a brief FOMAPAN 200 Creative review

Many months ago, I responded to a giveaway tweet from the incredibly generous Dan K, and ended up with a gift certificate to Camera Film Photo. I decided to take the opportunity to try out some of the other Black & White films* out there and picked up 5 rolls each of Rollei RPX 100, Fomapan Creative 200, and Adox Silvermax. Without that giveaway, I might never have tried Fomapan Creative 200 (or the others), and I would’ve lost out…

Before selecting these three, random films, I did some extensive research, reading reviews and looking at examples, and so I knew I could expect good things from Foma 200, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I shot two rolls in the Agfa Optima Sensor 535, one on walks with my darling, adorable wife, and the McKinney photowalk, and the other random whatever wherever I found myself between 12/3 and 12/6, 2017, and it performed well in all kinds of light and with all kinds of subjects, though I kept letting the Agfa’s strap fall in front of the lens. :facepalm:

It exhibits a good tonal range in daylight, and the grain is subtle and pleasant.

I got some interesting halos around pinpoint light sources at night, and some equally interesting glows from light sources just out of fame, but that’s probably as much the camera as the film.

If you’re curious, I developed the first two rolls in Rodinal, 1:50 for 9 minutes, and the last one in Rodinal 1:25 for 3.5 minutes, and it came out great both times… I’m liking Rodinal for more and more films.

If I have any complaints, they’d be around latitude and quality control. I’ve shot this window and stock of tp in the restroom at Recycled Records in Denton about a dozen times. It’s a fairly high contrast scene, but most other films pick up some detail in the rolls of paper. In the literature, Foma claim the 200 can handle expsoures at +1 to -2 EV (EI 100 to EI 800) with no change in development, but I don’t think this shot quite proves that out.

Again, that could be as much camera as film, I guess, and I happily admit that I know next to nothing about films, cameras, developers, or any of that. But I had to pull the shadows quite a bit in post to get any differentiation in the three rolls on the left, and then the blacks went a bit splotchy.

And on the QC front, I found some strange things at the beginning of one roll, some fogging in about frame 3, and a line near the end of the roll, on 3 different rolls from 2 different cameras.

I’ve found worse in recent rolls from the big boys (Fuji, Kodak, and even Ilford), so while I’m bothered, I’m not surprised, and I guess I’ve started to expect a few moments of strangeness from each roll, and maybe that’s partly why I shoot film. After all, if I wanted exactness, I’d probably get closer to it with digital.

Despite those issues, and they’re really not issues, Fomapan profi line Creative 200 is a really decent film, with good tonal variation and decent-enough latitude.

Grain
Character
Handling
Processing

I recently shot a roll in the LC-A that proved the LC-A needed some repair** and the Foma 200 handled the 3-4 exposures with no problem.

Overall, I’d give Fomapan Creative 200 3.5 stars.

It’s really a nice, relatively inexpensive film, and to be honest, I probably prefer it to Kentmere 100 and FP4+ (and definitely prefer it to T-Max 100), though it’s probably not a fair comparison. Foma Creative has a box speed of 200, after all, and it’s a tabular grain film. I’m particularly surprised by this last point, as I usually dislike T-grain films (like T-Max) and require some kind of grain enhancing developer or exposure scheme to get anything I like out of them. But the T-grain should allow for higher resolution and smoother grain than traditional grain, so maybe that’s why I give it an edge over the Ilfords?

Anyway, Fomapan Creative 200 is available in 35, 120, and sheet variants, all over (search, or here’s a link to Freestyle), for reasonable prices, so it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a medium speed, clean, classic black & white film. It may very well make a place for itself in my stable, and looking at prices for 100′ of it, I might just have found my next bulk roll…


*By which I mean “not Ilford or Kodak.”

**First, two screws that hold part of the winder on fell out. I replaced them with screws from the lens cover. Then the counter stopped counting. Then it stopped stopping at the end of a roll. Instead of stopping when it hit tension, it would just keep winding and cocking the shutter, winding and cocking the shutter. I lost about a dozen frames from a roll of Ektar in Costa Rica a month or so ago thanks to that. And then the last roll of Foma bound up in camera… This is the 4th or 5th failure of the LC-A in the 4 or 5 years I’ve had it. I was able to fix it myself the first 3-4 times, but had no idea or time or patience to do it again. So I sent the LC-A off to Poland to get serviced, maybe replace the takeup spool, and do the GhostMod (cut a hole in the bottom to facilitate double exposures) and InshaAllah will report back on my experience with it in a few months.

When/if the LC-A fails again, I’ll probably just shelve or sell it, but I’m still stuck on the sunk cost fallacy. Looking at the cost of the repair + the cost of shipping to Poland, I probably just should’ve bought another one, but I like mine and I’ve spent so much time and money on it already… Sheesh.

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