Spreading the Word About One of My Favourite Underrated Films [Rollei Retro 400S]

underrated film rollei retro 400s

Images shot on Rollei Retro 400S in Canon Sure Shot AF-7

If you shoot film, you probably have a few that are your favourites. And if any of those are the better-known ones like Portra 400 or HP5 Plus, they’ll probably be a lot of other people’s favourites too.

But what about the ones you like that aren’t generally popular amongst the general populace? What, if any, are your favourite lesser-known or underrated films?

Rollei Retro 400S is high on my own personal list of those. I already liked it from the first roll I shot, and the results I got from the second one has just reinforced that.

Read on to see those and why I reckon it’s important to spread the word about things you like. Especially if you think they’re underrated or underappreciated by a lot of other people out there.

What is Rollei Retro 400S and why do I like it?

Rollei Retro 400S is a high-speed monochrome film that’s based on Agfa-Gevaert’s Aviphot Pan 400S, a film produced for mapping terrain from altitude.

It’s a super-panchromatic film, which means it has an extended red sensitivity. If you add a red filter to your lens, you can achieve infrared effects with it. When shot without a filter, you still get more extreme blacks and whites than you’d expect from regular panchromatic films when the light is right.

It also has an enhanced ability to cut through atmospheric haze, which makes a lot of sense when you consider its former task of shooting through low cloud from an aircraft.

These attributes all add up to make a film that gives the kind of results I like when I shoot out in the streets. That is, high contrast, low grain, and very good sharpness and clarity.

It’s a look not dissimilar to Japan Camera Hunter’s Street Pan 400, which is something else that makes a lot of sense when you consider that’s another stock based on an old Agfa surveillance film.

I thought the results I got from JCH Street Pan were great too of course and am not knocking that film in any way. Rollei Retro 400S just gives me what I want for a bit less money.

Shooting this underrated film in a shitty camera

The first time I shot some Rollei Retro 400S, I did so for the Shitty Camera Challenge, which happens periodically over on Twitter.

The idea of that is to get people together to shoot some film in the worst cameras they can find, get it developed, and then all share their results during the same week.

I did mine in a Canon Sure Shot AF-7 that I’d bought from a charity shop not too long before that, although exactly why I chose to load it with Rollei Retro is not something I can remember now.

One possible factor though would be that I’d shot this other inexpensive ISO 400 monochrome film in the Canon Sure Shot before and thought the ISO 400 rating was a good bit of leeway to have in it.

Another would be that I’d bought it along with a few other films based purely on wanting to shoot as many different ones as possible, didn’t have anything else better to do with it, so thought why not.

I really liked what the Retro 400S and Sure Shot AF-7 combination gave me that first time, which is why when I picked up another roll I decided to shoot it in the same camera again rather than the better Yashica Electro.

And if you read on to the end of this post, which is showing you some of the results I got from that second roll, you’ll see why I’m very glad I did that.

Rollei Retro Black & White 400S 500 ISO, 35mm, 36 Exposure
  • Retro 400S is a completely reliable partner in changing light conditions
  • It can be used as both an all-round film and as a film for the grey areas - photography in available light and dim lighting conditions
  • Rollei RETRO 400S is coated onto a modern synthetic film base

Why you might want to amplify some things you like

You probably know some very good musicians who never made it big. The kind that write better songs than those who get millions of downloads and the dollars to match.

You may also know some very secret travel spot that hasn’t yet been latched onto by the herd and is, for now, unspoiled by mass tourism. The kind that you hope will always remain that way.

Of course, you’re not going to start writing and shouting about the latter because you don’t want to ruin it. But perhaps you should about the former. Just because they deserve it.

Rollei Retro 400S is like the undiscovered artist for me, rather than the undiscovered beach. I was as impressed with Kodak Portra as I expected I would be, but it doesn’t need me to constantly talk it up. Plenty of other people already do that.

I’d prefer to give what small bit of exposure I can to some of what I feel are the more underrated films instead. Films like Oriental Seagull 100 or Fujicolor Industrial 100 that have given me results I really like but that I hardly ever see mentioned.

If I don’t bother to talk about them myself, I can’t complain when nobody else does either. I can’t complain when the gap between the well-known and the lesser-known gets too big and the latter get forgotten about and perhaps eventually even discontinued.

It’s similar to the musicians and all other kinds of creators too. If you enjoy their work but don’t often speak up in praise of them, how would you feel if they stopped doing what they do because they felt unsupported too?

I like Retro 400S so much I made a zine out of it

And now to the reason why I’m very glad I shot both my rolls of Rollei Retro 400S in the same camera. And that reason is that it made putting my first film photography zine together a lot easier.

Shanghai Streets. 52 original photographs shot on one film, with the same camera, and all in one city. Every image you’ve seen in this post is in there, along with those from the Shitty Camera Challenge, and a few from this post too.

While I’ve shot a few films now and will continue to shoot more and write about the results I get from them, shooting different ones most of the time instead of lots of rolls of a single one has meant having very few coherent sets of photographs that I think would work well as printed projects.

But getting 52 photographs I like from two rolls of one of my favourite underrated films, shot in the same Canon point ‘n’ shoot camera and around the streets of a city I’ve now left, means I finally have a set that feels like it’s both finished and is enough to make a zine from.

So I made one.

Wrapping up this post on a great underrated film

We’ve covered a few different things in this post but I think they tie together nicely if you let them.

First is the underrated film thing. If you have one you like that gets ignored for the Portras and HP5s of this world, be sure to give it some airtime sometime.

You never know how mentioning it on Twitter or Instagram could encourage someone else to give it a try for the first time too. And then you’re helping that person out as much as you are the film.

The same goes for anything or anyone else you like that would appreciate some vocal support. Musicians, artists, creators.

As well as helping to get their work noticed, you again never know what it might mean to the person you admire to see someone – i.e. you – say something nice about them.

And finally, know that you too can be that person who does things people look up to. If you have a favourite film stock, make a zine or book from your favourite photographs taken with it. And if you don’t have any or just don’t have enough yet, go out and make some more.

That’s all I did. I just made a zine. And all it took to do it was to just do it.

I’m not going to ask you to spend your hard-earned cash to buy it unless you really want to. But sharing it out there on your socials is free if you think it deserves that.

The link is here and I would be eternally appreciative if you did. 🙂

If you enjoyed that post on underrated film and other things, why not take a look at these also to stay inspired or learn more about the Rollei Retro 400S I used here:

  1. My complete review of this Rollei Retro 400S film
  2. The rest of the results from this roll of Rollei Retro
  3. What I shot with my first roll of Rollei Retro 400s

And if you think others will enjoy this take on amplifying what you admire too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

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