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Trying to Tame Fomapan's Contrast

As the film industry falls apart and cheap film is hard to come by, especially film available in all formats. I've bought a lot of Fomapan. Fomapan (also rebadged Arista.edu) has been a bit more of a challenge than I had expected. I don't hate the film, but I find lots of shortcomings.

I knew going in to ordering Fomapan that the reciprocity characteristic was very unfavorable for those unintentionally working with long exposure times. I tried using that to my advantage with neutral density filters for long daylight exposures.

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge - Fomapan 100 long daylight exposure

There I found two problems. (1) Contrast and (2) grain. Many of my long daylight exposures had highlights that blocked up into white mush when printed. The other seemingly amazing thing to me was the grain structure of those long exposures. The printable negs were incredibly grainy- even when printed in an enlarger to smallish sizes (square with rebate border on 8x10 paper making about a 7x7" image.) In some cases the coarse grain almost mimicked smooth tones - helping in a way. I liked that look - but in every conventional analog measure- Fomapan isn't a good film.

In any case, I've been trying for some time to tame the contrast of Fomapan. I started with Rodinal (R09 or whatever the kids are calling it now) and semi-stand development. I like Xtol alot and tried the suggested 1:1 dilution (the weakest dilution suggested by Kodak now.)

Eventually I spent hours coming over image searches for Fomapan and just looking at the images. In that search I found a guy using Fomapan calling himself  "Mr Leica" with some nice results. First off, I should point out that "Mr Leica" seemed to be using mostly other makes of cameras- Hasselblad, Mamiya, even an old half frame Pen-f as I recall. But he had lots of really nice portraits, mostly of very pretty gals.

"Mr Leica" has a presence on Flickr and shares some details about his processing on most of the images he shares. And on some of my favorite photos of his, he had a rather strange recipe for his Fomapan: more or less 10 minutes at 86 Fahrenheit (!!! very warm) in Xtol 1:3 (very dilute and no longer recommended by manufacturer!!) Despite his fabulous photos, from what he wrote, he seemed not to have a very good understanding of film photography (for example describing Fomapan as a "low contrast film".) But I have to admit, he really made it work.

Portrait of my daughter Ella - Fomapan 100 - Xtol 1:3 10 minutes at 86 f. Taken with a Super Speed Graphic and Rodenstock Ysarex 210mm f6.3 @ f11 or so.
Portrait of my daughter Ella - Fomapan 100 - Xtol 1:3 10 minutes at 86 f. Taken with a Super Speed Graphic and Graflex Optar 135mm f5.6 @ f11 or so.

I gave his recipe a try and am reasonably happy with the results. I'm still on the fence as to continue using Fomapan or switch to a more reliable emulsion like Ilford Fp4 or HP5 for twice the price. I love Fuji Acros, but it's not available in sheets.


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