Saturday, January 20, 2018

Geeking Out on the Possible Origins of ReraPan



One of my favorite podcasts is Sunny 16. On last week’s episode, among other things, hosts Graeme and Rachel referred to a 127-format film that was made in a disused bicycle factory in Japan and was called something like Retropan. Of course I was intrigued!

I thought, that really sounds like ReraPan. As far as I know, ReraPan (a black and white negative film) is the only 127-format film currently being made* – that is, as you can buy it as rolls of film that are ready to pop into your camera and go (as compared to, say, bulk 46mm film). I knew it was from Japan, but I didn’t know much else. So I poked around the Interwebs to learn more. 

I knew (based on the film's labeling) that ReraPan is made by a company called Kawauso-shoten, so I started there. Of course, their website is almost entirely in Japanese, which I don't read, although it became clear to me that this was an online store devoted to analogue photography. I did find the page from which it's possible to buy ReraPan from them. They also sell a lot of other films. But despite using a lot of Google Translate, I didn't find anything about where ReraPan is manufactured. The "about this site" page describes Kawauso-shoten as part of EZOX Corporation, which (per Google Translate), "handles" products that include "photographic supplies, miscellaneous goods, bicycles and related products." Aha ... bicycles! Text on the page refers to a commitment to prevent analogue photography from becoming extinct and to enjoyment of what they term film culture.

There's a discussion on Photrio that includes some well-informed speculation about ReraPan's origins. One post offered a link to an APUG page that looked as if it could be informative, but the link was broken, and searches failed to turn it up on Photrio.

However, Wikipedia offered a partial answer. Now I realize that Wikipedia is not a definitive source of truth, and the article was clearly outdated, but it was interesting to read this: "In August 2014, Maco announced that they would be selling black-and-white 127 film under the ReraPan brand. This film is manufactured in Japan by EZOX Corporation, who are better known for manufacturing agricultural equipment and bicycles." Bicycles!

The possibility comes up in the Photrio discussion that EZOX may be assembling rolls of film made by another company. This is consistent with the labeling on the film cans, which says "assembled" in Japan, as well as the actual wording of the Wikipedia article, which says that Maco was selling ReraPan, not making it (and indeed, ReraPan is available on the Maco Direct website ... as are many other films). One person who posted noticed that the development instructions for ReraPan are the same as the instructions for Rollei RPX100. 

To further complicate things, a recent discussion on Photo Net suggests that Rollei's films, in turn, are made by Agfa Gevaert in Belgium. Wikipedia describes Maco as a "supplier" (although not manufacturer) of Agfa films, among other things, and goes on to say that most of Maco's films are sold under the Rollei label. Nik & Trick Photo Services describes Rollei 400S film as being made in Belgium by Agfa Gevaert. Their description of Rollei RPX100 (the film that's apparently most similar to ReraPan) doesn't include this text, but the page is shown as being in "Rollei," "Agfa," and "Maco" categories. I couldn't find any reference to Rollei, Agfa, Maco, or ReraPan films on Agfa's website (other than Aviphot aerial films). 

So ... ReraPan's origins aren't completely clear. But it seems reasonable to speculate that it might be something like rebranded Rollei RPX100, made in Belgium by Agfa Gevaert (in bulk) and assembled (as roll film) in Japan by EZOX  ... in a disused bicycle factory.

In any case, it's a very beautiful film, as you can see from these examples (as well as many in the 127 Day exhibitions on this very site), and a joy to use! I hope it stays in production for a very, very long time.


*Sadly, it appears that ReraChrome color transparency film is no longer being made.







2 comments:

  1. being based in germany i can give you some further informations:
    rpx films are made by harman/ilford in the uk exclusively for maco. all other rollei films are agfa-gevaert aerialfilms as you mention above.
    in the past maco offered rollei crossbird and nightbird in 127 format, wich were also agfa-gevaert films, but assembled by fotokemika, the company behind the efke films. fotokemika ceased produduction of all their films and unfortunatly destroyed all the machines (in 2012?).
    in the german aphog forum you can find a thread about rpx films and a reply by maco saying it's made in europe.

    quote:"We also had a master roll RPX 100 cut into 46mm for roll film type 127, which will be assembled and presented in the first half of 2014."

    https://aphog.de/forum/index.php/Thread/28849-Eben-schnell-Rollei-RPX-was-ist-drin/?postID=262172#post262172

    in english
    https://translate.google.de/translate?hl=de&sl=de&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Faphog.de%2Fforum%2Findex.php%2FThread%2F28849-Eben-schnell-Rollei-RPX-was-ist-drin%2F%3FpostID%3D262172%23post262172

    so, rerapan is probably rpx film.

    kind regards
    h.s

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    1. Thank you very much, Henriette! That is fascinating! Much appreciation for your contribution to addressing this question.

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