5 Frames… With ILFORD XP2 SUPER (EI 400 / 35mm format / Olympus XA3) – by Matt Parry

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Surprising as this may be but ILFORD XP2 SUPER is currently my favourite* general-purpose black & white film. I’ve never really had a ‘go to’ film and over the past few years working for HARMAN technology I have shot most of their films, many times over. I like them all for various reasons yet FP4 PLUS and XP2 SUPER have always given me the most ‘keepers’ and continue to justify their frequent place in my cameras.

Despite my personal affinity, for many other photographers, XP2 is often overshadowed by its ILFORD stablemates. On the one hand, it is easy to see why. ILFORD (including Kentmere) has 10 black and white 35mm film offerings with four of them rated at ISO400, the other three being ‘true’ black & white films in the sense that they are silver-based and processed using black and white chemicals.


When you share a brand with the venerable HP5 PLUS, a highly versatile and much-loved film, the fine grain and gorgeous tones of Delta 400 Professional or even the cheaper yet unequivocally excellent Kentmere 400, it can be a hard choice to make!

So, while XP2 might not be the film for those that enjoy home processing, in terms of looks it more than holds its own. Pleasing grain (especially in the highlights), excellent but not overbearing contrast, plenty of detail plus the added convenience of C-41 lab processing and superb scanning all mean there is a lot to love!

These 5 Frames were all shot with my Olympus XA3. I’ve had a bit of a love-hate thing going on with this camera since I bought it. The viewfinder sucks and I refuse to shoot portraits on it (I hate not knowing exactly what is in focus) but point it at scenes like these and more often than not it copes admirably!

It is also tiny which means I always have it with me on my travels. As a result, I’ve put many different films through it this year and have used it far more extensively than any of the other cameras I own.

These 5 images were shot in New York. I was there to co-host a photo walk for ILFORD Photo but a big storm had other plans (we had a great meet up indoors instead). I shot 8 or 9 rolls on that short trip including HP5 PLUS, FP4 PLUS, Kentmere 400, Agfa Vista 200 and a failed attempt at a roll of Cinestill 800T, but it was XP2 that impressed me the most! The film was processed and scanned at harmanlab.com.

~ Matt


* This, of course is always subject to change.

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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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4 thoughts on “5 Frames… With ILFORD XP2 SUPER (EI 400 / 35mm format / Olympus XA3) – by Matt Parry”

  1. Looks good! I’ve never been totally happy with the tones I get with XP2 Super, it looks a bit insipid sometimes, but your shots look great. Any tips? I guess you increase the contrast quite a lot from the scan.

    Reply
  2. Great article and fantastic images. I actually processed a roll of XP2 Super using HC110 at home last week and it came out really well. Maybe it was beginners luck as it was one of my first home processing attempts but might be worth giving it a go yourself,

    Reply
  3. Great images – many thanks !
    I find XP2 is well suited to half-frame use – the grain is much less apparent than when using ‘conventional’ emulsions.

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  4. Fantastic! I loved your article, Matt! Despite my excellent access to labs that process traditional black and white, as well as my ability to process at home, I still find myself compelled to shoot a roll of XP2 here and there (a subject for a different article, and something I’ve never attempted but XP2 can be processed using black and white chemistry). A very underrated emulsion in my opinion.

    I love that you shot on your XA3 too. It is definitely an overshadowed and underappreciated camera.

    Most importantly, your work is beautiful! Thank you for sharing with us.

    Reply

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