Understandably, I was very excited to hear the news of Fujifilm bringing back NEOPAN 100 ACROS in the form of ACROS II earlier this year. So, when a second announcement came with details of a November 22nd Japanese release date, I started making calls to see if I could buy some. I got lucky and $190 dollars and a week later, I received my shipment; a brick each of 35mm and 120 ACROS II.
With all this new film on hand, the only reasonable thing to do is a side-by-side of ACROS and ACROS II in both formats. Although I’m still waiting to be able to shoot a side-by-side with the old and new 35mm versions, I made a first-pass on 120 the weekend just gone: old and new ACROS in the same camera using the same lens, same aperture/shutter settings and importantly: the same scenes.
The results – as clickbait headlines love to tell us – will surprise you, or maybe not. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Is ACROS II not ACROS?
There’s been what’s best described as a kerfuffle on social media and internet forums about new ACROS II. I spend a lot of time on social media and Twitter, Facebook, IG, Reddit, etc., so my experience may be amplified compared to many of you reading this but it’s there.
As noted by Kosmo Foto, Japanese photographer shoichi_aoyama posted a now-expired Instagram story showing “Made in UK” markings on the box, which kickstarted conspiracy theory and “fact” pulled out of thin air. These mostly revolve around the film being a rebrand of an ILFORD stock – from Kentmere 100 to FP4 PLUS, to Delta 100…any ~100 ISO film.
I had a bit of fun with it.
Taking more of a backed-by-knowledge-and-experience perspective the “Made in UK” tells me that unless Fujifilm UK have done the incredibly unlikely and sprouted a new film manufacture plant (they have been investing in expanding their UK operations), the film is either finished by or entirely manufactured by HARMAN technology aka ILFORD Photo. This may be stating the obvious but it needs to be said.
I’m ok with that.
HARMAN/ILFORD has previous form working with Fujifilm (NEOPAN 400CN) and others to produce custom film stocks. All due respect to Kodak but if you’re going to ask for someone’s help making a black and white film stock, it might as well be the people who focus only on black and white film stocks (and papers, of course).
Allow me a minute to try and add some clarity to the conversation with a restatement of information already in the public domain:
- ILFORD has previously produced film for other brands.
- ILFORD has previously provided finishing services (cutting/packaging film) for other brands.
- HARMAN does not put ILFORD films into boxes for third parties.
- ACROS II is not a rebranded ILFORD film.
- ACROS II has the same reciprocity characteristics of the original (see the Japanese datasheet).
- ACROS II does (slightly) differ from the original emulsion. This makes sense considering Fujifilm’s statement that they conducted “…a radical review of the manufacturing process for new raw materials“.
- ACROS II will be released to the rest of the world. All signs point to a Spring 2020 release for the US, other regions to follow no doubt.
With that out of the way, on to the test shoot…
Shooting and developing ACROS II
I shot the frames you see below with my Hasselblad 2000FCW and Carl Zeiss Planar F 80mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure settings for each frame were made using a Nikon F6 in matrix metering mode (I was also shooting a roll in that for a future complete review). The vast majority of the frames were shot at f/4 or f/8 with a couple of f/11 frames thrown in for good measure.
In total, I shot four rolls of 120 for this article: 2x ACROS and 2x ACROS II at box speed, plus another one and a bit rolls of 35mm film at EI 200. The original 120 ACROS (v1) was from the final batch and has an expiry date of October 2019. It had been cold-stored since being purchased brand new.
Development information for ACROS II is very limited. Fujifilm’s ACROS II processing guide currently provides only two developer options: Microfine and Super Prodol (SPD). The published times are the same as original ACROS so, in my infinite wisdom, I decided that this was enough evidence for me to assume that times for other chemistry – namely HC-110 – would also be the same. I stand to be corrected.
The film was developed in HC-110 1+31 (dilution B) at 20c for 4m 45s with a usual 1-minute continuous agitation followed by 10 seconds each minute thereafter. This was followed by the normal rinse, stop, fix, LFN, rinse, etc., nothing special there. Once dry, the negatives were scanned at 1600dpi using an Epson GT-X970 (Perfection v750 Pro) scanner, straightened, cropped and de-dusted in Adobe Lightroom.
ACROS and ACROS II compared
The 12 side-by-side pairs which follow below are 1200x1200px versions of those 1600dpi scans. Drag the handle in the middle of each frame to see the differences between the two film stocks (or lack of, in places).
Important: if you’re coming from social media on a mobile/tablet device, use the menu to open this article in your normal web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) The “webview” that comes with your FB/IG/Twitter apps will break the comparison sliders below.
Before you go on, if you’re planning on sharing this article to social media/forums, etc., please don’t spoil the result below, thanks.
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ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #1, frames #2 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #2, frames #4 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #3, frames #6 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #4, frames #7 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #5, frames #8 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #6, frames #9 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #7, frames #10 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #8, frames #11 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #9, frames #12 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #10, frames #13 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #11, frames #14 a+b
ACROS vs ACROS II: Pair #12, frames #15 a+b
You may have already guessed correctly – and I was incredibly tempted not to include this – the original ACROS frames are on the left and ACROS II are on the right. Is there enough of a difference for it to affect your current ACROS process? If I had told you they were the other way around, would it have mattered?
Questions for another time, I suppose.
More contrast, less shadow detail?
They’re close, almost indistinguishable in some cases. What differences exist, vary from mildly obvious to very slight. They also differ from scene to scene and from light to light. The variations are small enough to be corrected either during the scan, in Lightroom, etc., or in the darkroom. Naturally, flatter negatives could also be obtained using different developers and recipes.
On the whole, compared to original ACROS, ACROS II displays an increased contrast in the mid-tones and a bit more kick in the low tones. Highlights remain largely the same. As an aside, I’d like to go out and shoot some cars/water to try to capture a few examples of extreme specular highlights but that’s for the future. I like the look of it. It’s close to my style of photography and for those who don’t, it’ll mean just a few seconds of correction in a digital or traditional darkroom.
It seems like there’s a bit less shadow detail in ACROS II for this specific development recipe. That said, bumping the scanner’s brightness, adjusting the black and white points, or even playing around in Lightroom shows a wonderful amount of shadow detail.
To demonstrate, here are two pairs of ACROS II frames with Lightroom Shadows, Whites and Blacks bumped to +100, +70 and +100 respectively (#10 above and a new frame). Extreme but you get the point and there’s more detail to be had in the darkroom, no doubt.
You won’t find the second frame in the original list because of a cock-up which made the original ACROS frame unusable for this article. Such is life.
Final thoughts + bonus conspiracy
This is admittedly a limited sample set and of course, changes in the film development process, alternate chemistry, dilutions and differing scanning practices will all change the look of the film to some extent.
Take what you will from these samples, they’re to give you a feeling, not provide gospel truth – just look at the variations in contrast, tonality and grain Scott Micciche found during his extensive Ferrania P30 developer testing.
As you’ll find with every single film stock ever made, my results will probably not mirror yours, ever. Forgetting about variations in gear for a moment, the available light, its intensity, its angle due to the time of day and season (it’s Winter here) mean that even if I go back to the same location a few months from now, I’ll likely not be able to catch the same scenes in quite the same way – hence the matched pairs.
For my part, I’m content with the updated ACROS II and welcome its return. There will no doubt remain numerous naysayers, conspiracy theorists and others in our community who will refuse to believe that this film is a new stock and instead call it a rebrand of something or other – even suggesting its “the same film, higher price”.
To them, I say this: there are better things for you to concern yourself with. Go shoot some film. Unless you have direct evidence to the contrary, please let everyone else get on with it, too. Adding a comment stating, “this is a rebrand” on social media doesn’t add to the conversation in any conceivable way, quite the opposite.
I’d also like to extend an invitation to those still convinced of conspiracy to give it a little more effort. Consider this runaway train of “logic”: the reciprocity failure of ACROS II makes it FAR more likely that it’s a rebrand of Kodak T-MAX 100 than ILFORD FP4 PLUS or Delta 100. It’s quite possible that Fujifilm is paying ILFORD to make a film that was in-turn licenced from Eastman Kodak. Consider also that the available evidence indicates that all still photographic film is made by ADOX using the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a cover, with Kodak motion picture film being produced in a secret facility underneath Uluru. That facility’s exhaust vents are located at the top of the rock formation and due to the need to expand the site, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management announced that from 2019, visitors to the park would no longer be allowed to climb it and thus uncover the dark secret.
Now that’s something people can get their teeth into. Feel free to run with it.
To end on a serious note, I for one plan on buying more once these rolls are shot, processed and printed. With my EI 200, 400 and 800 tests already in progress or coming up, plus a crack at reversal development into slides and giving away/trading a few rolls, that’s probably going to be sooner than my wallet might like but hey, #shootfilmstaybroke, right?
Your thoughts in the comments below, please.
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What a fantastic comparison! Thx so much for the work you put into your article.
Just shot my first roll of Neopan II. Resulting (lab processed) images were *exactly* what I envisioned while shooting, which is to say that (for me at least) it’s a film that will predictably render against your exposure choices.
I’m a frustrated purist in all of my pursuits. But even most of those among us who develop our own film yield to the algorithm deities when it comes to producing physical prints. Based on the images above, the subtleties that differentiate Neopan from Neopan II are a matter of taste, as well as a matter of tweaking a few sliders in our scanner or in Lightroom settings.
Glad to have been of service! It’s a wonderfully consistent film stock and yields predictable results pretty much every time, all the time.
> Based on the images above, the subtleties that differentiate Neopan from Neopan II are a matter of taste, as well as a matter of tweaking a few sliders in our scanner or in Lightroom settings.
You hit the nail on the head.
Original Acros has been my choice of film for years – love it. Can’t wait to try the new ‘II’ version. The only way the news of Acros II could be bettered is by Fuji releasing the new film in 5×4 Quickloads… I’m down to my last 60 quickloads of the original Acros…
You made a good comparison. Now, I would like to hear more about one thing that interests me deeply. But first some “historical info”. I have recently developed an expired roll of ACROS (120) original (exp. date 2008/11) made in Japan. When I dried the film, I was extreeeeemely surprised by the quality of the film base. It was flawless, immaculate. Just before that film I have developed a roll of fresh FOMA 200 (120) just to decide to never again: the film base was fogged, muddy and had multiple scratches.
What about the film base and its quality/consistency (talking of the new ACROS)?
If you can spot scratches not traceable back to your camera, it is not a Japanese film no more, make no mistake.
My gear: Rolleiflex 6001 Professional (in both cases). AP developing tank. HC-110, dil. B. All other conditions being virtually the same.
Neither Kodak, nor Ilford are capable of producing consistent clear film base of high quality. There will be always batch to batch variations and some problems here and there.
Why all this fuss about the film base? The reason is very simple: when I developed FOMA first, I had a thought “I shouldn’t have bought the 6001 to obtain such result”!
When I developed ACROS next, I had a thought “I should and I have bought the 6001 precisely to obtain such result!
I’m sorry that I just got around to reading this now. EM – thank you for your hard work in comparing these. Unfortunately I only had the chance to shoot two rolls of Acros before it was discontinued but both rolls exceeded my expectations significantly. Maybe I got lucky with the light/metering but the images all turned out so well. Very much looking forward to seeing your future comparisons.
Awesome article. Sliders don’t work on my Android chrome. If they bring it back at $6.50/36exp, the last price I paid for it, I’d seriously consider it for my main film. But, it looks like it’ll be considerably more expensive and I’ll pass on it. Too bad since it was one of my favorites and I haven’t settled on something else.
I’d sure be interested in seeing the fruits of your labor, yet the only thing I see on Safari with my iMac is the Title. No photo of any kind, nothing. I’m recently gaining momentum on my film work and thought I’d join the Big Boys with a new brick of Acros. Ordered from B&H as Acros 100 and they shipped Acros II. 🙁 I am interested in the difference.
To my eye, the differences are subtle, and if one wanted to really “match” the new to old Acros, minor exposure and dev changes should do it. It was always a 50 or 80 speed film for me (In Rodinal), but I like shadow detail and only own an enlarger, not a scanner. The putz who used the phrase “Acros hype” has never had a complicated trip of shooting in all sorts of conditions, with multiple cameras and a need for very long exposures along with daylight exposures. A lot of my work seems to verge on “trespassing”, so getting the shots fast without referring to a recip. chart, even with pinhole – and still getting such fantastic tonality – love it. I found Acros to be a do-it-all film (well, do-a-lot anyway). I’ll be really bummed if we don’t see it in 4×5.
Great photos and many thanks for the comparison! Tried shooting it at EI 400, cant wait to see the results
Strange my Neopan Acros II 100 has white backing paper.
I just said “no pics, no sliders on IOS Safari” which I’d opened via the Weekly Digest Email. Tried again via the Original Post (email) and the slider pics are visible. But they blink crazily and don’t ‘slide’. Regardless, just having the two halves side by each is educational. Thanks ….
I’ve ben shooting some Acros 100 and loving the results. While this is an excellent comparison, I’ve also gained some info from reading the comments, such that Acros was an ortopanchromatic film stock, which made it nearly unique. I think I’ve moved on to another low iso B&W film, Ilford Pan F Plus 50. But will look at the new Acros II, poring over further reviews as they become available. Thank you for your work.
I’m glad it’s not just me who felt the Acros Hype – I was getting a bit fed up with ‘how excited are you by the return of Acros?!” segments on podcasts. I’ve never shot the original and prob won’t shoot the new one…
Gosh, we are really thrilled that you needed to squeak up that you will never use Acros film. That added a ton of value to this informative article. Consider, the author went to a major effort to test this new version of Acros.
If you don’t shoot the film X time over time and compare the results, how do you know that you get better in shooting and development. I have been shooting original Acros with very bad cameas and developping it in wrong devs for wrong time, etc. The results were, as could be expected, mediocre. Of all the Acros I shot previously, only one image made it as far as my personal archive, so I never thought Acros was somehing really good, until I shot a trial film of original Acros expired in 2008 just to check if the internal OTF flash-metering works on my camera. That was the time, when the the film shined! Why do you deprive yourself of such interesting discoveries?
Fantastic article Em! Nicely done. I’m not sure what I am most impressed with. The article itself, or those comparison sliders, the likes of which I have never seen! Is that something you’ve coded yourself bespoke, or some kind of plugin? It’s very impressive, and useful for those doing photography based comparisons.
Thanks for the test. I have enough of the old stuff to keep me going until it finally arrives over here. Can’t wait to give it a try in the dark, perhaps with a lone LED streetlight…
I like the looks of it and am impressed by the amount of detail Lightroom pulled out of the images! Good comparison! And, in the end, what difference does it really make where it’s made or who makes it? You either like the film, for whatever reasons, or you don’t. Buy it or don’t but it. Geez.
I hope it’s not super expensive once it comes stateside. I loved the original ACROS.
These look AWESOME! Thanks so much for the comparison. The differences seem minor here and both, terrific. Can’t wait to see it in 35mm. And can’t wait to get my hands on some here in the US. Thanks so much for doing this!! -Robbie
Thanks for the comparison.
I finished my roll over the weekend but haven’t gotten around to developing it yet. When I do develop it, I will be using Fuji’s Microfine. On the Japanese datasheet, it also lists D-76 and ID-11 along with Microfine and SPD.
Love this comparison and this write up! I for one cannot wait to shoot with it as soon as I can get my hands on some. Thanks for this!!
Appreciated as ever.
If it keeps Fuji making film and helping Ilford to make a profit as well it’s got to be a win win for film in general.
Really love this article and this comparison!! I for one am incredibly excited to go shoot with it as soon as I can get my hands on it! Thank you for this!! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
Acros is very easy to test.
Make a long time exposure and look if it came out underexposed or did it hold reciprocity.
This was what made this film unique, so this is what is to be tested. All other characteristics can be found in other films too. Resolution, grain, sharpness is not what made it the one and only.
So if Acros II does not hold the same reciprocity as original Acros but fails, than it is a scam by Fuji.
To be fair, the RF of ACROS, whise very nice isn’t the only aspect of the film which made it unique: it is (and now through v2) remains the only orthopanchromatic film on the market. Considering the change in red sensitivity of the new film (and the differences in the examples above), performing a test like this is not only valid but prudent. Thanks for your comment.
Sorry, I meant “easy to identify” but by mistake wrote “easy to test”. (And ofcourse no film is easy to test, no intention from my side to diminish your effort.)
I mean Fuji is easy to catch if they sell us rebranded Ilford as the Ilford is very, very different at the aspect of reciprocity (or failure of it).
Yes, Acros was exceptional in other regards too, but not the only one in those regards. Films as sharp as it was exist more than one. Ortopanchromatic films exist, at least one if I remember correctly. Also you can simulate ortopan with filters on the lens.
What you can not replace is the extreme reciprocity except by (heresy!) going digital.
All this said, I would like to see tests of how Acros II retains reciprocity.
If you would be so kind to test this aspect too in your next test, you could make me very happy. 🙂
Excellent comparison. I have not had the pleasure of using the original Acros, but I will be using Acros II at some point. 🙂
Result – ‘happiness’ ;0)
Thanks EM !
…and still the same for me – Chrome and Safari on a Mac. I’ve cleared the caches on both browsers just to be sure – but the problem persists.
Works in Opera on a Mac for me only as well
Thanks for the comparison, and I guessed right, the old Acros has a little more dynamic range. It’s good to see they both handled highlights the same. I can’t get the sliders to work either, tried chrome and internet explorer, but not to worry, I get the picture.
Hi EM, your comparison slider doesn’t work when viewing the page in Chrome or Safari. Dragging on the handle just closes the image pair. ;0(
Otherwise, a very helpful and interesting piece !
Same with Firefox, otherwise I second John’s opinion
All fixed. Flippin’ JSON messing things up 😀
Still seems broken – I force reloaded the page in Chrome and Firefox. Still closes the image rather than allowing the slider to work
Not on my side (Firefox), sorry to say.
Once more unto the breach, my friends. Please clear you browser cache and give it a refresh!
Yeah, had Pepe Silvia look into it and now it works