I have been thinking about trying some orthochromatic film for a while, attracted by the idea of high contrast and resolution, and so when I placed my last order for films I threw in a couple of rolls of Rollei Ortho 25. Orthochromatic film is an old fashioned sort of emulsion sensitive only to blue and green light, so the main effects you would notice are that red parts of a scene are reproduced very dark in comparison to a modern panchromatic B&W film, and blue regions correspondingly brighter. This is responsible for the common look in early (up to the 1920s) photographs where the sky is nearly always completely white, and portraits where the lips are very dark.
I’ve now had a chance to shoot one of them off with the Bronica so I thought a quick post was in order to put down my thoughts on the results. I didn’t venture outside the house or garden while using up the roll, but if you’re trying out a new medium, it makes sense to shoot something familiar so you have a reasonable basis for comparison.
I didn’t have any special developer, I just used Rodinal at 1+50 dilution and gave it 6 minutes – the Massive Dev Chart suggested either 6 or 10 minutes for that dilution, but as my tap water was at about 22C I figured 6 minutes would sit neatly between the two. One surprise at this stage was the anti-halation dye running out bright red with the developer, but other than that everything was normal for wash and fix.
Visual inspection looked good apart from a couple of frames where I’d clearly underestimated the exposure required, and my hopes for lots of detail looked good. The film base is very clear with a pinkish hue, and scans very well, although it is very curly.
After looking at the 2400dpi scans I am in no way disappointed. The resolution is incredible – the frosty grass shot above has a link to the full-size image on its flickr page if you’re curious, and bear in mind I haven’t applied any sharpening. The high contrast is also lovely, which gives the leaf close-up a real silvery sheen, when coupled with the dark tones recorded due to it’s reddish brown colour. More to come – and I have a second roll to load up and take out and about for some more varied shots now that I have some idea what to expect.