While shooting a conference last November, I had my first contact with Fuji Neopan 1600, a high-speed black and white film. I decided to use it simply because I was shooting indoors most of the time, so both the high speed and the fact that it’s black and white were a good indication that it was a match.
I was pretty surprised by how nice the shots came out. The high speed obviously increases the grain in the shots quite noticeably, but it’s not too bad. The film’s contrast is hard to grasp in one sentence. As it’s quite sensitive to light it’s easy to blow out overly bright areas, so having harsh contrast in the scene might result in the brighter areas of your photo being overexposed, losing contrast and detail. That’s true for overexposing the shots in general, so be careful with light metering. The grain is not even annoying (at least not for me) when the shots are underexposed. In black and white film that somehow adds character. With color, it’s just annoying.
But that’s what you get for shooting film at such high speeds. It makes up for it though, because especially in grey-ish winter as we had it for the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty much the only choice you have. Even in reality things look dull, not having lots of different colors, so why bother? Might as well shoot black and white at higher speeds.
There’s one area where the grain is a bit annoying though. If you like having a spectacularly thin depth of field in your shots, I wouldn’t recommend using this film. The grain takes away most of the softness you usually expect, making the blur effect look a bit weird. But I found that to be more annoying when things in the foreground are out of focus. Which is not something I enjoy in general.
In general I really like this film. It’s really great for shooting indoors or for those dull days when the sun just won’t come out at least a little bit. Fits in perfectly with the atmosphere of grey autumn and winter. It’s a tad cheaper than Ilford Delta 3200, so if you can get your hand on a roll, go for it! The only downside I found was that the film only exists in 35mm format, and not in 120. Shame really. All of these shots were taken with a Nikon F90X either with a 50mm/f1.8 or 28mm/f2.8 lens.