Foma and Forte: Relics of Cold War Eastern inferiority?

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kcf
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Foma and Forte: Relics of Cold War Eastern inferiority?

Postby kcf » Tue Mar 07, 2006 4:37 pm

So, why did James Bond save the world from the Soviet threat if it was only to see vastly superior Western black and white film companies such as Agfa go out of business while their grossly inferior Eastern opposite numbers, such as Forte and Foma, breathe new life? Or, is it me that does not get it? Am I such a Cold War fossil that I can see nothing in these Eastern European films but a final, twisted plot to undo the capitalist West?

I am using these films with a flash, and the results, compared with those of Agfa or Kodak, are nothing less than terrible. Even the most politcally correct would lose credibility calling Foma merely "different," or Forte an "alternative." They are inferior. There I said it. Now who wants to fight?

The 400 speed versions of these two Eastern films just do not light up the way Tri-x or APX 400 do. The light fall-off is as severe as a Siberian goulag in January. I rarely get the hair. A lot of the negatives come out as lithographs. The flash seems to concentrate like a spotlight, whereas with Kodak etc., it spreads softly. Lots of blown out highlights inches from areas where the light does not seem to have reached.

I am using D-76 stock at 8 minutes or T-Max 1-4 at 8.5 mins for Forte, and D-76 1-1 at 11 minutes for Foma. Could I be using the wrong developer for the job? Could developer make that much difference? Why do people buy these films?


Jay DeFehr
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Foma/Forte/Efke

Postby Jay DeFehr » Wed Mar 08, 2006 4:05 am

While I would agree that some of these films are inferior in many ways to films made by Ilford/Kodak/Fuji, I would add that all of these films are capable of excellent results, and I don't mean excellent in an inferior kind of way. Foma 200 is one of my favorite films, and there is no other film quite like it. I've shot miles of Forte film, with excellent results, but any of the Forte films can be replaced by a better film made by Kodak, Ilford, or Fuji, for a price. I think TMY is the best film made, but it is not available in all of the formats I shoot, and it is among the most expensive films one can use. In many ways, we get what we pay for, but with care, we can get excellent results from just about any film made. Good luck.

kcf
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Eastern European films: a reply

Postby kcf » Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:39 am

Pointless to dwell on the negative. I do notice these films get a vintage look that I should like to learn to exploit. I shall not give up on them yet. I can imagine them working well with studio lighting or daylight. I will not try them with a single external flash again. Unless someone has got any suggestions.

Is using these films giving me a peak at what photographers in 1950, say, or 1930 had to deal with? Are there things they figured out to get more out of them? Is there place to find such information?

Ornello
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Re: Foma and Forte: Relics of Cold War Eastern inferiority?

Postby Ornello » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:28 am

kcf wrote:So, why did James Bond save the world from the Soviet threat if it was only to see vastly superior Western black and white film companies such as Agfa go out of business while their grossly inferior Eastern opposite numbers, such as Forte and Foma, breathe new life? Or, is it me that does not get it? Am I such a Cold War fossil that I can see nothing in these Eastern European films but a final, twisted plot to undo the capitalist West?

I am using these films with a flash, and the results, compared with those of Agfa or Kodak, are nothing less than terrible. Even the most politcally correct would lose credibility calling Foma merely "different," or Forte an "alternative." They are inferior. There I said it. Now who wants to fight?

The 400 speed versions of these two Eastern films just do not light up the way Tri-x or APX 400 do. The light fall-off is as severe as a Siberian goulag in January. I rarely get the hair. A lot of the negatives come out as lithographs. The flash seems to concentrate like a spotlight, whereas with Kodak etc., it spreads softly. Lots of blown out highlights inches from areas where the light does not seem to have reached.

I am using D-76 stock at 8 minutes or T-Max 1-4 at 8.5 mins for Forte, and D-76 1-1 at 11 minutes for Foma. Could I be using the wrong developer for the job? Could developer make that much difference? Why do people buy these films?
The issue of Agfa is separate. Indeed, those Eastern European products are inferior. The problem with Agfa is essentially redundancy and high operating costs (Germany). Who needs Agfa? They were not 'best of class' at anything. Their products lacked either qualitative differentiation or high quality, or both. They had no 'Velvia' or 'Kodachrome' transparency products, just ordinary 'me too' products after they switched to E-6. Even Rodinal, their one distinctive B&W product, is inferior to others in its class. In B&W, their distinctive Portriga and Brovira papers are long gone, but their B&W APX films were second-tier at best.

The Eastern-block countries, on the other hand, do not have the labour and overhead costs that German companies have. They have a market in the old Soviet-block countries where cost, I assume, is more of an issue than quality.

kcf
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Eastern European films: a second reply

Postby kcf » Wed Mar 08, 2006 3:12 pm

Ornello, Thank you for the elucidation.

Jay DeFehr, Can you elaborate on your sentence, "...with care, we can get excellent results from just about any film made." What would that care consist of when using Forte or Foma or Efke?

Fotohuis
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Postby Fotohuis » Wed Mar 08, 2006 3:17 pm

Is there place to find such information?
http://www.apug.org

Foma produces some excelent B&W film products for this price.
Fomapan 100 and Fomapan 400 are classical B&W films the Fomapan 200 is a new crystal technology film.

If you have tried to make push attemps with the Fomapan 400 film it will not be very succesfull. In most developers you will come to iso 250-320.
Try AM74 (or it's equivalent Rollei H.S.) with this Fomapan 400 film on E.I. 320. A good combination.
With the Fomapan 200 the SPUR HRX-2 is an excelent combination on E.I. 160.
The Fomapan 100 is doing well in Rodinal, ID11/D76 and most common developers.

If you want less grain and the highest sharpness use Tmax 400 or Delta 400 but do not complain about their prices which has gone up over 40% in 2 years time.
"De enige beperking in je fotografie ben je zelf"

http://www.FotohuisRoVo.nl
http://gallery.fotohuisrovo.nl/

Jay DeFehr
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maximum film quality

Postby Jay DeFehr » Sat Mar 11, 2006 1:39 pm

Kcf,

to get the most out of any film, it's critical that the film is exposed and developed optimally. What is optimal will vary with the desired outcome, but in general, every film should be tested for emusion speed, and development time, and the negative's density range should be matched to the exposure scale of the printing paper. This is true regardless of the film/developer or paper in use. Every material and chemical solution used in the process is a part of the total imaging system, and substituting any one component changes the character of the entire sytem, to one degree or another. The superiority of the films made by the industry leaders takes many forms, including; improved hardening, reciprocity characteristics, spectral response, speed for grain, and perhaps most important, batch to batch consistency due to industry leading quality control, and state of the art manufacturing. None of the above issues affect the subtle gradation of tones that a film is capable of rendering, and which is the most important factor in overall image quality. These issues do, however, affect the handling properties of the EU films. These films should not be processed at temps much above 68F, due to their inferior emulsion hardening, and should always be fixed in an acid, hardening fixer. One should not take their reciprocity characteristics for granted, as they might not match those of Kodak/Ilford/Fuji films very closely. The very short duration of some flash exposures could cause some EU films to behave unpredictably. Filters might have a dramatic and surprising effect on exposure with some EU films, due to their spectral responses. Some EU films, like Forte 400 show an extended sensitivity to the red portion of the spectrum, while other films, like Efke 25 are classified as Orthopanchromatic, meaning they are less sensitive to the red portion of the spectrum than other panchromatic films are.

In short, it might take more than a few rolls to become familiar with any given film, but testing for emulsion speed and development time is an important first step. If I had to guess why people buy these films, I'd say they do because these films are far less expensive than those made by the big three, and are capable of excellent results, when handled appropriately. Good luck.

Jay

Ornello
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Re: maximum film quality

Postby Ornello » Sat Mar 18, 2006 3:09 pm

Jay DeFehr wrote:Kcf,

to get the most out of any film, it's critical that the film is exposed and developed optimally. What is optimal will vary with the desired outcome, but in general, every film should be tested for emusion speed, and development time, and the negative's density range should be matched to the exposure scale of the printing paper. This is true regardless of the film/developer or paper in use. Every material and chemical solution used in the process is a part of the total imaging system, and substituting any one component changes the character of the entire sytem, to one degree or another. The superiority of the films made by the industry leaders takes many forms, including; improved hardening, reciprocity characteristics, spectral response, speed for grain, and perhaps most important, batch to batch consistency due to industry leading quality control, and state of the art manufacturing. None of the above issues affect the subtle gradation of tones that a film is capable of rendering, and which is the most important factor in overall image quality. These issues do, however, affect the handling properties of the EU films. These films should not be processed at temps much above 68F, due to their inferior emulsion hardening, and should always be fixed in an acid, hardening fixer. One should not take their reciprocity characteristics for granted, as they might not match those of Kodak/Ilford/Fuji films very closely. The very short duration of some flash exposures could cause some EU films to behave unpredictably. Filters might have a dramatic and surprising effect on exposure with some EU films, due to their spectral responses. Some EU films, like Forte 400 show an extended sensitivity to the red portion of the spectrum, while other films, like Efke 25 are classified as Orthopanchromatic, meaning they are less sensitive to the red portion of the spectrum than other panchromatic films are.

In short, it might take more than a few rolls to become familiar with any given film, but testing for emulsion speed and development time is an important first step. If I had to guess why people buy these films, I'd say they do because these films are far less expensive than those made by the big three, and are capable of excellent results, when handled appropriately. Good luck.

Jay
It's relatively easy to make decent low-speed film. Far harder is making good fast film. So, slow EU films are probaly not going to be significantly inferior in sharpness or fine grain to most other slow films past or present., made by the majors. But Adox KB21 (ISO 100, DIN 21) was noticeably grainier than Plus-X or FP4 when I compared them many years ago (1969 or 1970).

The quality of ISO 400 films made by the majors is completely beyond the capabilities of the EU producers.

Jay DeFehr
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slow films too

Postby Jay DeFehr » Sun Mar 19, 2006 11:16 pm

Everything I wrote above applies equally to slow and fast films. Efke/ Forte/Foma 100 speed films are nowhere near as sharp as films in the same class made by Ilford/Kodak/fuji, and suffer all the same inferiorities listed above. In fact, TMX/Delta/Acros 100 are sharper and finer grained than Efke 25, and enjoy all of the advantages that state of the art manufacturing has to offer.

Ornello
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Re: slow films too

Postby Ornello » Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:19 pm

Jay DeFehr wrote:Everything I wrote above applies equally to slow and fast films. Efke/ Forte/Foma 100 speed films are nowhere near as sharp as films in the same class made by Ilford/Kodak/fuji, and suffer all the same inferiorities listed above. In fact, TMX/Delta/Acros 100 are sharper and finer grained than Efke 25, and enjoy all of the advantages that state of the art manufacturing has to offer.
Quite. That's more or less what I said. It's relatively easy to make a fine-grained ISO 20 film.

pentaxpete
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Eastern Block Films

Postby pentaxpete » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:18 pm

For many years I used the ORWO NP22 film made in the east German Agfa factory and could get 20x16" Exhibition prints out of it. I found the best developer was PH35 Formula from a 1960's magazine in UK called '35mm photography'. I made it up myself from the chemicals. I tried the ORWO NP27 400 ASA but agree it was not as sharp or fine grained as Ilford HP5, but it was OK for press pics in the local newspaper.
I also used the ORWO NP 15 and found it had a strange base colour,quite magenta; it was not as sharp as say Ilford Pan f but I did get some exhibition results and still have lots of (Now outdated!) Orwo NP 22 35mm and 120 in the 'fridge. I did have trouble with the 120 rollfilm having some strange 'crystals' on the emulsion after drying; I sent sample to Wolfen and they replied in English saying my fixer was not fresh or acid enough.
Got COMPUTERISED and 'slightly Digitised Pentax K10D' but FILM STILL RULES !

Jay DeFehr
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Orwo

Postby Jay DeFehr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:20 pm

Pete,

I have a bunch of Orwo NP 15 in 120, but have not seen the base color you describe. I agree that it's not as sharp as Ilford Pan F+, despite its very similar curve shape, and it's not as fine grained, despite being a stop slower, which might suggest why I still have so much of it in my freezer. I use it for the occasional developer experiment, but reach for a modern film when it's important.

PeanutHorst
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Postby PeanutHorst » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:57 am

pentaxpete:

I HATE not having had the cahnce to try the Orwo roll and 35mm films...

Lucky you :)

I'd KILL for even some expired unexposed stock... :(

Can't even eBay, parents don't believe in that... and I'm still not able to legally work. In short, I envy you.



Also:
ANYONE who badmouths Rodinal again, will be eaten.
My cameras:

Ricoh XR-1s, 55mm SMC Pentax lense
Asahi Pentax KX, Astron 28-70mm lense
Rolleiflex 3.5C
Zeiss Ikonta
Linhoff large-format camera

Keith Tapscott.
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Postby Keith Tapscott. » Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:47 am

PeanutHorst wrote:pentaxpete:

Can't even eBay, parents don't believe in that... and I'm still not able to legally work. In short, I envy you.



Also:
ANYONE who badmouths Rodinal again, will be eaten.
You seem to have a lot of cameras for a young `un`, perhaps some of us should envy you.
I suspect that the Linhoff is far to complicated for you and you should send it to me along with any lenses and accessories that you may have for it. :D :wink:

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:10 pm

PeanutHorst wrote:pentaxpete:

I HATE not having had the cahnce to try the Orwo roll and 35mm films...

Lucky you :)

I'd KILL for even some expired unexposed stock... :(

Can't even eBay, parents don't believe in that... and I'm still not able to legally work. In short, I envy you.



Also:
ANYONE who badmouths Rodinal again, will be eaten.
Rodinal is worst in its class.


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