The most sensitive black and white infrared film that is still produced in production.
After Kodak announced that they stopped production of its classical black and white HIE film, the Efke IR820 became the most sensitive black and white IR film that is still produced. To understand infrared photography, a bit of explanation on light spectrum is needed. The visible light, to which most films are sensitive, range from wavelengths of 390 to 750 nanometers (nm), being the 390 nm the wavelengths of violet-blues and 700 the wavelengths of reds. Shorter wavelengths than 390 nm correspond to ultra-violets, x-rays and gamma rays. Longer wavelengths than 700 nm corresponds to infrared, microwaves and radio waves. True infrared films will be sensitive to wavelengths beyond 700 nm. Actually, infrared films are only sensitive to the near infrared. The classic Kodak HIE film was sensitive to wavelengths near 900 nm. The Efke IR820, as its name says, is sensitive to wavelengths of 820 nm.
Having said that, if you are a bit familiar with black and white infrared photography you will have noticed that it is recommended to use red filters with this kind of films. The most recommended filter is the Hoya R72, a red filter near black, which will cut off most of all visible light. The reason is that IR films are also sensitive to the visible light, as a normal film. If you shoot with an Efke IR820 without a filter you will get pretty much a conventional black and white image. The use of the filter will only let the longer wavelengths expose the film, getting thus an image that has been obtained from the infrared spectrum. The use of a filter also means that your film will need longer exposure times. The Efke IR820 used without a filter has an iso speed of 400; when used in combination with the Hoya R72 filter you have to shoot considering an iso speed of 1-2. That means that in a sunny day with your Holga you will have to expose for 1 second (more or less).
Efke makes two versions of the IR820 film, one with an antihalation layer and another one without it. The latter is known as IR820 AURA, which is the one I am reviewing. With this film Efke is trying to achieve a “blooming” or glow effect that was obtained with the Kodak HIE film. This glow effect happens around the highly exposed zones of the film because of a scattering of the photons around this zone. You can imagine this scattering as photons splashing around the exposed zone, giving a halo or aura around. In other films, the antihalation layer prevents that, but the Kodak HIE and Efke IR820 AURA do not have it, so you can get this glow effect. Sincerely, when I see images taken with the two versions of the film, with and without antihalation layer, I do not see much difference…
So, what results can you expect from this film? What you will discover with this film is that not all objects reflect the same way the infrared. You get dreamy images, with foliage from trees glowing white while the trunks are dark. The people skin will look creamy though eyes will look darker. Skies will look dark, though clouds will pop out clear.
I use this film with my Holga. It is recommended to load / unload the film in total darkness, as it fogs easily. I normally do that in my bathroom. Also, I cover the red window of the Holga’s back with black tape (remember, it has high sensitivity to reds!), so to pass frames you have to do it by instinct (between 1 turn and 1 turn and a half; or you can use stouf’s counter). When shooting I use a Hoya R72 filter with a diameter of 55mm. This will perfectly fit the universal Holga mount (fisheye adaptor). Also, I use the Holga cable release adaptor and a tripod, as you need exposures of 1 second in sunny days. I develop this film easily at home with Rodinal (dilution 1:25, at 20 °C for 9 minutes).
I also have used this film with the wide pinhole Holga. And here I am going to throw in a little tipster when doing pinhole with infrared films, as the exposure time is a bit tricky. Of course, you still need to attach somehow the R72 filter to your pinhole camera. Myself, I carefully taped it in front of the pinhole. And then for the exposure you cannot trust any reciprocity table. So imagine a day with sun, a camera at f/16 with an iso 2 film would need some ½ second to have a photo well exposed. At f/135, which is the aperture of the Holga WPC, you would need according to a reciprocity table to do an exposure between half minute and minute and a half. Well, you have to increase this time for IR pinhole photography. Myself I did exposures of 10 minutes and the results were fine in a really sunny day. So if you are shooting this film with a pinhole camera, duplicate, triplicate or quadruplicate the time of exposure if you want to get some result!
What is the conclusion for this film? I always wanted to shoot IR film, but I was a bit afraid because it looked like some complicated stuff… not sure of exposure time, not sure of focus, possible fogging of the film… but I tried and I love the effects you get. First roll I shot was already a keeper. If you are thinking of trying IR photography I encourage you to go ahead and try this nice film, the images you get have a magical touch that will embellish your Lomohome!