Retropan-ing for Gold

Published 28 May 2021

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Thanks to the-year-that-must-not-be-named it has been a long time between posts as I didn’t really get out much to take photos just for the sake of it. My poor stash of film has been sitting quietly in the fridge waiting for the fun times to return…

And speaking of fun times, Dia and I are expecting a baby in July (feeling totally overwhelmed but very excited). Film photography with a little wriggly human is going to be interesting but I’ll see what I can do. We thought we would get away to Daylesford for a bit of a relaxing babymoon before the chaos begins. I took a couple of cameras and a stack of film with me, hoping to capture some of the classic gold rush era architecture and vibrant autumn colours (although you might not spot much colour in these photos but I promise they were indeed vibrant).

I have previously written about Foma film and loved the photos I took in India with Fomapan 200 Creative. Foma added Retropan  to its lineup as recently as 2015, which is great to see in the digitally driven world of photography where sharpness and megapixels rule. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against digital photography, but I take photos with film for pure enjoyment and ignore all of the impracticalities. That’s exactly what drew me to Retropan, the desire to add a nostalgic vibe to photos with high grain and a touch of softness.

I loaded up some Retropan in my Mamiya M645 1000S and set the ISO dial to ⅓ of a stop below 400, which i am pretty sure what is meant by the box speed of 320. I hadn’t used this camera for maybe 18 months as it’s pretty hefty and you have to really want to take it with you. Again, impractical but a delight to use.

The film was absolutely perfect for our trip, giving a timeless look to the photos and leaving you searching for clues as to when they were taken. It has a wide exposure latitude, tested out with extremes of daylight on a stunner of an autumn weekend. As with some other films, you have to just try them out to see how to get the most out of their character. With the images I took the blacks are more like dark grey, which adds to the soft, low-contrast feel. This can lead to images looking a little flat, which I will have to take into account on the next roll. I’m keen to try it out with some portraiture and now know that the tricky thing will be to select the right setting to ensure the subjects pop instead of getting lost. 

Sample Photos: Mamiya M645 1000S with 80mm f/2.8 lens and Foma Retropan 320 Film. Developed at FilmNeverDie / scanned at home. 

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