FOMAPAN 100 CLASSIC 35MM
by Jesse Hayes
As film prices rise, it sends many photographers in search of budget options. I’m one of them. If I can buy a roll of film for five bucks, I’ll try it at least once. There’s become a higher demand for film as many of our favorite stocks go out of production. I used to find deals buying expired film, but not so much today. Finding a five-dollar roll of film doesn’t happen often. I’m happy to say there are film stocks out there that are good for your camera as well as your wallet.
This is where Foma comes to mind and specifically their Fomapan 100 Classic. This a fine grain, 100 speed, panchromatically sensitized, black-and-white negative film. I say fine grain with a caveat. It’s a tad grainier than your average 100 speed film but not so much that it is distracting. The amount of grain will depend on lighting and your developer. Hailing from the Czech Republic, Foma are not the new kid on the block. They have been around since 1921 and have been producing rolled film since 1933. I started using Fomapan 100 in 2019 and it has slowly become one of the favorite films.
Cary – Leica M2 – 50mm Summicron Rigid – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
In 2019, I was shooting in Paris and running low on Kodak T-max 100. It was my primary film at the time (still love it). So, I popped into a local lab, Négatif+ film lab in the 10th arrondissement. I must have made a face to the girl behind the counter, because right after she told me the price of T-max she asked me if I’d ever shot Fomapan 100. I said “Non” and grabbed six rolls. It was ¤4 a roll. I thought, what did I have to lose? Since most of my money was going towards a flat, I was renting, I was happy to save some money on film. While still abroad I dropped off some rolls at the same lab. I immediately liked the results. It was contrasty with good detail. It felt like T-max 100 with a more grain and a bit less sterile vibe.
Hallie – Konica Hexar RF – 50mm Summicron Rigid – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
I tend not jump around with film stocks. If I find something I like, I stick with it. I need consistency in my results. The more I shoot a specific stock, the more I know how it will perform in different situations. For that same reason I stay with the same camera/lens setup. I try to mix it up, but for the bulk of my work, I use a Leica M body, 35mm or 50mm Summicron. Most times with a roll of Fomapan 100 in it.
Yusuke – Leica M2 – 35mm Summicron V3 – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
Dave – Leica M2 – 90mm Elmarit – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
I shoot Fomapan 100 at box speed with mixture of street and portraits. I use it in all lighting conditions; low light, bright light, inside, outside, and on cloudy days. Performing well in all these settings for me. Fomapan 100 is a high contrast film. It’s something I’ve grown to love about this film. I’ve read of photographers having problems in low light situations, but I haven’t had any issues. I love to shoot it in
low light. Something I have noticed is a tendency to crush blacks. Fomapan does have a classic grainy look to it, but not so much it distracts from the image at hand. It can be unforgiving when underexposed, creating an unappealing grain. Shooting 100 speed film for me is extremely versatile. It allows me to open the lens a little more when a faster film wouldn’t. A big advantage when shooting portraits.
Paris – Leica M2 – 35mm Summicron – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
Paris – Leica M2 – 35mm Summicron V3 – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
A big reason I use Fomapan 100 is the price. I’m not shy about it. Checking a popular online retailer, they currently have 35mm 36 exposure rolls of Fomapan 100 at 3⁄4 the price of T-max 100. If you want to
really save money you do what I do and bulk roll your own film. That same online retailer has Fomapan 100 in a 35mm 100ft roll for $55 USD. On average you can get 18, 36 exposure rolls out of a 100ft roll. That works out to $3 USD a roll! For me that is money well spent. With all that extra money you save you can buy more cameras you don’t need. Oh, hello M4! I have read that Arista EDU100 and Fomapan 100 are the exact same film just repackaged. If you see one of them at a better price know you are probably getting the same film. Seeing the results from many of the so-called cheap films out there today, I would not call Fomapan cheap. Just because it is less expensive, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, not with Fomapan 100.
Hallie – Leica M2 – 50mm Summicron Rigid – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
Paris – Leica M2 – 50mm Summicron Rigid – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
When it comes to developing at home, I will admit, I am lazy. It just so happens with my lazy technique of stand developing Fomapan 100 in Rodinal I get good results. I learned early on that Rodinal and fast films like Tri-X do not play well together. On the other hand, when developing T-max 100 in Rodinal it looks fantastic. Because of this I slowly gravitated to using T-max 100 and other slower speed films. When it came to home developing Fomapan 100 I just used Rodinal out of habit and still do. I develop most of my slow speed black-and-white film at home and have never had an issue.
My technique is simple. First rinse Fomapan 100 for five minutes. A one-hour stand development, with four inversions at the start, and two at the half hour mark. A standard stop bath, fix, and wetting agent. The less the agitation, the better. Too much agitation produces an unappealing grainy look. I have lab developed Fomapan 100 with good results and produced less grain than using Rodinal. Reading other people’s experience, it seems Fomapan works well with many developers. Once it’s developed it dries nice and flat, perfect for scanning or sliding into an enlarger tray.
Seamus – Leica M2 – 50mm Summicron Rigid – Fomapan 100 – Lab Developed Ilford
Foma uses a cellulose triacetate base for their films, unlike most modern films that are a polyester base. Cellulose acetate (a form of cellulose triacetate) films often result in a condition called “vinegar syndrome.” Vinegar syndrome happens when acetate film is stored in a warm, humid room. These conditions cause the film to decompose and give off a slight vinegar smell hence the name. I’ll let you Google the specifics but suffice to say acetate base films like Fomapan have been known to decompose as early as 70 years. Is this going to happen to the rolls of Fomapan 100 I’ve shot? Who knows? I probably won’t live long enough to find out. However, I think it is a consideration when shooting Fomapan.
Self Portrait – Leica M2 – 35mm Summicron V3 – F2 @ 1/15th – Fomapan 100 – Rodinal
Fomapan 100 is a high-quality film that produces fantastic results. Whether you are a beginner or a professional photographer, it has a great deal to offer. Most of my experience is with the 35mm, but it also comes in 120, and sheet films. Foma also makes a 200 speed, 320 speed “soft look”, 400 speed, and a reversal film. I highly recommend Fomapan 100 if you shoot black-and-white and love a look that hearkens back to an earlier time in film history. At such a low cost, it’s worth it to throw a couple rolls in your camera, see what you think, and support a company that still makes film.
About the author: