First Impressions: A Fomapan 400 Review

Having only been shooting film for a little over a year, there are so many firsts. There’s so much I haven’t even heard of and so much to learn. There is an endless list of films, cameras and techniques that I doubt I will ever get around to trying them all. So I’ll be doing more of these “first impressions” articles as I try new stuff and just let you guys know my thoughts on it!

Fomapan 400

Fomapan 400 is a black and white negative film that has a very unique look. Trying to choose between black and white films can often feel like trying to understand the difference between cappuccino, latte or a flat white. At first, they all seem the same. However, the more you work with them and compare them to each other you start to see the differences. You start to see how each film reacts to how you personally shoot.

Fomapan is among the first 3 black and white films I’ve shot so far; Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X and Fomapan 400. Currently, Tri-X is probably my favorite of the 3, but Fomapan is becoming quite the competitor.

So far, I’ve shot about 5 rolls of this film and my first several were a bit disappointing. My developing process has simply been the Cinestill monobath. Ilford HP5 and Tri-X look absolutely stunning with this developer. However, when I developed fomapan using the exact same process, my negatives were very thin. While the scans looked pretty good, I knew there was more to this film that I wasn’t getting.

Fomapan Rating

The images above all felt under exposed. Not being concerned with grain and underexposure, I didn’t mind it. I’ve always liked the look I’ve been getting, and can definitely see a uniqueness from HP5 and Tri-X. However I really wanted to get better negatives. I was reading an article that Simon King wrote on 35mmc where he shot fomapan 400 at 200. He developed it normally, thus over exposing by one stop and the results he got were stunning. I highly recommend you check it out here.

Simon recommended either shooting it at 200 and developing normally, or shooting at 400 and push in the developing. I love 400iso. It gives so much more versatility as light begins to drop, and I love the mood in twilight images. So I opted to push in developing.

Developing Fomapan 400

While Simon is stand-developing in DDX, I’m using the Cinestill Df96 monobath. This developer is known for increased grain and contrast, therefore not achieving those lovely silky blacks that Mr. King is getting. Both of these are fine by me as I love this in my photography and it’s such a practical developer for me right now. So before people start saying that the developer is the problem and I should be using a proper developer, Cinestill Df96 is excellent and I have been very pleased with the results on other films (HP5 and Tri-X). Fomapan just needed a bit of work.

With Df96, you can push or pull developing based on temperature and agitation. Generally you heat up the chemicals to 80°F and use constant agitation. For two of my last rolls of Fomapan, I heated the chemicals to about 85° and noticed a huge improvement. The negatives actually looked like negatives and not a clear strip with faint images. I feel that maybe I could take the developer to even 90° as some of the images still look a bit underexposed. But there is progress!

I think Fomapan is a film that will have drastically different results depending on what type of developer you use. Perhaps there will be an update on that in a later article, but for now these are some of the images from developing Fomapan at 400 in Df96 at 85°F.


This last round with Fomapan 400 has certainly excited me A lot! I look forward to shooting more of it in the future. The tones in this film and its grain structure is just gorgeous. While it may not be as rough and tough as a film like Tri-X, the end result is giving Tri-X a run for it’s money. Thanks to recent Kodak price increases, Tri-X is getting to be pretty pricey, while Fomapan is still one of the most affordable black and white films available.

I think Fomapan is great for a variety of situations. It’s perfect for street photography, having those lovely black tones, or more architectural photography. It’s also great for those moody black and white landscapes. I’ve only taken a few shots of family members with fomapan, but I feel this film would perform beautifully for portraiture with the right developer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first Impressions of Fomapan 400 and perhaps will inspire you to go out and shoot some for yourself! For it’s price, Fomapan is an absolute bargain. I don’t think you can go wrong giving this film a try, and you just might be surprised at what you get! Here are a few more of my favourite shots using this film.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried this film, and if so, what’d you think?

7 thoughts on “First Impressions: A Fomapan 400 Review”

  1. Hi Nick,
    I absolutely love your photos. Good contrast and lovely black.
    I am 100% with you: I love Fomapan.
    It is a very nice film and, I don’t know why, many ime is snobbed and underestimated.
    Yes, it is probably the most cheap B/W film you can buy, but so what?
    I like the grain of the 400ISO and the sharpness of the 100ISO. I like its whites and the dark black. And probably I like it so much also because is cheap. The only downside compared to the Hp5 to me, is the fact that for instance you can’t push it up to 3200ISO (or maybe is something to try?).
    Anyway, I am bulkloading my 35mm rolls so at the end it can be very very cheap indeed, and this is something I enjoy when I go shooting or I want to experiment. I don’t have to think too much about my wallet.
    Now that I have almost finished my 30m of Fomapan 400, I am thinking about the next batch of bulk film and I am tempted to switch to Ilford, but I am not sure!

    Anyway, congrats for your blog, this is going to be saved in my bookmarks for my film fotography readings.


    1. Thanks!! I just recently got a bulk loader. I’m definitely wanting to get a bulkroll of fomapan 400. Strangely the prices on the 36exp rolls are going way up in price on ebay… kinda sad. But bulkrolls are still a great price.

  2. Very nicely results! I had shot both Foma 100 and 200 in 120 and had pretty stellar results developing with DF96 at regular development (80 degrees, constant agitation +15 seconds per roll after the first roll).

    However, I recently started bulk loading Fomapan 400, much like Andrea. In shooting the first roll of Foma 400 I bulk loaded, I had the same issue with thin negatives. Then again, that first roll was the 18th roll for this batch of chemical I am using, so I assumed the developer had been exhausted (even though I developed a roll of HP5+ immediately before developing the Foma 400 and the results were great).

    I then shot 14 frames of a second roll of Foma 400, this time exposed for 320ISO, but developed at 90 degrees. Still experienced thin negatives. My only guess would be that my chemicals have reached the end of their term. I’m just confused as to how the HP5+ roll immediately prior to the Foma 400 roll came out so nicely using the same chemical. But I digress. Really appreciate you sharing your results and experiences!

  3. This Fomapan 400 article is exactly what I have been looking for! I shot some 120 Fomapan and just got through with some 4×5 test shots, all shot at 400 and all developed in df96. They came out pretty grainy to say the least. I had started to figure out that this film needs to be shot at 200 and I am going to try that. I also think I am going to try some D76 developer next time. I have developed some Acros 100 in that df96 too, and while the grain is brought out a bit, it is nothing like the crunchiness of that Fomapan. Your writeup has made it clear what direction I need to move with this on the next round and I thank you for that!


    1. Hey Dave! Man I’m so glad to here this helped! Ya I actually think I got my best results by cranking the temp up on the DF96 to 90°. I think I showed my results in the Cinestill article. Those came out the cleanest!

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