Film Review: Foma Fomapan 200 B&W Film Profile

Revised 2017-12-12

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Foma Fomapan 200 film, or FOMAPAN_200. This is a medium speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, and 120 roll. Foma makes this film and sells it as Fomapan, and it’s also repackaged as Arista.EDU 200 film as well. It’s a panchromatic black and white negative film.

Development

There are many ways to develop FOMAPAN_200. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop FOMAPAN_200 with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for FOMAPAN_200:

FOMAPAN_200_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner, meaning raw ADC integer values. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

FOMAPAN_200 has a good amount of dynamic range. We’ve revisited and re-shot a film profile for this emulsion and have determined that when developed as described above, FOMAPAN_200 has an actual nominal ISO of 160. The chart above has been updated to reflect the new profile and shows the toe of the film. The new Simple Image Tools film profile has been generated based on this nominal base ISO. You can safely shoot it at ISO 20 to ISO 160 using the development process described above and still have 7 stops above middle grey and 5 stops below middle grey in discrete tone values.

Below middle grey, the film base plus fog starts to happen most of the way through EV -5 and is fully clear film base before the end of EV -6 with film/scanner noise down to the beginning of EV -7. This results in totally acceptable black levels for most subject brightness ranges.

On the highlight side, we’ve exposed and linearized up to +10 EV above middle grey with film/scanner noise up to +12 EV. This is a pretty good amount of over exposure latitude.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting 2 stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 160, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.

If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.

If you want to add an additional stop of light to the shadows and push the blacks down so that they’re blacker, then you can subtract one stop from the darkest part of the scene you want to capture detail in instead of two stops, or shoot it at EI 80 instead of 160. This will result in really black blacks. Shooting it at EI 40 means you’ll have shadow detail deep into the blacks with a lot of opportunity to pull up shadow detail or adjust the exposure in Adobe Lightroom.

For under exposure, EI 160 is the end of the safe zone. Shooting at EI 200 and up results in less shadow detail and the film base plus fog moving up into the visible range, which means blacks that are more dark grey and a loss of contrast. How much you’re OK with is up to you when you make your exposures.

Foma claims that you can shoot FOMAPAN_200 at ISO 100-800 without a change in development times. That may be true if using another developer, but when developing this film as described above, it’s a 20-160 speed film. We tried a roll at 13 minutes of development time and it did not result in more sensitivity and cut the highlight range down by 3 stops, which is not what you want. Other developers will probably render different results, but this is what it is with Kodak D-76.

Resolution/Grain

FOMAPAN_200 has OK resolution for a 200 speed film. Looking at Foma USA’s published spec sheet, at 50% contrast, FOMAPAN_200 is about 25 line-pairs per mm of film. I’d rate it as middle of the road to slightly soft in terms of resolution.

In terms of grain, it’s got about the same grain size as 400TX, but it’s a lot softer and more pleasant grain. Overall, it renders a very pleasing image.

I have to say, looking at the images that I’ve shot thus far on FOMAPAN_200, I’m actually liking what I see a lot. It’s definitely not a 400 speed film as the film fog will become very visible and your blacks will be more a really dark grey, but shot at 20-160, it renders a very pretty image. I totally see this as a fairly inexpensive outdoors in the middle of the day or studio film. If you need to you can shoot it up to EI 200-400, but the shadows are going to suffer pretty badly depending on how far over EI 160 you go.

The only real downside to this film is the cartridges are not DX coded, so if you’re shooting this in a point and shoot camera that doesn’t have a manual mode, it’ll probably not expose it correctly, or may default to something like ISO 100, which will result in great images with this emulsion.

Quality Control

I do have to say something about the quality control on this film. This is not a Kodak or Ilford emulsion. The emulsion does display small imperfections and the grain is not as consistent and uniform as what you’d get with a top tier manufacturer like Kodak or Ilford. Granted I am looking at 135 format film scanned in at over 4000 dpi, and I can pretty much see every scuff, wrinkle, and surface imperfection at that resolution. I’m not saying the film is bad, because it’s not, but it’s not up to the same quality levels as a Kodak or Ilford emulsion, so if that is important to you or the project you’re shooting, then take it into consideration.

Sample Images

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Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Fomapan 200. I’ve added new images of the film shot at EI 160 with the new film profile based off of that exposure level and indicated as such in the image description. I’ll add more images as I have them available.

Author: Adrian Bacon

Photographer. Videographer. Coder.