I thought that shooting film would make me less sensitive to the G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) many photographers, mostly amateurs, seem to suffer from. In reality what is happening is that instead of buying new lenses and gadgets, you start buying all possible film stocks you can think of, always looking for the best combination that will suit your taste. Years ago, when I was getting more serious about medium format (and I already had my Hasselblad 500CM) I tried Fomapan 400, a film produced in Chernobyl, Czech Republic, which is still largely available today (also under the brand Arista Edu). I was immediately blown away by the results I obtained: the grain felt just right, similar to what you might get using Tri-X or HP5, and the overall look was quite old-school, which I totally loved back then. That first roll was shot under the gorgeous light of my Sicily during the summer, so I did not really suffer too much from the real slow speed of the film (it is more a 200 ISO than a true 400), and I decided to rate it at 400 and overdevelop at 800 (effectively obtaining a +1 push given the true speed of 200).
Technical info: Hasselblad 500CM > Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 4/150 CF > developer unknown
With such a good first experience I decided to give Fomapan 400 another try and recently bought two rolls (which are still quite cheap, especially when compared to Kodak of Fuji alternatives). This time I had the hope that I would obtain even better results and I was excited to develop the film myself. The first roll I took was rated at 200, but this time I was not under the sunny weather of summer Sicily but under the neverending grey and overcast sky of London (which is fine if you want to reduce hard contrast but not so great for available light photography). To my surprise the pictures came out…well…not so great as I hoped but still acceptable. The grain was there (even though I used DD-X 1:9) but two things left me totally impressed (in a negative way): its tendency to stay curly (no matter how long you keep the film under piles and piles of books), and even worse how easily it scratches. To be fair on this first attempt at self developing Fomapan 400 I have to confess I let the film fall from the hanger while drying, so I though it was basically my fault. In reality I realised later with the second attempt that the film do easily scratch whatever you do.
Technical info: Hasselblad 501CM > Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 CFE > Ilford DD-X 1:9, 9m50sec at 22*C, 30s initial agitation + 4 agitations first 10s of every minute
With the last available roll I then though I could try the same recipe I used years ago, hence I rated the film at 400 and overdeveloped at 800. And this time…well…I was totally unhappy about the outcome. I don’t know if it was my fault and I made some newbie mistake during the development, but I had the impression that the pictures came out underexposed, too grainy, and yet again full of scratches. I am not sure I will invest too much on it anytime soon: I somehow feel this film might deliver excellent results but requires a careful handling and development, which I can totally ignore using Ilford films while still obtained world-class results, with a small increase in price.
Technical info: Hasselblad 501CM > Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 CFE > Ilford DD-X 1:9, 15m30sec at 22*C, 30s initial agitation + 4 agitations first 10s of every minute