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Fujifilm Neopan Acros II 100: A Classic Reimagined with Enhanced Tonal Magic

Introduction

A black and white photograph of a wooded alley in Lesnes Abbey Wood in southeast London
Lesnes Abbey Wood on shot with the Fuji GL-690 on Acros. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

In the realm of analog photography, few films have garnered the cult-like following that Fujifilm's Neopan Acros film did. Known for its fine grain, exquisite tonality, and remarkable push processing capabilities, Acros had become a favourite among black and white film enthusiasts. However, with the inevitable discontinuation of the original Acros film, photographers mourned the loss of this iconic emulsion. But as if answering the prayers of dedicated film shooters, Fujifilm unveiled the Neopan Acros II 100 - a reincarnation that promised to retain the magic of its predecessor while introducing enhanced features to elevate the art of black and white photography to new heights.


Fujifilm truly showed how they’ve got guts and amazed me. How often does a company discontinue a film, listen to their fans, and then bring it back? Fujifilm basically did that, and they deserve lots of praise for it. Fujifilm Acros 100 II is the company’s new emulsion. It’s a beautiful one with inky blacks, sharp details, and a gorgeous look to it.

- Chris Gampat, How to fall in love with film again: Fujifilm Acros 100 II Review | The Phoblographer

The Art of Tonality and Rendering of Colours

A black and white photograph of Karl Marx's original grave in Highgate Cemetery.
Karl Marx's original grave (before he was moved to the more monumental edifice) at Highgate Cemetery. Shot with the Rolleiflex 2.8E3. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

At the heart of every great black and white film lies its ability to capture the nuances of tones and shades, creating images that evoke emotion and captivate viewers. The original Acros film was celebrated for precisely this attribute, and Acros II takes it to a whole new level. With its incredible tonality, this film captures an astounding range of tones, from the deepest blacks to the purest whites, offering images with a sense of ethereal beauty.

The secret to Acros II's captivating tonality lies in its improved emulsion. Fujifilm has fine-tuned the emulsion to achieve higher sensitivity to light, resulting in more exquisite detail in both highlights and shadows. The delicate balance between contrast and smoothness achieved by this film sets it apart from others in its league.

Compared to OG Acros, Acros II appears slightly more contrasty, especially in the midtones with a smidgen less detail in the shadows."

- Michael Nguyen, Film Review: Fujifilm Acros I vs. II | Japan Camera Hunter

Unleashing the Potential: Pushability and Development Times

Black and white photo of the interior of Rochester Castle keep.
Rochester Castle - inside the Keep. The grain structure is more noticeable at 400 but is still aesthetically pleasing (especially in medium format). Photo credit: Michael Elliott

One of the most sought-after qualities in a black and white film is its ability to handle push processing gracefully. Neopan Acros II stands as a champion in this domain, offering photographers the freedom to push their creative boundaries. By shooting at higher ISOs and pushing the development process, photographers can explore the realms of low-light photography and high-contrast scenes while preserving details and reducing grain.

Push processing Acros II to higher ISO values, such as 400 or even 800, is a favourite technique among film enthusiasts. The film's emulsion structure, specifically optimised for this purpose, ensures that the results retain an impressive level of contrast and a pleasing grain structure, making it a top choice for low-light and dynamic scenes. As Alyssa Chiarello mentions on her blog, "This film usually has a wide tonal range allowing for wiggle room when adjusting your exposure in post. For a 100 speed film, that smooth, low contrast look is expected. Therefore, I knew that pushing it to 400 might change that look pretty drastically. In fact, I hoped for it. I personally love that look and I wasn’t dissapointed." (Alyssa Chiarello, Developing Adventures – Pushing Fuji Neopan Acros II 100 to 400 | Aly's Vintage Camera Alley)

Dilute and Develop: Extra Rich Tonality and Longer Tonal Curve

As any seasoned film photographer knows, the development process plays a crucial role in shaping the final image's tonality and contrast. Acros II not only excels in its standard development process but also rewards photographers who venture into dilute and extended development techniques.

By diluting the developer and extending the development time, photographers can unlock Acros II's true potential for delivering richer tonality and a longer tonal curve. Shadows gain a remarkable depth, highlights retain their exquisite detail, and the midtones take on a smoothness that is a delight to behold. The result is images with breathtaking nuances and a tonal range that seems to stretch endlessly.

In Pursuit of Perfection: Comparing to the Original Acros Formula

Black and White photograph of the Greenwich riverside skyline in silhouette.
The Greenwich riverside skyline on OG Acros 100, pushed to 400. The scene was deliberately shot to provide strong silhouette and to emphasise the rays of light coming from the sky. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

The announcement of the original Acros film's discontinuation left photographers with a sense of loss, as they bid farewell to a film that had etched itself into the pantheon of black and white emulsions. Thus, the expectations surrounding Neopan Acros II were sky-high, as photographers hoped for a worthy successor that retained the essence of the original while embracing modern advancements.

In a world where film stocks are constantly evolving, one can't help but wonder how the new Acros II compares to its predecessor. While the core essence of fine grain and exceptional tonality remains intact, Acros II has undergone a transformation that takes these qualities a step further. The enhanced tonal range and push processing capabilities make it an ideal choice for photographers seeking to capture breathtaking black and white images.

A black and white photograph of low and high rise residential blocks in Thamesmead, southeast London.
Thamesmead: low- and high-rise blocks on OG Acros pushed to 400. Even expired, OG Acros still has it in it to produce wonderful, rich tonality at 400. Photo credit: Michael Elliott
The original Fuji Acros was known for its fine grain, its sharpness, and its punchy contrast, and I think Acros II checks all of these boxes. Acros II demonstrates a slightly higher contrast, again almost indistinguishable, but the computer data from the scan showed slightly darker shadows and brighter highlights.

- James Baturin, Fujifilm Acros vs AcrosII film stock comparison | Shoot It With Film

 

Tips and Tricks for Mastery

  • Exposure: For optimal results, meter for the shadows and aim to retain details in the darker areas. The film's impressive latitude allows for forgiving exposure, but preserving highlights is essential for achieving outstanding tonality.

  • Ideal Shooting Conditions: Neopan Acros II thrives in a variety of lighting conditions, but it excels in capturing scenes with subtle contrasts and rich textures. Consider shooting landscapes, architecture, and portraits to fully exploit the film's potential.

  • Ideal Contrast Negative: To obtain the ideal contrast negative, consider a slightly longer development time to enhance the mid-tones while maintaining highlight and shadow detail. This will provide a perfect foundation for producing stunning prints in the darkroom.

  • Film Storage and Handling: Like any film, proper storage and handling are critical to maintain Acros II's performance. Store the film in a cool, dry place, and handle it with clean, dry hands to prevent any unwanted marks or damages.

 

Conclusion

Fujifilm Neopan Acros II rekindles the love affair between photographers and the art of black and white film photography. With its unparalleled tonality, push processing capabilities, and the potential for dilute, extended development, this film embraces the legacy of its predecessor while pushing the boundaries of creative expression. Whether you are an avid film enthusiast or a professional photographer seeking to expand your artistic horizon, Neopan Acros II promises to be a reliable companion in your photographic journey. Its ability to capture a remarkable tonal range, preserve fine details, and excel in various shooting conditions sets it apart as a versatile and powerful tool for the discerning photographer.

The film's introduction into the analog photography market was met with much anticipation and excitement, and it has certainly lived up to the expectations of enthusiasts and professionals alike. The seamless transition from its predecessor, the beloved Acros film, to the enhanced Acros II showcases Fujifilm's dedication to preserving the essence of traditional film photography while embracing technological advancements to elevate the art form.

Whether you are a seasoned film photographer or new to the world of analog photography, Neopan Acros II invites you to explore the possibilities of black and white photography with a film that offers exceptional tonality, versatility, and push processing capabilities. As you load your camera with this emulsion, prepare to embark on a creative journey that reveals the true magic of black and white photography, yielding images that evoke emotion and stand the test of time.

In a world where digital photography often dominates, Fujifilm Neopan Acros II serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring allure of film photography. It is a testament to the continued relevance and allure of the art form, attracting a new generation of film enthusiasts and reminding seasoned practitioners of the timeless charm that can only be achieved with the beauty of analog film.

So, pick up your camera, load a roll of Neopan Acros II, and immerse yourself in the world of black and white photography, where each frame becomes a canvas for artistic expression, and where the dance of light and shadows unfolds in mesmerizing detail. With Neopan Acros II as your creative ally, you are sure to discover the true magic of film photography, breathing life into each image you capture, and etching your unique vision onto the emulsion's silver halide canvas.

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