ORWOCOLOR NC 19 – a historic test of a historical film

26 Jan


Old tangerines, well past their prime

Old tangerines, well past their prime

Orwocolor was made by ORWO at Wolfen in Germany (in the part that was free of American imperialism and Nazism) and is related to Orwochrom and original Agfacolor which was also developed at Wolfen. Wolfen, now a place abandoned and more or less vandalized. I think that destruction of ORWO after Anschlüß was deliberate. Ironically ORWO might have outlived Agfa in film format.

A block of ORWO color film

A block of ORWO color NC19 film

I ran a field “test” on ORWOchrom already and in it I wrote about the origins of this color process.

Below are scans from a roll of Absolutely no post processing was done on the first three. No curves tweaking. No colors added. No burn or dodge. Just actual scan with no processing. This is how it came out. I would assume that’s how it would print in a lab. I have all those images in my flickr stream but I deleted the vegetable supernova (the last photo) because it is so dissonant.

Orwocolor package - the film canister made of metal (!) , instructions insert, the film itself

ORWO color package - the film canister made of metal (!) , instructions insert, the film itself

Scanned as Agfa Optima (Agfa being closest relative and of course the scanner does not have an option for Orwocolor).

German Orwocolor NC19 is a negative film. Although ORWO made   C-41 film in the 135 format before it was destroyed by the enemy the NC19  ctually uses old Agfa and own ORWO technology (I mixed the chemicals and developed the film according to ORWO’s formula). This film was made in 1987 or 1988 and expired in 1991 (that’s the expiration date).

Box from Orwocolor NC 19

Box from Orwocolor NC 19

The film was amazing, it is astounding film – and it is easy and forgiving to use, has enormous latitude and apparently – if this picture can serve as evidence.

Three Apples. I’ll be posting a few more stills – I shot only one roll of this fabulous film.

Three apples, a still life in ORWOCOLOR

Three apples, a still life in ORWOCOLOR

The actual scan is 84 mb, and the detail is just dramatic. These are tiny scans for the web (click on the image to see it larger but they are still very small).

ORWO Orwocolor NC 19
Chinese close-up lens 1 to 2
Rollei SLX
self-made chemical solutions (raw chemicals bought from Calbe Chemie, in its past an ORWO enterprise).

Results above

A little hooliganism with Orwocolor, vegetable are rioting

or Vegetable supernova. I might delete it later.

Vegetable super nova

Vegetable super nova


6 Responses to “ORWOCOLOR NC 19 – a historic test of a historical film”

  1. matofotoMato January 27, 2012 at 09:23 #

    Massacre result !!!! Congratulations 🙂

  2. Neil Purling August 14, 2012 at 10:20 #

    I have got some Svema DS4 and would like to shoot and process, or have a roll processed in the proper native chemistry.
    The speed of the stuff on the box was only 50ASA. Whatever would one rate it at today for experimental purposes to get appropriate density in the negative?
    I would like to expose one roll, simply for curiosity sake. Can such a old expired film of obsolete technology make a colour negative now?

    • photoroobit August 16, 2012 at 23:49 #

      sorry for responding backwards – from bottom to the top

      well, the USA is pretty much socialist but they hadn’t made any cameras worth feeding film into since late 1940s.

      i think the speed now is about iso 6 but it is difficult to predict. it depends how and where it was stored. I got decent images and i wasted like three rolls of it in 120 and 135 format when exposing at iso 6. I want to try to do prints with it in a lab. I am unsure they would be able to because the film is unmasked but let them try/.

      In the Soviet Union the NC19 or any other ORWO film was regarded as superior. There could be a multitude of reasons for that. Svema never made enough color film and it was not exported as far as I know except Bulgaria. Though I don’t know. Svema’s color stock was used for filming the majority of Soviet movies and cartoons. They worked at full capacity. Anything imported – as ORWO color film – was cherished and valued more than domestic product, this consumer russophobia was strong and became stronger after 1990s. Believe it or not I discovered a similar phenomenon in Britain – the British consumer Anglophobia. Like they would use Kodak over Ilford color film (and Ilford lost), buy Japanese over British cars (in the 70s or 80s). Or I read a thing that bordered on absurdity. British fashion photographers in the 70s preferred to shoot with Kodak T-max black and white film (not Ilford) that was made in the USA over identical film that was made in England. The other consideration might have been that … Orwo was a better film, in a sense it was more naturalistic film that reproduced colors more faithfully – that’s another theory I won’t go into but if I am now looking for color film that produces special vintage look the way orwo does and the digital is just “too naturalistic” people wanted to get film that was most natural looking, so perhaps orwo was better.

      ASA 50 – this is not that bad. The Kodachrome was ISO 6 and in the 1970s and 80s Kodachrome 25 and 64 were common. Agfa made iso 25 film and Adox still does. Fujichrome Velvia is ISO 50 or one of them is.

      Svema requires a process that is old but was in parallel use to C41 and its Kodak predecessors even in the UK probably until mid 70s, this is more or less then Agfacolor process. Ilford’s Ilforcolor film used same or similar process. I would love to get my hands on a cool stored batch of that film.

      I can develop your svema ds4, better save a few similar process films for batch processing.

  3. Horatiu December 18, 2012 at 16:37 #

    hi I read you post and I would very much like to know the chemicals needed and the process used for developing the film rolls. I have some old rolls of orow color nc21 and I guess the process of developing is not that different from your nc19. Thank you

    • photoroobit January 1, 2013 at 19:14 #

      Hello Horatiu, La mulți ani! Sorry I missed that. Yes, NC19 and NC21 are identical. I never tried NC21 but I’ve heard its dyes are pretty unstable (as compared to NC19). As far as photographic formulae – I will translate them into English, get CAS numbers for the chemicals (so you can look them up in any language) and publish them online. May be in another blog. I will let you know. If you are in Romania, try to look for negative kits (Orwo or any other) for color negative film processing from – anything up to 1991 would do. Thank you and Happy new year.


  1. Film test Svema DS – 4 / Свема ДС -4, beautiful pastel colors of the Soviet film « photoroobit - February 2, 2012

    […] Categories Uncategorized ← ORWOCOLOR NC 19 – a historic test of a historical film […]

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