Fomalux Contact Paper

Fomalux SP 111 contact printing paper by Trevor Crone

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The Czech Republic Company, Foma have just introduced a new silver chloride paper called Fomalux. This is at present only available in one grade, designated S (special), which is equivalent to about grade 2 and the surface is glossy (111) only. The paper is double weight and it certainly does feel substantial and the sample I was given to try was 8×10.

There aren’t too may contact printing papers on the market these days, so a new addition is a most welcome sight indeed to those photographers printing from large format negatives. In fact the only other real contender is Lodima which currently is only available from the States from Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee’s website (www.michaelandpaula.com). I’m a big fan of this paper from Michael and Paula which is formulated to replace the discontinued Kodak silver chloride paper, Azo. It has a wonderfully long tonal range and with choice of developer offers delicious warm tones. Because of a silver chloride paper’s long tonal range print manipulation is kept to a minimum. They also tone quite readily with a pronounced colour shift, especially in direct toners such as selenium. So I was keen to see how Fomalux compared to Lodima.

When I opened the packet under my usual safelight conditions I was pleased to see that the paper’s weight was quite substantial, at a guess, I would say twice the weight of Lodima. I decided to print a couple of 8×10 negatives that I had printed before; one previously on Adox Nuance grade S (special). This is not a silver chloride paper but a fixed grade projection paper, albeit a little slower then most projection papers. The other negative had been printed on grade 3 Lodima, so this was the one to offer closest comparison. As with the Lodima print that I had produced previously I set up a tray of Ilford warm tone print developer to give me a working solution of 1:9 dilution. My contact printing light is a 150 watt opal lamp at a distance of 19.5 inches above the contact printing frame. This lamp is connected to a Viponel electronic timer for accurate and repeatable exposure times. I initially did a test strip at 10+3+3+3 seconds and developed the strip for 2 minutes. This exposure with this lamp and distance was way too fierce as the test strip was almost solid black. I therefore switched the lamp for a 40 watt opal at a printing distance of 30 inches. Another test strip followed and this was more to my liking giving me a base exposure of 20 seconds at a development time of 2 minutes maximum. The resulting print is “Ollie and Aunty Rebecca”. The only additional exposure was a burn of +10% and +20% to the top and top left respectively. The final print was developed for 1 minute 15 seconds as I felt this was just about right for the mid-tones. They were a little too dark for my taste at 2 minute development time. 1 minute development times are also fine as the blacks are still deep but the mid-tones were just a tad light for what I was after. It is all about fine tuning and silver chloride papers do lend themselves to this when you take into account effects of development times and more dramatically, choice of developer, something I’ve still yet to explore with Fomalux. I’ve had some great results with Lodima grade 3 and Kodak D-165 (recipe below) which I mix from formula. This is the equivalent of the now discontinued Selectol-Soft, giving me a beautiful delicate gradation with the warmest of tones.

After development prints were transferred to a very weak stop bath then to a two bath fix, 2.5 minutes in each. The prints were then thoroughly washed before some were selected for selenium toning. This is from Fotospeed diluted approximately 1:20 with water. After about 1.5 minutes there was a pronounced colour shift towards red/brown and after just 20 seconds there was an intensification of the blacks, but without any appreciable colour shift.

Prints were then thoroughly washed; surplus water was removed from the print surface with a viscose sponge and then allowed to dry at room temperature between photographic blotters. Fomalux dries to a high gloss with the minimal of dry down.

This paper for me is certainly a worth-while addition to the market especially as Lodima is expensive and I have to import it, and therefore have to incur additional import costs such as VAT and custom handling charge etc.

Further trials; develop this paper in soft gradation developers to better match higher contrast negatives, and see how it performs in projection printing. Being a lot faster then Lodima I believe it can be used for enlargements, particularly with enlargers with powerful lamps. However I feel its beauty is that it is such a fine contact printing paper capable of delivering superb tonality.
I feel it is certainly on par with Lodima offering the same delicate tonality with the degree of warmth I prefer in a paper. Count me in!


The Prints

“Rebecca and Lee, Herne Bay”

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Ebony SLW810, Schneider 150mm Super Symmar XL
HP5 developed in Rodinal diluted 1:25
Fomalux SP111 developed in Ilford/Harman WT diluted 1:9

“Ollie and Aunty Rebecca”

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Ebony SLW810, Rodenstock 240mm Apo-Sironar S
HP5 developed in Rodinal diluted 1:25
Fomalux SP111 developed in Ilford/Harman WT diluted 1:9


Formula for Kodak D-165 Selectol-Soft print developer

Water at 52°C………………………………..750ml
Metol…………………………………………….6g
Sodium sulphite, anhydrous……………..25g
Sodium carbonate, anhydrous…………..37g
Potassium bromide………………………….1g
Water to…………………………………………1000ml

Working solution dilute 1:3
For warmer print tones double the amount of potassium bromide.