Rollei’s ScanFilm; A Unique “Mask-Less” Color Neg Film Page 2

Also, the monochrome tonality was pretty much what we expected, e.g., roughly comparable with other color films printed as black and white. Removing the orange mask greatly shortens exposure times but you are still projecting colored light onto the paper, and even Multigrade is sensitive only to blue and green. Graded papers are sensitive to blue (and ultraviolet) only.

Despite these objections, the results are not too bad unless you are used to the tonality of reasonable-quality home printed or custom lab black and white. If you are, you are unlikely to be satisfied with this film when "wet" printed, except with certain subjects where it works surprisingly well.

ScanFilm handles long brightness ranges well, as you might expect from its ancestry as an aerial survey film. The brightest highlights here are a bit "hot" but the only area that is "blown" is part of the white pages of the sketchbook, which are in direct sunlight.

The catch is that it might take a while to learn to recognize these subjects. We have to confess that we simply chose the best ones from 108 exposures (three rolls) shot in Collioure and the improbably named Prats de Mollo in the South of France.
What really impressed us, though, is that when you do get the right subject, this is an absolutely amazing film for lith printing. From the "straight" black and whites, Frances suspected it might be, so she made several lith prints on Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone FB. What you are looking for--or at least, what we are looking for--is old-fashioned subjects, because you can reproduce the nostalgic, faded, but still slightly too contrasty effects of pictures from about 1880 to the mid-1920s. All right, this is super-specialized, but hey, we're a specialized magazine.

We did not try wet color printing. There seemed little point, after all, and we would have needed to sandwich the negative with a sheet of unexposed but processed color film (or used one in the filter drawer) to get the orange mask you need for wet printing...

The unexpected bonus with ScanFilm was liths. The color original (minus some yellow, to bring it closer to the colors we remembered) was scanned as a color image and also printed on Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone FB. In all fairness, you can make liths from conventional color negatives, too, but as Frances said, the exposures take almost as long as the lith development.

We did, however, try black and white conversions in Adobe's Photoshop, though to be frank, we have yet to find any color negative film that we like as well as "real" black and white film, wet printed on conventional paper. ScanFilm was no exception. Yes, the black and white conversions are as acceptable as any other, subject to the comments already made about big grain and low sharpness. They are, however, no better than any conventionally masked color negative film.

So, what's the bottom line? Well, as a color film, it certainly has its own "signature," which is different enough from anything else on the market that this is a valuable addition to the color palette. We were well impressed, far more so than we had expected to be, because we had to some extent prejudged the film as something of a gimmick--and indeed, the omitted orange mask that gives the film its name seems to offer no advantages in scanning, while greatly limiting the convenience of wet color printing. Likewise, the claims that were made for black and white were not really sustainable.

Gimmicky or not, and regardless of the fact that it is nothing like "universal," ScanFilm turned out to be enormously likable, and we would be happy to use it for romantic or nostalgic travel shots; for some kinds of portraiture; for certain still lifes; and anywhere else that the large grain, warm colors, low saturation, and low sharpness might prove an asset rather than a disadvantage.

This shows the tonality for an "average" subject (flesh tones and a modest brightness range). In order to get acceptable skin tones, Frances had to print at Grade 4 1/2 (Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone). Cutting the contrast grade made the whole thing, and especially the skin tones, unpleasantly muddy.

Like most Rollei-branded products, the price is toward the top of the market, rather than the bottom, but even so, it's not too expensive to try. If you think it will do what you need, try a roll or two for yourself. It is not a film for everyone, and exclusivity is not necessarily the same as excellence; but if it does suit you and your subjects, then you are likely to be very pleased indeed.

For more information on Rollei's ScanFilm, contact Maco's US importers: Freestyle Photographic Supplies (5124 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027; (800) 292-6137, (323) 660-3460; and SPI Supplies, Division of Structure Probe, Inc. (PO Box 656; West Chester, PA 19381; (800) 242-4774, (610) 436-5400;

For further information on the art and craft of photography from Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz, go to