home - about - trip reports - articles - contact - links  
  Everything you wanted to know about Efke IR820 but were afraid to ask
  by Wallace Billingham
  Over the past year I have been getting a bunch of email from folks all over the world who are looking for more information about how to shoot and use Efke IR820 film. I remember well when I first began shooting it, looking around the net and finding out that there is little to no information about it. With that in mind I thought it would be a good idea to write an article about it.

However first I should make the following disclaimer. If you found this page through a search engine you should know that 100% of my experience with this film is from using it in a Holga Camera. If you don't know what a Holga Camera is, let me quickly explain. A Holga is a cheap plastic camera made in China. It has only one aperture (something around f/13) and two shutter speeds, something around 1/100th or so and bulb.

Now that you know that let me proceed. First off I know that some readers are now scratching their heads wondering, "how can you shoot IR film in a plastic camera"? Well that is the first myth about shooing IR film. In my experience with shooting hundreds of rolls of the Efke IR (as well as many other IR films) the idea that somehow black plastic is not opaque to IR light is just not true. If the plastic is thick enough to block visible light, it will block infrared light as well. This goes for both cameras as well as plastic film developing tanks such as the Patterson style daylight tanks that I use to develop all my film in.

Another common myth is that you need to load the film in total darkness. The reality is that you can treat it like any other film. While you probably do not want to load your camera in full mid-day sun, you really do not want to load any film in full mid-day sun. So when you shoot it just handle it like you would any other film.

Another question people ask my quite frequently is what filter to use. The Efke IR film is quite different than the Kodak HIE film that many people have experience with. With HIE you could use a regular Red #25 or #29 filter and get the classic IR film or "Wood" effects of white foliage, black skies, and black water. While you can certainly use such a filter with the film you will not really get any such effects. What you will get will be very similar to shooting a regular panchromatic film such as Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5 with a red filter. The only difference is that green leaves will be medium gray instead of very dark. The reason for this is that the Efke film has much more sensitivity to visible light than it does to IR light. So as a result if you use a filter that lets in too much visible light, the visible light will pretty much over power the IR light. As a result to get good results you should use a true IR filter such as a Hoya R72 which is what I use.

Since using a filter such as a Hoya R72 will cut out pretty much all visible light the film becomes quite slow. When shooting it I rate it at around 1.5iso That means long exposure times. If you are familiar with the sunny 16 rule you can use it here also. Just set your lens to f/16 and shoot for 1 second in full sun. In the shade or when it is cloudy make it longer. In bright but cloudy days I would go for 4 seconds and in the shade go for much longer. The film has very bad reciprocity failure as well so when in doubt add more exposure. The film seems to handle over exposure quite well but does not handle under exposure at all. When first shooting the film experiment a bit, bracket and take good notes. After a few rolls you should have a good hang of it.

Once shot it is time to develop it. All of the Efke films are based on old Adox emulsions and as such I find old school developers to work the best. My favorite developer is Diafine, but I have also used Rodinal with good results. One thing you should always do with all the Efke/Adox films is to presoak the film. The Efke films all have massive amounts of anti-halation dyes that the presoak will get rid of, and it will also help soften the emulsion. Also use plain water as a stop bath as the film does not respond well to acid stop baths. Once developed the film is very soft and will scratch very easily. One idea is to use a hardening fixer, but I just use a regular non-hardening fixer and just handle the film carefully. NEVER squeegee the film as it will scratch like mad.

Once you have let the film dry you can scan or print it like any other B&W film. You will find the film base to be very clear. You will also find that it will be super curly. Just one more quirky thing to love about this wonderful film.


  unless noted all content copyright 2006-2008 by Wallace Billingham all rights reserved