Sunday, May 15, 2011

Efke 25 - the vintage film experience

When you commit yourself to using vintage cameras you are unsuspectingly plugging into a long-running tradition of ingenious camera makers, clever film designers and, in general, brave pioneers of every type, spanning more than a century to the past.

sunset behind the trees (Flexaret VI, Efke 25, EI 25/15°)

I live in a city where getting film is unfortunately limited to the biggest brands (Kodak, Fuji, Ilford) and at a price that is not really competitive. Last time we spent a weekend in Vienna, I browsed through Blende7's online film catalog to see which films was I going to buy. One of the exotic film brands that immediately catched my attention was Efke, manufactured by Fotokemika in Samobor, Croatia, featuring a very sober gray and green design. I bought a spool of Efke 25 roll film.

solitary bench (+1) (Flexaret VI, Efke 25, EI 25/15°)

I then learned that I had got quite a special film, because Efke is one of the few manufacturers that produce film using the old ADOX formulas, a legendary film design introduced in the 1950s by the Adox Fotowerke Dr. C. Schleussner GmbH in Germany. The ADOX formula has much higher silver content than modern black and white films, resulting in very high quality reproduction of grays and almost no visible film grain. The film base is very thin and highly transparent, which eases inspection and scanning of the negatives.

schneeglöckchen (Flexaret VI, Efke 25, EI 25/15°)

Of course ISO 25 was somewhat of a challenge as well, because we are entering a low-sensitivity region that is absolute terra incognita for the digital photographer, where most cameras have ISO 100 as lower end. ISO 25 means a typical scene in direct bright sunlight should be taken at 1/25s with f/16, or 1/100s with f/8. A more challenging photographic subject, like a portrait in a heavy overcast day would require 1/10s with f/5.6. A tripod, a support or a very steady hand are almost indispensable.

backlight (Flexaret VI, Efke 25, EI 25/15°)

Last March we went for a hike with friends. The excursion took us through a very beautiful path that crossed a marsh landscape. As the sun was bright and high in the sky, I loaded my Efke 25 into the Flexaret. A while later some clouds gathered and started covering the sky from the east. At first I feared the light would not be enough for my low-sensitivity film (I did not have a tripod!), but afterwards, when looking at the developed negatives, I was really pleased with the rendition of the tones in the sky. The pictures came out with a difficult to describe and yet very real old-looking atmosphere, as though the pictures had been taken on the 60s. The Belar lens on the Flexaret certainly helps conveying this look, but I guess most of the merit comes from the film.

twin trees (+1) (Flexaret VI, Efke 25, EI 25/15°)

I will definitely be using more Efke film, and also the ones produced by Fotoimpex near Berlin, a small company that is using the ADOX formulas and the trademark since 2006. I really like the feeling that I get when using it, for me very similar to the reverence with which we would take a very old and very valuable book in our hands.

Pictures taken on Efke 25 in my flickr photostream

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