ORWO Color QRS 100


There is a certain mystery lingering around films that are out of production. Double that aura of being uknown, when the place of its origin is already gone. The perfect example is ORWO, the film monopolist in the deceased GDR.

Films are being manufactured and then discontinued afterwards. Sometimes they have to stop production and gone with the wind along with their brand names. And sometimes even countries vanished in which films have been produced. In Germany we know something about it. So there is a certain melancholy surrounding ORWO-films of VEB Filmfabrik Wolfen of the faded GDR. They had the monopoly on film-production in East Germany. There was no market, but still the people had to put something in their cameras. But basically it came down for the main market to have one or two colour print films, negatives, as well as slide films available for consumers. I am sure as photographers, you had your way on getting other sources, but for the ordinary consumer, there wasn’t really a choice back then.

Before the second world war, this film factory was part of the AGFA universe and by the end of the war, a little economic thriller took place. First the Americans swept the factory and took many of the patents and archives to bring to their homeland. Later Kodak used one of the emulsions of AGFA, which was found there. After the separation of East and West, the Soviets came around the corner, took the remaining machines, the knowledge, engineers and sent them to Russia to reassemble it there, but that wasn’t too successful. And finally in 1953 the first owned film production of the GDR started. Bitterfeld then turned out to be the Shenzhen City of East Germany with a lot of chemical productions and always with a nasty industrial pollution being pumped out by the from the factories’ chimneys. ORWO certainly was next to BASF, one of the big waste-producers of Germany. So you certainly ought not to lick that little film like a sweet candy.

I gotten hold of a bunch of rolls of the colour print film – ORWO Color QRS 100. The expiration date is 1996, therefore I think the production must have been in the beginning of the nineties. I reckon it will be the first and last production of ORWO in the reunified Germany. But it is most likely, that it is just a repackaging of East German films. In 1994, the factory had to close, so this stash of film survived from it’s own company.

There is a predecessor of ORWO now called Orwonet AG, still based in Bitterfeld of East Germany. And it is quite a success, they are dealing with photofinishing and own some IT-Photo-Companies. Funny enough the sparkle of a dead brand of a dead country is still shining today. This is a good bridge to my experience with this film: As far as I know, the emulsion of ORWO is not too stable, compared to other brands. It was not to be expected, that the colours of this film turn out accurate 15 years above the expiration date. It was no surprise that it’s colours were crazy. It is changing from blue to purple and relatively grainy. The picture tends to be a bit darker also.

And to put it with Mandi’s words, “Just imagine there is this guy with a bucket full of purple colour. And this guy is pouring it all over your picture!”

By the way, there is a fine article on Wikipedia, if you want to know about the history of ORWO.

written by wil6ka on 2010-08-06 in #reviews #negative #winter #cold-war #branches #ancient #gdr #double-exposure #bitterfeld #east-germany #user-review #expired #reunification #orwo


  1. stouf
    stouf ·

    Fantastic !

  2. paramir
    paramir ·

    amazing results for an way expired film! it looks like a cross processed slide film... and an interesting story to it.

  3. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    interesting history

  4. poetpunk
    poetpunk ·

    Great shots.
    Wish I could find some, you are lucky.

  5. mcrstar
    mcrstar ·

    classic ORWO... I really like it

  6. ninkynonk
    ninkynonk ·

    Still got 5 rolls of Orwo UT-18 colour slide film from 1979. It was unstable when 'in date' so God knows what results I will get now!!!

  7. gaz2112
    gaz2112 ·

    Orwo Color QRS 100: which process developer did you use?

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