Do you like contrast? Do you like punch? Do you want to feel like one of those Japanese street photographers from the 80s and 90s? Are you shooting Ansel Adams-esque landscapes? Do you want to record farmland and vegetation from your small aircraft? Then Rollei Superpan 200 is for you.
Rollei Superpan 200, as its name suggests, is a superpanchromatic film that is slightly infrared sensitive, of up to 775nm. This means that if you used a red or infrared filter you can get infrared-like images. Of course, you can shoot it regularly like any old black and white film, and it still provides very sharp and detailed images. But with a red filter, damn, it sings!
The origins of this film isn’t too much of a secret, as it’s well documented online that it’s an aerial film made by Agfa-Gavaert in Belgium. They sell it as Aviphot Pan200 for various industrial applications. It is designed to be able to cut through fog and capture a lot of detail, hence the superpanchromatic nature. In the practical sense, a red filter would darken skies and brighten vegetation, and a proper IR filter would block out all visible spectrum of light, making skies completely dark and grass and trees completely white. But of course, you will need to over expose up to 5-6 stops with an IR filter, or up to three stops with a red filter.
I used a red filter with Superpan 200, and as such, I had to shoot it as if it’s an ISO 25 film. Luckily it was bright daylight and I had a fast lens, as it would be quite a struggle otherwise. As you can see, even with a red filter, you see some notable effects as the contrast becomes a fair bit more dramatic. Compared to Ilford’s infrared sensitive film, SFX 200, its finer grained too. You can see, for example, how low contrast it becomes when shot against trees as it blocks out a lot of light. It might not be for everyone, but an infrared filter would further intensify this effect.
As a regular black and white film, it exhibits even greater contrast than the box speed would suggest. Sadly it does not have great latitude, as slight underexposure would crush the shadows while overexposure may lead to blown out highlights. This is very developer dependent as well, of course, so it might be worth experimenting.
Superpan 200 is only available in in 35mm or 120, although if you want to shoot it in 4×5, just search for Agfa Aviphot 200 in 4×5 online. As usual, it will be 10% off tomorrow and Saturday only!
Some of the photos here were shot with a red filter, while the other were shot normally.