I have been shooting nothing but film for the last six or seven years, just about every current emulsion on the market has passed through one of my cameras at some point over that time period. This was my second go around with Fomapan 400/Arista EDU 400. It was probably four years ago that I decided to try this stuff and I didn’t like it back then either… My abilities in developing have gotten better since my first attempt so I thought this may be a good chance to see how it actually holds up against the other 400 asa film stocks that I have used. I shoot mainly street scenes, usually at box speed and developed as such.
Kodak Tmax 400 and Tri-X have been the two kings of my camera bag battling it out for the top spot. Tri-X for the last year or so has held on pretty well, and for the two prior years it was nothing but Tmax. The characteristics that I personally look for and want in a film is a tight grain structure and relatively high contrast with very good tonal range. Tmax is a very smooth tight grain and lower contrast film where as Tri-X is a little more “natural” and more loose structure(but not too loose) with the exact contrasty look that I like. Arista souped in the same Tmax Dev that I use for all of my developing has a very loose much more pronounced grainy look and very high contrast, a little more in your face.
Both shots above were on the same roll developed in Kodak Tmax Dev 1:8 for 9.5 minutes. This is almost the same times I use for Tri-X that being 30 seconds less at a 9 minute develop time. Everything you see in this write up was scanned with a Plustek Opticfilm 7600i 35mm scanner at 3600 dpi.
Where Arista shines I think is indoors. The tonal range while shooting under indoor or shadowed lighting is really nice; the only drawback to this is if you don’t nail the exposure the shadows can become really muddy. But as an all around film for multiple different lighting situations I just don’t see the consistency that I desire for an all around film stock.
Tmax and Tri-X both seem to be better suited for my personal tastes for an all around 400 asa black and white film. The dynamic range both of the Kodak stocks have in comparison seems to be much more well rounded for just about any lighting situation. Though, when it comes to pushing and pulling the film Tri-X absolutely reigns supreme above just about any other film.
All four of these shots above are in natural lighting indoors. Tmax is definitely the smoothest grain of all three films, probably the most pleasing look to a more digital oriented audience. Tri-X is my personal favorite at the moment due to the higher contrast and ability to retain as much detail in the shadows. I could easily brighten up the shot of the two glasses and you would be able to see the folds in the napkin on the table with very little grain showing. When attempting to brighten up the Arista the shadows have a tendency to become very grainy and muddy. Now the tonal range that Arista has is pretty impressive, when developed just right the highlights show plenty of detail and the shadows just fall into darkness real quick. This is actually a good thing because when it comes to midtone film nothing beats Tmax.
With all of that said what have we come to? Simply that this film and developer combination is not for me. Other people are getting really nice results with Arista EDU Ultra 400. It doesn’t seem like there are too many people using Tmax Dev for this film and maybe there is a reason for that as it produced some rather grainy results for me. Is it fair to say that I don’t like the film, maybe, the results that I got with my developer of choice just weren’t as desirable as some other more expensive film stocks. It was still a lot of fun to shoot and there were definitely some keepers on the few rolls that I finished.
On a last note, not necessarily part of the review. This was my first time actually writing a review for anything. If you have any feedback, gripes, hate mail feel free to comment it. I’ll take whatever good or bad feedback you throw at me.