5 Frames of the Historic Dyfi furnace on medium format ILFORD FP4 PLUS (120 Format / EI 125 / Pentax 645 + Pentax 45mm f/2.8 A) – by Mark Illsley

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Recent events had given me more than enough time to go over earlier work and start thinking about what I wanted from my photography going forward. One of these was to re-kindle my love of film photography, something I had not done in nearly 10 years. The other was making the jump to medium format film. Being primarily a landscape photographer and shooting a fair amount of my work in black and white already this seemed an ideal choice.

A few kit changes started taking place and among them was the purchase of a Pentax 645. Alongside the 80-160 Zoom that with the camera I also purchased the 45mm. Both these should fit well with my style of photography.


My Pentax 645, Mark Illsley

I quickly put a few test rolls through the camera trying to get back into the swing of things.

The first rolls I put through I was not happy with, the dynamic range and tonal curve were not what I was looking for in an everyday film for my landscape photography as well as a several shots being underexposed due to figuring out how the metering was setup.

It was then suggested by a friend and fellow photographer that I tried ILFORD FP4 PLUS, this was something I had shot on before and with a borrowed roll of film in hand I set out to shoot another set.

The location for the test is a local historical site, Dyfi furnace. This was a Charcoal Blast Furnace used between the 18th and 19th centuries for both making pig iron as well as being used by the silver mills of the Society of Mines Royal. This was a site I had shot a number of times but never using film.

All the following shots I took using the Pentax 45mm using a combination of in-camera metering and reflective readings from a Sekonic L-308s to double-check what I was seeing using the camera’s TTL Metering

The development was done myself using Cinestill Df96 which went well apart from an issue I had whilst loading the film on the reel which resulted in a number of the images being scratched.


A mistake I am hoping to not replicate again and have since purchased a different reel made by AP which should help overcome the problems I had initially using the standard Paterson reel.

I scanned the images using an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner and applied a small number of adjustments in Photoshop.

I was really pleased with how they came out. This being only my third day with the camera and the difference in the film choice was clear. I expect ILFORD FP4 PLUS to be my film of choice for 90% of my photography but already have a few others in the fridge ready to test for more specific work.

~ Mark

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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