I discovered the existence of Orwo films during my short, full immersion trip in the changing Berlin of March 1990. Cheap as they were, I bought many BW rolls and used most of them (but some are still waiting in a drawer!). I forgot about Orwo for roughly 25 years, then I tried a reel of N74. In those days, I was not very fond of working with EIs, developers and so, and I had just a moderate satisfaction. Orwo recently relaunched their e-shop, so I decided to try something different: 30 m of UN54 and 30m of DN21. The latter will be the object of a future post; about the former, I heard that some Twitter friends have had good results.

First of all, I tried a strip of UN54 at EI 100, developing it with ID11 1+1 (what else?). The frames were nice, although a little flat. But, what about pushing it just a bit…?
In May I had to go in Scandicci near Florence, with one of our textile technology students who was to attend a national school contest (spoiler: he won!).

I decided to travel light: a Canon FTb and just two lenses, the small 35/3.5 FL that I rarely use, and the tourist’s workhorse, 70-210/4 FD. Oh, and three rolls of UN54 that I decided to expose at EI 160, as a no-rehearsal field test.

Of course, colleagues and students of the hosting school gave us a great reception, including a long excursion across a quite hot Florence. No problem to finish my rolls, even when you’re on Ponte Vecchio for the n-th time and you have clear ideas about your subjects, not to use the camera as a machine gun. In the end I loaded a FP4, EI 200, just to compare the results.

I also used filters, red on the wide angle and orange on the zoom. Developed the same way, just increasing the time and, wow, the results were better than I had hoped! Even with the filters, high lights are not washed out, shadows are not empty, there’s a good sharpness and not so much grain. Portraits are fine and smooth; street and architectural frames are really satisfying.

During the summer, I shot and processed some other rolls the same way, and I think that UN54 is one of my new favourite films. Of course, as a bulk rolls aficionado, the ROI of the operation is a further advantage.

~ Sergio

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