Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Agfapan APX 100

Agfa Agfapan APX 100 in sheet film (9x12cm) and medium format
Among the currently available range of black and white films, there are two films named AgfaPhoto APX, in 100 and 400 speeds. This film is sold by Lupus Imaging, and, it seems, is most likely made by Harman, similar to the Rollei RPX films, and (but perhaps not quite the same as) Harman's Kentmere films. These films from Lupus trade on the name of Agfa's discontinued Agfapan APX 100; this post is about the original Agfapan APX 100 and it is not a comparison to the new APX 100; the new APX 100 films are not the same emulsion or a new version of Agfa's original: apparently Adox Silvermax is close to the original APX 100 recipe.

I first used Agfapan APX 100 in 35mm when it was sold under the name of Rollei Retro 100. The last master rolls of Agfapan APX 100 produced in 2005-06 were bought up by Maco when Agfa ceased production and repackaged under the name Rollei Retro 100, with generic-looking labels, rather like the first RPX films, sold in non-DX coded cassettes; possibly the film's renaming was due to Lupus having already acquired the rights to the AgfaPhoto and APX names (to add some confusion to the matter, it appears that Lupus also sold the old APX 100 film prior to the new APX 100 in 2013; Maco sold two other, different 'Rollei Retro' films: Rollei Retro 100 S and Rollei Retro 100 Tonal, not to be confused with the Rollei Retro 100 that was the old Agfapan APX 100).

Almost unintentionally, Agfapan APX 100 has become one expired film stock that I've used frequently over the past couple of years, some time after first encountering it as Rollei Retro 100. According to the Wikipedia page on discontinued film stocks, Agfapan APX 100 was produced between 1989 to 2005, which would mean that the Rollei Retro 100 that I bought in 2011 would have been a few years old at that point. The reason for buying the Rollei Retro 100 film then was that it was very economical: I can't recall exactly how much I paid for a batch of ten rolls, but Maco were selling ten rolls of 35mm Rollei Retro for less than €20 around the time (prices do seem to have varied somewhat, but Wayback Machine gives an idea of what I might have paid then).

I shot most of the Rollei Retro 100 in the the Spring and Summer of 2011, almost exclusively with the Kodak Retina IIa (one roll was shot with the Agfa Optima Sensor), developed in Agfa Rodinal, which seemed a good fit for bright sunny days, providing relatively tight grain and smooth tonal qualities; as a film, it also seemed to work well with Rodinal, the first developer that I used when coming back to processing film, and I also happened to be using the last of the stocks of the old Agfa Rodinal that the darkroom had, before switching to other generic RO9 developers.

Kodak Retina IIa with Agfapan APX 100 (as Rollei Retro 100)
After I'd used up the ten rolls of Rollei Retro 100, fairly quickly, there was a gap of few years before I found a box of 9x12cm APX 100 sheet film, dated 01/2004. I hadn't been looking out for Agfapan APX 100 specifically, rather it was a case of finding cheap sheet film in the 9x12cm size; when buying this, it was a decade past its develop before date but I imagined that, being relatively slow, this would be less affected by age (without knowing how it was stored before I bought it of course), and I shot some of this, handheld in bright conditions, with the Kodak Recomar 33, rating it at box speed, or just below at an exposure index of 80, and subsequently also using it with other 9x12cm format cameras. The box also included a leaflet with developing times for both APX 100 and AP 400 - it's worth noting that the 400-speed film here is not called APX 400, but the instructions inside the 35mm boxes I later used did have APX 400; the reasons for the difference in naming are not clear, the developing times are the same for both.

Agfapan APX 100 - AP 400 leaflet
Then, I bought a batch of medium format APX 100, eight unboxed rolls with a develop before date January 2009. Some of this I cut down to 127 to use for January 2017's 127 Day with the Baby Ikonta, and also used when testing the Baby Box Tengor, as well as using it with 116 backing paper in the Agfa Standard. However, these films, all with the same process before date, were not consistent - some rolls gave good results, but on some the emulsion appeared to have reacted to the backing paper, as in the image below, where the numbering from the backing paper is just visible across the sky; in the second image this isn't present.

Agfa Record III with Agfapan APX 100 (6x9 medium format)
Zodel Baldalux with Agfapan APX 100 (6x9 medium format)
Some of these rolls of film went through X-rays more than one before and after exposure when travelling, although as a medium speed film, this should not affect the emulsion, nor is it clear whether this would increase any reactions to the backing paper, but this was perhaps not unexpected with out-of-date film, with unknown storage conditions - this is, after all, sometimes seen with new film. However, that it did not occur with all rolls, though apparently from the same batch, was frustrating, as it couldn't be anticipated.

Agfa Agfapan APX 100 in sheet film (6.5x9cm) and 35mm
With the notion that I might write a blog post about Agfapan APX 100, I sought out a couple of rolls of APX 100 in 35mm to make some tests with - ordinarily, I wouldn't do this for discontinued films, although I might test for sensitivity; a latitude test, and tests for pull/push processing I would usually make for my own future reference, less of a necessity with a discontinued film that one might not have the opportunity to use in future (I also found some 6.5x9cm sheet film around the same time, with a process before date of January 95, using this with my Glunz plate camera, making such a sensitivity test with one sheet from this box). For a latitude test with the 35mm film, I shot half a roll of Agfapan APX 100 with a date of January 2002, rather older than the Rollei Retro 100 I'd used a few years previously.

35mm Agfa Agfapan APX 100 latitude test
On the contact sheet above the first two rows were rated EI 400/200/100/50/25/12 from left to right; the third and last row was shot at box speed of 100 ISO. This was developed in Ilfotec LC29 diluted 1+19 for 7m30s at 20ºC. Times were taken from the Massive Dev Chart, where Agfapan APX 100 is  listed under 'Discontinued/Unlisted' rather than referring to the data inside the box, which I could have used if I'd developed the film in RO9. The results from this test showed that perhaps the film could have benefitted from a little more exposure than box speed, although perhaps not as much as one whole stop; I shot the rest of the first of these two films with the Kiev-4 rated 80. It is also worth mentioning that Ilfoted LC29 may not have been the best developer for this test, but I didn't have any Rodinal at the time of processing; this may have been better historically, even just in relation to the APX 100 I shot as Rollei Retro 100 a few years ago.

Agfapan APX 100 (develop before Jan 2002) at box speed
Agfapan APX 100 (develop before Jan 2002) rated EI 50
When I first used Agfapan APX 100 in its incarnation as Rollei Retro 100, I didn't have much occasion to push the film, shooting just one roll at anything other than box speed: this I rated at an exposure index of 200 as, if I remember rightly, I didn't have any faster films at the time for shooting on an overnight bicycle journey - although I didn't take many pictures during the night itself, more in the early grey dawn hours.

Agfa Optima Sensor with Rollei Retro 100, rated 200
Last year, with the second roll of APX 100 with the develop before date of January 2002, I found myself in a similar situation: taking photographs in a dark interior; with the film already loaded into the Kiev-4, this was not ideal, and I wouldn't normally push expired film this old, especially two stops, but this was a compromise which produced generally acceptable results, with the caveat that there was also some patches of bright sunlight in the otherwise dim building to complicate the exposures, and the density of these highlights rendered noise in the scanning of the negatives.

Kiev-4 with Agfapan APX 100, rated 400
As I stated in the introduction to this post, this is not a comparison of AgfaPhoto APX 100 with the original Agfapan APX 100: despite the name, these are different films. From what I've read, Adox Silvermax is close to the original APX 100 emulsion, so a comparison between these two films might have been instructive, and the qualities that I like in Silvermax do seem to be present in APX 100. However, that may not be an entirely equal contest, given that Silvermax is a new film, still very much in production at the time of writing, whereas the most recent stocks of APX 100 would now be coming up to a decade and a half old, and, although, backing paper issues aside, most of the old Agfapan APX 100 I've used has lasted well so far, using existing old stocks of the film such as may still be around must be approached with a little caution - as with any films a fair number of years past their 'develop before' date.

Kiev-4 rangefinder with Agfapan APX 100 (develop before Jan 2002) rated 80
Canon A-1 with Agfapan APX 100 (develop before Jan 2002) rated 100
Kodak Retina IIa with Agfapan APX 100 (as Rollei Retro 100)
Agfa Optima Sensor with Agfapan APX 100 (as Rollei Retro 100) rated EI 200
Kiev-4 rangefinder with Agfapan APX 100 (develop before Jan 2002) rated EI 400
Baby Ikonta with cut down Agfapan APX 100 (127 format)
Zodel Baldalux with Agfapan APX 100 (6x9 medium format)
Glunz Mod 0 with Agfapan APX 100 (6.5x9cm sheet film)
Kodak Recomar 33 with 9x12cm Agfapan APX 100
Rietzschel Heli-Clack with 9x12cm Agfapan APX 100
Voigtländer Avus with 9x12cm Agfapan APX 100

Monday, 29 April 2019

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2019

Flights of Fancy pinhole camera with variable contrast paper
A couple of weeks prior to yesterday's Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I was given a Flights of Fancy pinhole photography kit, as well as an already constructed camera, which must have come from a second kit. The box itself contains everything necessary to build the camera and shoot and develop paper negatives: six sides of fibreboard that slot together to make the camera, a cover for the pinhole, a cardboard insert that the user pierces for the pinhole and which also holds the photographic paper, included, against the back of the camera for exposure. The kit contains three plastic trays, tongs, developer, fix, red gel to make a safelight and a booklet with a potted history of photography and full instructions. Although it's possible to use the camera simply held together with rubber bands, the constructed one had been glued. For the photographs, I used an already opened packet of 3x3-inch variable contrast paper which must have come with the kit of the already-constructed camera.

Flights of Fancy pinhole photography kit
I hadn't made any tests before using the camera yesterday; I also did not measure the pinhole to ascertain its f-stop, and simply made exposures based on the guidelines in the instruction booklet; the weather was mostly overcast and the recommendations given were for 60 seconds 'overcast', or two minutes for 'dull daylight'. Rather than use the trays and chemicals provided (the developer bottle rattled when shaken, indicating that some of the chemical constituents had crystallised), I stand developed the paper in Ilfotec LC29 diluted 1+100, for one hour. The instructions with the kit suggest making contact prints on the paper provided; I scanned the paper negatives instead, and these scans were inverted with Photoshop to create positives.

Flights of Fancy pinhole camera with variable contrast paper
Flights of Fancy pinhole camera with variable contrast paper
Flights of Fancy pinhole camera with variable contrast paper
For a beginner, within its limitations, the Flights of Fancy pinhole kit might be a worthwhile introduction to pinhole photography. Although the exposures I'd estimated were not all that accurate,  I've posted the images here as I was following the guidelines provided with the kit, rather than relying on experience, partly to test the instructions. I can also envision a few ways in which the kit could also be modified - a metal pinhole rather than black card, better seals to prevent light leaks, and a tripod fitting, for example (I rested the camera on any flat surface available during exposure, and the rubber band, around the whole body to keep the top secure meant that it did not sit entirely flat, leading to the camera shake seen in the second to last image above).

MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
However, needing to unload and reload the Flights of Fancy box camera in a changing bag for each shot meant that I only exposed four sheets of paper with it over the course of the day; I also used a pinhole lensboard on my MPP Micro-Technical Mark VIII to shoot some paper negatives and a roll of medium format Ilford HP5 Plus. With HP5 Plus, the exposures were metered and measured out in seconds rather than minutes, the paper needed considerably longer. The weather was mostly overcast, with some very brief sunshine, at the tail end of a storm that had passed over the UK; for some shots I was concerned about wind shaking the tripod, although the softness of the pinhole images probably disguises this more than adequately.

MPP Micro-Technical camera with grade 2 Ilfospeed paper
For the paper negatives with the MPP, I used a home-made 9x12cm-to-4x5 inch adaptor; I had originally made this to use the Rada rollfilm back on the MPP with a 6x6 mask, but 9x12cm plate would also fit. Shooting long exposures outside showed that this was not especially light-tight when the darkslides of the holders were removed, and some of the paper negatives were spoiled with light leaks, present on the two images shown here to a greater or lesser degree. The paper I used for these was from an old box of grade 2 Ilfospeed resin coated paper which has a label dating to 1977; I also flashed the paper in the darkroom. As with the Flights of Fancy camera, the 9x12cm paper negatives were stand developed in Ilfotec LC29 diluted 1+100, for one hour, as a means to reduce contrast further.

MPP Micro-Technical camera with grade 2 Ilfospeed paper
In the past when using a pinhole with the MPP Micro-Technical camera, I have tended to position the lensboard at a 'normal' focal length (150mm-180mm); when shooting yesterday, I used 50mm-75mm, partly to facilitate shorter exposure times. Although both the 9x12cm paper negatives and the rollfilm represented some cropping on the 4x5-inch format, the 6x9cm frames of the latter considerably so, at these focal lengths, all the shots could firmly be defined as wide angle. I very rarely use wide angle lenses in any format, and I did find it hard to compose the shots with this in mind; however, with the relatively short exposures provided by using HP5 Plus - in comparison to the paper negatives - that the skies have relatively good definition (which in retrospect could have been improved using a yellow filter with little effect on exposure times) almost certainly adds structurally to what the compositions are lacking in the subject matter, the one exception from these considerations being the shot, immediately below, of a tree, where the wide angle emphasises the splaying of both roots and branches.

MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
MPP Micro-Technical camera with Ilford HP5 Plus

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Rollei 16 Cassettes

Super 16 Cassette loaded with Ilford Pan F film
I wrote my original post about the Rollei 16 subminiature camera after a moderately intensive period of using the camera during which, as I did not have any of the Rada 16 cassettes for the camera, I could only shoot one roll of film before needing to unload the camera in the darkroom or darkbag. Unlike many other subminiature cameras using 16mm film, the Rollei 16 is loaded with a single cassette into which the film is rewound after being shot. The same cassettes were used for at least two other cameras, the Edixa 16 and the Goldammer Goldeck 16; however, these rarely appear in online auctions, and when they do are often priced highly. Having been looking for the cassettes for some time, I chanced upon an auction listing in which another Rollei 16 was being sold along with some rolls of unexposed film in the original cassettes. Winning the auction, I subsequently sold on the camera, and, as the cassettes were loaded with film from the 1970s and 1980s, I waited for an appropriate occasion to use the films. This was 'Expired Film Day' last month.

Super 16 Cassette loaded with Vericolor II film
There were four rolls of film that came with the camera I'd bought: two boxes with 100 ASA colour negative film (which was Vericolor II Professional Type S) with a develop before date of August 83; and one box, a 'twin pack' with two rolls - the box itself was labelled as Ilford Pan F, develop before October 74, but one of the rolls inside turned out to be Ilfochrome colour transparency film. The black and white film box had a price label from a French shop, the colour films from a German one. The long four sides of the boxes (almost the same dimensions as a standard 35mm film carton) have the same information in German, French, English and Spanish; leaflets inside are also in Italian and Dutch. The Vericolor films were in white plastic tubs very much like those which 35mm film now comes in; the films inside the Pan F box were in smaller metal screw-top containers, perhaps indicating their age from a decade before, as similar to the metal containers 35mm films were protected with. The Pan F box has the information "Packed by Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke Braunschweig West Germany", while the colour film boxes explicitly states "cut, respooled, repacked by Rollei-Werke [...] wholly independently of original manufacturer." This information could suggest that Pan F film was available in 16mm at the time, as it was only 'packed'; it is also interesting to note that Franke & Heidecke continued to support the Rollei 16 at least a decade after the second model, the Rollei 16 S, had been discontinued.

I happened to be in Gdansk, Poland on Expired Film Day this year, and dutifully shot the three different expired films there on the day (one Vericolor roll remained unshot); for the remainder of my time in Gdansk, I reloaded the cassettes with 16mm Eastman Double-X (I usually take a dark bag with me when travelling for more than a couple of days). The Rada 16 cassettes have a central spool with a white snap-in 'plug' that secured the tapered end of the original films; when reloading I simply taped the end of the film to this. The Rollei 16 requires perforations to advance the film, so one has to pay attention to the orientation of the film when taping and loading - perforations are at the bottom of the film when loaded into the camera.

Rada 16 Cassette opened
When rewinding the film after shooting, the Rollei 16 revealed one more curious design decision: the rewind crank will only turn when the viewfinder is extended. Flipping over the rewind crank extends two pins which connect either side of a tab on the spool inside the cassettes; both ends of the spool have this tab, so it can be used either way around.

Rollei 16 opened, showing rewind pins extended
Returning from Gdansk, I had expectations that the Pan F film would most likely provide the best results: I had rated it at 25 and 12 EI to compensate for age, but after development, I pulled the film out of the tank to find the whole roll black. Possibly it had been unspooled at some point over the last four decades. This does not promise well for the colour films, which I haven't yet developed; in lieu of illustrating this post with images from Expired Film Day, other shots re-using the cassettes with Eastman Double-X will have to suffice.

Thursday, 4 April 2019


There are many specifically film-based photography accounts on Instagram; I've added my own account under the handle parallel_movement. Over the years, I've selectively adopted different platforms (having written this blog for more than eight years with fair to regular consistency), but the main reason for not joining Instagram is that, at the time of writing, I don't have a smartphone and have no intention of possessing one in the foreseeable future. It is of course possible to run an Instagram account without a smartphone with some work-arounds; I've created the account in part to help promote the Undertow exhibition, open until 13th April (at Sluice HQ, 171 Morning Lane, London), in which I am showing a series of prints made in the darkroom - but as it's not a show about photography, and, as such, not everything I have been posting is just film photography - but a fair proportion is. I can't say how the account might develop, or how committed I feel towards it at this stage - but it exists.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

'Take Your Box Camera To Play Day' 2019

Thornton Pickard Stereo Puck stereo pair on Ilford HP5 Plus 
Following February's Take Your Box Camera To Work Day, last weekend was Take Your Box Camera To Play Day. For this - perhaps a little more unusual than my other box cameras - I used a Thornton-Pickard Stereo Puck, a wooden-bodied stereo box camera from the early 1930s, which takes 120 film, and shoots eight 6x4.5cm stereo pairs on a roll. 'Work' and 'play' were slippery terms in regards to the day itself, as I was at the exhibition at Sluice HQ for much of the day, and took some shots there, and then afterwards.

This was the first roll of film shot with the Stereo Puck, and it showed up some issues with focus, possibly due to film flatness, and some deep scratches through the film. My version of the camera has a close-up filter, which I used in taking the shot with the blossom below, of which the focus appears best; without the close up filter, the lenses do not appear to resolve an image at infinity, possibly fixed at an intermediate distance. The two frames do not quite align vertically, something I've corrected in making the anaglyph images, five from the roll of film I considered worth posting; the stereo pairs are also posted on my Flickr stream.