I never stop bemoaning the loss of my favorite Aerochrome EIR that Kodak stopped making while I wasn’t looking. Even though I found a little left, it was super spendy, hand-rolled, and only in a larger format. Folks like Lomo have stepped up with some similar films, but nothing is exactly what I wanted – nothing is Aerochrome.
But these days, what I really wish I had was a digital version. When one of my friends got the hotfilter on his digital camera removed (making it sensitive to IR light), I started looking into it and after making the mistake of buying a Canon 5D (which we won’t talk about), the good folks at Kolari Vision sent me out for a Sigma DP2x – a “pro-grade” point and shoot with a 2.8 fixed lens and a Foveon sensor. It’s one of the easiest cameras to convert and they told me it gave a very Aerochrome-like look when it was done.
So how did it turn out? Well I’m still figuring it out.
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The camera wasn’t built for this, and it’s not sure how to meter, so I’m back to bracketing and then composing into HDR to get things right. This one is still a bit blown out. I’m also trying to figure out just what the characteristics of the color shift are, and it will take a little time to do that.
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That’s more what I was looking for. I still miss my Aerochrome, but this sure is easier.
This time of year, the leaves remaining on the trees have usually turned colors already. This shot is from all the way back in July, but catches the maples of Volunteer Park in full red glory. Yeah – Aerochrome EIR will do that.
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This one was also shot with my Rollei, using the same Aerochrome EIR as the other shot here.
You used to be able to buy color infrared film. Kodak produced a line in sizes from 35mm to large sheets – I think the original purpose was for some sort of agricultural surveying. Living things reflect infrared light differently. This is color infrared film – specifically, Kodak Aerochrome EIR.
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When the film is fresh and you do it right, the results can be amazing. Trees and gress in full sun are rendered red or orange. Human skin is pale, almost white, and sometimes you can see blood in the veins beneath. Unfortunately, you just can’t get it anymore. Well… mostly.
Kodak stopped producing the 35mm version around 2002 or so. They stopped producing the 120 version around 2006, and I believe they stopped producing the large roll format in 2011. Some enterprising folks stockpiled massive amounts of it. Even at 12 shots per roll using my Rollei, like above, those rolls still cost $25 each (from here, which has since sold out). Not only that but you have to load and process them in complete darkness in a processor that doesn’t use an infrared counter. Even in photo-happy Seattle, there is nowhere I can get these things processed anymore, so I had to ship it to Portland (which to its credit, boasts at least two places that can do this for you).
At the end of the day, it’s a great lesson in what happens if you even semi-successfully stack together a bunch of old technologies. Medium-format, color infrared, TLR – they’re all there. I’ve got two rolls left and they stay in my freezer, waiting for something momentous enough to justify thawing them out.