viernes, 2 de enero de 2009


Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA Published in Film und Foto Magazine Number 4
March 2008

The Fuji Acros 100 film is the best black and white film ever made in such sensitivity, and its superb virtues, among which we must highlight its uncommon enlargement capacity without grain (nothing less than RMS 7, a world record in its ISO segment), an amazing resistance to reciprocity failure in long exposures, a remarkable contrast, excellent sharpness and ability to capture the most recondite details, very interesting image features with a far more usable density range than the other b & w films of its sensitiveness along with a very convenient developing easiness, great suitability for scanning and many other values, turn it into the benchmark of the currently available monochrome ISO 100 chemical emulsions.

Fuji Acros 100, the best ISO 100 black and white film made hitherto.

The Fuji Neopan Acros 100 was born with premises of maximum feasible qualitative demands, in which the key factor was striving by all means after beating the excellent b & Kodak T-Max 100 (with its famous tablet shape ultrafine T grain) and Ilford Delta 100 (with its Core Shell Crystal Technology and ultrafine grain too) black and white films, the two flagships in this sensitivity preceding it, and of course the Fuji Neopan SS ISO 100 which was the best ISO 100 Fuji monochrome emulsion in such sensitivity.

The task was utterly strenuous, since both films (epitomes of the monochrome high technology emulsions, featuring tablet appearance grains, homogeneous geometrical shapes and king size capturing light surface) were until then the acme amongst the medium sensitivity black and white chemical emulsions , above all regarding no grain at all and ability for the making of big enlargements on photographic paper without any loss of quality, both the Kodak T-Max 100 and the Ilford Delta 100 excelling at their very good level of detail in shadows, though the T-MAX 100 is difficult to master in the high key areas, because it sports a certain bias to burn them if you want to simultaneously keep an appropriate level of detail in the low key areas, and besides, when using the high technology grain emulsions, sometimes the tonal range is somewhat unsatisfactory, for they only manage to come off with their good traits when the most exacting processing standards are thoroughly fulfilled, and usually they don´t even withstand slight changes as to the conditions of it.

Therefore, Fuji endeavoured to the utmost in order to get that the Fuji Acros 100 was very easy to develop with all kind of chemicals from different brands and various dilutions, also trying that the new would-be champion of the ISO 100 b & w films followed Kodak Tri-X 400 trail of tolerance and ease of processing, something hugely complex, because the Fuji Acros 100 belongs to the same type of chemical emulsions featuring high tech crystals as the two aforementioned ISO 100 films, both of which have always been prominent showing off very fine grain and excellent image quality, whilst at the same time revealing their very scarce tolerance to changes in exposure and development, specially when you overexpose or overdevelop (in this regard, the Ilford Delta 100 is more tolerant than the Kodak T-MAX 100), though it was slightly more than required, which will result in impasted high key zones, hard to reproduce on photographic paper with a minimum of texture.

Korean note of 1,000 wons. The ability of Fuji Acros 100 capturing even the most recondite shades, textures and fine details, both regarding the paper and its rugosities along with the granular gotelet wall in the background is certainly impressive. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Micro-Nikkor 200 mm f/4 Ai-S IF Lens. 1/125 sec at f/5.6

That´s to say, with its new excellent Fuji Acros 100 black and white film, the Japanese concern tried from the ground up the creation of a monochrome emulsion joining together the best of two worlds: the great tolerance to errors of exposure and development, along with the effortless attainment of very wide and balanced dynamic range of the classical black and white films (boasting plenty of silver halides and irregular surface grains like the Kodak Tri-X 400, etc) and the finer grain, superior sharpness, resolving power and remarkable potential to get fairly big enlargements of the till then high technology reference-class ISO 100 monochrome films Kodak T-MAX 100 and Ilford Delta 100 (sporting a better sensitivity/granularity ratio, thanks to the regular geometrical shape of their grains featuring a large capturing light area and tablet aspect).

And it must be admitted that the Japanese firm has achieved it to a great extent, since the Fuji Acros 100 is a film boasting the traditional qualities and values of the classic black and white photography, in which it is essential the extensive control you can carry out during development stage as to such sides like contrast and the various shades of grey between absolute black and absolute white, which noticeably fosters the work of those photographers using Ansel Adams and Fred Archer Zone System.

Since the very beginning of its launching in Japan, the Fuji Neopan Acros 100 became a cult film among the Japanese enthusiasts of top-notch best of the best black and white chemical emulsions, both in 35 mm, medium format and large format (it is made in 35 mm, 120 roll film and 4 x 5 ´ sheets), due to its gorgeous traits approaching it to the qualities achieved with ISO 25 and ISO 50 black and white emulsions (rendering the highest degree of image excellence in b & w photography, but demanding to be very careful with the exposure and most times using a sturdy tripod to avoid trepidation, because of its very low sensitivity), to which we must add the great advantage it provides the photographer to shoot handheld in a significantly higher percentage of picture taking contexts than with the low sensitivity panchromatic and orthochromatic emulsions.

As a matter of fact, lots of Japanese pros became astounded on realizing the great quality and impact of the over 30 x 40 cm enlargements (specially 50 x 70 cm ones) made on photographic paper from Fuji Acros 100 35 mm negatives, for this qualitative image level combining the almost integral lack of grain, full keeping of top-drawer resolution, amazing sharpness and excellent tonal range together with an outstanding development easiness and worthy enough adaptability to possible exposure errors, were something wholly uncommon in a high quality ISO 100 tabular grain black and white film.

Jet engine of the seventies. The Fuji Acros 100 reveals its power, rendering with unutterable subtlety the whole range of greys and the innermost structure of the anodized areas, simultaneously enhancing the aesthetic beauty of metals and alloys to a great extent. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 lens. 1/30 sec at f/4

Thus, the Fuji Acros 100 has been a full-fledged flagship of Black and White Photography and Fine Art for a long time, with very loyal followers coming from both the segment of users of medium sensitivities monochrome films (ISO 100 and 200) and slow/very slow ones (ISO 20, 25 and 50), drawing out the utter capabilities of the different formats in which it is distributed, to wit 35 mm, 120 medium format rolls and 4 x 5 ´ (10 x 12 cm) large format Quickload sheets.

To begin with, it should be borne in mind that the Fuji Acros 100 boasts a very up-to-date built-in Technology of Sigma Superfine Grain (in the lead of chemical researching on b & w emulsions based on silver halides, through the mixture of the Sigma Crystal Technology and the Superfine Even Sigma Grain Technology - both of them Fuji trademarks- avoiding the problems related to diminished sensitivity often having an effect on ultrafine grains) with a magnificent alignment, a key factor in its famous fitness for big enlargements on photographic papers or the excellent Hahnemuhle if what you use is top quality ink jet printers working from the scanned negatives (and in that respect, the Fuji Acros 100 in 35 mm format has proved to be excellent in digitizations made with Epson Perfection 4990 Multiformat and Nikon 9000 Multiformat Professional scanners with 35 mm negatives, while results made with an analog medium format camera and a 120 roll of Fuji Acros 100 will be superior because of the much larger negatives - between 2,7 times bigger the 6 x 6 cm format and six times bigger the 6 x 9 cm format).

We have carried out tests with 30 x 40 cm, 40 x 50 cm and 50 x 70 cm enlargements made both on Fuji Crystal Archive photographic paper from some original Fuji Acros 100 35 mm format negatives (using a Beseler 45MXT enlarger) and identical size copies made on Hahnemuhle Fine Art from scanned negatives, and in the two cases alike, results have been superb up to 50 x 70 cm (with a remarkable capture of textures and superb resolving power, sharpness and contrast, with the further benefit of a very wide tonal range sporting smooth transitions).

It isn´t less true that we tackled the proofs with a Nikon F2 camera in A/B condition and very top-notch manual focusing Nikkor primes, it all on a tripod, but anyhow, talking turkey it can be stated that the Fuji Acros 100 b&w film in 35 mm format, even shooting hand and wrist, allows superb quality enlargements without problems up to 50 x 70 cm, with nearly imperceptible grain and an acutance (visual sharpness sensation) superior to the Kodak TMAX-100 and the Ilford Delta 100, with a laudable natural depiction of the medium tones, churning out very realistic pictures with tridimensional depth, along with a lavish microcontrast.

The photography of crystal made objects is another of the spheres in which the Fuji Acros 100 greatly excels, fostering their design and shapes, as with this cologne flask. Pay attention to the delicate stepping of greys, the smooth transition between the different sharpness planes belonging to the depth of field progressively reducing and the realism with which the texture of the vial and the upper metallic zone are reproduced, together with the gorgeous level of detail both in the flask high key area (including the little drops inside it) and in its inferior low key one, everything with an uncommon easiness of development and positiveness on photographic paper and  a seamless control of high keys and shadows.The Fuji Acros 100 is an authentic thoroughbred of the black and white chemical emulsions. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Nikkor 24 mm f/2 Ai-S. 1/250 sec at f/2.8.

But as well as this unusual capacity to get high end king size copies and the excellent contrast (two features of paramount importance often enhanced to the utmost in ISO 100 tabular gran high technology monochrome emulsions), the Fuji Acros 100 succeeds in keeping a very good detail in shadows and high key areas alike, a very uncommon virtue in this type of emulsions, but characteristic in legendary monochrome films of yore, as the Kodak Panatomic X, with lesser degree of contrast but standing out because of its great flexibility (usable with top results between ISO 8 and 100 with a very comprehensive range of developers and also sporting an outstanding tolerance to over and sub exposure, which brought about that James Lager used it in 1988 to photograph the great trove of cameras, lenses and all kind of artifacts and accessories inside Wetzlar Leica Museum), highly wide tonal range and excellent level of detail in high key and low key zones.

Id est, the Fuji Acros 100 allows the photographer to obtain deep blacks, bright whites boasting a very good level of detail and the whole range of intermediate greys, something fairly appreciated by lovers of Fine Art, while on making use of the Kodak T-MAX 100 you must be very careful not to burn the high key areas if you want to preserve a good level of detail in the shadows, something frequently difficult, compelling the photographer to print ´soft´ to be able to keep an acceptable level of detail in the whites.

Hereupon, the Fuji Acros 100 is also prominent because of its highly wide dynamic range boasting smooth transitions along with subtlely stepped lights and shadows, complementing this with splendid grays, rich and deep blacks, praiseworthy simultaneous level of details in shadows and high keys, amazing resolving power, very good contrast, excellent capture of textures and the already quoted extraordinary sharpness and acutance it shows off.

The Fuji Acros 100 is one of the most versatile black and white films in the history of photography, a full-fledged all-around emulsion, utterly adequate for such diverse photographic genres like landscape, portraiture, fashion, publicity, weddings, all kinds of reportages, reproductions, etc. In principle, only the indoor sporting photography (requiring ISO 400 or more film) and the indoor works inside theatres or sceneries in which lighting conditions are dim or very dim would be out of its range.

Full-swing metallic chimneys at 4:00 a.m. Once again, the metals are depicted with noteworthy faithfulness. It must be underlined the accuracy with which the Fuji Acros 100 reproduces a very comprehensive variety of whites, from the brightest areas of both large chimneys up to the left lower half of the picture (with a white in the boundary of the high key, but being translated with an excellent level of detail, in the same way as the right lower area showing a more in shadow white wall on which the plate with the name of the street can be seen, without forgetting the fine rendering of the white smoke going out of the two big chimneys alike). In addition, the Fuji Acros 100 manages to also keep a superb level of detail in a very wide low key range represented in the image by the two air inlets on the left lower half, the little electric light bulb and the lattice under it, along with the two small chimneys located on both sides of the large ones. The making of selective framings on the aforementioned little chimney on the right undoubtedly confirms that the Fuji Acros 100 succeeds in keeping a very good level of detail even on its lower half which is rather in shadow, with rich and deep blacks, sumptuous grays (specially the intermediate range) and bright whites exhibiting gorgeous detail. Nikon F2 + Manual Focus Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 Ai-S. 45 sec at f/8.

On the other hand, it´s an excellent choice for those professional photographers and enthusiasts of the black and white chemical film having a penchant for mixing the Zone System with the exposure for shadows, because unlike the Kodak T-MAX 100, the Fuji Acros 100 keeps a praiseworthy detail level on high key areas, controlling them much better and being much more resistant to the burning of them, aside from the decisive fact that the Fuji Acros 100 is superior in terms of acutance, and always achieving it with an amazingly fine grain, slightly beating in this regard (as well as rendering superior sharpness) the splendid chromogenic C-41 Kodak BW400CN - current version essentially identical to the famous chromogenic Kodak T-Max T400CN- and Ilford XP2 exposed at EI200, which deserves high accolades, since in these emulsions the grain is not made up with silver salts, but by colorants clouds that when overexposed do optimize the fine-grained character to significantly higher levels than those ones sported by the classical black and white films between ISO 100 and ISO 400 including plenty of silver halides.

Likewise, the Fuji Acros 100 has proved to be a splendid film for the capturing of special atmospheres and moods, in all sorts of pictures with people (obtaining excellent skin tones), both individually and in group.

And if already in 24 x 36 mm format the Fuji Acros 100 is from a global viewpoint the reference among the black and white ISO 100 emulsions in 35 mm standard, the results that can be reached in medium format and large format are even more spectacular, with the added advantage of being able to use the developers attaining greater aesthetical beauty of image as Agfa Rodinal or Beutler in king size enlargements over 50 x 70 cm without any observable grain.

It should also be underscored that the Fuji Acros 100, an emulsion with high technology orthopanchromatic sensitiveness (partly sensitive to the wave length of red colour which will be shown as dark grey when it makes appearance in the picture) with excellent characteritic curve featuring an elongated straight trajectory, as well as achieving the typical ultrafine grain inherent to these monochrome films, keeps most of the feeling of the classical b & w films boasting high quantities of silver halides ( an aesthetic duality in which the Ilford Delta 100 stands out too), in such a way that its image qualities are unique and of unmatched beauty in its iso 100 sensitivity domain.

Moreover, the Fuji Acros 100 masters seamlessly the high contrasts on using fill-in flash, which results in very showy pictures.

Old Siemens Sunterstatz-C telephone exchange. The faithfulness and realism with which the Fuji Acros 100 renders the different textures and veins of the wood is really plentiful. It must be also underscored the impressive aesthetic beauty of the blacks, above all in the telephone and also, once again, the wide tonal range of greys captured in wire, wood areas of the upper half, large base in the shape of wooden box with an iron handle in its center, metallic stand of the whole set, etc. Nikon F2 + Manual Focus Nikkor 35 mm f/2. 1/60 sec at f/5.6.

In addition to the many excellent traits already outlined, the Fuji Acros 100 has a further quality turning it even more into a desire object for high quality black and white photography: its exceptional resistance to the Schwartzschild effect in long exposures, to such an extent that it doesn´t need any correction in exposures up to 2 minutes, and you are to only give half an f stop more in exposures between 2 and 16 1/2 minutes.

Therefore, the Fuji Acros 100 hugely bears down in this regard the Kodak T-MAX 100 (which requires + 1 / 3 f stop for exposures between 1 and 10 seconds, + 1/2 diaphragm for exposures between 10 and 100 seconds and + 1 diaphragm for exposures from 100 seconds, that´s to say, a resistance to the reciprocity failure comparable to the one boasted by the Kodak spectroscopic films available thirty years ago) and the Ilford Delta 100 (similar to the Kodak T-MAX 100 in this respect).

This means a highly significant added advantage to the Fuji Acros 100 when making all kinds of night pictures, twilight ones under subdued light conditions, astronomic photography, architecture, etc, with the camera on a tripod, and also for the professionals and connoisseurs of large format who often work between f/32 and f/64, requiring long exposures.

Notwithstanding, you must realize that in the same way as happens with the rest of black and white films, the endurance of the Fuji Acros 100 can experience slight variations depending upon the emulsion batches, albeit Fuji knowledgeable chemical experts have also borne this factor in mind , and in this regard, it has proved to be the ISO 100 b & w film with highest quality control in this regard.

San José de Valderas Castle at 3:30 a.m. The Fuji Acros shows here another of its many strong points: its extraordinary resistance to Reciprocity Failure Law, a side in which it is with difference the best available till now. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8 Ai-S. 2 minutes and 14 sec at f/11.

Thanks to its ultramodern P.I.D.C technology (highly accurately controlling the iodine distribution within the silver halides), the ease of development with all sorts of chemicals of the Fuji Acros 100 is outstanding and something really odd in the sphere of the high quality ISO 100 tabular grained black and white chemical films, since for instance the Kodak T-MAX 100 or the Ilford Delta 100 (both of them also excellent) are scantly tolerant to exposure and development errors.

And this is another major strength in favour of the Fuji Acros 100, that can be seamlessly developed with a very comprehensive array of chemicals, among which the following ones can be quoted : Ilford ID-11, HC-110, Ilford Perceptol, Xtol, T-MAX developer, T-MAX RS Developer, Kodak D-76, Kodak Microdol-X, Fuji Microfine, and even developers not optimized to get superfine grain (but indeed delivering a great aesthetical beauty on photographic paper) like the Agfa Rodinal (exposed to ISO 64 1: 100 8 minutes and 15 sec at 20º C).

It also renders very good results with Paterson Aculux 2, exposing it at ISO 50 1:9 at 20º C for nine minutes; with DD-X for the obtainment of superb contrasts; with Pyrocat HD exposed to ISO 50 1:1:100 at 20º for nine minutes; and with PMK exposed to ISO 50 5: 450 for 11 minutes at 20º C.

It is specially versatile with the developer Kodak D-76H, attaining excellent results exposed to three different ISOS: iso 50 (1:1 for 7 minutes at 20º C), iso 80 (1:3 for 9 minutes at 20º C) and iso 300 (1:3, N + 1 for 10 minutes at 20º C).

Not in vain, the Kodak D-76 (formula invented in 1926 by the Eastman Kodak genius John G. Capstaff, who would also have great significance in the development of the cinematographic 16 mm film) has historically been the developer par excellence enabling black and white films to show their authentic fingerprint and abilities.

Venetian mask made in hot painted plaster. The Fuji Acros 100 handles greatly this context in which the luminic difference between the object and the brick wall in the background was important, keeping in spite of it full detail in the high keys and shadows alike.
 After making a 30 x 40 cm enlargement from the original 35 mm negative corresponding to this image, it was rather interesting to check the very high levels of detail attained by this black and white emulsion not only in the area surrounding the mask face (with every relief, fold, texture, silver cord, etc) but also in the most extreme low key areas (the space between bricks) and the mask face just in the middle of it and is the most high key zone of the photograph. And it all achieved with astounding development and positiveness ease. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Micro-Nikkor 200 mm f/4 Ai-S IF. 1/8 sec at f/3.5.

Although you will be able to make big enlargements without grain on photographic paper practically with the whole assortment of developers in synergy with the Fuji Acros 100, regarding this side we must highlight the Fuji Microfine (with superfine grain formula including metol) and the Ilford Perceptol, an excellent developer breaking the emulsions grain and optimizing both the capacity of enlargement of the copies on photographic papers and the selective reframings without any loss of quality (something likewise traditionally taken out in association with the Ilford Pan F 50 b & w film, whose remarkable grainless enlargement factor is greatly enhanced by Ilford Perceptol, attaining very good results, though without reaching the outstanding aesthetic achieved with Agfa Rodinal, which preserves a bit of velvety grain embellished by an excellent acutance).

As to the Fuji Acros 100, from the standpoint of balance between fine grain and sharpness, the Perceptol 1 + 3 ratio has proved to be specially efficient.

On the other hand, I think that the real granularity value of the Fuji Acros 100 is approximately RMS 7.5, because the RMS 7 figure announced by Fuji refers to its specific granularity using non diluted Microfine developer.

That´s to say, the actual granularity value of the Fuji Acros 100 is intimately linked to its behaviour with the Fujidol E developer (whose formula includes ascorbic acid and fenidona, featuring properties similar to Kodak XTOL) with which it gets RMS 7.5.

Besides, the developer Agfa Rodinal in the ratio 1 + 100 attains top-notch results too with the Fuji Acros 100 exposed at ISO 100 (and also shot at ISO 50 and developed through 1:50 ratio for 11 minutes at 20º), though when making enlargements over 30 x 40 cm on photographic paper, there will be a bit of grain not being any handicap at all, but enhancing the image beauty along with the acutance rendered by this more than 100 years old classical developer.

In the same way, excellent results can be obtained with the Ilfosol-S developer in the 1:14 ratio and with the D23 developer at ISO 100 1 + 1 for 12 minutes.

Propeller fastening nuts of a classical radial piston engined plane. Once more, the photographic virtues of the Fuji Acros 100 become apparent, with very deep blacks in the area just on the right of the propeller, along with a comprehensive range of blacks both on the blade and on the ring encircling the nutted disc; and at the same time, the black and white chemical film has captured a wide array of whites, both in the area including the eight small nuts and the central large one, along with the engine cover on the right and the two lit up out of focus areas of the left lower half of the frame, together with the grey scale from the left half of the frame upwards. In a 30 x 40 cm enlargement made from the original 35 mm negative corresponding to this image, the texture and detail of the nuts along with the paint worn out by the elapse of time and the small dent caused by all kind of little impacts, both in the black ring surrounding the white nutted disc and in the forward border of the engine cover, are exquisite, something which could be also confirmed in selective reframings of very specific areas of the negative surface. Nikon F2 + Manual Focusing Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5. 1/15 sec at full aperture.

An also interesting enough choice is using the Fuji Acros 100 with Kodak Microdol-X developer.

Equally, it´s necessary to know that the Fuji Acros 100 sports a rather thin grey base (so negatives must be handled carefully) that can induce to think that one has underexposed or underdeveloped, above all the first times.

In addition to the already quoted great synergy between the Fuji Acros 100 with a fairly wide range of developers, the times are normal and the recommended fixing duration is the customary one or only very slightly over usual, with the added benefit of DX coding allowing the automatic setting of the sensitivity value in the cameras featuring this system.

Likewise, the Fuji Acros 100 yields superbly stepped negatives, very easy to positive on standard photographic papers, attaining top qualities.

And if we make the copies on baryta papers ........... we will get into the Black and White Alchemy, the magic of the Fine Art, striving after transferring to high grade paper even the most hidden details of the original negative: exquisitely separated high keys, very subtle gray transitions, deep and saturated blacks, etc.

On the other hand, in my viewpoint, the real sensitivity of the Fuji Acros 100 is around ISO 86.

Fuji has also made a strenuous researching effort in this aspect, and the Acros 100 is literally scanned easy as pie, both through semiprofessional and professional scanners (Epson Perfection 4990, Epson Perfection 4990 Pro, Epson Perfection V700 Photo, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Canon 8800F, Nikon SuperCoolscan 4000 ED, Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED, Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED Multiformat, Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 ED Multiformat, Minolta 5400 Scan Elite II, Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro, Microtek ScanMaker s450, Microtek Scanmaker 1000XL Pro Large Format, etc) and with the superb virtual drum superprofessional scanners (Hasselblad / Imacon Flextight 343 Multiformat, 646 Multiformat, 848 Multiformat, 949 Multiformat, the different models belonging to the Flextight Precision, together with the current flagships Hasselblad Flextight XI Multiformat - 8,000 optical dpi - and Hasselblad Flextight 2 Multiformat - 6300 optical dpi- featuring a 4.8 DMax dynamic range, vertical optical device and CCD sensor with top-notch Rodenstock lens directed downwards, which creates an optical path without glasses between the original negative or slide and the quoted lens).

In tests carried out with 35 mm format Fuji Acros 100 digitized with Epson Perfection 4990 and Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 scanners, making enlargements up to substantial sizes (30 x 40 cm and 50 x 70 cm) on Fuji Crystal Archive photographic paper, this formidable Japanese black and white film has utterly shown its deserved fame.

60 pairs of lines / mm at 6:1 and 200 pairs of lines / mm at 1000 : 1

Copyright Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza