Rolleing Right Along – Rollei RPX Films
If you’re a photographer of a certain age, then the name Agfa APX will ring some bells. These are the classic Agfa films loved by photographers around the world. I’m not talking about the Agfaphoto APX films (available only at 100 and 400 speeds), but the original Agfa APX films. While Agfa no longer sells film under their name, they continue to operate as film manufacture on contract to various resellers. One of them in Maco Direct, reselling the film under the Rollei name. You probably have in your photography journey come across Rollei branded films, Retro 400s, Rollei 80s, Superpan 200 and IR400. These are all speciality film with their quirks. But what about a film that could be used for regular pictorial use, something that brought back the feeling of that original APX line of films? If you haven’t been introduced, let me do so now, Rollei RPX. While not a direct copy of the original APX films, they are far more of a spiritual successor and in this article, we are going to break down the three flavours and what they have to offer. The best part is that the films are avaliable in all three main formats, 35mm, 120, and 4×5 sheet film.
Rollei RPX 25
If there is one thing that is a treat to work with these days is slow films, and RPX 25 certainly fits the bill. Based upon the original APX 25 known for fine grain and sharpness, RPX 25 certainly delivers that back to the photographer. With an ideal film speed of ASA-25, the latitude is okay, with a +/- one-stop latitude, but you can probably get away with two stops. And you can achieve excellent dynamics with your standard set of contrast filters. The film base is polyester but is easy to handle by both labs and home processing on either steel or plastic reels. And as a bonus, it dries flat with no cupping in almost all weather conditions. It also scans easily with little needed to adjust in post-processing. RPX 25 also has excellent sharpness both in tonal separation and edge sharpness, while the contrast is a little higher in certain developers, which only helps with the rich images with clean whites, deep blacks. It responds well to your standard developers such as Kodak D-76/Ilford ID-11, Kodak HC-110/Ilfotec HC, and Agfa Rodinal. With all three producing excellent contrast and sharpness. Although you will get a bit more noticeable grain in HC-110, making it more dilute can counter the increased grain. But it also works well in speciality developers, Pyrocat-HD and Rollei Supergrain being two of my favourites.
Rollei RPX 100
The mid-speed offering and no slouch in performance. Offering up a similar fine-grain sharp image like RPX 25, RPX 100 has one thing: RPX 25 does not have wide latitude. You can shoot RPX 100 between ASA-25 and ASA-800, although, given the presence of RPX 25 and RPX 400, I wouldn’t want to; I have shot this film down to ASA-32 and received solid results. And you get consistent results no matter how you develop the stock. Again the film has a polyester base that developers clean and dries almost perfectly flat. I have encountered some cupping on humid days, but after leaving it to hang for a bit longer, back rolling clears that up. It also scans wonderfully and requires little in the way of post-processing to get the images looking right. You get excellent tonal separation and edge sharpness and good contrast with clean whites and good blacks. The film performs well in all the standard developers of D-76, HC-110, and Rodinal. Although HC-110 is a strong favourite when developing in the 1+31 dilution, I only use more dilute versions to pull or push processing. But the best results I found comes from the speciality RPX-D developer, where you get a rich deep contrast, excellent grain structure, and sharpness. Probably the only reason I would buy a bottle of RPX-D is to develop a stack of RPX 100. However, you can achieve the same results with Adox FX-39 II (and you can develop many films with FX-39 than RPX-D). While I love working with the slower RPX 25, RPX 100 is an excellent everyday film that suits almost every situation.
Rollei RPX 400
The fastest and final film in the trilogy. RPX 400 is one that I don’t use as often as I have HP5+ and Tri-X, and it does require a bit more finesse to get what I consider the best results from. RPX 400 can have a bit more grain than the previous two offerings, but nothing worse than what you get from Tri-X or HP5+, but it is much more exaggerated when you under-expose and push process. You do have a decent latitude being able to expose the film between ASA-200 and ASA-3200. You again have a film that has a polyester base and develops clean and flat, making it again easy to scan. And the images are sharp with an uptick in grain. It does have far lower contrast than I would expect from a film of this speed, but nothing too bad. The film develops well in D-76 and HC-110, and while I wouldn’t suggest Rodinal, it does respond well to stand-development in Rodinal. One of the best developers for the film is not RPX-D; I don’t recommend it. It sings in developers like Microphen, Xtol, and Pyrocat-HD.
One of the best parts about RPX films is that they are readily available through all major online photographic retailers like Freestyle Photographic, B&H, and Maco Direct. But also through smaller online shops and plenty of in-person stores. I would recommend giving these films a try if you were a fan of Agfa APX films in the past and want to get something close or look for a film that is a little different from your regular Ilford and Kodak offerings.