A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares her images taken with Rollei's Digibase CN200 negative film and Lomo’s LC-A 120, and a few thoughts.
I would call myself a pretty unadventurous photographer when it comes to choosing film. Very early on in my life I set on Fujicolor films as my favorites and have stuck to them faithfully, trying out different ISOs, formats, and emulsions as my needs and cameras changed. Ask me what the last roll of film of my life would be and I would answer without hesitation: Fuji 400H 120. That does not mean, however, that one does not like to experiment a little sometimes! Rollei films have long intrigued me, I have seen the wonderful Rollei Blackbird film appear and disappear from stores without explanations (Please, please bring it back! In any format!). I have seen other Rollei films branded something else and then disappear as well before I can order them.
So when I saw this 120 Digibase CN200 Pro Color Negative Film from Rollei available on a very popular online store based in New York City, I decided to get a roll and try it. This is how the roll is described on the website:
“A medium speed, medium format, unmasked color negative film designed for general photographic purposes. Its unmasked quality eliminates the orange dye mask found in other films. It demonstrates excellent grain and a high degree of sharpness and will also produce consistent tonality throughout its exposure range. It is available in 35mm and 120 formats and processed in standard C-41 chemistry.”
There was also a note stating that this is actually a film manufactured by Maco, a firm that bought the name and formulas of both Agfa and Rollei.
I shot the roll in my LC-A 120 and got 11 perfectly exposed images out of it; no 12th exposure, I suspect these rolls may be a tad shorter than standard. Five images were shot in bright sun, as bright as it gets here in the Pacific Northwest in winter. I went to my local park, on an early morning so cold there was still frost on the head of the purple dinosaur, as seen on the photo above.
Four images were shot on an overcast day that then turned rainy. The advertising copy on the film promised “very good resolution with fine grain and very high sharpness that provides negatives with an excellent quality.” I offer the dinosaur shot and the close-up on the old Chevrolet as proof that they are not lying! I think this is also testament to the LC-A120’s remarkably sharp lens—when I get the zone focusing spot on.
I also had my ancient Holga TLR, loaded with black and white film, with me that day. I parked illegally in the town of Bellingham, Washington, to get a shot of the Soviet-style rocket advertising “Rocket Donuts.” I took identical shots from the same spot I was standing (car door open, ready to drive away if a meter maid came long). I put them together as a way to showcase the differences between the LC-A 120’s wide angle lens and the Holga’s 60mm.
The last two shots were taken on a partly sunny, very cold Wednesday morning this past January, in Langley, Washington. I could not believe how clearly the crow on top of the tree came through in the image, particularly because it has a softness to it as a whole, at least to my eyes.
I found this film’s palette to be very pleasingly muted, with a retro or vintage feel to it that matched both the season and my various subject matters. I am normally inclined towards wild saturation, so I was surprised by how happy I was with this film’s color. I decided to experiment a little with the one shot slightly overexposed and out of focus, which you can see below: I tried it darker and in black and white. The trees are still out of focus, no remedy for that! But I think it shows the latitude of the negative both in allowing it to go darker and monochrome.
So, let me go back to the advertising copy and check:
“The wide exposure latitude (+/- 1 stop) gives it an edge over similar films and permits it to be used under a wide variety of lighting scenarios and weather conditions. “
It certainly allowed me to do all of the above, even if testing the +/- 1 stop latitude was done in the computer.
“Delivers excellent tonality across the spectrum.”
My impression is that it veers towards a blue or cyan cast, but I didn’t find it objectionable and, like I said, I was pleased with the palette overall.
“Extremely anti-static before and after the development. The adhesion of dust particles is reduced and, thus, improves the prints for more consistent clean, sharp prints.”
I have not made any prints yet so I cannot speak to that part of the statement. However, as I scanned it I found very little dust needed to be cloned.
“The film has been manufactured with special coatings that minimize its potential for scratches and anti-static flaws. A no curling layer holds it flat and also bolsters its ability to limit scratches. Newton rings are reduced by another coating that is added to the film. The polyester film base gives the resulting negatives a tear-proof quality and a life expectancy of approximately 500 years.”
Again, I saw no visible scratches, I did not need to have the negatives hanging for days so they would get flat and it was a pleasure to scan in my Epson V550. Certainly not a Newton ring in sight. As to its life expectancy of approximately 500 years, I do not anticipate being around so long, but I am happy to take Rollei’s word for it.
All images were taken with Rollei’s Digibase CN200 negative film and a Lomo LC-A 120 camera, unless otherwise noted.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.