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Love at first roll: Ilford HP5+


When EMULSIVE asked to me to write something about Ilford HP5+ I was very surprised and a little worried.

I’m not a technician, I’m not a professional photographer and I also don’t have too much experience, so you’re probably asking yourself, “So, why did you say you’d write about HP5+?”

Easy, because EM (short version, please :)) asked me to talk about love and my feelings about the film.

Ilford HP5+ - High Contrast, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – High Contrast, 400 ASA

It’s easy for me to talk about my love for Ilford HP5+.  For me it was my first (film) love and I didn’t need to try anything else – in terms of brands – because I think that in this film, I can find everything I need from high to low sensitivity.

When I started out I had a good feeling about it. I’m not the kind of person who often completes film tests: if I find something that works for me I spend my time on other things, like taking photographs.

Is this weird?

Ilford HP5+ - First shot, first roll, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – First shot, first roll, 400 ASA

 

 

My first roll of HP5+

Looking at the results from my first roll I was surprised with the results. It’s true that black and white negative film is very forgiving but I quickly got what I wanted: high contrast images or very light contrast, depending on what I wanted to show with that picture.

Ilford HP5+ - High contrast, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – High contrast, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Low contrast, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Low contrast, 400 ASA

I shot my first roll of HP5+ with a Mamiya 645 and I was a bit worried. First of all I was shooting on film for the first time after many years away (I was 18 at the time). I was also shooting on a medium format camera and had decided (for good or bad!) to follow through the entire process from capture to the development and – and after trail and error – to the final printing of the film.

After that first roll I developed many more ILFOSOL 3. At first I always exposed my scenes at box speed – 400ASA but later on I chose to try other approaches.

Ilford HP5+ - Low light, indoors, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Low light, indoors, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Good light conditions, indoors, 400 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Good light conditions, indoors, 400 ASA

 

 

A question of grain

HP5+ is an old-style film, it has cubic grain and it’s really very expressive. I thought that using an older type of development – such as Rodinal – could give me the expression I was looking for.

I also tried ILFOTEC DD-X but for my taste it tends to ‘smooth’ grain a bit too much – as happens in digital post production when you want to lower the noise.

For me it does not make sense: if you want little (very fine) grain, you should shoot with FP4+, or even better, with PAN F.

For me personally and largely because of its high average speed, I almost always chose to use HP5+.

Ilford HP5+ - Critical lighting, 400ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Critical lighting, 400ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Critical lighting, 400ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Critical lighting, 400ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Critical lighting, 400ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Critical lighting, 400ASA

I have read that the real ISO/ASA value of this film (it always varies depending on the type of development and exposure of the film) is around 200-250 ASA.

In fact, if you want an extended dynamic range, my experience is that the best choice is to expose the film at 200 ASA, overexpose your scene by about 1 stop and shorten the development time of 10-15%. for example 7 minutes 30 seconds instead of 8 minutes.

This way you get the right contrast on negative, which is very easy to control during the print process – the natural ending of a photograph – with readable shadows and highlights with good information.

Ilford HP5+ - Naturally light, 200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Naturally light, 200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Naturally lit, 200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Naturally lit, 200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Naturally lit, 200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Naturally lit, 200 ASA

If you just want to think about what you want to tell with a photo, it’s best to expose correctly for what you want to show, on 400 ASA and to develop with the times as shown on the box.

Finally and this is the best quality of this film; it’s a pencil in your hand.

You can choose to shoot high-contrast images, almost like drawings, or you can use infinite shades of gray that warm the scene incredibly. Her,e in the “shades of gray” this film is exceptional and provides a warmth you couldn’t imagine that color providing.

 

 

Push me, pull you

I have also took a lot of shots pulling the film: excellent results at 3200 ASA and development in Rodinal stand 1 + 100, although for best results developing in ILFOTEC, to lower a little the grain could be the right choice.

Ilford HP5+ - Indoors, poor light, 3200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ – Indoors, poor light, 3200 ASA

Ilford HP5+ - Naturally light, 500 ASA, for best use with the Sunny 16 rule

Ilford HP5+ – Naturally light, 500 ASA, for best use with the Sunny 16 rule

Finally, as you’ll see from several images above, the film exhibits very good behavior at EI400 in low light.

You need not worry about anything, simply properly expose your scene and you’re sure to have what you saw in the viewfinder…or what you found in your heart.

We are talking about love, after all.

 

 

Footnote: development suggestions

For high contrast results:

  • Correctly expose your scene at 400ASA
  • Develop in Rodinal (R09 one shot) for 8 mins at 20°C
  • Agitate 3 or 4 times whitin first 10 secs and then again every minute
  • Empty your tank within the end of developing time
  • Follow usual stop/fix/rinse steps

 

For wider dynamic range:

  • Overexpose your scene of 1 stop at 200ASA
  • Develop in Rodinal (R09 one shot) for 7 min and 30 secs at 20°C
  • Agitate 3 or 4 times whitin first 10 secs and then again every minute
  • Empty your tank within the end of developing time
  • Follow usual stop/fix/rinse steps

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. @mac971 @ILFORDPhoto what I said of HP5 around 1979… 🙂

    Reply
  2. I like your results; you took some pleasing photographs. I too, like HP5+ a lot. Though it’s not the cheapest film, it’s my favorite black and white. I buy it in bulk to try and save some money.

    Reply
    • Hi, I agree with you, but I prefer to buy them when needed: this way I use them more properly, if I get a lot of them I use less sight and more film 🙂
      M.

      Reply
  3. This review is excellent Max! It is very well written and thus very easy to understand. You gave me some things to think about with my own work and I greatly appreciate that (I also love HP5). Finally, I must say that you have a knack for getting your lens in front of interesting subjects and composing beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply
    • Shawn, I really appreciate your feedback. I like your photographic taste, as I can see in every shot of you. And I really appreciate the fact that you consider my suggestions and my impressions. thanks a lot
      M.

      Reply
  4. Excellent review. I love the way you render grain. Images and descriptions were perfect. One question though: When you call out Rodinal development, what dilution do you use? 1:50?
    Thanks again for a great review!
    Preston

    Reply
  5. Hi Preston, sorry for delay but I have no notification about this post… Anyway, I use 1:25 for normal processing, 1:100 for stand dev. Hope this can help!

    Max.

    Reply

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