For the last few months, I’ve been shooting with a large format film camera, and I’ll review the mediums I’ve been using during this time. First up is Rollei RPX 25 in 4×5 sheet film. And let’s be frank, I hate it.
This film is thin. Like, 1-ply toilet-paper thin. It’s also flimsy. On location, I literally had this film fall out of the cartridge because it popped out of the groove. On the flip side, I’ve also had it get completely stuck in the cartridge because it’s so thin it slid into a small gap in the plastic. I’m loading it in a dark bag, and I can say with certainty that this film is so finicky to load that my hands get sweaty. I don’t have the same issue with Ilford’s film. When it comes time to load it into the development reel, I have the same issues. The film is quick to buckle and pop out of the grooves, making a three-minute task take 5 times as long. The emulsion layer, therefore, is very easy to damage or leave fingerprints on. I now use gloves when loading this film, something I don’t have to do with other film stocks. I have had some minor damage on this layer from bungled attempts at loading it.
I’ve shot it with both a homemade pinhole camera and at normal speeds. The reciprocity failure rate can be quite high, causing pinhole shots to take even longer. Normal exposures at normal apertures have good contrast and minimal grain. Photos you see here are “scanned” with my Canon 6D with a 40mm pancake semi-macro 1:2 ratio. At 10x magnification in live-view mode, I cannot see the grain to set the manual focus, it’s that tight. When shooting this last batch of photos, I used a handheld light meter and my times were long on the first couple of exposures. I pulled the processing by 2 stops, and it still looks good (image links to the full version):
There’s snow texture even in some of the blown-out areas, although it doesn’t show up on this quick conversion. I’ve pulled the contrast a bit on the JPG.
The low 25 ISO rating of this film; no one is shooting to freeze-the-action at f22 on large format film. I like the developed negatives. The emulsion layer doesn’t look lifeless or thin, like some of the cheaper stocks out there. Nor does it have the quality feeling of Ilford or Kodak. It’s somewhere in between.
Here’s another capture that was pulled 2 stops and given a contrast boost in Photoshop from the JPG. I touched up some pinpricks in the emulsion that were most obvious against the grey sky. After standing in the calm snow to set up the shot, a huge gust of wind blew through right as I was about to hit the shutter. Once the gusts waned, I snapped it.
Final verdict: B-? 3*s? 6 of 10? Something like that. The UX, if you will, of the medium is a fail for me and why I wouldn’t buy it again.