I am predominantly a large format landscape photographer using Ilford HP5+ film in 7 x 11; 8 x 10 and 4 x 5 sizes. I occasionally use Kodak Tri X and Kodak TMax 400 in 4 x 5.
I individually tray develop all sheet film, with constant agitation by gently rocking the tray from each side. Larger sizes are developed in John Wimberley’s WD2D Pyro developer as most prints will be Platinum/Palladium. 4 x 5 sheets are developed back to back using Ilford ID11 1:1. A water stop bath is used.
I rate all the above films at ISO 250 and reduce development accordingly.
Testing Fomapan 400 4 x 5
A recent trip to Victoria’s North East provided an opportunity to try out some 4 x 5 sheets of Fomapan 400.
I rated the film at ISO 320. I chose subjects to photograph that would be a good test for a film as opposed to potential fine prints. I used an Ebony RW45 with a Schneider APO Symmar 5.6/150 lens.
Two sheets were developed using my normal process with ID11 1:1 @ 8′ 30″ @ 22 degC.
Negatives had higher contrast than I would consider normal, and OK proofs were made at Grade 1 but still showing an absence of subtlety.
Two more sheets were developed for 7′ 40″ and proofed at Grade 2. Prints were Ok but still lacked a softness I am used to.
The balance of sheets were developed at 7′ 40″ and proofed at grade 2.
All negatives showed a more pronounced grain than HP5 or TriX which possibly added to the “edgy” look of the negatives and prints. Fb+f was similar to other brands of 4 x 5. Emulsion appears to be more delicate that Ilford or Kodak products but extra care with processing will prevent problems.
This is an interesting film. Its fundamental characteristic is its ability to give graphic, edgy prints. Its graininess certainly gives prints that are clearly different from digital renditions.
It has hidden secrets and rating it at ISO 250 or 200 will help open up the shadows, and a corresponding reduction in development times and/or agitation should produce beautiful, full range tonality that suit photographers who like a more subtle look. It also seems a good candidate for high dilution developers used with long development times and low agitation. I look forward to using it again to explore its full potential. Based on this limited experience I shall be ordering a box of ISO 100 8 x 10 for film positives.
A box of 50 sheets Fomapan 400 4 x 5 is $68.00 from Blanco Negro, Sydney.
It is also available in 5 x 7 for $98.00, when comparing prices with other brands, note that Foma sheet film is 50 sheets per box.
Neither Steve Tester or View Camera Australia Blog received compensation for writing this review.
Image above: Mount Buffalo Plateau 2014 by Stephen Tester. Photographed on Foma 400 4 x 5 film.