5 Frames… With Fomapan 200 Creative (EI 200 / 35mm format / Olympus XA) – by C.A.

The camera shop that I frequent in Toronto — Downtown Camera — recently relocated into a fresh, new space down the block from where it had long established itself as a staple of Toronto’s photography community. To celebrate this move, DC sold some “Grand Opening Mystery Boxes” in limited quantities.  I purchased a 35mm box and among the goodies were two rolls of film that I’d never shot before, nor had I ever thought of trying out — they were Cinestill 800T, and Fomapan Profi Line Creative 200; the five frames in this article were shot with the latter on my Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder.

As a quick aside, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Olympus XA is a discrete little powerhouse that fits right in the palm of your hand and, more importantly, into almost any nook, cranny or pocket that you need it to — it travels well.

It has a fixed focal length 35mm Zuiko lens, aperture priority from f/2.8 to f/22 and ISO settings ranging from 25 to 800. The shutter release button is also feather-sensitive, and the shutter virtually silent. The pocketable Olympus XA is really an excellent choice for street photography and is with me all of the time.

But back to the film.

I really had no idea what to expect with this roll of Fomapan 200 Creative, l as I had never heard about it before. A quick Google search taught me that it’s a European film (based in the Czech Republic) from a company that, apparently, has been making film for close to 100 years.

I dropped the roll into my XA and went out into the streets of Toronto. And I can’t say that I was at all disappointed with the results.

I was impressed with the film’s tonality, which captured incredibly well the ranges from white to black with broad gradations of grey — not overly contrasty the way JCH Streetpan 400 can be, but nicely balanced, in my opinion. The film is grainy, which works well for my style of photography and gives the images a bit of a gritty, documentarian feel to them.

This film definitely has an old-school vibe to it, and I like it for that reason. I would not hesitate to shoot with this film again and in fact, I bought another roll of it just for the sake of getting the gear shot that EM asked for (thanks, EM).

The photos were all shot in November 2019, at box speed in natural light, in Downtown Toronto.

~ C.A.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The Olympus XA looks like such a fun camera to use. Unfortunately for me, the only ones I’ve found have been destroyed by corroded batteries.

    It was great to see your photos from the roll of Fomapan 200. Hopefully we’ll get to see the Cinestill next.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Nathaniel. I’ll get working on the Cinestill 800! I was fortunate to have found my Oly XA in such excellent condition (especially given that it is 40 years old).

  2. Fomapan 200 is a nice film that I use for bright light situations. I get the best results rating the film at an EI of 100-125 and processing in either 1:63 HC110 or 1:50 Rodinal.

  3. Great camera and nice profile of the film. But I have to ask: what the heck is going on with the people on the ground on the sidewalk? Are they being arrested?

  4. Back in the day, I shot Kodak exclusively. In many ways, film’s decline was a blessing of sorts, I would have never found Fomapan if it weren’t for the resurrection of film as a whole. I love this stuff, and have been testing a box of Fomapan 100 in 4×5. For the price difference in smaller formats, I may not shoot much Acros II in the future. I am still hesitant about shooting Fomapan on smaller formats, as I have had some people tell me that it tends to curl up, and not want to lay flat. If that is wrong, someone please let me know what your experience has been with it in 35mm and 120. Thanks!

    • The only issue for me with 35mm is that I find the 400 version unpleasantly grainy — a plus is typically 40 frames per roll (I did get 81 frames on a half-frame camera) vs. 39 for Ilford and 38/39 for Kodak.
      In 120 there can be issues of backing paper patterns showing through.

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