Late in 2013, three new black and white films were launched by Maco in 35mm and roll film formats. Designated Rollei RPX 25, 100 & 400, it is RPX 25 that was of most interest for me. Agfa discontinued their own APX 25 years ago and I have missed it, it was one of my favourite emulsions for pictorial subjects, being more forgiving of contrast than PanF, which I never really got on with. The first impression is that RPX 25 is packaged almost identically to Ilford films, the plastic canister is the same and the processing information printed on the inside of the carton lists Ilford developers alongside the Rollei developers. This all suggests that RPX 25 is genetically related to PanF. The acetate film base is noticeably thinner than Ilford FP4+, HP5+ and Fuji Acros 100.
I took a first roll in my Leica MP with me on a walk in the Peak District on a dull and wet April day, my rationale being that if this film produces high contrast negatives, as PanF does, then I should get a feel for it in flat light conditions. I rated it at the nominal 25 iso and with either a Heliopan orange or green filter in open shade I was typically getting exposure readings of around 1/8 sec at f8. Clearly this is not a general purpose walk-around film and requires some pre-planning about when and how it will be used.
I processed the film in Pyro for 7 minutes. My routine with Pyro is 30 seconds continuous agitation and one inversion every 5 seconds thereafter. It’s a lot of movement, but does maintain consistency and even development and staining. The negatives appeared from the tank with an olive green hue and very good staining. Scanned on my Imacon, the previews revealed exactly what I was expecting to see. The negatives were very high in contrast and did require a fair bit of adjustment, but the good news is both highlight and shadow detail are retained and with correct exposure in flat-lit scenes the contrast characteristics of RPX 25 should not be too much of an issue. It would be worth taking some time experimenting with different dilutions for controlling contrast with staining developers.
The film base is clear and has a tendency to curl moderately, even after being weighted for drying. The sharpness and absence of grain from this combination of emulsion and developer is quite astonishing, with my hybrid workflow (wet process, scan, post process & print), the only way you will have visible grain is to add it digitally and these first results are amongst the sharpest negatives with the highest detail I have ever seen from scanned 35mm black and white film. In the right conditions with careful handling and good technique at each stage of the imaging process, Rollei RPX 25 35mm film is capable of producing results that are close to medium format, but it will catch you out when the scene contrast isn’t ideal. Just remember to take your tripod and cable release with you!
Shacklow Wood Mill on a dull, wet day, Leica MP with CV 28mm f3.5 Color-Skopar lens and Heliopan green filter. Sharp detail and contrast are exceptional with Rollei RPX 25.
The boat house in early evening falling light with top shade. Leica MP with 50mm Elmar-M f2.8 lens and Heliopan orange filter. Again, the contrast and detail is remarkable and the pictorial and fine art quality of RPX 25 is excellent.
The well-photographed weir in Monsal Dale. This image was taken in very dull conditions during steady rain. With such a slow emulsion, RPX 25 encourages a considered and methodical approach to photography. With the right combination of light, subject and developing method it is an outstanding film and a very welcome addition to our shrinking pool of black and white negative raw materials.