View Full Version : foma, arista, and other cheaper sheet films

Serge J-F. Levy
18-Feb-2006, 16:01
I know this is a highly individual preference question, but I am asking the serious photographers out there who know the beauty of an ansel adams' print, a sugimoto print and the other sensitive and subtle black and white prints made throughout history. I am an artist working in 4x5 materials and I would like to explore cheaper options to tri-x. I have heard of foma, arista, and forte films from looking at Freelance's site. Of course, there is always the option of buying all three and running several tests, etc., but frankly I don't know that I have the time or money to do that and I would love to hear other people's thoughts. I am generally looking for a 100 or 200 speed film (I shoot tri-x at 200 and process it normal to get my best results.)

Many thanks for your thoughts,

Ralph Barker
18-Feb-2006, 16:36
I think you're likely to get opinions all over the map regarding the products of the "second-tier" manufacturers, Serge. You may also find various complaints about the consistency of their batch-to-batch quality control. Even though "first-tier" film manufacturers (Kodak, Ilford, Fuji) will goof from time to time, or have product damaged in shipment, I personally prefer the comfort of working with their products. It's just one less thing to worry about after spending the time and money to "get there".

David Karp
18-Feb-2006, 18:28
No comment on quality here since I use HP5+ and FP4+ now that Ilford does not supply Arista Professional films to Freestyle anymore. But, I can tell you that Arista.Edu films are manufactured by Forte. Arista.Edu Ultra sheet films are made by Foma. So that does reduce your choices, because the manufacturer brands and the Freestyle store brands (Arista) are the same.

David A. Goldfarb
18-Feb-2006, 18:46
Go to jandcphoto.com and look for Efke PL100 sheet film, which is a genuinely beautiful film with a classic look and a lot of flexibility for expansion and contraction development. They are converting the brand name to Adox (Efke films are made in Croatia and were originally based on German Adox formulas), so it might appear under Adox or Efke. Depending on your developer, you might rate it anywhere from about 50 in ABC Pyro to 200 in Acufine or Rodinal (1:50), and probably somewhere in between with PMK or Xtol or HC-110 or D-76 and the other usual suspects.

The downside of this film is that the emulsion is softer than Kodak or Ilford films, so if you process in open trays, any flaws in your shuffling technique will become apparent. If you process with tanks and hangers, slosher, Nikor or HP or Yankee tank, or Jobo drums, tubes, etc., it's not an issue.

Aaron van de Sande
18-Feb-2006, 18:57
Another note on efke...
I was having a ton of problem with specs and everything else imaginable sticking to my film. I switched to distilled water and a hardening fixer and have been happy since. Also handle the negatives when dry before processing with gloves, fingerprints will show up in the sky.

Luca Merlo
18-Feb-2006, 22:31
Another vote for Adox/Efke 100. This film, developed in APH 09 (the old Rodinal formula), gives excellent results. It needs to be treated carefully since it is prone to scratch and it must be pre-soaked generously (at least 2 muntes). If you have sweaty hands it is better to use the cotton gloves when loading the tank.

Louie Powell
19-Feb-2006, 06:19
Serge -

I'm not convinced that there are a few magic films in a field otherwise occupied by mediocrity. Instead, I suspect that every film has a set of inherent characteristics, and if you learn those characteristics and peculiarities, you can use any film to make great images. In other words, pick one and spend some serious time working with it to see what it is really capable of doing.

I have been doing 4x5 intermittently for 15 years. In that time I used one box of TMY, one box of HP5 (a freebie), and a whole bunch of HP5 repackaged as Arista. Based on a comment by Paula Chamlee at last years LF Conference, I have a couple of boxes of Efke in the darkroom for when I finish the last box of Arista (probably in a few weeks). I figure it will probably take me both boxes to recalibrate myself to the new film - but hey, life is a series of changes.

Gary L. Quay
19-Feb-2006, 08:38
I have heard that the main difference between Ariste.edu Ultra and the Foma is the thickness of the film. They use a thinner sheet. Now, I haven't gotten out my caliper and measured them, but I just loaded the Arista.edu Ultra into a film holder, and I did notice that it did seem to fit easier that the Ilford that I had been using. Foma 100 is a good product, very similar to Plus-X. The 100 speed is wonderful for portrait work. Forte is also very good. I can't see any reason not to use either, even if they are repackaged as Arista. Of course, I like to use everything I can get my hands on. I will never abandon Ilford or even (gritting teeth) Kodak. I like the above-mentioned Efke PL100 and PL50. I like the Maco Cube, as well as their Infrared and IR Aura films, but these have absolutely nothing to do with the question posed. I just like to plug them.

The Arista.edu Ultra (Foma) 100 is the closest you are likely to get to the Tri-X; although, that's an opinion, and is likely to be corrected enthuseastically. I haven't tried the Forte yet, but I want to.

Here's the real reason I'm responding. We face a shrinking market, as everyone here knows, and it's important to keep as many options open as possible. That's why I like to buy as many different varieties as possible, even though it makes my job harder in the darkroom. I have to take really good notes. Kodak may abandon film all together. Ilford and Forte have recently gotten out of bankrupsy. Agfa is gone, vanished in a puff of red ink. Small to medium-sized firms like Foma, Forte, Adox, and the like are all we may have after a few years. Fuji remains an enigma. I love film. I love seeing the picture emerge on the paper under the soft glow of the safelight. We, the few, the stubborn hold-outs, have the future of the industry (as well as a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek hyperbole) in our amidol-stained hands.

Donald Qualls
19-Feb-2006, 20:13
I've never tried Efke (my first roll is still in a camera), but I like Fomapan 100 a lot -- I've used it in 9x12 cm, 4x5, and roll (120 cut down to 828, haven't yet shot any in original 120 formats), the latter in the .EDU Ultra rebranded form. IMO, it's the smoothest of the low-priced films I've seen, it's happy in almost any developer (I've processed it in HC-110 from Dilution H, F, and G, in acetaminophen-based Rodinal substitute I call Parodinal at 1:50, in Diafine, and even in Caffenol), it gives full rated speed (at least with my methods), and it's cheaper than Efke. My next film order will likely include a few rolls of Fomapan 100 in 35 mm as well, after seeing it in 828. Fuji Acros is better film, IMO, and not much more money (at least in roll formats) but isn't available in large format in the United States without the Quickloads, which IMO are too expensive for their advantages (I'm a low-volume shooter; if you shoot a lot of film or shoot professionally, your opinion is likely to differ).