rollei IR400, available in 35mm, 120 and 5×4 formats, is a high speed, high contrast, fine grain, very sharp film that offers large exposure latitude and a high tolerance to variation in lighting and climatic conditions.

Ilford SFX 200 is a medium speed, very fine grain ‘semi-infrared’ film that is less red sensitive than Kodak HIE used to be but when used with a dense red filter it still gives a great Infrared effect. This is available in 35mm and 120 sizes.

Another option to consider experimenting with is Rollei Retro series, 80s and 400s also have extended red sensitivity therefore are suitable for Infrared Photography.

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