Saturday, May 30, 2015

First Look at Rollei's Digibase CN200 Color Negative Film (35mm)

I always love to try new films, especially color films. The Rollei Digibase line of films have been on my list of interesting films to try for a long time, but I was always turned off by their relatively high price. However, as Kodak's prices have continued to increase, I've been looking harder at alternatives.

Currently, a roll of 35mm Portra 160 is just shy of $8. For me this is an untenable price. A roll of 120 is "only" $5.50, and I'd rather shoot medium format in most situations! 35mm for me is a "fun" format for casual shooting.

Comparatively, from most retailers the Digibase CN200 35mm film costs $13 for two rolls. $6.50 per roll to me is still a bit pricey - but by importing the film direct from Europe I am able to shoot this film for much cheaper! So I decided to give it a shot and ordered a large quantity directly.

I ordered this film a while ago but I finally got around to trying it out a few days ago - and it's really good! The colors and tones were lovely, the grain was not too harsh, and it scanned really well.

Kodak Portra (160) and Ektar I always find to be too blueish/cold and I always try to use a light warming filter. In late afternoon shadow I find it really hard to use without an 85 filter. Much to my delight the CN200 was really easy to manipulate in scanning/editing to get the colors back to a neutral balance in that situation. Warm sunset light rendered wonderfully and was also easy to manipulate if I wanted to tone it down (or up).

Shadows were nice and open and could be pushed up fairly well, though the grain started to ramp up when I did that. The ISO rating of 200 is probably a bit optimistic. I will probably shoot it at about 125. I might have to try pushing this film if I want faster, but that's uncommon for me.

Best of all, while I have a lot of issues with color banding in the sky when scanning most color negative film, this exhibited none of that.

Frankly my initial thought is that this film is better (for my usage) than any negative film I have used!

Nitpicks: The polyester base is very thin feeling and a bit difficult to work with in the darkroom, loading onto the reels. The beginning of the roll had some light leaks (possibly light-piping, which I have read about in regard to this film) in the sprocket area, but only the very first shot did it spill into the frame a bit. I'll pop off an extra dead frame at the beginning of a roll to fix that. Other than that, the grain definitely is a bit more pronounced than the latest-and-greatest Kodak film, but it's not so bad as to be obnoxious. In medium format, I imagine it would be a complete non-issue. It might be about what Portra 400 looks like.

If the Euro keeps dropping I might order a bunch of this stuff and stash it in deep-freeze, and buy as much 120 as I can afford. I'm looking forward to trying out the similar CR200 (positive) film next, as well as experimenting with cross-processing both types.

As I shoot more of it, I might post additional comments.

All the images above were shot with my Leica M6 and either 50mm f/1.5 Zeiss Sonnar (Contax mount) or 3.5cm f/3.5 Nikkor (S-mount) with corresponding Amedeo adapters.

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