The name says it all: Rollei's ScanFilm 400CN Pro is an ISO 400 color
negative film (Kodak C-41 compatible) for scanning, rather than for wet printing.
The big difference is that the orange mask, incorporated in almost all color
negative films since the 1950s, is omitted: it just isn't needed if you
On the other hand, the orange mask is no significant disadvantage for scanning,
either. How could it be? Scanners are specifically designed to cope with the
mask, and modern masked color films are specifically designed to be compatible
with scanners. The omitted mask, then, is no real reason to try ScanFilm.
(Left): ScanFilm negatives are unfamiliar looking: unmasked color
negative films have not been common since the 1950s. More than
anything else, they look like slightly faded Ilford XP2 Super
with the addition of some rather arbitrary handcoloring. You can
also see the blue coloring at the beginning of the film, the result
of loading in too-bright light (well shadowed daylight). (Right):
ScanFilm gave perfectly adequate "contact sheets"
using the ordinary automatic settings on an Epson flat-bed scanner.
They are very warm, but as noted in the text, how big a problem
Fortunately, a much better reason to try ScanFilm is that it offers a unique
look: warm, grainy, unsharp, and desaturated. It is, in a sense, the natural
successor to those long-gone slide films, Anscochrome 500 and Ferrania/Scotch/3M
1000D and 640T. They, too, were unsharp, desaturated, and grainy, but in the
right hands, for the right subject, they were unbeatable. The same can be said
of ScanFilm, and a C-41 compatible negative film is a lot more convenient than
those old slide films.
Then again--and we apologize for turning this into a "good news/bad
news" sequence--ScanFilm is the subject of another substantially
unsupportable claim: that because the orange mask is omitted, it can be treated
as a "universal" film and wet printed on black and white paper in
a conventional darkroom. If this were true, it would be a unique advantage,
but it is (to be generous) misleading. We'll come back to this later.
According to Maco, who "convert" the film for Rollei (cut and
package it from "pancakes" sliced from a master roll), ScanFilm
is actually a Gevaert aerial film, coated in Belgium: the slightly misleading
"Made in Germany" label refers to the conversion process. Gevaert
was part of the Agfa empire, and has apparently survived as an independent specialist
coating plant, though alas for devotees of Agfa's red diamond there seem
to be no plans to reintroduce any of the more mainstream Agfa films.
It must be loaded in very subdued light, not because of the lack of an orange
mask, but because it is on a polyester base instead of triacetate. Polyesters
are wonderfully, archivally permanent; are much tougher than triacetate; and
have only one major drawback for 35mm, namely, "light piping," or
transmitting light through the length of the film from the protruding tongue.
If you load this film in overly bright light--even a brightly lit room--the
first few frames will be an interesting blue, and there will be blue marks around
the sprocket holes for a long way into the film. This isn't necessarily
a major problem, but it's something you have to be aware of.
Church, Collioure. The warmer image is the ScanFilm version. The
viewpoint is not identical but it is close enough for a real-world
comparison. You can see, perhaps, that in the ScanFilm version,
the family that is arriving from the left in the Portra version
has sat down. Both are "raw" scans, with no color
adjustment. The Portra version is more accurate, and could easily
be warmed up; but the ScanFilm version is more nostalgic.
All Photos © 2006, Roger W. Hicks, All Rights Reserved
Roger exposed it just like any other 35mm ISO 400 color negative, in a Leica
MP, and made a number of direct comparison shots with Kodak's latest Portra
400 films, exposed in a second Leica body (M4-P) with the same lens.
First, we made "contacts" of the whole films (in Print File archival
sleeves, the best you can get) using an Epson Expression Pro 1680 flat-bed.
The auto settings ("TPU for negative film") gave satisfactory though
warm and rather faded colors. We very much liked the effect: instant nostalgia.
Next, we chose subjects that Roger had shot both on the ScanFilm and the Portra,
and scanned individual frames with the (now unfortunately discontinued) Konica
Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II. Once again, we used the automatic settings
to begin with.
Once again, we liked the results. As with the flat-bed, the pictures scanned
"warm." It's true that you can do anything you want in postproduction
with a scanned film, but it's gratifying (not to say time-saving) when
it comes close to what you want on the basic, automatic scan. In postproduction,
the thing we most often did was to cut the yellow slightly, because actually,
it was sometimes too warm for our taste. Sometimes, too, we boosted the contrast
slightly either via "Brightness/ Contrast" or by adding black in
"Selective Color" (all in Adobe's Photoshop). If you do cut
the yellow, you may want to change other aspects of the color balance, too.
Church, Collioure. In both cases the scan is at 5400dpi, without
Digital ICE (which loses a tiny bit of sharpness as the price
for getting rid of dust and scratches). Both scans are 950 pixels
high. Here, the color of the Portra version (the more frame-filling
shot) has been adjusted to match the ScanFilm version better,
making it easier to compare grain and sharpness without being
as much influenced by color. The ScanFilm grain is bigger, but
As already noted, the Scan Film 400CN Pro scans were distinctly grainier and
exhibited significantly less resolution and sharpness as compared with the Portra--which
is what you would expect when you compare it with the latest and best color
film from either the best or the second-best manufacturer of color films in
the world: we'll leave Kodak and Fuji to dispute that one between them.
But fine grain and high sharpness are not everything: films have their own "magic,"
which goes beyond objective criteria, and the new Rollei film is certainly not
short on "magic."
Next came the part about which we were most suspicious: "wet" printing
on black and white. Quite frankly, this struck us as a claim too far. If they
had let the film stand on its own as a unique color film, no one could have
argued with them.
When printed conventionally on black and white paper, ScanFilm
requires very hard grades: here, Grade 4 Multigrade (left) and
Grade 5 graded Ilfospeed (right).
The first thing Frances noticed in the darkroom was the lack of contrast.
The lowest contrast she needed, printing on Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone,
was Grade 4; Grade 5 was better; and in several cases, Grade 5 graded paper
(Ilfospeed) was better still, because Grade 5 graded is always harder than Grade
5 variable contrast. This alone makes it a great deal less versatile than a
proper black and white film, whether conventional process or C-41 compatible
(such as Ilford's XP2 Super). It is not completely useless, but it is
hard to see that claims of universality are justified.