Nikon F2 with Fomapan 400
5 frames with...

5 frames with Fomapan 400 in a Nikon F2 in Dungeness, Kent – By Nigel Rumsey

June 23, 2021

Sometimes it can seem that by law, photographers in southeast England, with a few days holiday, have to make a pilgrimage to Dungeness. You’re so likely to bump into another photographer it’s very difficult to make images that feel original and I didn’t achieve that here. However, it’s always worth trying, which is how I found myself in, probably, the most COVID-safe environment in this crowded corner of the country on one of the windiest days in early May. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to have a change of scene.

It also gave me an excellent opportunity to test a new-to-me, black and white film, Fomapan 400. I’ve been shooting film on and off for over 40 years (I started young, honestly), but for the image rather than experimentation, so I’ve been relatively unadventurous in what film stocks I’ve used. I tend to find a combination I like and stick to it.

Cottage on the beach, Dungeness, Kent

At first, that was Ilford films combined with a Paterson developer, I think; I can’t remember how I settled on that combination; it was probably whatever was recommended in the local camera shop. Then there was my Neopan period, a film loved and one I’d still be shooting today if Fuji hadn’t discontinued it in 2013. I still have five rolls in my fridge I just can’t bring myself to use. Since then it’s been Kodak Tri-X or T-Max 400 developed in Kodak’s HC-110.

Dungeness nuclear power station.

However, the price of Kodak stock seems to be increasing weekly. So I was interested to see how Fomapan, which is at less than half the cost of Tri-X, performed. I’d read that Fomapan 400 is thought more of a 200, or iso 320 film than 400, so I rated this at iso 200 which seemed to work well. The sky was fairly close to 18% grey most of the day, so there was little chance of blowing any highlights. I was using my Nikon F2 and the film was developed at home using HC-110 dilution B.

A fisherman on the beach, Dungeness, Kent.

The Fomapan is certainly grainier than Tri-X but not excessively so and still sharp. I’ve seen it can exhibit a strange haloing effect on some highlights, although that was never going to be much of a concern on this particular day.

Dungeness lighthouse.

The landscape of Dungeness seems to suit that gritty-grainier look well; I like it more than I expected. Kodak prices, in particular, vary from one supplier to another, but as I write this Analogue Wonderland are selling Fomapan 400 for £4, Tri-X is £9.75 and T-Max 400 is £10.50. With that difference, it seems crazy not to give it a further test. I’ve ordered another five rolls and I’ll see how it fits with the other shots on an ongoing project.

A cabin on the beach, Dungeness, Kent.

I would be interested in hearing your recommendations on cheaper black & white stocks? Have you used Fomapan 400? Did you like it? Is there something else I should be considering?

As always, stay safe out there.

You can see more of my work on my website or Instagram.

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Marius I.
    June 23, 2021 at 10:56 am

    I ‘m new to film (been shooting some rolls in the past years – more so in the last 2) but since I started using Foma (mostly for the price) I realized I like its grain and look and for my amateurish needs (lab development and scanning) it is more than enough. I shoot mostly Fomapan 100 and 400 in 35mm and Fomapan 200 and 400 in 120 format.

    I see it as a gritty black and white film, more rough compared to the professional, clean, glossy magazine emulsions.

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 24, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      Hi Marius, thanks for your comment and welcome to the world of grain! I go through phases with it, some days I like the grain of the Fomapan others I’m more for the smoothness of T-Max – it’s all good though!

  • Reply
    Juan
    June 23, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Bulkloading Hp5 and Fp4 is less expensive thannbuying rolls of Fomapan. It’s what I do. Bulkloading Fomapan is, of course, even better from a cost point of view. I haven’t done it becausen I’m not a fan of Fomapan 100 in hc110 or ilfotec hc, which is what I tend to use. I like your results with the 400 and hc110, though, so I might give it a go!

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 23, 2021 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Juan, bulk loading is one of those things I feel I ought to do, but I’m just a bit too lazy. You’re right though, it’s a good way to save money.

  • Reply
    Tobias Eriksson
    June 23, 2021 at 11:15 am

    What lovely five frames! I’m adding Dungeness (Dungenäs in Swedish = Cape Grove) to my English visits list.
    I have used Fomapan 400 for several years and have nothing but good to say. As you mention, it can take overexposure very well, as well as some stops under too. Also it is very accomodating when developed in caffenol – my preferred developer – which Kodak films are certainly not. Fomapan films do not curl particularly so are easy to mount to scan and handle. The negs are not as thin as the flimsy Ilford negs that I’ve come across.

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 23, 2021 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Tobias, thanks! Dungeness is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area. You’re right about the scanning, the negatives dried nice and flat, no problems there.

  • Reply
    andy
    June 23, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Hi Nigel,
    I use Fomapan Films since I startet analog photography again in 2018; I use 60% Foma 100, 10% Foma 400 and 20% Foma 200-120.
    I didn’t know the manufacturer before, but because of the prices I switched to the and mostly satisfied with the results – the 400 film is nice and sharp. Price-performance ratio is definitely top. Andy

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 23, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Andy, I’ve heard good things about Fomapan 100, but I’ve not tried it. Hamish mentioned he’s used it and got on well with it. I need to add it to my list.

  • Reply
    Andrea Bevacqua
    June 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Nigel,
    I quite like the Foma brand to be honest. As you said, at those prices, would be stupid not giving it a go.
    I think that the downside of Foma in general is that is very prone to scratches, so in development it requires more care.
    I prefer to use Foma 100 or 200 and eventually push those to get a bit more contrast. I prefer those because they are a bit less grainy. I found the grain of Foma 400 not very nice. Ilford of Kodak grain is more pleasant at my eyes.
    But this is my taste.

    If you bulk load, I would buy a roll and experiment. Is even cheaper this way.

    Btw, beautiful pictures 😊

    Andrea

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 23, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Andrea, thanks! It’s interesting you mention Ilford and Kodak grain. I really like Tri-x grain, but I just can’t get on with HP5 – the grain always looks a little ‘mushy’ to my eyes, but it’s all personal taste! Foma 100 is next on my list.

  • Reply
    Jean-François Bonnin
    June 23, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    I use this good film since 2009 either in 135 or 120 (Leica M, Spotmatic, Pentacon 6 etc).
    Excellent value for money : HP5+, Tri-X and some others are too costly now.
    FOMAPAN ISO 400, exposed ISO 320.
    Ilford ID 11 / Kodak D 76 / Foma Fomadon P W37 / D76 Formulary kit
    Dilution 1+1
    Time 10′ 45 to 11 ’30 (68°F / 20°C) depending on weather conditions.
    Il also use FOMA’s 100 and 200 ISO. Got fed up of their RETROPAN.
    Great pictures, Nigel !

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 23, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Jean-François, thanks! That’s quite a complicated developing setup you’ve got going on. I basically used HC-110 for everything!

      • Reply
        Nigel Rumsey
        June 23, 2021 at 5:00 pm

        Hi Jack, like most of us, I have way too many cameras. But if I had to pick just one, this would be near the top of my list.

  • Reply
    Jack
    June 23, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    And the Nikon F2. What a camera.

  • Reply
    John Squillace
    June 24, 2021 at 12:50 am

    Hi, Nigel – based on your reference to Acros as a favorite film, just wanted to mention that Fujifilm has resurrected it as Acros II. Expensive , but every bit as good as the original. Cheers!

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 24, 2021 at 8:36 am

      Hi John, thanks for your comment. It was actually the Neopan 400 that stole my heart. I’ve not tried Acros, as I said I’m not very adventurous in my film choices!

  • Reply
    Andrew L
    June 24, 2021 at 12:59 am

    I’m all for shooting Fomapan 400 at 400 or even higher, and embracing the grain. You’re never going to get rid of it, and it’s a contrasty film stock, so looking for dramatic light conditions and compose for the grain and the deep blacks. There’s Foma 100 for finer grain, I like that stuff too.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    June 24, 2021 at 4:30 am

    Hi Nigel,
    Great posting. I love the classic F2 in black. I once read that it’s considered the finest, all mechanical SLR ever produced.
    Of all your shots, the surf fishing is the one that I like the most. A nice, graphic-like composition.
    I never tried Foma 400, but I gave Foma 200 a try a few years ago. It never made much of an impression on me.
    But since your question was about using inexpensive films, here are my thoughts: just before the damnpandemic hit us hard here in the United States, I put together a bulk loading kit. I use HP-5 (developed in ID-11.) Not so much for cost savings, but to customize roll length. As we faced lockdown orders and minimum travel, I found it easier to load a 12 or 16 exposure roll. I could expose the roll during the space of one day. I know that the shorter roll used as much developer as a 36 exposure roll, but the convenience of fast turn around while staying put outweighed the cost. Chemical cost was/is fairly stable. Once Ilford products became more available, I was taken aback by the price increases. I’m retired and on a fixed income, so the task of bulk loading film was now cost effective.
    Now, I’ve just ordered some Kentmere 400 from B&H Photo. It’s a bit less expensive than HP-5/36. I’ve wanted to try it for some time now.
    -Dan

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 24, 2021 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks Daniel, if you’re looking for cheaper films. have you tried ultrafine extreme? I really like the look of it, but we can’t get that in the UK.

  • Reply
    Wouter Willemse
    June 24, 2021 at 9:14 am

    I’ve shot around 5 rolls of Fomapan 400, shot at ISO400 and developed in HC110 dil. H. Nothing wrong with it, pretty grainy but OK. It is relatively cheap, so in that sense really can’t complain. But getting HP5 for €5 against €4 for Fomapan 400, I much prefer HP5 (also in HC110). In fact, I’d say HP5 in HC110 is the backbone of my film work (https://www.ww-web.nl/recipes1/ to show and tell).

    I do like Fomapan 100 a lot, and Fomapan 200 has its attraction too, but the 400 film for me doesn’t stand out enough.
    Yet to try Kentmere 400 for a more economic alternative, but the biggest problem is just that HP5 works so damned well.

  • Reply
    Rock
    June 24, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    It’s definitely a great place for photography especially with a nuclear power station as a backdrop. And of course a pint of Beer Island pale ale in the pub! I have just started using Kentmere Pan as my budget b/ w film. Cheers, Rock

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    June 24, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    I love the gritty look you gave to this cobble gravel beach! The overcast sky was perfect. Nice job on your outing, especially if this was your first use of Fomapan 400. Based on your results, I suggest you keep using it.

    Option: try the current Tri-X also and see how it differs.

    • Reply
      Nigel Rumsey
      June 24, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Kodachromeguy, Tri-X is wonderful, but it’s starting to sting paying those Kodak prices.

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