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INFRARED FILM COMPARISON

Independent report and analysis by Gary A. Reese, College of Southern Nevada, Department of Media Technologies, North Las Vegas, Nevada USA

General notes

Each film was developed in Kodak Xtol for the time indicated in the notes below. Agitation was for 5 sec. each 30 seconds for times under 10 min. Alternately, it was 10 sec. each min for times over 10 minutes. For the 1:2 dilution, I used a tank twice as large as necessary to hold the reels.

EI is the exposure index (film speed). I used an incident light meter held at camera position with the dome facing the camera.

Filters include None, a red R25 and an infrared R72.

Analog Gain is the control on Nikon film scanner which allow the user to control the exposure. Adjustments were often needed to compromise on how the scanner handled excessive contrast in the negative. I used the control to balance the shadow and highlight detail rendered A perfectly exposed negative for scanning purposes would have contrast at a low enough level to not require the use of analog gain. The higher the setting, the more a film/developer combination would benefit from tweaking the development time to reduce contrast in a high contrast early morning light scene like I shot. This could be achieved through a) higher dilutions, b) less developing time or c) the choice of a lower contrast developer.

Film loading was as per manufacturer's recommendations or better.


Rollei IR400 No filter, EI 400

Rollei IR400 R25 filter, EI 25-50

Rollei IR400 R25 filter, EI 50 REFERENCE

Rollei IR400 R72 filter, EI 4

Rollei IR400 R72 filter, EI 4-8

Efke IR820 R25 filter, EI 5

Efke IR820 R72 filter, EI 1.5

Ilford SFX200 No filter, EI 200

Ilford SFX200 No filter, EI 400

Ilford SFX200 R25 filter, EI 25

Ilford SFX200 R25 filter, EI 50

Ilford SFX200 R72 filter, EI 12

Kodak HIE R25 filter, EI 100

Kodak HIE R72 filter, EI 50

Konica IR750 R25 filter, EI 10

Konica IR750 R72 filter, EI 8

Notes for specific film/filter combinations

Rollei IR400 No filter EI 400 Analog gain -0.1, Xtol 1+1 @7.5 mins
Lacks the drama I like from infrared (see Rollei IR R25 EI 50 Reference note).

Rollei IR400 R25 EI 25~50 Analog Gain -0.4, Xtol 1+1 @7.5 mins
An alternate choice to my "reference" shot below.

Rollei IR400 R25 EI 50 – REFERENCE, Xtol 1+1 @7.5 mins
The best scene representation as I visualized it in infrared. I like the subtle infrared effects of lightening up the dark greens of vegetation, bringing out clouds with a darker sky and getting some lightening of shadows (i.e., adding some drama). Trying to force (with Photoshop controls) a negative which doesn't reproduce tones correctly often results in a print which reveals its flaws to a discerning viewer. This negative wouldn't require any forcing, thus representing the saying: "The best negative is one which prints easy." On the other hand, the grain is too mushy for my taste, despite using a developer with a high acutance effect. As with Agfa B&W films, the grain might sharpen up some in Rodinal - the traditional best choice for Agfa films. With medium format shots, the grain issue is a moot point with me. I like the film.

Rollei IR400 R72 EI 4, Xtol 1+1 @7.5 mins
Blows out highlights at EI 4. Has potential, but development needs to be cut even below the 20% cut I did versus manufacturer's recommendation. Unfortunately, this means that R72 shots need to all be on one roll - or - mix filters on one roll but accept underdevelopment for R25 and no filter shots.

Rollei IR400 R72 EI 4~8, Xtol 1+1 @7.5 mins
Loses shadow detail at EI 4~8 (this means a half stop between EI 4 and EI 8). Best compromise exposure would have been EI 5 (not shot).

Efke IR820 R25 EI 5, Xtol 1+2 @16 mins
The anti-halation backing is effective in keeping highlights from bleeding (like is evident on the edges of frames), but it still passes near IR wavelengths which bounce back through the layer. Thin emulsion needs gentle agitation to avoid sprocket hole streaking. Kodak HIE like grain and average sharpness versus the other IR films.

Efke IR820 R72 EI 1.5, Xtol 1+2 @16 mins
Negative greatly flawed by dimple pattern which is caused by film pressure plate in camera. See comments about anti-halation layer above. Much lower film speed than I expected. EI 0.75 (not shot) would probably have been a better exposure). Strange UFO pattern of fuzzy rectangles across sky caused by light leaks through sprocket holes - but how? I handled this film in total darkness. Very good infrared effects, but at a great cost in film speed over its competition. Kodak HIE like grain and low sharpness with a R72 filter.

Ilford SFX200 No filter EI 200 Analog Gain -1.1, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Could benefit from a reduction in manufacturer's recommended development time. The flare is a light leak which reached Frame 1. Thus the film needs to be started at about Frame 3 to avoid leaks through the felt trap. Wider than expected exposure latitude. This frame, at the manufacturer's recommended EI, is the overexposure limit. Finer grain and similar sharpness versus Rollei IR.

Ilford SFX200 No filter EI 400 Analog Gain -0.58, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Could benefit from a reduction in manufacturer's recommended development time. Wider than expected exposure latitude. This frame, at twice the manufacturer's recommended EI, is the underexposure limit. Finer grain and similar sharpness versus Rollei IR.

Ilford SFX200 R25 EI 25 Analog Gain -0.5, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Could benefit from a reduction in manufacturer's recommended development time. While an obvious overexposure, it is still a usable shot. Thus, this film/developer/filter combination shows a wider than normal exposure latitude for an infrared film. Finer grain and similar sharpness versus Rollei IR.

Ilford SFX200 R25 EI 50 Analog Gain -0.5, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Could benefit from a reduction in manufacturer's recommended development time. Had I shot an EI 40, it might have been my "reference" shot (see Rollei EI R25 EI 50 Reference below). Finer grain and similar sharpness versus Rollei IR.

Ilford SFX200 R72 EI 12 Analog Gain -0.35, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
A surprisingly nice combination, with film speed way better than reports on the Internet would suggest. Results in a very full tonality scan for any R72/film combination, thus allowing for a wide variety of printing interpretations. Fantastic shadow detail without burning out highlights for this developer/dilution and time. Finer grain and similar sharpness versus Rollei IR.

Kodak HIE R72 EI 50, Xtol @6 mins
Still too contrasty with development to a Contrast Index of 0.58. Simultaneous loss of highlight and shadow tonality at an EI of 50. Negative flawed by dimple pattern which is caused by film pressure plate in camera. The most grainy film, although Xtol keeps it better than I've seen my students get with D76 developer. Poor sharpness and grain.

Kodak HIE R25 EI 100, Xtol @6 mins
Development for a Contrast Index of 0.58 (as per this test) yields a perfect negative for scanning. But that C.I. isn't one listed on the box... Negative flawed by dimple pattern which is caused by film pressure plate in camera. Classic infrared effects with a R25 filter - at a very usable film speed. The most grainy film, although Xtol and perfect exposures keep it better than I've seen my students get with D76 developer. Poor sharpness and grain.

Konica IR750 R25 EI 10 Analog Gain -1.13, Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Nice infrared rendition as photographers have come to know it - and from a R25 filter, no less! Using an Orange filter, a common practice for landscape photographers, would have been less pronounced (see my comments under Rollei EI R25 EI 50 Reference below). Poorer sharpness, same grain versus Rollei IR.

Konica IR750 R72 WI 8 Analog Gain - 1.3 (approx), Xtol 1+1 @7 mins
Surprisingly way too much contrast in negative for a film/developer combination I have standardized on in the past. A good example of why one would have to scan for the highlight detail and the let the shadows render as a detailess "lunar effect."

 

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