Fomapan 400 B&W Film Profile/Review
This tech page is for Foma Fomapan 400 Film, or FOMAPAN_400. This is a medium speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and various sheet sizes. FOMAPAN_400 is repackaged as Freestyle Photographic’s Arista.EDU Ultra house brand film, and also as of late 2017, Lomography’s Lady Grey 400 film, so this tech sheet covers all three films under this one page. This film is a panchromatically sensitized, black-and-white negative film designed for taking photographs under unfavourable light conditions or using short exposure times. The film meets high requirements for low granularity, good resolving power, and good contour sharpness.
There are many ways to develop FOMAPAN_400. Following Foma’s recommended development in their tech sheet is a good place to start if you want to develop this film yourself. If you send your film in to us here at Simple Film Lab, we develop FOMAPAN_400 with replenished Kodak XTOL with constant rotary agitation as standard practice. The standard development time is 6:00 at 75 degrees Fahrenheit for an ISO standard contrast index of 0.62. We use a 1+4 water+vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.
There are many ways to meter and expose FOMAPAN_400. If sending FOMAPAN_400 in to Simple Film Lab to process and scan, we recommend rating FOMAPAN_400 at an EI of 200 to 250, then 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 250, 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, or set the ISO to 200, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.
Using the development described above, here’s the characteristic curve for the standard ISO contrast index of 0.62:
The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is 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 with a studio strobe and a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. This is the curve used to linearize the emulsion when scanned in and converted to an Adobe Digital Negative file.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
FOMAPAN_400 has a fair amount of dynamic range. If exposed and developed as described above, on the shadow side, the toe of FOMAPAN_400 is -4 to -5 EV with the film base plus fog at -5 to -6 EV with film/scanner noise down to about -7 EV. In Adobe Lightroom, this is average black performance as any tone values from -5 to -6 EV will register as less than 1% luminance in the Develop Module with the default contrast and black level. On the highlight side, FOMAPAN_400 is reasonable. We’ve exposed and linearized up to +10 EV with film/scanner noise up to +11 EV. In Adobe Lightroom +7 EV registers as 100% luminance in the Develop Module, so the highlight retention of FOMAPAN_400 is good. With the above information, in Adobe Lightroom, the visible dynamic range of an exposure is +7 EV to -6 EV. FOMAPAN_400 provides no under exposure protection and 2-3 stops of over exposure protection while still maintaining barely acceptable black levels and full highlight retention for the full visible dynamic range in Adobe Lightroom. These over-under limits can be exceeded if you are OK with reduced performance at the extremes of the exposure scale. Through our exposure and development testing we’ve determined that FOMAPAN_400 has a real ISO of 200 if developed to the ISO standard 0.62 contrast, so this means that to get better black performance, FOMAPAN_400 should be exposed at EI 200. If that is done, then that will result in significantly improved black levels.
FOMAPAN_400 has average resolution for a 400 speed film. Looking at Foma’s spec sheet, at 50% contrast, FOMAPAN_400 is about 25 line-pairs per mm of film. Looking at a film scan of a 135 frame at 1:1, its grain structure is pretty present, but there isn’t really anything particularly objectionable about it. I’d rate it as middle of the road in terms of resolution for a 400 speed film. It has marginally less resolution than Fomapan 100 and about the same as Fomapan 200. In terms of grain, Foma lists it as a granularity of 17.5, so it’s got grain, but given that it’s a traditional grained film, it’s pretty pleasant. 400TX has a listed granularity of 17, so it’s about the same grain size as 400TX.
Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Fomapan 400. I’ll add more images as I have them available.
Sample DNG Files
As part of this tech sheet/film review I’m making a ZIP file available that contains some Adobe DNG files that are a sample of what you would receive if you sent your film into Simple Film Lab to process and scan. It’s relatively large, but if you want to see what you can get, worth a look. Click Here.