Infrared film is probably the first victim of the demise of the film industry in the 21st century. It was already a niche market, and all film manufacturers exited around the same time, around 2005. Not only did the beloved and unique Aerochrome disappeared, but so did true BW infrared film. The one saving grace is that there are still some fresh BW film able to capture near-IR spectrum, if you are using the right setup. Rollei Infrared film, as the name suggest, is one such film.
My default setup for infrared photography is using a normal-wide angle lens with a R72 (5 stop) filter. If you are shooting with a SLR, you will think you can’t see anything through the viewfinder; however, on extremely bright/sunny/peak IR days, you can actually see faint light through the viewfinder, that’s probably the best time to shoot IR. There are two ways to shoot IR, either compose/focus, put R72 filter one, and readjust focus (by moving it to the red line on your lens), or shoot it at F11 focus at infinity, thus everything is in focus. The real pain is actually the shutter speed. Rollei IR is 400 speed film, but with a ~5 stop filter, it will end up as ISO 12 – my point is, bring a tripod. Some more general IR photography tips, I have better luck shooting on bright days with lots of leaves (because leaves will reflect IR from the sunlight); there isn’t much IR in shade or under canopy; I hadn’t been able to overexpose (so going +1 over, on top of the +5 from filter, is good) but consistently underexposed, this might be due to light meter not picking up infrared; someone mentioned hot days are better, I have not tested, but IR is technically heat, so it does make some sense.
I thought shooting cherry blossom in IR might be a great idea, which it kind of is/isn’t. The sky turn pitch black, but the cherry blossom themselves lost the pink color (since this is BW). Moreover, I shot these handheld, so I had to shoot with wide aperture (and adjust the IR focus manually), which resulted in some mis-focusing. Tripod is a must!
Here is what happens when you shoot in a shade/towards the sun. The taller pines aren’t reflecting the sun, resulted in black, whereas the trees in the foreground is in full sunlight condition, so they are bright. Note the black pool of water (no reflected IR, water absorb them), whereas the sky is white (since it is cloudy).
Took a second roll to Bend, when we were hiking up the popular Tam McArthur Rim trail. 2021 was the first year that requires special permit, nobody checked but there was no crowd as a result (unlike the lake below which was packed). BW IR gives the wood effect chlorophyll layers are rendered white/bright, and looks similar to snow. I took the shot below, just to confirm that, no, the leaves don’t look like snow!
Here you can see three peaks, from the famed viewpoint. Broken top all the way on the left, and the Sisters (I think). I quite like this shot, and landscape shot in BW IR in general, because sky is dark while leaves are white, opposite of usual BW film. I don’t like the composition of this shot. Took is this way because my tripod was very short, and I had to compromise with where I can shoot from..
Finally, a “normal” shot in the city. With the R72 filter, only bright sunlight will show up on the film. Otherwise, it is pitch black. Very contrasty, if you will, but at the cost of 5 stops of light.
Rollei IR is my default BW IR film. There ain’t much choices out there, and so far, I like this a lot. Might experiment with other infrared film (Ilford SFX 200 come to mind)
Rollei Infrared 400 Overview
Rollei/Agfa’s Infrared 400 is a unique infrared-sensitized panchromatic black and white negative film with a nominal sensitivity of ISO 400/27° without filtration. It is sensitive to IR wavelengths up to 820nm and can be used to produce unique halation effects with filtration and by varying the exposure length. It is suitable for working in both daylight and tungsten conditions and is characterized by a fine grain structure, notable sharpness, and high resolving power. Additionally, a good contrast profile offers clear separation between shadow and highlight regions. The film’s polyester base has been tested to an LE-500 (life expectancy 500 years) archival rating and also features anti-curling and anti-static coatings, as well as a special coating to promote smooth film transportation within the camera. Additionally, this clear base is particularly well-suited to scanning applications.
Film Base Polyester
Layer Thickness 100.0 µm
Resolution 160 lines/mm (At Contrast 1000:1)
Granularity RMS = 11