5 frames with...

5 Frames with Fomapan 400 “Action” at EI200, Developed Normally – by Simon King

November 20, 2019

I recently wrote a 5 Frames With Fomapan 400 where I described the results shot at EI1600 with a 2 stop push. Although these weren’t excessively bad I think I’ll be sticking to other films for my standard low light/push options – especially HP5. However I still wanted to see whether Fomapan 400 could work for me in any other use cases, and so shot this roll at EI200, one stop overexposed consistently. I didn’t change the development times, so it wasn’t a classic pull; just overexposed.

I think that under these conditions the film really came into its own. Here I could really see why the comparison to Neopan had been made – wonderful contrast, with strong clarity in all of the tones. Black and rich and whites are vivid. I think the example shots in this article demonstrate this well. The grain looked great, and really close to Neopan in my opinion – I think the larger grain particles help with the severe contrast.

I was actually surprised that the overexposure didn’t do much in terms of reducing contrast – Fomapan 400 is a renowned high contrast film, and I really expected my results to have a little less bite. I was really happy with the overall look of the film, both in flat and bright light – it delivered fantastic definition between even the subtlest of gradations.

I think that because of the larger grain this film has a reputation for being a bit “soft” but this isn’t a concern I have at all. Unless you really zoom in on the scans I think that the Nikon lenses I shot these images on delivered excellent results, and the film drew that sharpness without adding too much character. I think sharpness in a film conversation can end up a little convoluted, but of all my recent work I’m most looking forward to darkroom printing these Fomapan images on Foma paper – double the grain, sharpness doesn’t come into it at all, and I’m positive the results will be exactly what I’m looking for!

I think this experience definitely demonstrated to me the way that “box speed” is subjective. Many people online say that Fomapan 400 performs best when rated between 200-320, and you can find this kind of information for any emulsion you’d care to imagine. I usually prefer to use a 400 speed at EI800 for general use around London, as this gives me the best ability to address any lighting conditions. I wasn’t expecting to prefer Fomapan overexposed, but I can’t argue with the results. Especially considering the cost I’d be happy to shoot this when the light calls for it, and keep my standard Delta and HP5 for the less than ideal autumn and winer light.

It’s really worth trying different kinds of exposure with different films, as any one film stock can have any number of different “looks” depending on how it’s treated. Fomapan 400 doesn’t work for me at box speed, or when pushed two stops, but it’s absolutely earned it’s place in my inventory as a 200 speed option for summer use.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on Fomapan 400 @ 200. If you enjoyed my work here you can find more of it over on my Instagram. I buy all of my film from Analogue Wonderland.

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  • Reply
    Okyar Atilla
    November 20, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Nice and useful informations. Thank you. I want to ask a question about developer; What kind of developer was used? If you prefer yourself, it is possibble to give formula? Also scanner brand and model name please.

    • Reply
      November 20, 2019 at 11:56 am

      Glad you found it useful! The developer shouldn’t matter too much for this kind of process, any will do.
      The scanner I use is a Plustek 8100.

  • Reply
    John Squillace
    November 20, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Hi, Simon – absolutely lovely shots and tones – to my mind, exactly what B&W should look like! Just out of curiosity, which developer/dilution did you use to process the film? Thanks!

    • Reply
      November 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you! DDX is my go-to.

  • Reply
    November 20, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    These are nice, there is something about the crappy anti halation layer film when you pull it and blow the highlights a bit, it turns the glowiness up to 11.
    How do you prevent scratches, Simon? I quit shooting Fomapan 400 because it was so scratch prone for me.
    Also, whats your Plustek workflow like – I’m thinking of ditching silverfast for vuescan, I’m hearing vuescan makes for more neutral images because silverfast always wants to employ negafix profiles and rubbish like that (half the films I shoot don’t even have a negafix profile).

    • Reply
      November 20, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      Thank you! Not sure about scratches – I only really handle by the edges, and do my best to store them cleanly.
      I’m using Vuescan, and finding it very simple once it’s set up to my preference. It offers very nice results, I’m certain you’d get on with it!

  • Reply
    November 20, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Yep, there are many reviews of Foma 400 on the net, and they often say that, shot at box speed and developed as recommended, it’s grainy, contrasty and lacks shadow detail, which is what pushed film looks like.
    I shoot a lot of it, all at 200. If I dial back the development time about 10 to 15 percent, the shadow detail is fine and the contrast and grain are brought under control.

  • Reply
    Mark Alan Thomas
    November 20, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    And I thought taping over the red dot was silly. At any rate, nice shots. There’s always something interesting here.

    • Reply
      November 20, 2019 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Mark!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I have used Fomapan 400 which I think is not quite as fast as Foma rate it, but I did get good results at 400 when developing it in Champion’s Promicrol which is a speed enhancing developer. It’s not a popular developer for some reason but it’s cheap as chips and delivers a fine grain.

  • Reply
    Jim Grey
    November 21, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    These are terrific. Thanks for experimenting with this film so the rest of us can just go straight to the EI that gave you these great results!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      Appreciate it Jim, happy to have helped!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Simon, These are great! I may try Fomapan as you did at EI=200. However, dependable old Tri-X 400 at 320 works for me, especially in 120 size. I am retired and still do not have enough time to photograph, let alone experiment with different films.

    In the photo of a hotel, why is a young lady climbing into a window?? Is that the new Jane Bond?

    • Reply
      November 22, 2019 at 12:08 am

      Tri-X at 320 is a wonderful look – but one roll at 35mm is twice the price of Fomapan, sometimes even more than half! Definitely worth the effort – but definitely to save for the summer!

      The woman was climbing out for some fresh air, that shot was taken during the heatwave in August!

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    November 22, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Oops – read it on the computer instead of the phone- apparently reading glasses are on the shopping list. 200 is of course fine, and in accord with the earlier ASA rating system. Again my apologies

  • Reply
    February 17, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    I think a slight pull in the development would yield better results—very hot highlights, Foma isn’t very forgiving with development variances

    • Reply
      February 17, 2020 at 7:42 pm

      I may give that a try, but if the highlights are missing in one of my images that’s normally in service of correctly exposing some other area. Easy to introduce texture in those areas in a print – just by flashing the paper beforehand, if that is something that perticularly worried anyone who doesn’t want any areas of pure white on their image.

  • Reply
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