Third review of Fomapan 400 4 x 5 by David Tatnall
I’ve been using large format cameras since the mid 1970’s. I tray develop negatives using ID11, ABC Pyro or Rodinal (now Adonal). I mainly use FP4+, TRI-X 320 and HP5+.
I have made the test negatives for this review over a period of time in different lighting conditions.
Chris Reid from Blanco Negro suggested using the film at ISO 320 as a starting point, and after making my first set of negatives I found rating the film at ISO 250 worked better for my style of making photographs.
Testing Fomapan 400
The first photographs I made were tests to determine the speed I should rate the film when using my normal developer ID11 1:1 at 20° and tray developing with a pre developer water bath. I found the combination ISO 250 and development time of 11 minutes produced good negatives, this became Normal Development time.
Photographs for this test have be made on a folding 4 x 5 camera with 150 mm lens (Salmon Rocks) 90 mm (Snowy River) and 210 mm (Portrait of Joanna). Exposures where calculated using a 1° spot meter and grey card using the Zone System.
The photographs reproduced here have been scanned from the contact photographs and are un-manipulated.
Test photograph one: Salmon Rocks
This photograph was made late in the afternoon. I was drawn to the reflection of the clouds in the foreground water. Relatively low contrast, so not that difficult to get the highest sky Zone VII and the shadow of the large rock Zone III to retain detail. This negative was given normal development time. The reference contact photograph made on grade 1½ paper.
Test photograph two: Snowy River
The Snowy River at Frenches Narrows photographed at sunset. Reflections are always tricky. The issue of the brightness of the sky and the darker reflection require careful exposure reading. Here the bank of vegetation in the middle was Zone IV and the bottom left corner was Zone III, the sky ranged from Zone VI to VII½. This negative was given minus normal development. I was very happy that this printed well as a contact photograph on grade 1½ paper.
Test photograph three: Portrait of Joanna
Photographed in very high contrast light. The skin tones varied from Zone IV in the shadows to Zone VII½ in the highlights. This negative was given minus normal development. Reference contact print made on grade 1½ paper.
I found the film worked really well in varying light conditions and responded well to changes in development time to produce negatives that could easily be printed.
I didn’t find the film to be overly contrasty. I found contrast could be controlled well by changing development time. It does have a distinct grain though, as you would expect from a ISO 400 speed film, but no more so than other ISO 400 films.
Fomapan 400 has like all films a distinct ‘look’; the grain, tonality and overall appearance is different to that of HP5+ and TRI-X 320, as they are to each other.
I did however fine the emulsion a little softer than other films when wet, so care should be taken when processing it for the first time.
Fomapan 400 is a good film, it is well worth trying, and at $68 for fifty sheets it is one of the most economical films available. As a starting point I would recommend an ISO of 320 or 250 and a slight reduction of the recommended development time.
Blanco Negro is the sole Australian agent for Foma products.
Photographs by David Tatnall.