Long exposure film tests part two: ILFORD HP5+, ILFORD Delta Professional 400, ILFORD Delta Professional 3200, ILFORD SFX 200 by Toni Skokovic
Welcome to part two of my long exposure test results. for part two I wanted to look at how higher speed films from ILFORD behave with longer exposure times. While it seems redundant to use higher speed films for longer exposures, one does not know what can be found.
This second part of my tests, continues my attempts at mastering the long exposure technique that is key for my project and I hope, charts my endeavours to complete a comprehensive test of various films with longer exposure. Whilst admittedly a non-typical use case for most photographers in the broader film shooters community, I hope readers will find this series useful.
Let’s jump in with a recap on my methodology.
The methodology I have deployed is based on varying only the films used, as much as possible:
All test images here were shot on 120 format film using a Soviet-made Lomo Lubitel 166B camera. This camera s simple, fully mechanical, light and resilient.
It has a 75mm lens and I used a Polaroid Variable ND filter set to its highest ND value, approximately a 7-stop light reduction.
The developer used for the black and white films here is a 1+25 dilution of Blazinal, a Rodinal clone readily available here in Canada. Development times are all based on nominal EI, as per film manufacturer’s labels.
Light metering was performed using my iPhone 6 and the Pocket Light Meter app. While perhaps unusual, I have found this application to be adequate for most uses, including digital imaging.
Exposures and reciprocity failure
As with part one, three exposures are made for each film being evaluated. The first exposure is made at 2x the metered value, the second at 3x the metered value and the third at 5x the metered value.
This rough bracket should cover most typical reciprocity adjustment curves (which my light meter app does not). As I mentioned previously, my reasoning behind this is requirement for speed is the criticality of timing during the blue hour.
All exposures were made between the start of Civil Twilight and ten minutes after Sunrise, most of them were taken in Toronto, Canada between November 2016 and January 2017.
These tests are split into three parts. Part one covered low speed black and white films: ILFORD Pan F+, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional and Ilford FP4+.
In this, part two, I cover the following high speed black and white films: ILFORD HP5+, ILFORD Delta Professional 400, ILFORD Delta Professional 3200, Ilford SFX 200
Part three will make a departure from typical long exposure articles and cover the results of long exposure with the following color films: Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 800 and Fuji 400H.
There is also a potential part four but details are as yet, under wraps.
Long exposure results: ILFORD HP5+, ILFORD Delta Professional 400, ILFORD Delta Professional 3200, Ilford SFX 200
Testing ILFORD HP5+
This is a definitive utility film: high in contrast and with a wide exposure latitude. This film provided surprisingly underexposed images when tested the same way as slower emulsions.
It would appear that HP5+ is likely not the first choice for your “usual” long exposure tests, but its high contrast properties seem to provide a unique and somewhat gothic mood when exposed for longer time in low light. So, if that dark and subtle outlines are called for, this is the film.
ILFORD Delta Professional 400
Demonstrating consistency of modern T-grain, Delta 400 Professional delivers even mid-tones with all three adjustment tests. Exposure adjustments produce results similar to Delta 100 Professional, albeit with slightly more grain.
If grainier images are needed, this film would be a solid choice. Otherwise, using Delta 100 Professional seems to make more sense.
ILFORD Delta Professional 3200
Delta consistency continues with the 3200 – for such a high speed film, grain is hardly noticeable in the night shoot tests. Variations between different exposure adjustments are very subtle when it comes to mid-tones. Shadows, for the most part stay put regardless of the adjustment to exposure time. Delta 3200 is a night photography champion. This film would be my go to for moody, “film noir” style, imagery with longer exposure times.
ILFORD SFX 200
ILFORD SFX 200 is an interesting film that deserves its own category and possibly some more analysis. I approached the SFX test with great anticipation, as this film has a very interesting look with long exposure.
The unique tone to highlights combined with steady and even mid-tones defines its uniqueness. It’s hard to decide how to use this film, but it is clear that exposure adjustments provide for incremental change in highlights.
Part two conclusion
I capped off part one by saying:
As noted above, the purpose of these tests was to “evaluate what exact method is the best suited to way I see the world”, in the context of my ongoing project Where We Meet.
Continuing that thread, long exposure adjustments should be viewed as just another tool in creative toolbox.
Clearly, manufacturer’s instructions and general rules help – but blindly following these is somewhat similar to using a digital camera set to “Auto”. The most interesting outcomes happens when we push the film outside of that safe zone, and create additional creative opportunities.
When it comes to ILFORD’s film catalog, for my purposes Delta Professional 100 and FP4+ seem to create the most pleasing long exposure results.
Now, it’s time to break out C-41 kit and dive into colour negative films.
Thanks for reading, there will be more coming soon!
~ Toni Skokovic
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