Photography

Shooting Foma Fomapan 200

I guess lots of film photographers look down their nose at ISO 200 film. Get off the fence, they say: go ISO 100 for best sharpness in daylight and ISO 400 for low light. 200 is the ISO of uncertainty and compromise.

After having shot miles of inexpensive, highly available Fujicolor 200, I don’t understand the bias. There are absolutely times when ISO 100 or 400 is a great choice, but ISO 200 has delivered fine results for me time and time again.

I’ve been searching for an inexpensive everyday black-and-white film for a long time, and lately have been trying the Foma films. I tried Fomapan 100 first and liked it okay. Then recently I put a roll of Fomapan 200 through my Nikon F3 with my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens attached

Lookit, lookit! Sharpness, clarity, detail, and a wide range of tones!! And glory be, it’s an ISO 200 film.

Meridian St.

I was mistaken in my Fomapan 100 review that all Foma films use classic grain structures, because Fomapan 200 is a tabular-grain film. Yet somehow, under some circumstances, it takes on a classic grainy look. The city shot above is sharp and clear, while my portrait of Margaret below shows a little of that wonderful classic grain. How does this film do it?!!?

Margaret

I shot most of this roll on photowalks with Margaret, including one to the war memorials downtown. Ever had a day when you couldn’t get a bad shot if you tried?

Iwo Jima

We also walked through the cemetery near my house. I just love the tones in this shot. I also got a lot of good sky with the Fomapan 200 despite not using a yellow or orange filter.

Thingy

I’ve shot the cemetery’s Liberty bell replica over and over and never get tired of it as a subject. The Fomapan 200 resolved it well. I shot this whole roll at ISO 200, but Foma claims that this film can be shot anywhere from 100 to 800 without changing anything about how the film needs to be developed. That would make this film hugely versatile, and I’m eager to try pushing it to the max when the light is low.

Pass and Stow

Here’s the housing for that Liberty bell replica, with some glorious sky backing it. I got this film on sale at Amazon and paid south of $4 for a 36-exposure roll. Freestyle Photo rebrands it as Arista.EDU 200 and sells 35mm 24-exposure rolls every day for $3.39, and 36-exposure rolls for $3.89.

Black-and-white film prices just don’t get lower than that. And this film’s value-to-price ratio is super high. Just look at how this stuff resolves detail!

Swans and Fountain

All of my gushing aside, the one criticism I’ve encountered around the Internet about Foma films is possibly iffy quality control. I’ve shot exactly two rolls of the stuff, both trouble free. That’s hardly a statistically significant sample, so all I can say is so far, so good.

I’m stocking up. Unless persistent quality issues crop up, I believe I’ve found my everyday black-and-white film.

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21 thoughts on “Shooting Foma Fomapan 200

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I had a lot of emulsion tearing on some of these, and other, eastern euro films, but it was 10 years ago; I would think by now (Freestyle was aware of it too, and dealing with the manufacturer), they would have fixed their coating process. No one wants a ‘failed’ photo due to a fluke like that, but if I was shooting for myself vs. the expectation that every image turn out perfect for a client, I might look at it differently based on the price…

    You should know back in the 80’s when I had a studio, I used to use 120 Verichrome Pan, a film I truly loved for it’s range and detail; but a lot of times I also used Ilford FP-4 for bigger jobs (pre the “plus” series), because it was easier to get. I also had emulsion tearing on that, something I never saw on any Kodak material! And it used to happen fairly often. Other photographers in the city I lived reported the same thing when we compared notes. It seems like the “Plus” series fixed the problem, but the FP-4 Plus was never as ‘sparkley’ in the highlights as the old emulsion was, probably due to the heavy base color. I used to soak it trying to get rid of it, but it was never as “crystal clear” as the old, regular FP-4!

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    • Perhaps the emulsion tearing is representative of the iffy quality I’d read about elsewhere on the Net.

      I’m not sure I’d use Fomapan 200 for something serious. Just like Fuji 200 is my knockabout film and the one I use to test cameras, this could be its b/w counterpart. But just as when I shoot color for serious I tend to go with Ektar, I’d probably stick with T-Max or Tri-X for serious b/w.

      FP4 Plus is on my to-try list. The old FP4 days were over before I got back into film. And I love Verichrome Pan, too, but that’s probably mostly nostalgia for my days shooting garage-sale Brownies as a kid.

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      • Andy Umbo says:

        +1 for Ektar 100 / 120 The closest thing to Kodak color transparency since they killed all their color transparency. It’s got that Kodak color palette!

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  2. Bill Bussell says:

    Another demonstration of a great eye and perspective on interesting subject mater. Wonderful tonal range. Cheers

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  3. Looks like a good film to me. Have you ever thought about getting a bulk loader so you can buy film in bulk? Its a good way to save some money if you know you like a certain film and are going to be shooting it for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t thought about it. I’ve been looking to economize on my photography; maybe I should look into it. Processing is my biggest expense by far, though. I’ll probably start processing and scanning my own before I start bulk loading.

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      • Andy Umbo says:

        Just an FYI here, I’ve owned 3 different manufacturers bulk film loaders over the years, and I am a professional shooter and extremely detail oriented and a meticulous darkroom cleaner; and there’s a reason why many of us refer to those things as a “bulk film scratcher”. I’m sure there are people that use them all the time, but for me they fall under the category of ‘false economy’. Not to mention, with 35mm film, every ding and scratch in magnified exponentially; we aren’t contacting 8X10 negs here…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    The Fomapan 200 looks like a good film I have tried Fomapan 100 120 format and I quite like it for medium format I too have been looking out for a cheap B&W film for everyday use I tried Lucky SHD 100 it was okay but not as good as FP4+ but it was cheap, also tried another Chinese Shanghai GP3 100 which was acceptable but even that now is hard to get hold off looks like I may settle on Fomapan, I will have to see if my local store does the 200 35mm as that’s where I get my 120 from.
    Excellent photos btw.
    if FILM Ferrania ever get underway it maybe another source of cheap film.

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    • Still crossing my fingers for FILM Ferrania!

      I’m eager to shoot more of this Foma 200 in other cameras to see what I get. I have two more rolls in the fridge!

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  5. After reading your article I looked at an online film store here in Korea to compare prices. Fomapan is cheaper than everything else by about 40%. I tried it once and liked the results. I didn’t buy more because I was afraid my luck would run out and I’d have some photos ruined. After having a look at black and white films I went to the slide film section and noticed that there is Fomapan black and white slide film for sale. Expiry date sometime in 2017. Underneath was a warning saying that chemicals for processing are not available in Korea and no lab in Korea develops it. Then . . . why . . .? Maybe you can cross-process or something?

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  6. bodegabayf2 says:

    I have only shot two rolls of Fomapan. One worked fine. The second came back from the lab with blotches. The lab tells me it was emulsion issues, not processing. Hard to determine quality from just two rolls, but I will say I’ve never had a bad roll of Kodak or Fuji or Ilford. Never. Ever. I dunno.

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    • If I were to shoot something I couldn’t stand to have messed up, I’d shoot Tri-X or T-Max, period. Those films have never, ever let me down.

      I’m looking for something inexpensive that I can use for casual shooting or to test a new-to-me old camera. Fujicolor 200 has been that color film, and Fomapan 200 could be the b/w choice — assuming that as I keep shooting it, it shows no quality problems. I think I’ll be willing to declare victory after I’ve shot a dozen rolls or so, purchased at different times from different batches. If I get blotches on roll #2, or even roll #10, it will make me hinky.

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      • It’s a shame that both Tri-X and TMax are way more expensive in 100 feet bulk rolls than they are in individual 36ct rolls. One bulk roll is about 18 36ct rolls, but Tri-X in 100ft cost around 120~150$, whereas 18 rolls of 36ct cost around $80~90. Makes no sense.

        While I love Tri-X, I would avoid the product if they start doing pricing foolishness and start looking elsewhere.

        The Arista EDU Ultra 200 looks like a good film for regular use, especially with the contrast and sharpness, but seems their technical sheet does not recommend using HC-110 for a developer (my preferred developer). The school uses sprint developer for the convenience, but after running HP5+ thru that, I found it made the grain too… ‘crunchy’ for my taste compared to what hc-110 does to it.

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        • That’s crazy, that you can buy the Kodak b/w films cheaper pre-cartridged!

          Thanks for your comment today; it reminds me I haven’t shot this Foma 200 in a while. I’ll shoot some for my next roll!

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  7. Pingback: All the 35mm film you can still buy: Part 1 – Adox to Fomapan – Zorki Photo

  8. I have a different experience with Fomapa 200. Very grainy (way more then 400 ISO films from Ilford and Kodak), collects lots of dust and dirt (tons of tiny black spots after dev). scratches easily. Foma may be cheap but when I include my time removing dirt and scratches in Photoshop, Kodak and Ilford are a better deal …

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