Week 50: Fomapan 200 visits the home of Leica camera in Wetzlar, Germany

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At only an hour north of Frankfurt you will find the quaint town of Wetzlar, with lovely German architecture and home to the world famous Leica Camera AG. Join me for a walk around this interesting little town.

I suppose given how close I live to Wetzlar, and its significance in the camera world, I couldn't really finish my 52 rolls of film without going there and documenting a short day trip. Outside of this importance to the world of cameras, the town itself has a fascinating history, at one point being the seat of the Imperial Supreme Court of the Roman Empire. At only an hour north of Frankfurt, the Leica factory and museum is a must for any avid Leica or photography fan, and the quaint and history rich town of Wetzlar is great for a walk around afterwards.

About this week's film - Fomapan 200

As I have already tried Fomapan's ISO 100 and 400 varieties, I was curious to see what their 200 version produced. ISO 200 is not the most used ISO, when it is very bright outside you usually reach for your ISO 100 and for everyday situations including lower light, you will go for an ISO 400 film. 

Here is Fomapan's take on this film:

It is panchromatically sensitized, black and white negative film of the speed ISO 200/24°. It is the film of new generation, making full se of outstanding properties of hexagonal core/shell tabular silver halide grains. The film features exellen resolving power and low granularity and is intended for use under normal or slightly unfavourable light conditions. Its wide exposure latitude allows exposures in the speed range from ISO 100/21° to 800/30° without change of development time. The film is available in roll film 120, sheet films, perforated 35 mm films including long length rolls.

A bit more about Leica

Some of the world's most iconic photographs were shot on a Leica camera. In fact, Leica invented the 35mm camera, so there is a good reason why this company is so famous. Leica was born out of the company founded by Ernst Leitz (a successful instrument maker), who ran the Leitz company, taking over the company he was employed with and changing it to his own name in 1869. The company grew from strength to strength and become world famous for its optical instruments and microscopes.

The move into the photographic world can be credited to a fellow called Oskar Barnack, who is said to have invented the 35mm camera as he had trouble carrying the large plate cameras of the day due to his asthma.

To cut a long story short, he was able to adapt a 35mm roll film used for the movie industry into a small roll to be used in a camera prototype. The film was wounded manually by connecting a sprocket wheel with the holes in the frames of the film. As this movement was done horizontally as opposed to vertically in movie cameras, the dimensions of each frame would be 36x24mm (so a 2:3 ratio). The idea being that you would expose this small frame of a negative and then enlarge it onto an image in a darkroom.

Of course, once he had invented the camera body, he needed some good optics - and what better place than at the Leitz optics company! That was where the first 50mm lens was born. At only 35 years old he changed the world of photography forever, and many of his test shots were taken in the town of Wetzlar itself. I guess the rest is history. And if you are curious, the word "Leica" comes from combining the first 3 words of the founders surname (Leitz) and the two words of the word "camera".

I won't go too much into why Leica's are so expensive, why people lust after them, how their brand has managed to stay so strong for so long, and the prices...are they really worth that much (?!). All I can say is that if you have ever held a Leica camera in your hand, feeling its weight, perfect handmade construction, and harmonious working of all the aspects of the camera...you will start to understand. And that is not to mention its world famous lens optics, and the incredible history of world famous photographers using one. However, despite all this, it's the photographer that makes a good shot, not the camera. 

Back to my photography and day trip. The factory has a gallery and small museum type display that is free to visit, including an extensive range of old and new Leica models. You can also peer into the actual factory, where workers are precisely building new cameras and lenses, by hand of course. In an age of robotics and products that are not always 'built to last', it is quite a sight to see something so advanced being constructed and assembled by hand.

The building itself is a masterpiece. Lovely contours. Very clear and sharp shot too - good start for Fomapan 200.
The front reception. Actually this shot doesn't do it justice, given it is very, very white.
Slightly out of focus as with ISO 200 and a really dark corridor and no tripod I didn't really stand a chance. Check out all the Leica cameras! Also included are lenses and even binoculars.
One of the work stations.
This shot didn't come out well at all, with light all over the place, but kinda makes the camera look even more iconic, so I kept it!
Another shot of the factory floor.
One part of a long mural showcasing 36 photographs from the 100 years of Leica photography, pretty cool!
This shot was taken with the medium format 120mm version of this film, and is much clearer!

A bit more about Wetzlar

Wetzlar has a population of c.50,000 and is home not only to Leica, but is a centre for the German optical industry, with over 70 companies located in and around the town. Other famous companies include Carl Zeiss and Minox.

The city is brimming with history, with 13th century fortifications still in place, and miles of half timbered houses. Albeit small, the town was an important part of the Roman Empire, being a Free Imperial City and having the seat of the Imperial Supreme Court. It is a great place for a day trip from Frankfurt and still has a very medieval feel to it. As always, best get there early before the tourists and their dreaded selfie sticks! 

Another bonus of coming here with a camera, the locals appreciate is as it is so linked to their history. And if you are carrying around a Leica, they will smile and make a nice compliment. It is nice to see how proud they are. 

A medieval shopping street. You will just have to imagine what this is like in colour, and yes there is plenty of it!
A view along the river. At the end at the top you can see the old Leica factory.
View coming right out of the parking garage, impossible not to take a shot - what lovely architecture! 
A fun display that takes your shot and you can download it on their website. Funny because below this you will see what a real Minox camera looks like (they are called spy cameras for a reason)
Originallyfrom Latvia, and developed in 1936, the company eventually moved to Wetzlar in 1948.
One of the many lovely medieval squares. Kinda wished I was reviewing a colour film here, the colours are really fun and bright. I will come back again with colour film next time for comparison!
Throughout the city there are interactive displays to do with optics, this being one of them. I couldn't resist and reached for my wide angle lens and took this shot. 
Wetzlar Cathedral, with its construction having started in 1230 and it is still unfinished! It has a bustling market on Saturday's right in-front of it. 
Weltzar Kornmarkt - it is really fun to walk through all the windy streets, with each corner showcasing more great architecture.
A shot over the river with the Cathedral in the background. I am not sure whether it was the time of day, but many of the shots seem a bit washed out. The medium format version, however, had really great results.
Really cool shapes in this shot.
One of my favourite shots - looking up the stairs to the cathedral. 

Overall impressions

It goes without saying that Wetzlar is a lovely town to come visit for the day, with a few other interesting bath / spa type towns worth a visit on the way back to Frankfurt (Bad Nauheim and Bad Homburg to name a few). This was my second visit to Wetzlar and both times were a lot of fun, and as with many other German towns more often than not there will be some street fest going on with plenty of music, food and drink. 

As for the film, generally it was OK. As I said, the 120mm version was much better in my experience. I have read good reviews about this film, but for me it was just 'OK'. I would probably opt for an ISO 400 film before I went for an ISO 200 film though. Although, given I did have good experiences with Fomapan's ISO 100 and ISO 400 varieties, I will probably give this one another try. It is really good value too, so worth giving it a second chance. I might try all 3 (100, 200, 400) of them over a weekend and do a comparison. It would be nice to get a bit more contrast, maybe different weather might improve that. 

So, just 2 weeks to go - exciting times! I already have other mini projects I am thinking about, and of course I will write up an 'end of project reflections' post.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers,

Neil