Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Rollei ATO 2.1

Rollei ATO 2.1 Supergraphic film
The emulsion marketed as Rollei ATO Supergraphic 2.1 used to be available as sheet film only, under the label of Maco Genius Film, but recently Maco has made it available in 35mm and 120 formats. ATO stands for Advanced Technical Orthographic, which might lead one to suppose it's an orthographic version of Rollei ATP, suggested as a replacement film for Kodak Technical Pan. However, these are both more versatile films which can be used for pictorial contrast without too much difficulty. I've had some experience with high contrast technical films, such as the Kodagraph Ortho film and Ilfodata HS23, a document film, and the general approach to using such films for continous tone or pictorial contrast is to rate the film with a low exposure index, and then either develop with a low contrast developer, or a highly dilute compensating developer such as Rodinal, which I use. I have found Rollei ATO 2.1 more difficult to control than the other films. Maco describe it as a 'true lithfilm' and to get continous tone negatives from it requires careful attention to both exposure and development. However, the film is cheap (I bought a box of ten films with an expiry date of 08/12 for €35 from macodirect.de ) and there are some advantages to being able to handle a film under a safelight.

Nominally rated 25 ISO, (although FirstCall post its speed at 32 ISO), with Rodinal, the Massive Dev Chart recommends 1 ISO and a dilution of 1:300. Maco recommend their own Rollei RLC Low Contrast film developer for pictorial contrast, or for 'normal' development (i.e. a very high contrast, lith-film look), Rollei RHC High Contrast document developer.

Rollei ATO 2.1, exposed at 25, 12, 6, 3, and 1 EI
For a first roll to test the film, I shot it with ratings down to 1 EI, and used Rodinal with a dilution of 1:200, rather than 1:300, as this would mean very low amounts of developer: with a 3-reel Paterson tank, 1:200 works out as 6ml Rodinal to 1200ml water. I kept to the Massive Dev Chart's recommended development time of 12 minutes, using 30 seconds agitation at the beginning, and a couple of inversions every minute. The results look overdeveloped, and also overexposed at 1 EI, but by 25 EI, there is no appreciable detail in the shadows (there is also, as one might expect, grain too fine to be resolved by a relatively inexpensive flatbed scanner). As the highlights still register clearly at 25 EI, it's possible to make high-contrast images with less exposure, if printed (or scanned) appropriately. However, there was a portion of this first film subject to a light leak (which may have been 'light piping' due to the particular type of extremely clear synthetic filmbase used for ATO): this suggested one way to lower the contrast of the film would be pre-exposure.

Rollei ATO 2.1 test roll, showing light leak
The principle of pre-exposure is to determine a minimum exposure where the film gains density, and use this to expose the film uniformly, then take the photograph as normal. This has the effect of raising the shadow values, while having no appreciable effect on midtones or highlights. Pre-exposure can be achieved by exposing the film in camera to a featureless, uniform surface such as a grey card which fills the entire frame before taking the shot. This is difficult to do while the film is in a 35mm camera as most do not permit double exposures, so I exposed short lengths of the film in the darkroom using an enlarger after doing a control test. This is easy to do as it's an orthochromatic film and can be handled with a red safelight. (I also spooled some lengths of the film with 127 backing paper for the upcoming 127 Day next month).

For a second test, I shot two rolls at the same time, one pre-exposed in the darkroom. Again, I used a full range of exposure indexes: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and also 25 EI. I developed these test rolls in Rodinal 1:200 again, but reduced the time to 10 minutes at 20ºC (I also used water instead of an acidic stop bath, as the emulsion on the first roll seems to have damaged easily). The results were better, and the pre-exposure did have the desired effect of raising the shadow values. In the examples below, the pre-exposed film is on the right of each pair.

Rollei ATO 2.1 exposed at 8 EI
Rollei ATO 2.1 exposed at 16 EI
Rollei ATO 2.1 exposed at 32 EI
As I did want to try the film with Rodinal diluted 1:300, I shot another roll, split in two lengths, and pre-exposed one. To develop the film I used 4ml Rodinal to 1200ml water. Compared to my previous test, the results are disappointing. I had hoped that increasing the dilution might lower ATO's innate contrast further, but instead (or perhaps as well) the negatives are extremely thin, even in the highlight areas. This may be that there was not enough Rodinal in the working solution: as mentioned in my post on stand development, Agfa recommended a minimum amount of 10ml Rodinal per film, which is conservative, as manufacturers usually are; I've found 6ml gives sufficiently consistent results. At this point I did feel frustrated at not quite getting a working combination of exposure and development.

Heygate Estate, Rollei ATO 2.1 at 25 EI
Heygate Estate, Rollei ATO 2.1 at 25 EI with pre-exposure
For a fourth roll of film, pre-exposed in the darkroom and shot at 25 EI (with some bracketing), I went back to using Rodinal with a dilution of 1:200, and ideally I would have used 10 minutes at 20ºC, but as the weather was warm and humid, the water from the darkroom tap was 22ºC, even after letting it run for some time. I reduced the development to 8 minutes accordingly, and the results below compare favourably with those using a dilution of 1:300. The high contrast of the film does make shooting any scene of normal contrast problematic if one wants to achieve detail in shadow areas without losing it in the highlights. With a minimum of pre-exposure, I've found this possible at 25 EI, although using an exposure index of 16, 12, or even 10 might provide better results. For hand-held shots using the film with available light, the slow speed of Rollei ATO means shooting at a wide aperture and relatively slow speeds (I generally used 1/50th and no smaller aperture than f4). However, I should finish by stating that this whole post is based on achieving continuous tone negatives from this film, which is not what Rollei ATO 2.1 is designed for.

Heygate Estate, Rollei ATO 2.1 at 25 EI with pre-exposure
Heygate Estate, Rollei ATO 2.1 at 25 EI with pre-exposure

Thursday, 13 June 2013

'126 Day'

Kodak Instamatic 277X Camera
Like the '127 days' to encourage the use of the 127 format, yesterday, 12th June, for a '126 day', I shot the last 126 film left from those I had bought at a Paris flea market. I had previously used one of the films in a Kodak Instamatic 50, and found all the results underexposed. As the 126 format was designed with inexpensive snapshot cameras in mind, most have a limited capacity to adjust settings for exposure, but to get results from a colour film nearly forty years old, I wanted to increase the exposure to counter the film's inevitable loss of sensitivity.  I chose to use the Instamatic 277X above in preference to the 50 (which has just two shutter speeds), as this has an adjustable aperture. Around the lens is a band with pictograms for lighting conditions on one side (from 'beach' to 'dark cloud'), and distances for flash on the other: turning this either way has the effect of opening the aperture, which is controlled by two blades giving a square aperture when in the central position, stopped down.

Perutz Daylight Type Colour Reversal Film
I used Perutz Daylight Type Colour Reversal Film, which has a develop before date of May 1974. Originally 64 ASA, I shot the whole film with the camera's aperture at its widest setting. I had wanted to shoot the film in full sunlight, but such was the weather yesterday that I simply went for a walk and tried to shot the frames when gaps in the clouds appeared.

As colour reversal, the Perutz film was originally for slides. The film was 'process paid' and the box contains an envelope to return the film to Perutz for processing, no longer a possibility. The film also requires different chemistry to the E6 reversal process still in use today, as the Perutz film was made for Agfa's C18 process (Perutz, a photographic company founded in the 19th century, was bought out by Agfa in 1960s). Incidentally, there's an advert for Perutz slide film on YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEYv_pbmcv4

Rather than attempt to develop the film as colour reversal film, it was easier to cross-process it as a black and white negative film. Inside the 126 plastic cartridge is a roll of paper-backed film on a plastic core, rather like any older rollfilm format. The film is the same width as 35mm, which means that it can be put onto a 35mm spool for developing. I used stand development with Rodinal diluted 1:100, for 1 hour. Once developed, the film has a heavy yellow-green cast, but, by giving the film as much exposure as possible, this has resulted in usable negatives.




Recent Glass Plate Work - part two

Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9
Over the past few months of looking out for unused vintage photographic plates, I have noticed that the most common size of plates to find in online auctions (in the UK at least) are in 'quarter-plate' format (3 1/4x4 1/4 inch/8.2x10.8cm). Smaller formats, like 6.5x9cm and their Imperial equivalent are also relatively common, while 4x5 inch plates are rare in comparison. I had been intending to make adaptors for my 4x5 format holders to fit the quarter-plate size, but it was as easy to buy a camera in the right format specifically to shoot the plates: the Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9. This would have been a fairly well-featured hand-and-stand camera of its time. My model has an Aldis-Plano Anastigmat f6.8 lens in an Ensign-Sector everset shutter. The camera features double extension bellows, held by the distinctive hinged metal arms at each side, significant front rise and fall, and front cross movements.

Ilford G.30 Chromatic plate, Ensign Folding Klito
With the Ensign Folding Klito, I loaded a number of plate holders to test plates from some of the already open boxes in the quarter-plate size. Apart from the Ilford G.30 Chromatic plate, which I shot as a single exposure based on my previous experience of the plates (the results were more fogged than the other boxes I used), I made graduated tests with successive exposures on each plate. FP4 first appeared as a plate emulsion in 1955, and as Ilford's packaging changed around 1960, these plates could be dated to 1955-60 (Ilford didn't produce FP4 for roll film until 1968 - and according to Photomemorablia this was not the same emulsion as the plate version: the plates were rated 160 ASA post-1960, unlike the rollfilm FP4, which remains 125 ISO to this day in its 'Plus' iteration). For this test I rated the plate at 40, half its pre-1960 speed rating, and took four successive exposures.

Ilford FP4 plate, Ensign Folding Klito
I also had a box of Imperial Special Rapid plates, the test of which did not come out, and two boxes of Kodak plates, Kodak Orthochromatic plates and P.1200 Super Panchro Press. The Orthochromatic plate, below, was partially fogged from exposure to light: the dark diagonal line in the lower left of the picture is a shadow from the cardboard runner that usually holds the plates together in pairs (the rest of the box may be in better condition). The P.1200 Super Panchro Press plates have a handwritten date on the box '11/04/61'; the plate test below is fairly unpromising.

Kodak Orthochromatic plate, Ensign Klito
Kodak P.1200 Panchro-Press plate, Ensign Klito
Having shot the tests, I swapped the original Aldis-Plano Anastigmat f6.8, for a faster lens (to aid focussing in low light), an f4.5 Dominar from an Ica Ideal III, which, unusually for a 6.5x9cm camera, has a 120mm lens rather than the standard 105mm focal length for the 6x9 format.

Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ica Dominar lens
Entrance to a Park, FP4 plate, Ensign Klito with Ica Dominar lens
Park at Night, Ilford G.30 Chromatic plate, Ensign Klito with Ica Dominar lens

In same lot as the quarter-plate FP4 and G.30 plates that I've tested and used with the Ensign Klito above, there were three boxes of plates, which didn't have a size on them, but were in slightly larger boxes than the others. These were 9x12cm plates, which I shot with a Voigtländer Avus with a f4.5 Skopar lens; I've also got Kodak Recomar 33, but this has a slower lens, and less suited to night photography.

The three boxes (all previously opened) contained Barnet Line-Tone (Thin Film) plates, Ilford H.P.3 and Ilford Soft Gradation Panchromatic plates. The Barnet Line-Tone plates were too heavily fogged to scan, although an image was discernable against a bright light, from three successive exposures at 10 EI.

H.P.3 - Hypersensitve Panchromatic plates were introduced in 1943. Before the 1960 change in meter settings these were rated at 200 ASA. The box style suggests these plates are from the late 1940s to the 1950s. According to Silver By The Ton, HP4 was first produced in rollfilm as early as 1960 and sheet film in 1964: it may not have been produced as a glass plate, and it doesn't appear in the plates list in the Appendix of Silver By The Ton. The Technical Information Sheet for HP3 plates from the Ilford Technical Information Book is dated 1961, so HP3 plates were produced alongside HP4 in rollfilm for a period. For the test below, I metered for 100 EI, and took four successive exposures.

Soft Gradation Panchromatic plates were introduced by Ilford in 1928. This emulsion was later given the designation R.10, and post-1960 were rated at 100 ASA. These were the first plates I shot last year, in a smaller size, and gave good results. The box of the 9x12cm Soft Gradation Panchromatic plates has an earlier packaging style, possibly dating back to the 1940s. I metered for 50 EI, and gave the plate three successive exposures. The results were as good as the same plates from the 1960s, and suggest 25 to 12 as a usable exposure index.

H.P.3 plate test, Voigtländer Avus
Soft Gradation Panchromatic plate test, Voigtländer Avus
For the first 9x12cm glass plates I shot at night, I chose a fairly difficult subject. The lights inside the telephone exchange are very bright in comparison with the exterior of the building, which is lit from streelights partially obscured by trees. This gives the lighting of the scene a look reminiscent of being underwater. The plate might also be a little underexposed due to reciprocity law failure (for comparison I also shot the scene on Fomapan 100 film). Despite the heavily fogged Barnet Line Tone plate, I'd loaded a couple more plateholders with them, so I shot two. I scanned the best result which shows the light from the doorway just visible.

Telephone Exchange, Ilford H.P.3 plate, Voigtländer Avus
Telephone Exchange, Barnet Line-Tone plate, Voigtländer Avus


Sources/Further reading
Silver by the Ton - A History of Ilford Limited 1879-1979, RJ Hercock and GA Jones
Ilford Technical Information Book Volume 2