Fomapan 400 in Caffenol-STD – Experiments and Results. And Large Format

Published by dirk on

This is an article of fine art figure photographer Scott Nichol from Allentown, PA, USA. You can visit his blog at http://www.silverystars.com/somanystars/. The Original article can be found here.

I wanted to experiment with the recipe for a coffee-based film developer commonly called Caffenol. Dirk Essl at caffenol.org does an excellent job of keeping track of development times for lots of different films that can be developed with Caffenol. However, most of the films that have been developed using this unique developer were films like Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400, neither of which I had any 4×5 stock at the moment. I did, however, have a good supply of Fomapan 400 and seeing as how development times for Fomapan and the Ilford films were similar, I decided to have a go at it. Initially, I decided just to follow the recommendation for Ilford Delta 400 of 9 minutes at 68°F.

I made 3 bracketed exposures at the old Bethlehem Steel site and developed the sheets with continuous agitation for the first minute, then 8 inversions in 10 seconds every 30 seconds. This is my typical 4×5 sheet development agitation method. In my experience it produces negatives with even development and good contrast.

When I pulled the negatives out of the developer, I was pleasantly surprised to see a well-defined image. The negatives were a little thinner than I would want, but there was most likely a usable image. I let the negatives dry and then scanned them with my Epson V700 scanner. The histogram for each of these scans shows that the densest parts of the negative are right around middle grey.  The under-exposed negative had a white point of almost 150 and a good amount of detail in the shadow areas. I think that the shortest exposure in the bracket (1/500 sec) just didn’t capture enough information for this particular development formula.  This negative lacks contrast and would prove a difficult negative to manage.

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

Ultimately I chose to use the under exposed shot (1/125 sec) from the bracket. After I pulled the scan into Photoshop, adjusted the contrast and did some light dodging and burning, I was left with a quite usable image.

Bethlehem Steel - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

However, I still wasn’t satisfied with the density of the negatives and wanted to try again with an extended development time. I shot two more sets of images bracketing two shots each with one exposed as metered and another exposed one stop down. Development this time was to be 12 minutes at 68°F and the same agitation method (continuous for the first minute, then 8 inversions every 30 seconds).

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

The resulting negatives were a bit more dense and gave a white point of 179 in the scanner’s histogram. So, additional development did help in building up the negative’s density. Next time, I might go as long as 14 minutes or maybe try the developer at 70°F to try and get some more negative density. But otherwise, I would say this was a very successful experiment!

Haines Mill - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

Stars and Stripes - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

Formula/Ingredients:
Folger’s Instant Coffe (45g)
Solgar Vitamin C Crystals (20g)
Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (24g)

Mixing Instructions:
First dissolved the washing soda in 750ml distilled water, then added the coffee.  Finally added the vitamin C very slowly with constant, vigorous stirring. In my first attempt, I warmed the water a bit before mixing. Second attempt was mixed at room temperature.

About Scott:
Schooled as a photographer and practiced in traditional printmaking, his work is at once cinematic and somewhat lyrical, a story left to the imagination of the viewer.  Working in both landscapes and studio, he studies the figure and its purposeful place and within an ideal frame.  Within this frame lies the emotion and the contemplative nature of the solitary figure.

When asked to describe his style, Scott says, “I tend to approach my work with a simple pre-visualization, an image that I see in my mind that serves as a rough sketch of what I’d like to accomplish with my subject.  This vision often changes once the model and I meet face to face.  Most models are highly creative and I tend to feed off of their energy, allowing ideas to flow and form freely.  It’s truly a wonderful collaboration and I owe a debt of thanks to all of the women who have helped me to create these beautiful photos.”

Scott has published one Book and two more are in the works. 


dirk

Dirk Essl is the founder of caffenol.org And has done a tremendous amount of coffee development in the past.

8 Comments

Ken · March 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

what a kind of good thing,I have a roll of Fomapan 400 on hand. I have taken some pictures,about 2 months ago. Now,I will consider to use the Delta STD with bromide to take a look.

Antonio · March 29, 2012 at 12:47 am

So,,, after the caffenal develop we still need to add the FIXER ?? Or does caffenol eliminates its need….
thanks!

    dirk · March 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Antonio,

    No, Caffenol is only a developer. You always need to use fixer. To my knowledge there is no B&W or E6 or C41 Developer that doesn’t need fixing.

    Just buy regular fixer, I use Ilford Rapid Fix, and reuse it.

    Cheers,
    Dirk

Doug · June 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I was very pleased to come across this post. I recently had been shooting some 4×5 Arista 400 from Freestyle (by all accounts rebranded Fomapan 400) and was interested in giving Caffenol a try. I used Scott’s exact same Caffenol-STD formulation and tank developed using the taco method. Taco developing was also new for me, previously have always done tray development. I started with 12 minutes @ 68°. My result was pretty similar, kind of thin. They were all bracketed test shots of a gray card and gray scale. I checked them with a densitometer and the film speed seems spot on but I’m not getting enough high value development. The next tests will be to determine how to get fuller development. Thanks, for posting your results Scott, it helped a lot to have a baseline starting out.

Yiannis Rigakis · December 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Excellent results

Stepan · June 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

Yesterday I developed Fomapan 400 6×6 in Caffenol C-H (recipe from the Caffenol bible) for 15 min at 21°C with recommended agitation (10 s initially then 3 times each minute). The result is pretty good! The negatives are rather dense and contrasty (surprise with this film), but the prints are great! This was my first usage of Caffenol. Fomapan 400 is decent film, not as good as TriX or HP5 plus, but it has sort of “classic look”, it is cheap and it is made in Czech republic (my home). With Caffenol it delivered great results and I think I will continue with this combination. Next time I wil use really 20°C developer and maybe decrease the agitation to 2 times each minute to reduce the density and contrast a bit. Remarks: I used Nescafe classic and K2CO3 instead of washing soda, of course I made the recalculation according the molar mass ratio.

Bryan · February 23, 2015 at 1:18 am

Where is the best place to buy the Vitamin C crystals? I understand that if you’re not careful of what you’re ordering you can get Vitamin C crystals that have some other ingredients in it instead of the one that is pure.

Thanks

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