Saturday, 21 September 2019

Ilford Pan 400

Ilford Pan 400
Having used Ilford Pan 100 last year, and from the research online for my post on the film, I wrote then that "Pan 400 appears to be a bit more popular, or at least seems to come up more often than Pan 100"; as a companion piece to my tests of Ilford Pan 100, it was natural to want to do the same for the 400-speed film. I bought my Ilford Pan 400 at Process Supplies Ltd where I'd also got the Pan 100 film previously; when buying the film, I was told that the Ilford Pan films are to be discontinued in favour of the two Kentmere films, Kentmere 100 and 400. The implication from this is that the Pan films and Kentmere films are not the same emulsion, although it's not exactly clear how different they may be: the two brands do have different development times. To support the idea that the Kentmere films are replacing the Ilford Pan films, the Kentmere films have recently had their packaging redesigned - and the words 'PAN 100' and 'PAN 400' are as prominent as the Kentmere brand: on Ilford's website, there's a post from last year about the redesign that states "Kentmere 100 and 400 are now officially known as Kentmere PAN 100 and PAN 400..."

As I wrote in my post on Pan 100, the Ilford Pan films have not been generally available in the UK; the data sheet states that:

The ILFORD range of PAN 100 and PAN 400 black and white camera films are not generally distributed and sold worldwide, they are only made available in selected markets.

Like Pan 100, Ilford Pan 400 is a traditional, cubic-type emulsion black and white film from Harman under the Ilford brand, 'Pan', an abbreviation of panchromatic, is indicative of the basic nature of these films. A thread on the Amateur Photographer forum quotes an unattributed 'Ilford employee' on the Ilford Pan films that: "They are based on FP4+ and HP5+ technology, but are produced to lower specifications and tolorances [sic]. There are also a few posts online that suggest the Ilford Pan films were discontinued some years ago and I speculated in my post on Pan 100 that production might have ceased for a period - a data sheet from 2002 mentions both 35mm and 120 - the films are only available in 35mm, for the time being of course. By contrast to the Ilford Pan 100 films that I used last year, the Pan 400 that I used this year had no printing inside the box - an indication of imminent discontinuation perhaps, or just their budget status.

As is my usual approach when testing a new film, I made a latitude test, rating the film successively from an exposure index of 100 through to 3200, in effect going from two stops over-exposed to three stops underexposed. Developing times for Ilford Pan 400 (and Pan 100) are not listed on Ilford's standard development chart listing their other Ilford-branded films (except Ortho Copy Plus); for this post I used times from the Massive Dev Chart (the data sheet from 2002 does give times - the same as on the Massive Dev Chart - for Ilford Pan 400 at meter settings from 200 to 3200). The film for the latitude test was developed in RO9 One Shot at a dilution of 1+25 for 6 minutes at 20ºC.

Ilford Pan 400 latitude test
The test showed the film to have reasonably good latitude: two stops overexposed and the compression of tones towards the highlights begins to become unattractive; underexposed, shadow detail starts to be lost, although in scanning the negatives it was possible to pull out more detail. Inevitably, with a lower contrast subject, over- and underexposure have less effect than higher contrast subjects - the top row on the contact sheet above is higher in contrast, with brighter highlights and deeper shadows; the subject in the second row is more even across the frame.

Ilford Pan 400, two stops overexposed
Ilford Pan 400, three stops underexposed
Following the latitude test, I wanted to try both push- and pull-processing. Pull-processing tends to be less demanded by shooting conditions, though with a 400-speed film there may be occasions when it might be advisable. I shot one roll of Ilford Pan 400, rated 200 and developed in RO9 One Shot at a dilution of 1+25 for 5 minutes and 30 seconds at a temperature of 19ºC. Pull-processing does reduce contrast, but faster films are inherently lower in contrast than slow films, so this may be less necessary as a result. Some of the shots on this roll were on subjects with differing degrees of contre-jour illumination; the pull-processing may have helped a little here, though the second shot below, with a brightly lit late afternoon sky towards a low sun would always be problematic in terms of retaining detail across the frame: a simple scan of the negative (as is the case here) might not be as good as a darkroom print, albeit no doubt needing plenty of burning-in for the sky, and possibly spilt-grade contrast printing too.

Ilford Pan 400, exposed at EI 200 and pull-processed
Ilford Pan 400, exposed at EI 200 and pull-processed
For push-processing, a test for a one stop push to 800 did not seem necessary: frames rated at 800 on the latitude test showed a reasonably full range of tones without extra development. I did push the film to 1600 and 3200 respectively, using Ilfotec LC29 as a developer for these tests rather than RO9. The two-stop push to 1600 emphasised the grain but not unattractively so; the increased contrast made for negatives which were easy to scan. I shot most of these in the British Museum, with some galleries being illuminated with low-light levels, making the two-stop push an ideal compromise.

Ilford Pan 400, rated 1600, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 14m at 20ºC
I then shot a roll at 3200, some at dusk on an overcast day, some on the London Underground. With a three-stop push, the contrast of some subjects meant an inevitable lack of shadow detail, but, again, the push-processing here was an acceptable compromise.

Ilford Pan 400, rated 3200, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+9, 11m at 20ºC
Ilford Pan 400, rated 3200, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+9, 11m at 20ºC
Ideally, this post would then test the Kentmere Pan 400 film to compare it with Ilford Pan 400; I suspect that for most uses, the differences would not be significant: both films are fast, traditional black and white panchromatic emulsions at a lower price than Ilford HP5 Plus or Kodak Tri-X. Generally, the results with Ilford Pan 400 were perfectly acceptable, if lacking anything to distinguish it from other lower-priced black and white films that seem to have proliferated in recent years. In my post on its slower companion, Pan 100, I wrote how that film reminded me of the Foma films in terms of grain; by comparison, Ilford Pan 400 doesn't seem to me as alike to Fomapan 400: Pan 400's grain is perhaps a little more regular, a little less gritty. Perversely, perhaps, I found the results when either pull- or push processing more to my liking: down rated, the grain feels a little tighter, smoother, while pushing the film a couple of stops gives the negatives enough of a contrast boost to make the images feel tonally more dynamic as well as providing better results from a straight scan (of course, mush also depends on the subject contrast of the original scene photographed). Again, ideally I would also test these assertions with printing in the darkroom too; however all the images on this post (except the contact sheet) are scanned from the negative.

Ilford Pan 400 shot with Agat 18K (half frame)
Kiev-4 with Ilford Pan 400 rated 200
Canon A-1 with Ilford Pan 400 at box speed
Canon A-1 with Ilford Pan 400 rated 1600
Canon A-1 with Ilford Pan 400 rated 3200
Ilford Pan 100 and Pan 400 data sheet (PDF)

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

July's #ShittyCameraChallenge


After being awarded second prize for May's #ShittyCameraChallenge, shooting with the Wide Pic Panoramic camera for July's challenge, I wasn't expecting to be placed (my entries weren't perhaps as gimmicky as those with the Action Sampler in May) but when the results were announced, I found I'd come second again; July's first prize winner was @VisualSly - and there was a third prize this time around that went to @Grrlish (winning second prize - for a second time  - for some reason made me think of a Pot Noodle advert from the 1990s with Peter Baynham dressed as a Pot Noodle shouting out of a car window at a runner being left behind "SILVER! SILVER!"). July's 'mystery' second prize arrived today, again donated by @196photo and again all beautifully wrapped: another thematically-appropriate book of humour, Pring's Photographer's Miscellany, and, individually wrapped in an Analogue Wonderland box, another four different rolls of 35mm film, Fomapan 200, Kodak Gold 200, Ilford Pan 100 (which I used quite a lot last year), and there was again a roll of film new to me - JCH Streetpan 400 - as well as Ilford FP4 and HP5 badges - and a 'Pile of Poop' game.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

'Wide Pic' Panoramic Camera

'Wide Pic' Panoramic Camera
The title of this post has the words 'Wide Pic' with inverted commas, as this appears to be a genuine no-name camera, at least in the variant I've been using this past month for July's #ShittyCameraChallenge. It's listed on Camera-Wiki as the Panorama Wide Pic, and the term 'Wide Pic' is probably what it's best known as, or at least this brings up numerous results in an online search. With the printing on the camera itself, it seems to me that the makers of this particular camera are describing naming the lens 'Wide Pic', and that perhaps 'Panorama' next to the viewfinder may be the camera's intended name, written in a Cinerama-style expansive logotype. However the camera box has the phrase 'Panoramic Camera' written on it in large letters and the description below (with capitals) as a "35mm Panoramic Camera".

'Wide Pic' Panoramic Camera box
The box reveals little else about the camera: the number 41-665 on the side is presumably a production code or stock number. There's no manufacturer's name nor country of origin on either box or camera (although intriguingly there is a lightly recessed rounded rectangle on the bottom of the camera which is where one might expect an engraved serial number or alternatively a 'Made in..." legend - but there is a serial number printed inside the camera back). Camera-Wiki also has an entry for an Ultronic Panoramic camera, which is the same camera with a grey-silver face and different printing (and the name Ultronic Panoramic is printed in the same place that 'Panorama' is on the camera in this post); the 'Wide Pic' variant also has different coloured faces, with the back part of the cameras moulded in black. The camera is almost entirely plastic in construction, almost certainly dating from the 1990s when the panoramic format became popular, most notably through the panoramic format included in the short-lived APS system.

Wide Pic camera open to show frame mask
This camera creates a panoramic effect by masking the top and bottom of a standard 35mm frame and producing an image 13mm high by 36mm long. On Camera-Wiki the Ultronic-branded variant is listed as having a 28mm lens, giving a wide angle field of view, appropriate to the panoramic feel. The focal plane is curved to compensate for the limitations of the lens; the lens itself has elements either side of an internal aperture stop. The masking is moulded separately from the camera's rear body section, and looks as though this could be removed completely, thus giving a full-frame wide-angle camera.

Top view
The camera has a fixed focus, a fixed aperture lens and, with a single shutter speed (these are given as f11 and 1/125th on Camera-Wiki), gives the camera the simplest of user controls. The lens has a sliding cover which, when closed, also blocks the shutter release button. Frame advance is manual with a thumbwheel rather than a lever; there is a small frame counter window on the top of the camera, with economic numerals marking every third frame. Rewind is also manual, with a button to depress before rewinding on top of the camera, indicated by a symbol no doubt more familiar from an LCD screen of rather more sophisticated cameras of the same era.

Camera back with format label
The viewfinder is a reverse-Gallilean type, relatively small but clear. The back of the camera has a door latch, a label giving instructions to the user to request panoramic format when processing film and also has a film cassette window to remind the user if the camera is loaded or not.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
For the first roll through the camera, I used Fomapan 400, and, aptly, this was one of the rolls in my second prize package prize from May's #ShittyCameraChallenge - and I decided to shoot with the camera for July's #ShittyCameraChallenge. With regards to this, there's a price written in pencil on the box - £2.50 - which qualifies the Wide Pic camera on the criterion that the value is markedly increased once one puts a roll of film inside, let alone its other, obvious 'qualities'. The results with the Fomapan 400 adequately demonstrated all the design flaws embedded in the camera. That the camera simply crops the negative, using half the available area to create the panoramic look (as well as needlessly wasting photographic material) means that the negatives have around half the possible definition of the 35mm format; using Fomapan 400 developed in RO9 provided very pronounced grain relative to the image size as a result.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
The lens, despite the curved focal plane, has a clear falling-off of both illumination and definition towards both edges of the frame. In addition, the 'focus-free' boast of the camera is dependent on the depth of field provided by the short focal length of the wide-angle lens combined with a relatively small aperture - and the lens being positioned at a hyperfocal distance. However, the 'Wide Pic' camera appears to have the lens set at a distance whereby any relatively far distances are not in focus at all, as in the image above. The focus of the lens seems to be roughly positioned at around 2 metres, if not a little closer, which is not untypical of a cheap snapshot camera, designed no doubt for taking photographs of people, groups rather than portraits, such as what one might take on holiday. However, the panoramic format itself suggests that, for many users, this particular camera might not be ideally suited for photographing people, and therefore the lens seems to be set at the wrong focal distance for the kind of pictures that the camera otherwise would inspire. In the shot below the road sign to the left of centre is just discernibly more in focus than the houses behind.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
When shooting the first roll of film, I had thought that I would try a slower film next, in order to have finer-grained results to make up for the smaller negative format, but on developing the film I found that the frames shot in overcast conditions were thin, and even some shot in sunny conditions had little to no detail in deep shadows, as in the image below, taken early evening with weak sunlight, but sunlight nonetheless. This suggests that perhaps either the aperture may be smaller than f11, or the shutter speed is faster than 1/125th, or a little of both - the shots with subjects in full sunlight on a 400-speed film do not look overexposed.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
For a second roll of film, I used Ilford HP5 Plus, which, in general, resulted in better images. This was partly due to HP5 Plus having better latitude than Fomapan 400, and partly due to simply knowing what subjects were better suited to the camera's limitations after shooting my first roll with the camera.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Overall, there are many poor design decisions built into the camera: the focus the lens is set to, the poor definition of the lens itself, the lack of any exposure controls, and the waste of film that the masked format requires. The ergonomics of the camera aren't ideal either: the wide angle lens means it is relatively easy to get fingers in the edge of the shot - there is a shallow finger rest (rather than strictly a grip) for the right hand, but as the lens is offset towards the right hand side of the camera instead of being centred, it does need a little care not to hold it in such a way that this may be a problem. The wide angle lens also is prone to flare when shooting into the light. However, using the Wide Pic, like many a point and shoot camera, but especially so given its elongated image format, simply requires one to think about composition and light above all else.

Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Fomapan 400
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Wide Pic Panoramic camera with Ilford HP5 Plus
Sources/further reading:
Camera-Wiki: Panorama Wide Pic & Ultronic Panoramic entries
Panorama Wide Pic on Canny Cameras
Wide Pic Panoramic camera vs Fuji TX-1 by Ryan Minchin



Friday, 19 July 2019

127 Day Summer 2019

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
After my recent testing of the Rolleiflex 4x4, I naturally wanted to use it on last week's 127 Day; I didn't have any film in medium format to cut down to 127 to use on the day itself, as I might normally do. However, in cutting down 120 film to the width of 127, as the film is also longer, there's always an offcut of three or four frames, depending on the frame size of course; I did have one such short roll of Ilford FP4 Plus, which I simply shot the same scene over three frames with bracketing.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford FP4 Plus
I also shot the roll of Kodacolor II which had originally come with a Kodak Brownie 127 and which I hadn't previously used: I had low expectations for this film considering its age and that the roll of Agfacolor Special which also came with the camera and that I had short for last year's Summer 127 Day had only yielded one poorly defined image (I might have used the Kodacolor II film then had I not broken the camera). Using the Rolleiflex 4x4 did mean that I could give the film much more exposure than that of the Kodak Brownie 127 which has a single shutter speed and aperture, and so I used a tripod and bracketed exposures, erring on the side of considerable overexposure - which did provide better results than I had achieved with the Agfacolor film twelve months ago.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodacolor II
The metal spool that the film was on was rusty, and the backing paper was partially stuck to the film, although this seemed to be mostly on the reverse of the film, not the emulsion side, and could be gently rubbed off in the wash. I used stand development with the film to get a black and white negative image, successfully for a few frames, although in comparison with the image above, the one below is out focus in the central area, suggesting that film flatness was a problem, perhaps unsurprising given that the film itself had been tightly coiled around the 127 spool for forty years.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodacolor II
Most of the photographs that I took on the day were with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film cut down by hand to 127 size. This was rated at an exposure index of 2, and, having a lot of the film to play with, I also bracketed most of the shots, partially for exposure, but also, shooting long exposures on the shutter's B setting (again with a tripod), I was aware of either the possibility of inadvertent shake from holding the shutter release down (which is one reason for liking older shutters with a T setting), or from the breeze causing elements of the subject to move. As well as being very slow in terms of exposure, the Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film is also high contrast and blue sensitive, making for an interesting comparison with the black and white version of the Kodacolor II film; the shot below just holds some information in the sky, but essentially bleaches it. Other colours render in very different ways on the film: in the image at the top of the blog, the apples, although far from ripe, are a russet colour, which appears notably dark in the photographs. The look is quite different from the usual panchromatic rendering of most black and white film, and has a distinct feel, even when used for subjects where this effect isn't quite so clear. One of the problems I had when using the Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film straight after the Kodacolor II film is that there was a fair amount of dust in the camera caused by the rust from the metal spool, which caused a fair bit of spotting on subsequent frames, particularly at the edges from the spool flanges. The grain of the Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film is so fine as to be virtually invisible, at least within the scope of using a flat bed scanner with the film and this shows how well the Xenar lens on the Rolleiflex 4x4 performs: apart from the spotting - some of which may be due to development - the film's grain is so fine that there is a danger of banding in areas of smooth tonal transition, a problem I've only really experienced before with Kodak Technical Pan.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film

Friday, 12 July 2019

Rolleiflex 4x4 - the 'Grey Baby' Rolleiflex

Rolleiflex 4x4
From the Rolleiflex 6x6, which from the beginning set the pattern for the development of the twin-lens reflex camera, the Rolleiflex 4x4 has taken the basic principles of its construction.
Rolleiflex 4x4 manual
On top of being given old cameras, with something of a reputation for them, occasionally I am lent them: one such borrowed camera I have been testing recently is the Rolleiflex 4x4, a 127 rollfilm format twin-lens reflex camera from the 1950s. The camera still has its original dual-lens cap and strap, missing its clam-shell ever-ready case, and has clearly been well used, the grey leather panels wearing down to its natural colour. Inside the camera back is a dealer decal reading 'Foto-Krischker Tirschenreuth', Tirschenreuth being a small town in Bavaria close to the Czech border.

The Rollei Club website has a detailed page on the evolution of the Rolleiflex 4x4. The initial version of the camera was introduced in 1931, combining the innovations of the larger original Rolleiflex with the increasing popularity of smaller format cameras such as the Leica, amongst others, and developed through the 1930s to the early 1940s - and then brought back in 1957 with the distinctive grey leather inset panels and painted metal trim. The 'Grey Baby' or 'Baby Grey' Rolleiflex inspired a number of Japanese-made 127-format twin-lens cameras such as the Yashica 44, Primo Jr, and the Waltz Automat 44, often in grey. The grey version of the Rolleiflex 4x4 had a much larger production run than any previous model, over 60,000; it was superseded by a final black version with the same specifications from 1963, in much smaller numbers - less than 5,000, and finally discontinued in 1968. All versions of the camera were simply called Rolleiflex 4x4 by Franke & Heidecke/Rollei, but with codes for internal use: the final camera, whether grey or black, is the K5 model. However, the Rolleiflex 4x4 is colloquially and commonly known as the 'Baby' Rolleiflex, although never officially named as such; by contrast Zeiss Ikon adopted the 'Baby' prefix for their 127 cameras based on larger original versions, such as the Baby Box Tengor. Perhaps, unlike Zeiss Ikon - catering for all pockets - aiming at a wealthier customer Rollei disdained the colloquialism of the word 'Baby'.

Rolleiflex 4x4
The Rolleiflex 4x4 cameras are as well designed and constructed as the larger 120 cameras, and with similar specifications. Pre-war Rolleiflex 4x4s all had Tessar lenses; the post-war model features a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar f3.5 lens with a focal length of 60mm (the serial number of this particular camera's lens dates it to 1958, fairly early in production); the viewing lens is a faster Rollei Heidosmat f2.8. The lens will focus down to 1 metre, and the focus knob has a depth of field scale around it and includes a film speed reminder for ASA and DIN. The shutter is a Synchro-Compur with speeds from 1-500, plus B. There is flash sync with a PC socket and a switch for electronic flash or flash bulbs which also has 'V' for the self timer. There is a small button underneath the shutter surround to change this switch. The threaded shutter release is angled upwards and slightly out from the body under the taking lens.

One feature of the Grey Baby Rolleflex 4x4 which firmly locates it as a 1950s-designed camera is its coupled LV (Light Value) system. Aperture and shutter speeds are linked together, so a number of combinations of the two can be selected which will give the same effective exposure. Many cameras during the 1950s and 60s used such systems before this fell out of favour; most contemporary commentators online seem to conceive of the LV shutter-aperture linkage as a solution to a problem that barely exists. On one side of the taking lens the LV numbers run from 2 to 18 with a dot to indicate the selected number; the other side of the shutter has the aperture and shutter speed settings.

Rolleiflex 4x4 aperture and shutter speed selectors
The aperture ring has a raised section with a grip which needs to be depressed to turn this separately from the shutter speed section in front: on the other side of the shutter this moves the red dot in relation to the LV numbers to select the exposure; it is possible to select intermediate aperture stops.
The back of the camera has a detailed exposure guide, essentially a sophisticated version of the 'sunny 16' rule, with subjects and lighting conditions, which, when correlated with film speed and adjusted for time of day, produce a number to set on the LV scale of the shutter.

Rolleiflex 4x4 exposure guide
One final observation about the LV scale worth noting is that the shutter has a series of numbers picked out in green beyond the 'B' setting, representing whole seconds for calculating long exposures (as the shutter has 1 second as its lowest speed, the 'B' setting actually represents 2 seconds on the LV scale).

Rolleiflex 4x4 viewfinder
Opening the lens hood reveals the ground glass screen viewfinder with a subtle grid to aid composition; pushing on the front of the viewfinder hood flips up a magnifier to aid focus; pushing the front through until it locks down converts this into the sports finder. The magnifier can be slipped out to replace this with corrective lenses to compensate for eyesight; pushing in the hinges on either side of the hood collapses the whole. The viewfinder has parallax compensation, though on examining the camera it isn't obvious how this is achieved, but possibly through a subtle movement of the focus screen, not dissimilar to the parallax compensation with the Rollei 16.

Opening the camera, the base around the tripod mount has a rotating lever, turning anti-clockwise, to push forward the hinged latch which, when flipped, allows the whole bottom and back to be lifted upwards opening the camera to load the film. Film travels from bottom to top in the camera, both spool holders flip out in different ways to enable loading and unloading. The frame counter is entirely automatic, without a red window. Once loaded and closed, the film is advanced until the numeral 1 appears in the counter window and the advance knob stops until the shutter is released; the shutter release is locked when the viewfinder hood is down. Without a film in the camera, the counter shows '0' and the shutter can be cocked by turning the advance knob and released as normal. The pre-war Rolleiflex 4x4 cameras had an advance lever, but the post-war version has a knob instead (many of the Japanese 4x4 TLR cameras did have advance levers however), more like the contemporary  Rolleicord cameras, yet the 4x4 retains the Rolleiflex name.

Rolleiflex 4x4 - back open
With the back open, two small levers to the right of the film window can be seen. One appears to be a feeler for the film; the second appears to be a lever that, when released by opening the back, resets the film counter. When first testing the camera, the shutter seemed to stick at all speeds; after thinking that this was simply the fact that, after sixty years, the shutter needed to be stripped down and cleaned, I moved the flash sync switch to the bulb position - and the shutter works as accurately as one might expect, even at slow speeds. Evidently the electronic flash sync seems to conflict with the shutter mechanism and as this hasn't turned up in searching for shutter problems, so this might just be an idiosyncratic issue with this particular camera.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford HP5 Plus
With the first roll of film through the camera (a short off-cut of cut-down Ilford HP5 Plus), the qualities of the Rolleiflex 4x4 are immediately apparent. The 127 rollfilm format - in all its standard frame sizes, 6x4, 4x4, and 3x4 - provides larger images than the standard 35mm frame; set against this is the fact that many, if not most, cameras designed around the 127 format tend towards the cheaper end of the consumer market, inevitably not fully taking advantage of the larger negative area. In the image above (which could of course be shot on finer-grained film than HP5 Plus) the sharpness of the Xenar lens is clear despite the nondescript subject matter. The camera sits well in the hand, perhaps easier to operate than larger 120 format camera, supported by the right hand, focus by the left, the shutter release positioned to be operated by the right thumb, and switching support from one hand to other to advance the film simple enough.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with 35mm Ilford Pan 100
As well as medium format film cut down to 127, I also ran a roll of 35mm Ilford Pan 100 through the camera and found that all the frames were out of focus in the centre; the image above was one of the more in-focus frames. Having used 35mm rolled with 127 backing paper previously, I was surprised to find this happen with the Rolleiflex, although I have had similar issues when using 120 film with 116 backing paper, as the smaller width of the film is not supported at the sides with the result that film flatness suffers. However, the 116 frame is nearly three times longer than the nominal 4x4 size with the Rollieflex 4x4. Other 127 cameras seem to be better at this, with the V. P. Twin possibly being the exception, but not consistent. When using the camera with cut-down medium format film and 127 backing paper, the main problem that cropped up was that the first frame did not align correctly with the start of the film, resulting in half an image with the tape visible; this may be down to the film not being taped to exactly the right position on the backing paper.

The Rolleiflex 4x4 is clearly one of the most sophisticated 127 format cameras ever made; some of the Japanese 4x4 TLR cameras do have light meters, the only feature that could be thought of as lacking from the Rolleiflex. This last iteration of the Rolleiflex 4x4, coming at the time that cameras began to feature built-in light meters, was perhaps popular enough at the height of the late 1950s 4x4 twin-lens reflex craze for there to be little impetus to develop the camera any further. As with other Rollei cameras, there is an attention to detail in the construction and manufacture that occasionally feels like over-engineering, but solid enough to inspire confidence and small enough for portability, perhaps able, briefly, to compete with the sophisticated 35mm cameras of their time. As a result, the Rolleiflex 4x4 is still an eminently usable 127 camera, continued access to 127 film notwithstanding.

Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford FP4 Plus
Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford HP5 Plus

Sources/further reading:
The Rollei Club on all Rolleiflex 4x4 models
Rolleiflex 4x4 manual (PDF file)
Baby Rolleiflex on onetwoseven.org
The Baby Rolleiflex on Camera-Wiki
Rolleiflex 4x4 on Mike Elek's Classic Cameras
127 film and the Rolleiflex 4x4 Rollei Users' Club
Anthony J. Oresteen - Using the 1957 Rolleiflex 4x4 "Baby" Models