Film Photography

Fomapan 400 at EI 200

Fomapan 400 is a film that’s new to me. My first time out with it I shot it at box speed, but shadows sometimes lacked detail. I thought it might help that to shoot the next roll at EI 200, so that’s what I did. I developed in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, at the IS0 400 time. I scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II.

I used fresh L110 for this roll. I’d gotten dense negatives the last couple of rolls I developed with the L110 I had been using. It’s not impossible that the cameras were to blame; they were both essentially new to me and could have been overexposing. And I know L110, like any HC-110 clone, is said to perform like new for years. Still, I decided to remove this variable from the equation.

I shot around my neighborhood to fill in some gaps for the book project I’m working on. Even though the utilities are buried in my neighborhood, these ugly utility boxes appear between every pair of houses. They remind me of crooked, broken teeth. Someone who saw these photos in my Flickr stream said they reminded him of gravestones. I made these images with my Pentax KM and my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens.

Utility boxes
Utility boxes
Utility boxes
Utility boxes

I switched to my 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M lens for the rest of the roll. There were a few images I wanted to make where the long focal length would compress depth. On this first image in particular, I got shallower depth of field than I wanted. I’m trying to show the a long row of these petroleum pipeline markers.

Pipeline
Table and field
Around the bend
Back of house

These all turned out reasonably well. At box speed, I liked the contrast I got. These are flatter, even after boosting contrast in Photoshop. But the shadows aren’t blocked up, and the middle grays are pleasing.

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22 thoughts on “Fomapan 400 at EI 200

  1. P says:

    Very nicely done, Jim. You got a great range of tones with Fomapan 400 this time around. If you choose to keep shooting it, I look forward to seeing future rolls. Despite being grainy compared to its modern competition, I personally really like the stuff. A lot. Believe it or not, I think I actually like it better than HP5 PLUS. TRI-X, on the other hand, is a very different animal altogether, in my opinion. In most developers the modern version, 400TX, is fairly ridiculously fine-grained for a 400 speed stock. As such, I think it’s lost a lot of its iconic look. That’s where Fomapan 400 steps in and picks up the slack. This is all fine by me as I can no longer afford HP5 PLUS or TRI-X, nor do I care to support Kodak or Ilford with the way they’re currently doing things.

    • I’m coming in at “meh” on Fomapan 400. It’s okay. I’m happy I figured out how to shoot it and develop it, which means I can use it reliably, at least.

      • P says:

        Haha, alright. I was hoping you’d develop (no pun intended) the same sort of appreciation for it I have, but that’s okay. That said, I’ve never developed it in L110, or any HC-110 clone. If I had, I might have a different opinion than I do. I think the stuff excels in Caffenol-C-L for whatever reason.

      • P says:

        Hi, Matt — In my opinion, the film divisions of Kodak and Ilford (and Fujifilm) have all been overtaken by greed, and have become absurdly exploitative of their customers. I believe they’ve opted to cash in on selling film primarily to the younger generations, people who in general don’t have any concept of the value of a thing (I’m sorry, but they don’t), nor do they have much in the way of true financial obligations in life, and as such will pay any price asked of them without thinking (and even defend outrageous prices, as absurd as that is). And they are capable of this because for most of these individuals film is a fad, not a serious hobby or endeavor, so they’re not regularly shooting a large quantity of film in an attempt to master it or the process; they’re shooting the occasional roll, so the high prices don’t really impact them in any meaningful way. The high prices only really impact serious amateurs trying to take a legitimate deep dive into the art of film photography (veterans and newcomers alike), those people who are the historically devoted customers of the film manufacturers and indeed the ones who have kept the companies afloat all this time. I feel Kodak, Ilford, and Fujifilm, in particular, could care less about this group of the film community today, despite their film divisions quite literally owing their existence to them in my view. Regardless of how they act publicly (e.g. PR campaigns), they seem to have entirely turned their backs on the serious amateur, if you take everything into consideration. Instead, it really seems they’ve chosen to exploit the currently huge numbers of “fad film shooters” out there for quick (and massive) short-term profits, without any concern whatsoever about how many of their previously loyal customers they lose or force out in the meantime.

        Long-term, I don’t see this serving anyone well, us or them. They’re riding a wave that simply can’t last, in my opinion, and at the same time artificially inflating the cost of everything film related for no good reason. Fads always die. They come and go. Always. When the current film fad dies and that portion of the community dries up (which I’d argue is disturbingly the majority of the community at this point), who’s going to be left to support them if through outrageous prices the manufacturers have forced out and alienated their historically most loyal and devoted customer base (who was willing to regularly buy lots of film from them back when it was affordable)? The small number of pros still shooting film, along with the handful of independently wealthy/Leica-toting amateurs and those who only shoot a very occasional roll aren’t enough to keep them going. They’re not. The manufacturers need the serious, everyday, amateur enthusiasts to survive long-term, and yet these photographers are who they’re alienating the most with such high prices. I believe they’re shooting themselves in the foot, and by my evaluation, I really don’t think they care at all. Based on what I’ve seen, particularly over the past three to four years, I really don’t think any of the aforementioned companies are concerned about the longevity of, or long-term survival of, film as a medium or a continued product. As it stands, I think they just care about making huge short-term profits off of it while it’s still a fad by exploiting those able and willing to pay seemingly anything for a roll of film. If that guts the community, destroys the economy of their product, and ultimately results in the future death of film as a medium (for good, permanently), I think they’re fine with that outcome. It almost seems they’re working towards it.

        There’s no way I’m ever going to pay $8-10 for a single roll of TRI-X or T-MAX 100/400. Nor will I ever pay $8-9 for a single roll of HP5 or FP4 PLUS, or $11+ for a single roll of Delta 100/400 or Pan F PLUS. Nor will I ever pay $12 for a single roll of ACROS. In my opinion, it’s beyond inexcusable for any B&W film stock to ever cost more than $5-6 (per 36 exposures), and most shouldn’t even cost that much. There’s just no reason for it. And I’ll absolutely never pay $17-25 for a single roll of slide film. But this is where we currently find ourselves. It’s inane. And these are rock bottom online prices. It’s even worse in most camera shops, oftentimes much worse. Even if I could afford it, I still wouldn’t support these asinine prices.

        I’ll support Foma (as long as they don’t start to go down the same path). Once my supply of refrigerated Kodak/Ilford/Fujifilm stocks is gone, it’s gone. Unless they change their approach I’m done with them for good.

        • matt says:

          Thanks, P.

          I don’t think you’re wrong about the current fad nature of things; and I don’t think you’re wrong about companies cashing in. To be honest, I thought film died out a long time ago — so when I recently started doing some research into getting back into it, I was pleased to find it hadn’t. My reasons for getting into film span from the absurd prices of digital equipment and a general distaste for how technology is being used against us.

          I think you have valid points. I’m a little bit dismayed at the cost of some of this stuff as well. I bought the Arista film stock to test my ‘new’ Pentax 645 when I got it because I didn’t want to run HP5+ through it if it had leaks or what not. And I really like the results… enough to make me realize a lot of my issues with the 35mm Arista film I bought in a bulk roll might’ve been the speed of the film and where I was shooting it instead of the quality of the film itself. I’m still trying out different color stocks (both in 120 and 135) — but I completely understand where you’re coming from.

          Thanks for the detailed response.

        • P says:

          You’re very welcome, Matt. I appreciate your reply as well. And I also appreciate the fact you’re able to see where I’m coming from. To my amazement, I’ve found most people scoff at me when I bring up these concerns (if you’re reading this and you frequent Jim’s blog or fishyfisharcade’s blog where I have posted about this stuff before, don’t worry, I’m probably not talking about you; I’m primarily referring to discussions which have occurred elsewhere, not around here). Many chime in to defend anything and everything Kodak/Ilford/Fujifilm/etcetera ever do or say (literally doing their marketing work for them, for free). And a lot of other people seem to outright lose it. How dare I criticize these companies or state what I’ve observed to be happening over the years!?

          The truly bizarre thing is that some people within this community actively go out of their way to defend exponentially increasing prices, and go so far as to praise the companies behind it. Several have even written full-blown articles on prominent film photography sites doing such. Back in the day people never did such a thing, with any product, even if they genuinely did believe the asking price was fair. Why? Because they had enough common sense to know that as soon as they did, the corporations would take note and prices would inevitably increase, and then they’d increase again, and again, and on and on it would go for as long as people kept on with such nonsense. It just gives companies/corporations permission/free license to rip everyone off. I don’t get it. And indeed, over the past two to three years I’d argue that’s precisely what we’ve seen happen with film (no surprise). In that time, pretty much across the board, all film stocks (consumer and pro alike) have gone up somewhere between 67 and 200 percent. That’s by no means inconsequential, even on the low end. It’s outrageous. If that trend continues, I bet even most of those who have been praising high prices and continued price hikes won’t be able to afford any film in the near future. They don’t seem to realize what they’re doing.

          Regarding technology being used against us, yes, absolutely; I couldn’t agree with you more on that point. I don’t understand why most people continue to embrace it the way they do, allowing it to take over and pervade every aspect of their lives (not smart, in my opinion). It’s not their friend, nor are the entities who developed it. Sadly, it would appear most think it is their friend. It would probably shock most people to learn the last digital camera I bought was a point-and-shoot back in
          2005 or 2006! Digital photography does absolutely nothing for me. I’m tired of everything digital. Honestly, I have been since the mid 2000’s. It’s all just intangible, fake, phoney, time-wasting garbage as far as I’m concerned. But at risk of getting into a rant unrelated to film photography, I’ll stop there… :)

          I saw your other messages below talking about your experience with Fomapan/Arista 100 in 120 (you got some nice results!), and that you’ve ordered some more. I like Fomapan 100 a lot, too. If exposed and developed carefully it can be absolutely beautiful, with very little visible grain in typical print sizes, even in 35mm. With regards to the three Foma stocks, if I want an old school PLUS-X look, I shoot 100 (at ~EI 80); if I want a T-MAX 400 look, just a bit more grainy, I shoot 200 (at EI 125-160); and if I want an unapologetically grainy 80’s/90’s TRI-X look, I shoot 400 (at EI 200). I only shoot 35mm, except for the occasional roll of 120 in my Holga. The cost of good medium format cameras is currently out of my reach. My favorite film stock is (was) probably FP4 PLUS, followed by Pan F PLUS, but I won’t be buying any more of either for reasons already explained. Thankfully, I have a fair amount of FP4 PLUS left in my fridge, along with quite a bit of Ultrafine Xtreme 100, which behaves very similarly. I’m looking at trying out and then, if I like it, potentially very occasionally shooting a roll of Rollei RPX 25 as a replacement for Pan F PLUS. It’s overpriced, too, at $8 per roll, but that’s not nearly as bad as Pan F PLUS now is, at well over $11 per roll. Again, it certainly wouldn’t be a regular purchase, probably just two or three rolls per year. At $8 per roll I just can’t afford/justify buying any more than that, and the occasion would have to be something really special. For everything else, the three Foma emulsions are now my everyday go-to film stocks.

          I better wrap this up. Welcome back to shooting film! I’ll keep an eye on your blog to see what you’re up to. I’m glad you linked to it. I’ve already enjoyed going through some of your older posts. It looks like you’ve been having a good time with your “new” film gear so far!

          Take care!

        • Wow, long response. I think before long you will no choice but to pay the asking price for newly-manufactured film. Even expired film is expensive now. You have probably noticed, inflation is rearing its ugly head everywhere in USA (despite the official statistics of low inflation). My wife and I, just two of us, often spend $200 at the grocery store. What? How is that possible? But it is. I am old enough to remember the inflation years of the late-1970s and early 1980s, and they were rough on people on fixed incomes.

          So, as the alternate viewpoint, I suggest you buy a bunch of Tri-X, HP5, FP4, etc., now and put it in your freezer. Cheers!

        • P says:

          Kodachromeguy —

          Really?

          Regarding your “alternate viewpoint,” I don’t mean to be rude, but did you not read a word I wrote? I already can’t afford the prices of the film stocks you listed and continue to shoot any worthwhile quantity thereof. I literally just said it, multiple times in fact (for what it’s worth, I believe I’ve also said it to you in the past). I made that abundantly clear. So, please, tell me, how exactly do you suggest I “buy a bunch” and put it in my freezer?

          Again, my intention here is not to be rude, but it truly amazes me how many out there think other people can just continue to buy things that have gotten preposterously expensive for no good reason (like film) — and thus they can’t any longer afford — even after this fact was just stated, point blank. It’s unreal. No offense, but this is one form, out of several, of the sort of disconnection from reality I alluded to that exists among a good portion of the film community today (particularly the well-off, retired types) who act like exponentially rising film costs are irrelevant, and who scoff at people like me who say otherwise.

          I’ve been reading your film photography/travel articles and posts for years now (and enjoyed many of them, by the way). That said, you clearly do not belong to the “serious amateur with a limited budget” category of film photographers. It’s obvious you have money to burn on this hobby, as well as a seemingly large, pre-existing cache of film at your disposal, no doubt purchased back when it cost a fraction of what anything does today. That’s great, and I’m happy for you, but the majority of us don’t, on either front, which is why the percentage of us budget-constrained film shooters still active in this community is rapidly dwindling. And, yes, it absolutely is dwindling. Anyone who spends a good amount of time on non-Leica-oriented/non-pro-focused/non-retired-and-well-off/non-YouTube-slash-internet-celebrity/non-upper-middle-class/etcetera film forums and blogs can readily see that, if they’re paying any attention at all. The “serious amateur on a budget,” which was historically the largest subset of this community (by a wide margin), is rapidly being forced out and replaced by huge numbers of young “millennial/gen-z/hipster/influencer/whatever-you-want-to-call-them” film shooters for whom, by and large, it’s nothing more than a passing fad (i.e. not a serious endeavor) and who individually don’t buy very much film (they only do collectively, as a whole), as discussed above. The latter, and the manufacturers’ choice to cater to (exploit) a community largely comprised of the latter, is absolutely forcing out the former. It is a recipe for disaster, because fads always die out, eventually. That is, it’s temporary. To ensure their long-term survival, the film manufacturers (and retailers and labs, for that matter) don’t need a lot of temporary customers; they need devoted, regular, reliable, permanent customers. Well, it’s quite obvious to me they’re rapidly losing their permanent customers in favor of temporarily cashing in on “the film fad.”

          So, back to your “alternate viewpoint,” my return suggestion would be, and once more I don’t say this to be rude, why not genuinely listen to what’s being said and quit suggesting to us that we do what we’ve explicitly told you we can’t do? It’s not helpful in the slightest.

          Furthermore, if my objective is to stretch my dollar as far as possible and to shoot as much film as possible for as long as possible (obvious, right?), why on earth would I buy any of the film stocks you listed (even if I could still afford them) when one can get two to three times as much Fomapan for the same amount of cash?

          I’m not even going to get into the topic of general inflation other than to say there’s no valid reason for it to be occurring either; but, yes, it obviously just makes things even worse for us film photographers with legitimate budget constraints. And, given film is a hobby, for most of us it’ll end up being the first thing we have to cut out if things get bad enough. No doubt for many it already has been cut. Also on this topic, as you noted, despite the “official” figures saying otherwise, inflation absolutely is “rearing its ugly head.” This should be very telling to people about the credibility/truthfulness of the “official” narrative, not just regarding inflation, but regarding anything and everything.

          It is, of course, your prerogative to agree or disagree with my opinions, or believe or not believe what I’ve stated is the reality for myself (and others I know as well), or acknowledge any aspect of what I’ve outlined here. If you want to dismiss all of it, so be it. But I guess we’ll both see what the future of film ends up being in two/five/ten years time, if it even has a future due to what’s occurring within the community/industry right now. If things don’t change, I don’t think film’s future is going to be a very bright one, but we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?

          Take care.

          P.S. Yes, many of my responses are often “long,” at least by today’s (frankly pathetic) standards. In reality, though, nothing I write actually takes more than two or three minutes to read, and substantially less to skim. If people aren’t willing to spend such a measly and insignificant amount of time reading something, it’s just plain sad. The whole “tl;dr” culture we have today is a joke. It is highly disturbing, to say the least, how few people in the present age are willing to invest any time or energy whatsoever into reading, thinking about (critically and independently), measuring the value of, determining the validity/truthfulness of, or in any way evaluating anything for themselves. Of course, with regards to the time people are willing to invest in a thing, there are two exceptions: the brainwashing propaganda in the media/news that they’re spoon-fed daily, and social media posts, both of which they eat up and will spend hours upon hours focusing on and absorbing, but still without actually putting any independent thought into. Again, highly disturbing… But, it certainly explains a lot about how and why things in the world are as they presently are.

    • It’s funny, it wasn’t until I started taking long walks and bike rides around the neighborhood last summer that I noticed how many of these there are, and how ugly.

  2. matt says:

    This is interesting to see as I have just ordered some Fomapan 100 on its way for my Pentax 645. I’d heard it’s similar to Arista EDU Ultra, so it may not be all that different from the first few rolls of 120 I shot when learning my camera.

      • matt says:

        Ah, then in that case, it’ll be more of the same for me. I liked the shots with the 100-speed film: https://journeysinfilm.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/outdoor-dining/

        I’d only used 400-speed film before and was getting discouraged with the grain and inconsistencies (far more likely to be my fault than the film’s). I’ve only been shooting film again since October, 2020; so I’m very much on a learning curve.

        • Nice work with the Arista EDU. I’m pretty sure Kosmo Foto Mono is also Foma 100 fyi.

          I’ve been shooting film again since 2006 and I’m still on the learning curve, so you’re in good company.

  3. Not sure how I feel about this film. I am trying to settle on one black and white film to use moving forward. Kodak Tmax 100 and 400 seem to top the list for me right now.

    • I’m with you. This film is fine, but it has yet to wow me. If I needed to do a big documentation project and wanted to economize, I can see myself buying a brick of this stuff and burning through it. But for the “art” photography I like to do, this isn’t the stuff.

      I’m starting to get great results from FP4+, and it is likely to be my go-to slower b/w. I had some good luck with Delta 400 lately. I should try the TMaxes again now that I’m stronger in dev/scan.

  4. I always shoot Fomapan 400 at 200asa now. My initial results were like you describe, with shadows blocked to the extent that pictures looked underexposed. I tend to prefer Fomapan 100 (although I’ve not bought any since I had issues with white specks on all my scans due to a faulty batch of the film – I’m waiting for the issue in existing stock to hopefully iron itself out).

    • Thanks for the confirmation. I really loved Fomapan 200 when I sent it out to labs for developing and scanning. I didn’t like it nearly as much when I developed and scanned it myself. I don’t know why. Fomapan 100 is okay but a little too contrasty for some of my purposes.

  5. Ah, Fomapan, my love/hate film. I’ve gotten some really good results with it (esp. when metered at 200 or 320) but it’s so hit-and-miss. I shot a bunch last year, but not much this year. I’m sure I’ll go back, but I’ve been using Kentmere 400 as my budget “go-to” black and white. And I can usually find Kentmere for about the same price as Fomapan.

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