There was a time when you could walk into any pharmacy and find an array of cheap 35mm film. Much of it was rebranded OEM film, some of it was cheaply-produced home brand stuff, but it was film nonetheless. Although the “1-HR PHOTOS” Kodak signs remain a ghostly presence at many pharmacies today and the phrase “drug store prints” remains in the photographic vernacular, there is very little of photographic value a modern Australian pharmacy can offer.
In Germany, until recently, things were a little different. Rossmann is the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, with stores virtually every city. On my first visit to Germany in 2009, it came as a shock to find – in addition to shampoos, conditioners and shaving cream – cigarettes, wine and 35mm film! Yes, there was Kodak Tri-X, Elite Chrome (ah, those were the days), BW400CN and a whole heap of cheap colour negative films. Alongside the Kodak Gold sat 5-roll packs of Rossmann-branded 200 and 400 films. After a bit of online searching, I discovered Rossmann film is rebranded Fujifilm, probably from the Superia line of consumer films.
Eager for some cheap film to chew through in my point-and-shoots, I bought up boxes and boxes of the stuff. I got some processed and reviewed the prints. The results were very similar to what I got with Fujifilm Superia 200 and 400. Nice colour and not too much grain, all with that lovely unmistakable filmic quality to it.
I kept with Kodak Portra 400 as my main colour film, but always had some Rossmann in my bag for when the good stuff ran out. But Rossmann was also good stuff. Sure, it was a “consumer” film, but it was clearly pretty good stuff from a quality manufacturer.
On departing from Germany, I bought up maybe 10 or 12 boxes of the five-roll packs, eliciting curious glances from security staff on my journey home. Like all photographic film should, it went in my carry-on luggage and took up far too much room, but it was worth it. I only ran out of my stash of Rossmann just before I left for Germany again in 2012. I bought up big again before coming home.
Sadly, on my last visit to Germany in 2014/15, there was little film to be found in Rossmann. When I did find some in Stuttgart, I noticed the cassettes were no longer branded as “Rossmann”, but generic “200” and “400”, and the five packs had reduced to 3er “Spar-Packs”. This would seem to be the end of the line for this particular pharma film, but it was great while it lasted.