2 rolls of Fomapan 100 35mm in Ilford DDX

Tonight, two rolls of the notorious Fomapan 100 35 mm are being cooked in Ilford DDX developer.

The film

Fomapan 100 is a B&W film produced in Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia. Little known in the West, the company was established in 1921 which would make it one of the oldest surviving producers of photo materials in the world! That alone should make you buy from them 😉 After the war they went through dark times of forced nationalisation, then miraculously survived the collapse of communism and were privatised in 1995. I’ve heard that they were kept alive through those difficult times by Czech army orders. Good for us, as nowadays you can get a roll of Fomapan 100 for 3,50 EUR. If you’re only just starting your adventure with film, you’ll waste a lot, so better to waste a cheaper one. This one costs the half of what I pay for my beloved Ilford Delta 100.

Well, the film isn’t exactly Ilford Delta 100. Rumours say that it’s an old unchanged formula from decades ago. I suspect these rumours to be true. The film is just … funky.

So far it’s been quite hard to get it right. I’ve shot many rolls, tried a number of developers and recipes, all with mixed results. I get good results often enough to keep trying. Still, there have been many problems and randomness. Sometimes frames are washed out as if underexposed. It’s very easy to get excessive grain. So I keep trying and experimenting. Maybe one day I’ll get it just right, and in a predictable and repeatable way.

One thing is now sure:

Do not develop it in Rodinal.

On the other hand, if black, gritty and grainy like hell is what you’re looking for …

…go for Rodinal by all means!

PS. With 1:50 dilution development in Rodinal is so cheap!

One roll of Fomapan 100 or even better Fomapan 400, Adox Rodinal diluted to 1:50 and 45 minutes of stand development. Success guaranteed, just see it for yourself:

Fomapan 400 in Adox Rodinal 1:50, 45 minutes of stand development. The blobs, that’s freezing rain on the lens. Dublin looks awesome with Fomapan!

But today we’re looking for something smoother.

The formula

  • Ilford DDX developer, 1:4 dilution
  • 650 ccm of the solution required for total submersion of 2 rolls using a standard Paterson tank, which means 130 ccm of the developer mixed with 520 ccm of water
  • 20ºC bath temperature
  • 9 minutes of development time
  • 30 seconds of plain water stop bath
  • 4 minutes in Ilford Rapid Fixer
  • 8 minutes washing under running water
  • 30 seconds of water bath with a drop of Ilfotol wetting agent

Source: Massive Dev Chart

First results

The film came out looking nice. On a first visual inspection it looks nicely saturated, not too pale, not too burned. Tomorrow we’ll scan it. Stay tuned.

Just about dry, on a lightbox


So. The results are in. Pretty good this time, apart from my lousy focusing skills (I’m always in a rush, hold your horses, Tomasz…). No excessive grain this time, that’s nice, it looks like Fomapan likes DDX, photos are much smoother than with Rodinal or FX-39.

The photos below were shot with a lovingly restored Yashica FX-D, usually in aperture-priority mode managed by the camera’s accurate built-in TTL meter. My scanner is just a humble Canon CanoScan 9600 Mark II. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Noritsu in my basement. I don’t have a basement. So please bear with me, this is as good as it gets:

Black Mamba in Clontarf. Nice, smooth, no grain, good exposure. That’s the way we like our Fomapan 100 …
Beautiful! Both the Fomapan and the girl.
A saturated dialog about superiority of Fomapan over Delta
… while this one is just… flat. Definitely insufficient exposure. But the meter said everything is fine! Who’s right? Who’s wrong? And why?
Even worse, while the light was good, and the meter said fine.

Unfortunately, quite a few photos are pale like the above. I suspect it’s insufficient exposure. All the settings on the camera were correct, development process went by the book, yet half the frames are just flat. I get these lifeless photos just too often, even with metering perfectly tuned. Time to question the established science!

After a long research and reading countless articles which end up calling me a lousy photographer or tell me to quickly spend 300 EUR on a Sekonic light meter, I found one man who rises above this finger-pointing mob and states rather bluntly:

All of my efforts only confirmed my theory and lead me to a very simple but relatively disturbing conclusion: The Zone System is dead.

Johny Patience, http://www.johnnypatience.com/the-zone-system-is-dead/

Take that, Ansel Adams. The zone system is dead, proper exposure of modern film is an entirely different concept than with digital cameras, and entirely different than with films of 70 years ago, so we should better stop blindly following the meter and the zone system and use The Force instead.

Johny Patience wrote an amazing in-depth article about the problem of getting film exposure right. I read his article like I read “The Lord of The Rings” when I was 16, and I can’t wait to verify these beautifully bold statements! Stay tuned!

(c) Tomasz Waraksa, Dublin, 2019

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