Adox IR-HR Pro 50 / HR-50 Without Speed Boost Film Review
Adox is an old company / brand. It was founded in 1860. It has since changed owners and been split, joined and all sorts of operations have happened. Good news is that Adox is once again making film for us to enjoy. If you want to learn more about the history of Adox I recommend starting from their own website.
My first experience with Adox was actually their parent company - Fotoimpex. Fotoimpex is an online store ( they also have a physical store in Germany ) that sells various analog products. I use them quite often and it's my favourite large, online analog gear store.
My experience with Adox, the film maker, was accidental. I had bought some bulk film and it included two rolls of Argenti Scale-X. What does that have to do with Adox? It's complicated. Might even be too complicated for me. In essence Argenti Scale-X is the same as Agfa Scala. Agfa doesn't exist anymore and instead Adox makes many of the films Agfa made ( part of Adox was sold to Agfa a long time ago ). The Adox version of Agfa Scala is Adox Scala 160. At least the version intended for processing as slides. If you want to shoot it as a negative then there is Adox Silvermax which is the same film. You can also shoot Scala 160 as negative film and Silvermax as slides. Because it's the same film. But don't quote me on any of this!
It's all very complicated. The short and simple version is: I shot a film that is like Adox Scala 160 and I liked it so wanted to try other films from Adox.
About IR-HR Pro 50
IR-HR Pro 50 is not a regular stock that Adox provides. It's based off of Adox HR-50. Or to make it more confusing - Adox HR-50 is actually based off of IR-HR Pro 50 - the film reviewed right here and right now. What?
Adox gets film that is intended for technical purposes. They apply special "Speed Boost" technology that allows the use of this technical film with ISO 50. At least that's what Adox says. See, IR-HR Pro 50 is sold as HR-50 without the "Speed Boost" technology. So IR-HR Pro 50 is the raw technical film that HR-50 is based off of. And this raw film itself can be shot at ISO 50. I'm not sure why the wording is as it is but I do believe that Adox makes changes to this raw film stock to make HR-50. Not sure what exactly the changes are. By looking at samples and charts they provide it looks like it's there to tame the strong contrast.
Whatever the backstory of the film is - it does exist. Film is super-panchromatic. It means that it sees the colors as we humans see it plus an extra bit in the infrared spectrum ( that's the "super" part ). It also is sold as having ultra fine grain.
The infrared visibility means that you can use this film for infrared photography. Documentation also mentions that it responds well to other color filtration.
Shooting & Developing Film
I won't be testing the infrared capabilities of this film in this review but most shots are taken through a dark red ( #29 ) filter. Most shots are also in sunny conditions.
One difficulty with using such a strong filter is that the low ISO of 50 needs to be reduced even more. Dark red filter requires you to add 3 more stops of light so that meant that I had to shoot at ISO 6. It's not a high ISO. I dislike tripods so I shot using wider apertures, slower shutter speeds and the power of sunny days. Keep this in mind as it means that some shots might be softer / less detailed. That's not because of the film though - it's because I'm a shaky old man with soft lenses when wide open.
After developing the first roll I noticed that the shots were slightly overexposed when using a red filter. So instead of adding 3 stops of light I added two which meant that I shot it as ISO 12 film. Non-filter pictures seemed well exposed when rated at ISO 50. My guess is that the extra infrared sensitivity helps when shooting in sunlight where there's typically a lot of infrared light being thrown around.
For development Adox recommends their own developer but it's possible to develop it with other developers. Which is what I did. I developed all rolls in Kodak HC-110 H dilution for 9 minutes. My agitation is to invert 4 times at the start of every minute. First roll came out very contrasty so I changed my agitation to two inversions at the start of every minute. Less agitation can tame strong contrast.
Film uses a very clear base that's also thinner than usual. It also attracts dirt quite a lot and likes to curl. It's not super curly but it can get difficult to handle depending on your scanning setup.
Enough words. Let's have a look at some of the pictures taken on Adox IR-HR Pro 50 and see what conclusions we can draw.
Adox IR-HR Pro 50 is a difficult film to use but I like the results you can get with it.
It's a contrasty film - especially when shooting with a dark red filter. I like contrasty pictures but sometimes the contrast is a bit too much even for me. You have to be aware of the light in your scene. In high contrast situations I would advise metering for the highlights as they are easy to be blown out. You will likely lose shadows but you don't need every detail from there anyway. When shooting without a filter it's a bit more tame but the contrast is still there. Shooting portraits for caucasian people might not be the best idea. It's easy to blow the skin out and the strong contrast doesn't help. You can do it but expect almost pure white skin that's almost glowing. It can look good but not for every circumstance.
The film is sharp. As long as your picture-taking-medium can produce sharp images and you don't shake a lot. The grain is "small grained" but pleasantly noticeable if that makes any sense. It doesn't look as clean as a digital image - and that's a good thing!
When using a red filter the film can sometimes deliver almost infrared looking pictures which I certainly enjoy. As long as you can deal with the contrast I agree with Adox that this film handles filtration ( especially red ) really well.
I can definitely recommend the film. It's not good for an everyday film. For circumstances when you want to punch someone through the power of contrast - it's a great choice!