Rolleiflex, Low contrast images compared to Olympus
Firstly, this is a really amazing forum. It has helped me no end in my photographic journey.
Now i've come to a problem that is really bugging me.
Unfortunately I have no example of what I am describing and I am scannerless!
I have two film cameras I both love and enjoy, the 1st being a Rolleiflex T and the 2nd being a Olympus OM-2.
I've been printing 120 from the Rollei for a while now and get good results (so I thought). Then I got the OM-2 and the amount of contrast and punch I am getting from this camera is outstanding, and makes all my Rollei prints look like variations on mid-tone grey.. bland!
I have been using FP4 for the OM-2 and Delta 400 Pro and FP4 for the Rollei, all developed in Ilfosol 3, inverted agitation in paterson tank.
The delta negs have come out with barely any contrast and have produced very disappointing prints, the FP4 rollei prints are an improvement, but still don't match the punch of the Olympus... i.e. much less highlight/shadow seperation.
Should this be expected, could it be my metering is wrong for the Rollei?
Any help will be gratefully received.
The main way to control contrast is to adjust development time. Have you tried giving the 120 rolls a bit more time in the developer?
Maybe the Olympus lenses are a bit higher in contrast but I wouldn't expect a huge discrepancy unless the Rolleiflex taking lens is needing attention. Does sit look clear?
Lens for the Rollei is in good condition, some faint "cleaning marks", but otherwise good.
I've been giving the films the same dev time for 120 and 35. I will try developing for longer though.
Having looked at the same FP4 Plus rolls, the 120 backing is clear whilst the 35 is slightly purple/blue. Why would this be different, surely it's the same formulation?
Would over/under exposing cause much difference in contrast and tone range?
Welcome to APUG!
There are a number of variables that can lead to a requirement for adjusting development times in order to compensate for differences in contrast between formats. Differences in the accuracy of shutter speeds, differences in lens coatings, differences in enlarger lenses, differences in developer flow patterns in developing tanks, etc.
In addition, sometimes the difference in rendering between the two camera systems can result in a difference in appearance that looks like a difference in contrast, but isn't.
Most likely you need to do some experimenting. If you prefer the contrast you are getting from the OM-2, you need to do some test exposures with a view of adjusting your exposure and development regimes with the Rolleiflex-T to try to match it.
You may, for example, find you need to meter for the Rollieflex using an EI that differs from the EI you use for the OM-2. You may also need to develop the 120 film for different times than the ones you use for 35mm.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
If your Rolleiflex images all look like mid grey tones, it may be due to a hazy lens. The haze may not be visible just looking through the lens at the shutter blades, unless it's really bad. One way to check for haze is to set the lens to full aperture, open the camera back, hold the shutter open, and look through the lens at a small source of strong light, like a bare light bulb. If there is much visible haze, it will be enough to kill contrast. You will probably need to disassemble the lens to clean off all the haze, as most of it is probably on the surfaces between the groups.
This has been my experience with some old 6x9 folders I bought. The lenses looked fine until I sighted through them at a light bulb. The haze was really bad. I didn't shoot any film with them until after I cleaned the lenses, so I don't know how bad they would have been, but these were uncoated lenses, a triplet and a Skopar, and contrast didn't look bad at all after I cleaned the lenses. If you search some of the photo sharing sites, you can find images made with old folders that have very low contrast. Some users like this. I'm pretty sure the lenses were about as hazy as the ones I got before I cleaned them, and I had to take them apart.
Happiness is a load of bulk chemicals, a handful of recipes, a brick of film and a box of paper. - desertrat
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Do you know what coatings, single or multi, the lenses have? That can affect flare/contrast. Also, you mentioned cleaning marks. If an improper cleaner was used on the lens in the past, some of the coatings could have been damaged or removed, affecting flare/contrast. If you are sure the lenses are fine then I would say it is an exposure problem.
Lots of things can help. Such as Agitate your 120 harder during development, use a different developer/film. and Print your negs will a higher grade. For a starter.
Looking for a parts prism for the Minolta XE / XE 7.
With tlrs flare can also be a problem and many work better with a shade. There are a few zuiko lenses that are amazing though and have much more punch. My 28 f2 and my 50 1.4 are just gorgeous.
Many thanks for the wonderful replies.
There is no haze in the lens at all, only a few very minor scratches... A lens hood is on my list of purchases.
The tessar lens on this model does have a single coating IIRC.
Looking at the worst negatives again, I'm verging on concluding they are underdeveloped and underexposed. I'm actually starting to think the fix didn't fully complete? Maybe I miss measure my temperatures...
Underexposed is more than likely too... I've been using my iPhone as a meter. Two photos of the same subject (one take with om-2 other with rollei) are showing totally different results.
It hasn't been my experience that coated Rolleiflex lenses [i.e. Zeiss lenses] are radically different in contrast from more modern multi-coated SLR lenses. Mine is a 3.5E with Planar, and I've compared the results to Leica-R lenses [50mm Summicron], Pentax K-mount lenses [various multi-coated fast 50s], and the modern Zeiss lenses for the Contax G. The Rollei has fractionally lower contrast, which manifests itself in a smoother [and to my eyes more pleasant] rendering of tones, but the differences are marginal. I'd expect, most of the time, Rolleiflex images to look better (again to my eyes) than anything shot with a 35mm slr, even one with excellent lenses, just because it doesn't give much away in terms of lens quality, and gains a lot through the larger film format.
If it was me I'd look again at exposure. A hood will make a difference, though. The front element of a Rollei lens is quite exposed.