Updated with additional details, speculation and sample images.
Picked up just a few moments ago is the heart-stopping news that Fujifilm is officially bringing black and white films back to the market in Autumn 2019 with the all-new NEOPAN 100 ACROS II. I’m happy to be able to be the first to bring this news to you.
Let’s get started with an official 35mm box shot from Fujifilm:
Described (translated from Japanese) as “achieving ultra-high image quality with world-class graininess* and three-dimensional tone reproduction“, the all-new film NEOPAN 100 ACROS II will initially be available in 35mm and 120 formats.
* The word “graininess” is “grainlessness” lost in translation, as commenter Ricardo points out below:
Yes, the “graininess” part was lost in translation.
In the original press release, they use the word 粒状性, that means “granularity”.
This is the scientific, correct word to talk about film grain (as in RMS granularity, often seen in film datasheets).
Therefore, a “world-class granularity” (here also, the Japanese version says “world highest standard of granularity) would mean very fine grain.
Fujifilm terminated sales of their last remaining black and white film, NEOPAN 100 ACROS in Autumn 2018, stating low sales volumes and difficulties in obtaining “raw materials essential for production”.
For those of you unfamiliar with NEOPAN 100 ACROS as it was, here are a few examples:
The film photography community met the news with both outcry at “yet another discontinued Fujifilm stock” and voiced their desire for ACROS sales to be reinstated. It seems that Fujifilm listened and according to Fujifilm, ACROS II has been created “by researching substitutes for raw materials that became difficult to obtain and radically reexamining the manufacturing process to match the new raw materials“.
What this means is open to very wide interpretation. It could mean the creation of a newly formulated emulsion which takes into account modern standards and availability of materials for both the substrate and emulsion layers. It could also mean that Fuji have reinvigorated or reassessed their production, logistics and supply chain in order to meet the reality of the film photography industry in 2019. Honestly, it’s probably a little of both plus additional factors we’re not 100% aware of or in fact, privy to.
According to the Japanese press release:
“The newly developed NEOPAN 100 ACROS II is an ultra-high-quality black-and-white film with ISO 100 sensitivity, with the world’s highest level of graininess, three-dimensional tone reproduction, and excellent sharpness. It is suitable for shooting in a wide range of fields, such as product photos and architecture photos, as well as long-exposure celestial and night-shot photographs.“
As someone who has recently written about the reality of photographic film production at Fujifilm – my perspective at least, is that this is amazing news and a shot in the arm for the community at large. With both Kodak and Fuji committed to producing new films, the effect on smaller players and new entrants cannot be overstated. I for one I am sure the film photography community will join me in applauding Fujifilm for this move.
Now all we have to do is wait for the stock to hit our shelves, which should hit the domestic Japanese market first before being rolled out internationally.
I can’t wait.