My “go-to” B&W film in all formats that I shoot these days seems to be ILFORD HP5 PLUS. I actually didn’t really enjoy it all that much when I started shooting film. I was a Pan F 50 kinda shooter, then I discovered Fuji’s NEOPAN 100 ACROS and when that disappeared I went to Delta 100 Professional, and then FP4 PLUS

In a real short version of the story, I loved the fine-grain films…but after a while I started to feel like those films just seemed too similar to my digital B&W files, so I went back to FP4 PLUS as my daily choice to get a little more classic “look” in the images. I shoot a lot of portraiture and the lower ISO was always nice working with strobes.

As I started to bulk load more, I only had access to HP5 PLUS locally… so I started to shoot more and more of it. When you have a few hundred feet of a particular film stock and you’re in the middle of a pandemic, you start to deviate from the norm…

I’ve pushed a ton of different films over the years and right now I love 35mm HP5 PLUS at 800 with a yellow #12 filter for most days. I’ve pulled it a couple of times, but never really more than a stop. I thought, what the hell, I have nothing better to do and plenty of rolls to play with, so just how low could I go? I decided to start by rating a roll at EI 50 without any filters.

I shot the roll in my M4-2 around the docks where we’re currently staying on the boat (Yep… If you missed this article – I live on a sailboat and shoot film). I tried to find some flat scenes and some contrasty scenes just to see how the film would behave. It was developed in Rodinal at 1:50 for 8min.

I was actually really surprised at the results. I kind of dig the look… If I run another roll at 50, I’d definitely use my yellow 12 to add some contrast. All these scans have a slight s-curve applied in post. 

Next up? HP5 PLUS at EI 25!

~ Ryan

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About the author

I'm a full-time portrait/commercial photographer. In the last 2 years, I've slowly migrated almost my entire workflow to film. I'm currently living on a sailboat on the Pacific Ocean, shooting and developing aboard.

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  1. If I remember correctly, B&W film can handle 3 stops over & 1 stop under when it comes to exposure with appropriate adjustments in processing times. Of course, that was when I was in Jurassic Park High School some years ago.

    1. I’ve pushed and pulled a fair amount, but pulling 3 stops was something I had zero experience with… so, I figured why not give it a shot. I’m going to pull one more stop next time, just to see how it handles. Should be interesting, either way!

    1. Thanks Monty!
      Just finding ways to kill time while stuck at the docks… I’ve got some more that I’m working on with EM, as well!