Efke’s IR 820 Infrared Film; A Unique IR Option Page 2

Traditional "true IR" films were sensitive only to the blue/violet/ultraviolet of a non-dye-sensitized film, and to red and infrared. Yellow and green light had very little effect: this was called the "green gap." Efke's IR 820 has no "green gap" but is dye-sensitized to all wavelengths, just like (say) Ilford's HP5 Plus but with additional IR sensitization.

Abandoned Medieval Bridge, Northern Aquitaine
Handheld photography is perfectly feasible with the right lens: here, a 50mm f/2 DR Summicron on a Leica M2, with a B+W 092 filter. You can see light strike beside the sprocket holes, and some frames were actually written off by light strike: this was a film I loaded by very subdued light, to see what would happen.

If the film has a "green gap" you can get detectable IR effects with even an orange filter, but with panchromatic-plus-IR sensitization, you really need a true IR filter with a T50 (50 percent transmission) of at least 695nm, and preferably
710-720nm: this is certainly the case with 820. I did not try a filter with a T50 of 760nm or more, because I do not own one--but I do not own one because film speeds with such filters are even more miserably low than with the filters I do own. The least expensive option for true IR filtration is probably Ilford's gel (T50 715nm), but this needs some form of holder. (Editor's Note: We recently tested a Fuji IR D-SLR with various Hoya filters that yielded very good results. Go to the Shutterbug website, www.shutterbug.com, and type "infrared" in the Search box on the homepage.)

I used several lenses with a 39mm filter thread, because I have only two sizes of B+W 092 filter; the other is 52mm. Only one lens, a vintage Leica Dual-Range (DR) 50mm f/2 Summicron, has an IR focusing index, and this was ever less reliable as I focused closer than about 3 meters/10 ft: I would probably have done better to split the difference between the visible light index and the IR index. With other lenses, winding the lens out (as if you were focusing closer) to the depth of field mark for f/5.6 is a good starting point. If you shoot enough IR, you can make this adjustment by touch: I was beginning to get to that point toward the end of the test. Many habitual IR users shoot at f/8 or less so that depth of field covers up small focusing errors.

Ruined Village, Near Brie
The tonality of the stonework is quite ordinary, but the sky is nearly black and the grass is nearly white. This sort of almost-normal picture is perhaps the least successful with IR of any kind. (Leica M2, 50mm f/2 DR Summicron, B+W 092 filter.)

All shots were taken with Leicas (M2 and M4-P) because you can't focus or compose through an IR filter (nor can autofocus function). A rangefinder is much easier. With a reflex, you must focus and compose, then fit the filter and adjust the focus. This generally necessitates a tripod: that, or scale focus and use an auxiliary finder.

As you may have guessed by now, in order to get the best out of 820 or any other IR film, you need quite a lot of practice and patience. You can pretty much rely on beginner's luck for one or two good pictures on your first roll, and they will probably be good enough that you will want to try another roll...and another...and another... Your percentage of successes should rise steadily, from one or two good shots in 36 to half a dozen to a dozen or more: you are unlikely to get much above 50 percent, if you bracket the difficult shots, until you have a great deal of experience.

Because of all this, there is little point in buying just one roll of any IR film, including IR 820. By all means buy just one at first, to compare it with single rolls of whatever other IR films you can lay your hands on, and see which you like best. Once you have chosen, buy at least four or five rolls, and preferably 10. That way, you'll really get to know it.

Cornfield, Spanish Pyrenees
In order to avoid regularly needing Grade 5 for some of the shots on a roll of mixed subjects, I kept increasing the development time--and as I did, the results grew more and more dramatic, but still eminently printable. This is one of the contrastiest shots on a roll developed for 14 minutes in Ilford's DD-X, and it still printed fine on Grade 21/2. (Leica M4-P, 50mm f/2 DR Summicron, B+W 092 filter.)

This review may sound a bit lukewarm, and in a sense, it is: this is not a film I would urge everyone to rush out and buy forthwith, because, quite frankly, like every other true IR film I have ever used, it is a hassle. In another sense, though, I'd suggest very strongly that if you are interested in a unique look give Efke's IR 820 a try, because there is nothing else quite like it on the market.

Efke, Scratching And Dust
Efke is a small coating plant in Croatia that makes a wide range of films under their own name and also for others: they have coated for Maco and Adox, at least. Their films have a reputation for being scratch-prone, so squeegeeing before drying is not recommended unless you use a hardener (which greatly prolongs washing). I had no problems with scratching, using non-hardening fixer, then Ilford-style washing (5-10-20 inversions in the local hard water) followed by 5 minutes in distilled water and 1 minute in distilled water + wetting agent. Their films are also reputed to be "dust magnets" during drying. I found the latter to be true, but not intolerably so: you just need to do a bit more spotting than usual.

Film for this test was kindly arranged by Freestyle Photographic Supplies (5124 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027; (800) 292-6137, (323) 660-3460; www.freestylephoto.biz), where Efke's IR 820 is $9.99 for a 35mm, 36 exposure roll. It is also available in 120, 127(!), and various cut-film sizes.