Olympus XA
5 frames with...

5 frames with a rather dumb push: FP4 @800 & Neofin Blau – By Virgil Roger

September 3, 2019

A while back my friend Dave (@dbloomsday) gave me two vials of Neofin Blue. “You’ll see” he said, “this is the good stuff”. Fine grain and extreme acutance, perfect for low speed film and detailed work. Indeed, results with studio-lit 120 Rollei Retro 80S were outstanding.

But naturally, being a founder of the PUSH collective after all, I decided to push it. A lot. I’ve been fond of pushing FP4+ to 500 ISO for a while, resulting in contrasty crispy-grained negs that just look insanely good. FP4 being a fine-grained film, it doesn’t get too grainy either, and the grain structure is one of a kind.

So I set out to ignore all manufacturer recommendations and well… common sense, loaded up my trusty Olympus XA with a roll of FP4 (not even sure there was a +), set the meter for 800 ISO and got to work.

If you don’t know the Olympus XA, well shame on you. Joke aside, it may very well be my all-time favorite camera. A technical masterpiece that fits in the palm of your hand, or your pocket, packs a surprisingly sharp 35mm f/2.8 and has a very – VERY – accurate meter. As I was aware the film / developer combo I was using wouldn’t be very forgiving, a good meter was a smart choice (although maybe the only one I made).

Camera in hand, I did my usual everyday life shooting, as I like to make photographs on my daily errands and wanders. I didn’t pay much attention and shot it very much as usual, looking for contrast, geometry and some street photography opportunities. The XA may be the perfect camera for street shooting, as it’s inconspicuous, wide enough, bright enough, and doesn’t make a sound when triggering. I can shoot it from the hip and no-one ever notices an exposure has been made, even up close.

When I got to develop the roll, I eyeballed the times using the classical 1.5x/push increase in dev time and slow agitation to try and contain the grain a bit. I — again — didn’t pay much attention to the fact I was using a stupid combination, as I wanted to be able to compare my results with my usual developing.

And… It worked. Pretty damn well too!

Looking back, I’m pretty sure the FP4 had no plus, has the edge markings say “Safety Film” and there’s visible fogging, all good signs of an old film stock. Which makes the experiment even more… (stupid) interesting.

Fogging apart, the results are up to my expectations. Insane contrast, crispy grain, blown-out highlights and inky blacks.
Which proves time again that yes, when in doubt, you should push it!

I’ve been messing around with film for a while now, but it keeps amazing me just how resilient the stuff is.

Anyway, that’s it for now, keep pushing folks!

Virgil Roger


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  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for an inspiring post! Did you ever push Fomapan 100?

    • Reply
      September 3, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      Actually yes and it’s not bad at all but I recommend 120 film at 200 for really lovely results!

  • Reply
    Louis A. Sousa
    September 3, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I love the high contrast in the images.

    • Reply
      September 4, 2019 at 6:50 am

      Thank you, pushing film tends to do that for you 🙂

  • Reply
    Roger B
    September 3, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    Your post takes me back to the late 1960s: I loved shooting Kodak Tri-X at ISO 1200 and developing it in Acufine. Big but well-formed grain, high contrast, and less than one stop of latitude. Perfect for nighttime street shooting, or “available dark” interiors.

    • Reply
      September 4, 2019 at 6:50 am

      Yes! Trix pushes beautifully, I’ve never tried acufine but I heard great things about it.

  • Reply
    C. Friedländer
    September 4, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Beautiful grain… well done..! It look like it´s Lyon? I recognize the steps next to the opera..

    • Reply
      September 4, 2019 at 9:18 am

      I am ! Well spotted 🙂

  • Reply
    Steve Karsten
    September 4, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    beautiful work! Everyday I thank the photogods for Ilford and the Olympus XA series.. Pushing some HP5 to 3200 today, and even then, always astonished with the results.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2019 at 7:09 am

      Thank you! I can’t thank Olympus enough, the XA is the one that got me hooked on film photography! The XA and Ilford’s HP5 that is !

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