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.