Film photography is a dear doo, don't let anyone tell you otherwise - if it's not cameras, lenses or film then it's developing kit or just random bits of film related paraphenalia all of which takes it's toll on the old bank account! So it can be very welcome to discover some relatively cheap film - enter Fomapan 200...but is it any good? well if you can't be bothered to read the rest of this review then the short answer is YES! Hopefully you'd like a little more insight than that, and hopefully I can oblige!
The first group of images were taken on a photo walk around the fair city of Bradford in West Yorkshire on my Olympus OM2n and trusty Zuiko 28mm 2.8 lens - I wax lyrical about this combo HERE,and the second group of photos were shot with the same camera and lens many months later in the fair town of Dewsbury West Yorkshire with a couple of shots in Hull and Huddersfield for good measure - it's like a tour of all the most glamorous towns in the world!!
I started my Bradford photo walk in the National Media museum - hoping to catch the National Photography collection before it was pilfered (sorry I mean transfered) to London... as sods law would have it I missed out by two days and was presented with nothing but this snazzily decorated staircase leading to a locked door :( whilst i was gutted to have missed the exhibition I was quite impressed how Fomapan 200 handled the dimly lit scene, helped along no doubt by my chosen development process of Semi Stand developing in Adox Adonal (Rodinal) for 1 hour (with 3 inversions at 30 mintues) at a dilution of 1:100 - this is my go to sem stand process and as you can see from the results here the Fomapan 200 responded very well to it, I was slightly nervious first time round for two reasons 1: at that point 200 speed film was the fastest film I'd semi stand developed and 2: Fomapann 200 is a 'Tabular' grain film (in the same vein as Kodak Tmax and Ilford Delta) formulations which traditionally do not respond well to stand development. Your mileage may vary but I think it works great in this developer - there is a grain texture which looks more like a classic old school film grain rather than 'Tabular' grain which is inherenlty smoother but for me grain is a good thing, when I shoot film I want it to look like, well - film! I've recenlty bought some developer specifically for Tabular grain films so I'll be interested to compare the results some day.
Fomapan Creative 200 (to give it's full name) is manufactured in the Czech Republic by long standing film producers Foma, there aren't really that many 200 speed films around most manufacturers offfer a choice of 100 or 400 films but Foma in their infinite wisdom have provided for those who would like a little more flexibility - in fact they claim that the film can be rated anywhere between 100 and 800 ISO but I've only ever shot it at box speed so I can't comment on how it performs when pushed/pulled in that way, what I can say is that on photowalks in varied lighting in and around busy city centres, inside buildings and the like it performs wonderfully!
They do a good line in 60's architecture in Bradford - here I've used the perspective to enhance the brutalist vibe of this civic building, the home of some truly brutal bureaucracy no doubts!
I find that the tonal range is very pleasing with rich blacks, smooth greys and clean white areas, look at he mod scooter above! very smooth image with a nice texture and finish - proper two tone! BELL BOOOOY!!!!!
The following two images are from Bank Bottom Mill - a semi abandoned building near where I live, I was just using up the last couple of frames on my roll after my visit to Bradford - again a great balance of tones, quite high contrast and nice detail and grain throughout.
We leave Bradford behind us and our travels now take us to Dewsbury - same camera, same lens, same make of film, same bottle of developer and guess what..... same outcome! Very balanced images with perhaps a touch more grain in than the roll I shot in Bradford - this could be from the development process maybe I introduced some extra inversions (which encourages grain) and of course the two rolls were shot months a part from each other so lighting was totally different, either way once again I am very pleased with the results so the first roll wasn't a fluke!
I've walked past this doorway so many times I can't remember, it's amazing how having a camera in hand encourages the eyes to pick out previously unseen details and generally be more open to your surroundings....in this case my eye was drawn to the faded paintwork where a Christian Cross was once fixed...suddenly this dilapidated old doorway was transformed, it had a story to tell - one that spoke of a once proud heritage but no current sense of purpose, a forgotten place echoing with the ghosts of finery long since faded... or something like that, whatever... either way cool doorway eh?!
Change your perspective and see the world afresh! For me this is part of the enjoyment of photography, how do you show a subject (in the case above a building) in a new light, how do you generate interest through form and structure - it's a constant challenging to your composition to make the most of your surroundings within the confines of a 35mm frame, and of course you dont get to look at the results until you've developed the film! It's also one of the many valid reasons for shooting with a fixed focal length/prime lens - if you want to change your perspective then you need to move your body! it's a more physical and therefore meaningful experience - this is a lesson I need to translate into my digital work more and stop relying on telephoto zooms to do the work for me!
I suspect that films are NOT developed there anymore, in fact last time I cheked this building was covered in even more scaffolding so perhaps (unusually for Dewsbury Town Centre) it's about to be redeveloped - I'm not bashing Dewsbury although I think anyone would agree that it's a bit rundown - this makes it a great subject for street photography as many of the buildings have an evocative (if somewhat forlorn) sense of what used to be which I find quite visually appealing "the ineffable pathos of ruin" indeed! Having said that I do hope things start to change for the better for the town!
We leave Bradford and Dewsbury behind and head East for the next image which was snapped whilst on the train to another fair City - Hull, capital of culture no less - and what better subject than the Humber bridge, I really must go back and shoot this properly (i.e. whilst not on a train) it's an amazing structure - looks so graceful in the distance spanning the Humber estuary, for those who are interested in it's history have a look HERE
Photographically speaking (this is a photo blog after all) I quite like the reflection of the train lighting in the image and the blurred foreground which gives a sense of motion and direction to an otherwise static image, the shot was literally from the hip before the view was obscurred by trees and stuff so I was pleased it came out as well as it did.
A big yorkshire sky filled with cloud (it's default setting) underpinned by the Emley Moor Mast which is the seventh-tallest freestanding structure in the UK, fourth-tallest tower in the EU (sorry brexiteers) and 24th tallest in the world! At the risk of this turning into some sort of public information service about the buildings, bridges and towers of Yorkshire (that would be a niche website) there's a link for more info about Emley Moor Mast HERE
I like the simple composition a thin band of landscape and the tower piercing the huge blanket of sky - this image just presented itself to me as I was driving along one day, my view of the foreground obscurred by a wall and I literally abandoned the car in a grass verge and jumped out to see if I could match the image that originally caught my eye - and I did! The number of times I've been out and about without a camera and seen sweeping vistas, tiny details and all manner of scenes that I would have wished to capture are imeasureable.. all these moments are now lost, like tears in the (yorkshire) rain...
We've seen lots of buildings on our tour of Yorkshire with Fomapan 200 but what's it like on other subjects - portraits and the like? well the above photo taken in the fields behind my house attests to the loveliness of the film (and the horse)! great contrast and level of detail and that grain structure that by now we've come to know and love too. it also works on people - here's a shot of my son when he was about 6 months old :) in it he's doing a great impresssion of one of those old Soviet propognda photos like he's a baby Kosmonaut or something!
So in summary then I am a huge fan of Fomapan 200, it's versatile, works well in mixed lighting, gives great contrast and high levels of detail, works well in a semi stand development process and ultimately it's very reasonably priced - you can buy 3 rolls of it for £14.99, which these days is pretty bloomin good! I heartily recommend this film, it's lovely, there is no compromise in quality in my experience and it creates a really useable alternative to all those 100 and 400 speed films out there, give it a whirl!